The Best Journeys are Together

img_2408c I have been on a journey through this “sitting/standing through the Star Spangled Banner” thing; but please don’t quit on me until I get near the end of my message, k?

I have been thinking about the NFL protests that happened over the weekend, and my first take of it all when Colin Kaepernick did it was: He’s doing this wrong.

My understanding was that he objected to the national anthem because of some obscure verse that no one sings or teaches young impressionable students about.  I never heard/read that he was protesting the inequalities of every black person in the US – though many others have said they did.  So he came off very spoiled and confused, to me.

When some of the other players began to do it, I read that they were now attaching the inequities of persons of color in the US; but I felt that they are confusing everyone with what they are doing, and that they were doing it wrong.  The protest should clearly be set where the inequities lie, I figured, and I said so on Facebook.

Many others got angry and raised strident voices against desecration of the flag’s meaning and extended the protest against the military that dies under the flag they were protesting (it’s not just about the song anymore, somehow).  I saw that as shallow and angry thinking that just wanted a direction to spew.  I was not going to join it or have anyone thinking I endorsed it.

There were others who said that they were protesting the President’s recent behavior and remarks.  O puh-leeeze (rolls eyes).  Really?!?  I just can’t take that very seriously.

I joined the camp that stood with each foot in one of two places on Monday: I felt it was good that they were maintaining dignity with a peaceful protest that didn’t destroy property or injure anyone.  I applauded their right to speak their minds in this manner. It wasn’t even stopping the event that they were there to participate in – a sporting event.  However, I still felt they were doing it wrong as long as they were not protesting something that was clearly part of the inequities of non-white living in the US.  It was just too easy for people with truly good intentions to only see an argument about the anthem and the flag, and it wasn’t those nice person’s fault, but the bad planning of the protesters.  I also saw millionaires kicking sand in the faces of those who make their lives possible, and that’s just bratty.

I heard sincere and honest people pointing out that the NFL leadership only responded with solidarity this weekend because they felt their method of making money was being threatened.  Perhaps that’s true, but does it invalidate the message itself that they players were bringing forward?  I didn’t think so.  I have people I care deeply about who have more melanin in their skin than our current president does, and they aren’t getting the same benefits as almost all white citizens of the US enjoy.  It’s WAY better than it used to be, but it’s still a far cry from where we need it to be if this is ever going to be The Land of the Free.

See, I’m white; and I have always wanted to be free and casual with every person I met, no matter what their color or culture.  As long as we’re all people with good intentions, I think we can find ways to get past our cultural differences, and respect the places that have boundaries we’re not used to seeing.  Some will suggest that it is my white privilege and sense of entitlement that brought me to that world view, and I won’t argue that it isn’t true.  Even so, it seems right to me that we all need this view – and the safety to live it out – in order for world peace to live and thrive.

However, that kind of thing was impossible in the US that I grew up in during the late 50’s and early 60’s.  So I cheered when Dr. King began to show us all how to do the right thing, even if it wasn’t comfortable or acceptable to those with good intentions.  But he found a way to get their attention because of his concern for peaceful formats.  He found a way to nudge people out of complacency and to insist that they stop ignoring the things they were uncomfortable with, even if they weren’t insulted by the mere existence of the Jim Crow laws and other forms of extant discrimination during those times.

Dr. King was murdered, but the cause for human rights marched on, and good legislation happened to help rid our US culture of a despicable heritage and un-American behavior.  How could we claim that we were the home of the brave and free if we couldn’t ensure that every brave person was free?  Or even the ones who couldn’t be brave, or strong – didn’t they deserve freedom mercy and kindness?  Couldn’t these be the traits our country could be more known for?

The decades went on, and complacency began to set in.  I saw it, and I didn’t like it even though I wasn’t experiencing the terror of my sons getting shot in the streets for being threatening just because of their ethnicity.  I had friends who shared that fear, and I knew they weren’t the kind of people who would harbor fear unnecessarily.  Every family of color had a story of a relative no older than a grandparent who had suffered a great injustice because someone hated their melanin levels.  I wept with them, and knew that they had some reasons to resent my invulnerability to their experience.

When the protesters were asked if they hated the flag and those in the military who defend it, they have been very vocal in saying that the opposite is true.  They love what our country “says” it is in the constitution.  Since more persons of color serve in the military, and most (if not all) of the protesting players have relatives that have honorably served in the military and many who have some who are serving even now; there is no intention of putting the military in a bad light for any reason.  So it would seem that someone has been pushing that agenda as a smokescreen.  I nearly believed it, too.

In all of this time, I was willing to listen; and I worked hard to find and listen to the different voices of reason on both sides.  I watched many video bytes, and noted what was being put forward to explain what was going on – from both sides, as long as it stayed with the facts, and didn’t just fall into abusive, insulting, rants filled with vitriolic taunts and just plain anger.

Because I was willing to listen, I’ve learned a few things I didn’t know about and I’ve changed my mind.

My lifetime human hero has always been Dr MLKing.  I know his character may not withstand scrutiny; but his mission always did for me.  He did it right, and left a legacy that taught all of us what we should do when we have to object to something that others won’t see, or won’t address to resolve with the vigor it deserves.

I’m finally convinced that this is what these young men are doing, and I’m glad that I can finally see that, in spite of the confusion that I had to deal with.  Is there a better way?  I don’t know.  Maybe I don’t think so, now.

It’s been clear for a great long time that the issues of inequity and undeserved and unprovoked danger needs visibility, and it needed National visibility.  We need to sustain a dialog without fear or threat, but with concern and sincerity.  We need to make it safe to be vulnerable as others tell their stories – like we try to do for those who have been sexually abused – let’s make it safer for those who are racially abused.

The message is getting a halting voice, and there’s still some confusion about whether it’s valid or worthy; but at least it’s happening in the right way. I honestly think that even Dr King would smile and approve of this new dialog that has begun, though he’d wish people with good intentions would understand it better.

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I’m a Cub Fan- For Reals

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I don’t know who to credit this photo to, but – it’s perfect.

The Chicago Cubs are in the World Series, and if you have been cloistered from reality somehow, and didn’t know that already, let me tell you that they are playing against the Cleveland Indians and two games have already been played.  Each team has won ONE game each, in Cleveland.  This Friday, they will play game 3 in Wrigley Field for the first time ever. Games 4 and 5 will also be played in that historic ball park before this weekend is over – barring significantly bad weather.

One celebrity fan, Bill Murray, won a Mark Twain Award (I’ll let you google that) this week, and someone with a microphone asked him what it felt like to have the Cubs playing in the World Series.  He said that he’d listened to the Sportscasters trying to explain what it feels like and they just don’t get it.  He was dead right.  All they can talk about is what hadn’t been invented or what else in history hadn’t happened yet.  That’s not the point for any real Cub fan.

When you’ve waited your whole life, almost seeing it happen several times, and staying faithful even during the years when you know the team is a disgrace on the field, you get a glimpse of what it means to be a Cub fan right now.

When you take all the trash talk about your team from the other side of town, and other teams that do better (cough*Cards*cough), you get another glimpse of the life and times of a Cub fan. Yet we will still wear our team colors with more pride than courage, and with more sense of thrill than grudging responsibility.  You may even begin to save and collect the best of all the slurs, as badges of creative honor. “They wouldn’t talk trash unless we matter,” we’d tell each other with a wink.

When your team’s playing field has more historic significance than your division opponents, but their win cycles have been more fruitful – you remain tenaciously steadfast anyway, bragging on the history of the edifice if not the skills of the team. And that’s when you begin to realize what a Cub fan’s life might be like.  You will appreciate how traditions have held us together (like throwing the other team’s ball back from the bleachers), and how folklore has helped name our businesses in ways no newcomer knows about unless a local lets them in on the lore (Billy Goat Tavern).

These are things no White Sox fan nor Cardinal fan has had their parents explain to them, nor have they had anything similar to explain about their team to their children.  It’s distinctly a part of the Cub fan traditions, and  there has been enough time for our children have told their children – even if they move to another state.  Because that’s what Cub fans do.  And when the Cubs come to play in our different states and stadiums, we tend to crowd out the locals who think that they are good enough fans for their home team.  We also tend to out shout them!

What other team has a tradition of a team song karaoke at the end of a winning game?  I bet they’ll all begin working on that, though, because that’s how memories and thrilling moments of “we’re all in this together” happen. And we began doing it while our team was referred to as “the lovable losers”, doggonit!

These are things most “johnny come lately” folks will never feel or fully understand.  It’s certainly nothing the sportscasters outside of Chicago Metro area can ever explain, either. That’s ok, because WE are the kind of fandom that might not like that you waited so long, but we’re still going to tug you into the fold and make sure that you sing louder on the chorus when we sing “GO CUBS GO”.

A Different Kind of Mother

 

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I’m pretty quiet about my birth mother in life and on FB, unless the subject comes up.

When I see someone post something mushy and in the way of tribute for motherhood, I will usually leave a message saying, “I’m so glad you had a wonderful mother.”  I’m tired of just passing them by, and it’s the honest truth.  I want every kid to have a nurturing parent who guides them in ways that give them the freedom to live out their passions.

The thing is, my mother was someone who was never diagnosed as mentally ill because she never had a problem with her Borderline Personality Disorder.  With her 8 marriages (married 2 guys twice), messy life decisions, and inability to manage most of her financial dealings, my siblings and I all ended up suffering from PTSD from dealing with her and her machinations.  It’s clear that she was narcissistic and didn’t perceive our hurts or fears as anything significant.  It was always about her and her dramas.  This meant we basically went without nurture during our neediest times in life.  It’s really hard to celebrate what you wished for but never got with any kind of consistency.

She was a charming woman with winsome traits when she wanted something from you, or even if she just wanted to be liked.  She took pretty good care of her appearance, and honestly tried to be some kind of good cheerleader in her later years, when BPD tends to be less intense for post-menopausal women.  I was a bit surprised by how lessened her behavior traits were until I read an article that said that the lowering of hormones did that.

It didn’t banish or cure her mental illness though, it just made it trickier to know when you were dealing with her or her illness.  Before, you always knew to just deal with the illness because the person behaving outside the traits didn’t last very long. With the new situation, where there was an equal time exhibition, you just tended to get hurt more often by not knowing when the shift happened.

So when my mother died in 2013, it was with a nearly audible sigh of relief that her children mourned her passing.  She died in a peaceful way in spite of her more cruel diseases.  But for the very first time, we didn’t have to brace for her erratic behaviors, her weird letters, beseeching phone calls, or her manipulative conversations to do what she wanted done in the way she wanted it done.  There would no longer be her odd comments that made you doubt something you were sure of before she spoke.

There would also be no more insightful comments on different family members who caught her attention, or jokes about things that needed to be seen in humorous ways, for she was intelligent and had a lively sense of humor.  There would also be no more thoughtful comments during her times of sanity that would bring me to a delayed epiphany.  There would be no more times for me to find another waterfall picture for her computer wallpaper, or comfortable hours where she relived her childhood for me, and introduced me to the people she saw as significant in her life.  Family folks would become more than names in a family tree carefully charted, but more like people with flesh and blood and dreams and fears  – and yes, even heartbreaks.

I lost many good things the day my mother died, and that still has some painful thorns on occasion.  But more than that, I lost a slippery slope of conflict and despair, and that’s where the relief comes in.

We honored her with a Memorial Service in her church – the very first they’d ever had. Most folks choose to use a Funeral Home.  Ma had her final arrangements made at the funeral home ahead of time, with a life insurance policy that paid for almost everything.  There was another life insurance policy to cover what the first didn’t.  So, she was thoughtful about not leaving us one more mess of hers to clean up – the good person who lived with a mental illness having reined the most at the end.  We were able to carry her urn into the church, so we didn’t have those huge fees of moving a body.  That’s how we were able to give her the kind of service I am sure she’d have been thrilled to see and be a part of.

The ladies of the church served us a lovely buffet, and we made sure they got something back for their trouble. The memory was such a time of healing for all of us who had endured our collateral damage from her mental illness. We needed that more than I can say.  We could all gather, her children, her siblings, dear close friends and others, to celebrate the things we admired about her in complete safety for once.  If we did that in her hearing while she lived, it usually would end up being used as a springboard for her next bad behaviors – so we were all very careful about what we said in her hearing.

So that’s why, when Mother’s Day comes along, I will pray for all of the mother’s I know of in my life, first.  But then I shift to pray for all of the kids – young and old – who have mother’s with mental illness who aren’t getting help for it or managing it in healthy ways.  I get it, and it’s not deserved.  Mental illness is neither the fault nor responsibility of the children.  Even if they do something plainly wrong, the reactions will frequently be from the illness and rarely from a careful response of correction.

But – we can come out of it with amazingly impressive life skills, if we get help to fix what we missed through recovery programs like Codependents Anonymous (something I resorted to as a way of managing her erratic behavior), or other therapeutic options for good self-health and healing.  Once I got a good handle on what was healthy and how to live it in my life better, it helped me to know how to celebrate the best of my mother, without being unguarded against her lesser version of life.  I knew how to deal with the worst of her behaviors, though it still wasn’t a desirable thing to endure. It was messy, and my timing could be off, but it was more manageable.

She’s healed where she is now, and that’s a very good thing for me to focus on.  I don’t want to reflect her bad stuff to my children or anyone else.  So, it helps to remember that we laid that bad stuff to rest on that lovely May day of her Memorial.

Happy Heavenly Mother’s Day, Mom.  I love you.  We’re all doing well, and we miss the good moments with you.  We miss the hugs (but not the rummage sale gifts – jus sayin).  So glad you’re getting the hugs you missed from your long lost beloveds, now.

Free Write Friday – Memory Prompt

Memory Prompt: Write about your earliest memory. Good, bad, happy or sad. Before you begin, take time to dwell in that memory. Absorb everything you can about it. What you see, what you smell, what you hear and mostly, how you feel. Let it resonate. Marinate your mind in that one moment. Then begin.

My very earliest memory I had confirmed by my birth mother.  At first, she said it wasn’t true, but later she decided that it was true after I added a few details and she remembered the incident.  “You have to remember that this wasn’t so significant to me, along with all of the other things going on at the time.  I mean, you were safe and everything was ok, so what was there to remember?”  Point taken.

I have a partial memory of just seeing my mother nursing my sister who was 24 months younger than I.  But it was just that, a curious “mental photograph”.  My first whole memory was when I was just over 2 years old, since my sister was already born. To begin with, I have to explain that I was an energetic bed rocker.  I would move my crib around with the force of my rocking I’ve been told.  My mother’s sister was living with us at the time, and she remembers that sometimes getting into the room was a challenge because the crib was against the door.

The memory begins with seeing something next to my crib (the window) and feeling surprised.  It was not usually there.  I apparently climbed out of my crib and fell through the window screen, to the ground below.  Because the next part of the memory was that I was laying on the ground (not feeling any injury). I was only wearing a diaper, and it was dark.  Then I was lifted up by a tall thin man with a hat.  He made nice sounds at me, and I felt just fine being held by him.  He carried me along, and soon there was a doorway that was very bright and my mother and aunt were facing us, making other sounds.  The man handed me over to my mother, and I was ok with that, but wouldn’t have minded staying with the man.  I was not frightened at all, or uncomfortable.

My mother put me back into bed after moving it, is the final part of the memory, and I was very disappointed that my interesting evening had ended so routinely.  I had an expectation for more excitement – and that is a strong element of my memory.  Being in bed was boring – finding a way out of bed was exciting!

 

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Singleness Part 2

“People who have been single for too long are the hardest to love.  They have become so used to being single, independent and self-sufficient that it takes something exhqdefaulttraordinary to convince them that they need you in their life.” facebook/saranaveedwriter

What I really think the author was expressing above, was frustration with their search for a mate.  Probably someone who is over 35, and looking for someone who’s interested in being their partner.  The search is not bearing much fruit, and their pool of candidates is getting more and more small and shallow.

The reality is, that there are persons over 35 who have gotten comfortable with living alone, and have decided that sexual needs aren’t enough for making accommodations for a mate.  There are few other healthy needs that remain, once you have no need for sexual expression or parenting, when it comes to relating to other persons in any intimate relationship.  There are healthy social and familial reasons, but I’m saying there are FEW reasons for anyone to enter any relationship that necessitates intimate sharing or knowledge of another person beyond the sexual ones.

It’s not uncommon for single persons +35 to have made their choices based on some bad experiences (direct or indirect), or based on honest comfort levels.  Many of these individuals have already achieved parenthood or other goals that might have required a partner’s contributions to realize.  Or, they’ve decided they don’t need direct parenthood experiences to fulfill their enjoyment of life.  They may have connections with children they’ve been actively engaged with outside of being a parent, and that’s all they need to complete their sense of value and of a future that will continue beyond their own. That means those incentives are gone for making the kinds of life adjustments that sustained intimacy requires, at that point.

Some older singles are people who have gotten socially niched, and haven’t much contact with other persons on a personal level.  They often fail to learn that respect is a process that requires sustained effort, as is mutual interest or affection.  They somehow believe that it is always spontaneous and that these experiences with others are self sustaining if they are “real”.  This is an immature understanding of social relationships, and single people can learn better, but they have to be invested in some relationships in order to learn the lessons.  People in committed relationships are almost forced to realize these truths, or they will find that the relationship becomes less and less lively and rewarding, and a distance begins to grow.  These single persons can still be wonderful family members and friends, offering valuable viewpoints and adding to the talent pool for survival; but they’ve got some distinct limits and require some distance to keep from getting enmeshed in their drama.

In spite of all of these realities, many persons over 35 still actively hope to find satisfying relationships with other persons of their age and stage.  This will be more challenging for the reasons I stated in Singleness Part 1.  It’s not impossible, though.

What I want to mention in this part, is that the happiest relationships that I have seen where the two persons began their intimacy and commitment after that age, is when they both knew each other well during their younger years. If they knew each other well in high school, had dated before they were involved in other relationships, or were otherwise very involved in their earlier years in a platonic way, there is a strong possibility for a successfully enduring and rewarding relationship with one of these persons from the past – if they are available and not in a different relationship.

It also helps if they are adaptable and willing to make changes that may seem threatening to their psyche or their definition of self.  If you’ve always described yourself in this way, doing this thing, or never doing this thing – is it really a loss of your self-identity to change?  Would you be willing to give it up if someone you loved were to suffer a life changing event (illness or injury), and not resent it?  Then, don’t make it a bargaining chip with a new beloved.  It’s just part of finding new places to join a person’s life with yours to make an “our life” together.  They will need the courage to do the same.

I don’t want to make this seem simple or easy – because it’s certainly worth it.  But only if you have found someone who enhances who you are, and says that you do the same for them – and you can believe it.

Above all – do NOT go into this kind of thing on your own whim, without support from friends and family.  They will know what’s hurting you before you do, sometimes.  Also, rely on couples counseling.  These professionals have learned what sabotages intimate relationships, and they’ll help you and yours to overcome the pitfalls that are most common, and some that may seem uncommon.  They also help you to ask the hard questions.  So – keep the outside relationships strong enough to support the effort, and give it a go if you think you’ve met that special someone!

If you are like me, and you’re really comfortable with life as a single person – don’t feel like you’re damaged goods.  We have the freedom of accepting invitations without consulting others, and when we’ve made a mistake, we don’t have to feel guilty about putting someone else in trouble with our mistakes.  Life as a single adult is enriching and wonderful – but we have to force ourselves to keep our social contacts fresh and strong in order to avoid being too self-absorbed.  But- that’s a blog for another day.

 

Singleness (Part 1)

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“People who have been single for too long are the hardest to love. They have become so used to being single, independent and self-sufficient that it takes something extraordinary to convince them that they need you in their life.” facebook/saranaveedwriter

I found this statement in a graphic on Facebook. It was just a brown box with the white font. Several things bothered me about it, though I knew that part of what the author was saying was true.

The things that bothered me were: what is ‘too long’? Why are people who have been single for long times ‘hardest to love’? Why must they be convinced that ‘they need [emphasis mine] you in their life?

What I can agree with (if it was their intent to communicate this idea) is that persons who are over 35 who have never been in an intimate relationship, and have lived alone for 10 years or more, tend to be less flexible about incorporating other persons into their everyday lives and intimate places.

If these single persons meet someone new, it’s extremely challenging for the long time single person to accommodate the invasions and disruptions a new resident will bring into their daily life activities in every intimate way: physical, emotional, financial and even with dream shaping. The comfort zones are too well set, and often there are histories of losses to overcome that bring a sense of threat to the compromises that may be required.

Those things I can agree with.

What I can’t agree with is that the single person who has been alone “too long” is “hardest to love”. If that person has healthy relationships with family members and close friends, they are abundantly lovable and have avenues of sharing affection and love toward those other relationships. They are very well socialized and engaged with the ones they love and with those who love them. They will have been well invested in their beloveds, and will have done extraordinary things to help their beloveds succeed when those beloveds struggled. They’ve similarly had to ask for and receive extraordinary things from their beloveds in order to overcome adverse times. This is part of what every human incorporates in their lifestyles to thrive and live well: a support system. I just don’t think that these folks are “the hardest persons to love” in anyone’s life, just because they are single, self-sufficient and independent.

I also don’t think that because someone hasn’t found a reason to become intimately involved with anyone else, that they ‘need’ to have something extraordinarily convincing that they are ignoring a “need” that only another person can fill.

While I know that not every person who is single is in a healthy state, neither is every person in a relationship in a healthy state. Relationships don’t necessarily bring us to health, though they can always enhance our health and help it to flourish. We’re social creatures, after all. The thing is: we have to realize that we are responsible for nurturing ourselves – even if we’re in a relationship! Only I know what my needs are, and I have to first acknowledge them to myself, and then communicate them to others who can help me find the things that will relieve my needs. The very same is true of you, and every other person alive. We are self-aware, but we don’t have telepathy, and neither does anyone else.  We need everyone else to reveal themselves to us, and teach us who they are, and how we can bless them best.  We need to do the same for them.

If someone begins a relationship with another primarily because they need them, that relationship is already on shaky ground.

I wholly agree that we have sexual needs, and even dreams that require a partner in life to see them come true. Having a caring and devoted team member to help us enjoy sexual affection while achieving common goals – like growing a family – is a huge reward in life that changes your world view like nothing else can. Even if there will be no children, the immediacy of having someone to talk to when ideas bear fruit, or when we’re being crushed by our losses is like nothing else in the world, when the relationship is benevolent, respectful and interest is strong in each other’s individuality.

However, if you are trying to join up with someone because you are driven to obtain certain life goals more than focusing on the right blend of the partnership, then you’ve only tried to force a union to a timetable. Instead of growing into a healthy union with another person you have strong healthy feelings of respect and affection toward, you become part of an unhealthy relationship that will probably get more toxic as it continues as others wince to watch. Instead of having a partner who enhances your strengths, you may end up with someone who saps that very dynamic from the heart of you. Or worse, YOU could be the one sapping it from them because of the mismatch! This is the failure and sorrow that many long time single persons are avoiding, and that is very healthy and wise.

What I really think the author was expressing was frustration with their search for a mate. Probably someone who is over 35, and looking for someone over 35 who’s interested in being their partner. The search is not bearing much fruit, and their pool of candidates is getting more and more shallow. Can they ever accept that being single could be good for themselves, instead of getting bitter and blaming others for their being alone?

What do you think? Do you know of some single folks who are living well and probably never going to get involved with anyone else in an intimate way? Do you pity them or do you envy them? Why?

Understanding and Work Concerns

IMG_20160107_082204250    When the first few hours of 2016 began, I saw someone post on Facebook about their word for the year. It was the word that they would focus on getting a better grip on, and some offered courage was their word, another faith, and yet another was for patience. I read the explanation, and realized it wasn’t just what you felt you were lacking in, but what you really wanted to experience in the coming year.
With that idea in mind, I realized that I honestly thought that Understanding would be my word.
I wanted to understand my beloveds more completely than I did. We’d all fallen out of touch again, and I wanted to remedy that. I need to know more about what they are identifying with, what they are longing for, what they laugh about, and what they are afraid of. I couldn’t answer those questions for anyone I valued, it seemed. Part of that was because my phone had limited minutes, and part of that was that we were all so very busy with life’s requirements: work, family responsibilities, chores, etc.
I also wanted them to understand me better. There were too many times where I was getting hurt by something that might have seemed harmless to my beloveds, but really landed hard on my tender places. I felt I wasn’t finding good ways to communicate what needed to be communicated about what hurts me, and what I longed after.
I have to attempt this and be ever mindful that I don’t want to fall into self centeredness, and that I am a recovering codependent where there’s a danger of trying to control others. Also the danger of rescuing others when they aren’t looking for a rescue = disrespect, and implies that they don’t have enough power of their own to work things out their way.
So, my options are to work on understanding them, and then wait and see if that contact helps them understand me better, too. I want to spend more time listening to them, so that they know they are heard and even validated if they were in doubt about their worth. I don’t want to compete with their narratives, as we are so often prompted to do. I know that many times people are just trying to show that they understand our predicaments, but it does just the opposite, really. It shows that you care more about your narrative than theirs. Worse, you may even have interrupted them before they were done relating their narrative. I see this all of the time, and work on keeping myself from doing it. I may fail here and there, but I’m alert to it, and working on it at least.
On second thought, Understanding may be the right word for more than a year, being honest. We’ll have to see how it works out.

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    At work, it was sad to take down all of the Christmas decorations, and things looked a bit – blank. So, I went to Goodwill, looking for some inspiration, beginning with flowers in my vase. I love how the bouquet turned out very much, and it should be perfect right on through Valentine’s Day. I have some snowmen cups that I have put throat lozenges into for anyone who needs one, as well as sugar-free hard toffees. I have a cute snow couple cut out, too.

So, here are a few pictures from work, though I am “on furlough” for a few days until they get the funding worked out for my staffing agency to pay me to return. This is a challenging time for me, but – working with staffing companies is the best a woman at my age and stage can find. They pay me better than any job I’ve seen yet, and the work is exactly what I love to do: document editing, spreadsheet actions, and even some meetings and minutes to manage. It’s a blessing to find a job that has me doing exactly what I love to do, and pays me enough to enjoy a mediocre life, I admit it. It took me so many long years of adversity to get to mediocrity that I honestly soak up the unfamiliar comfort of it.

Which is why I’m a bit frazzled that I may be trying to live on Unemployment benefits if they don’t get the funding worked out (yes, I applied as soon as I was compelled to stay home).
So I pray a lot about getting back some equanimity and remind myself that God is the one who has it all in His control. He’s my Spouse and my provider. I have to stop fussing at Him and just trust Him like I know He’s died for me to prove his love. Well, that’s what prayer time is for, hm?IMG_20160106_172654570

Old TV’s Won’t Recycle

Cathode Tube ProblemsI was reading this article about how thrift stores in the Chicago metro area are being flooded with old televisions that use the cathode tube and analog technology to work.  Most are heavy and have to be carefully recycled, so that they don’t damage the environment as waste.  New laws generated in 2012, to limit how they are disposed of in IL has caused a problem, though.  There is activity to help deal with the problem, but it doesn’t become effective for a few months, or the new laws are pending until the old laws can be changed this spring.

The trouble is the same when dealing with old computer monitors as well.  They have used the same technology and are being cast off for the same reasons: desktop real estate (space), and weight as well as lack of high definition.

So what’s a person to do in the meantime?  Check your local recycle area for their schedule of days they will accept the old sets, is one bit of advice.  Another is to keep them as long as they are working and in good repair.

An excerpt of this article here: A Kane County e-waste recycling event Dec. 12 collected enough old electronics in four hours to fill six 35-foot semitrailers, [Jennifer] Jarland [recycling coordinator for Kane County] said. Televisions made up 60 percent of that haul. Many appeared relatively new and in working condition.

“We’re just being flooded, especially with those giant TVs,” Jarland said. “If they’re still working, keep using them.”

One reason that people are getting rid of even the nicer heavy TV’s, is that too many have toppled over onto infants and toddlers, killing them immediately, or severely injuring them with lifelong impacts.  This would make getting rid of a heavy television, even if it’s working and looks new, a necessary goal for anyone who has small children or will have small baby visitors.

The cost of lighter, high definition televisions with all the plugs for gaming, computer feeds as well as cable and sound bar connectivity is becoming more affordable, too.  Many consumers are finally digging out of the consequences of the Great Recession, and have the ability to buy what they could only long after before.

I have to admit that I hated having a heavy television, especially as I had to move very often as my fortunes changed after the year 2000.  It was a huge relief to buy a lighter plasma television (though it was analog) in 2006.  My mother still had her heavy cathode television until she died in 2013.   None of her survivors wanted something so bulky and heavy.  Thankfully, we found a place that was still recycling them when getting rid of it.

As an older person, moving such a television is not simple, and I’ve generally tried to avoid it or ask strong friends for help when I’ve had to do it.  I honestly never wanted to worry about my friends or family hurting themselves over carrying anything heavy for me during a move.  If I can’t move it by myself, I will probably get rid of it or avoid buying it altogether.

I can’t see any reason for people to keep the old square cathode televisions, since rectangular wide screen presentations are becoming more common, too.  That means trying to see a video on such a TV would have the sides being cut off.  Sometimes, you’re missing the face of a person who’s talking, or the main person in the center is talking about something you can’t see off on the side.

I feel bad for the folks who are stuck with these heavy televisions, and feel a bit anxious that I may be reading another sad story about an infant crushed by one.

What do you think about these old televisions?

Christmas Warmth is not Always Romance

I just feel like I have to rant a bit.  I am honestly tired of the Hallmark Channel making Christmas all about romance.  I really am annoyed with that.  It doesn’t even address rekindled romances with married couples who aren’t separated or divorced (as the movie The Bishop’s Wife does).  Most of us really enjoy watching stories about folks in situations like our own, and they aren’t delivering.

That’s the appeal of The Christmas Story, and that’s why it can play for a whole 24 hour period, knowing there will be a large enough audience for each hour of airtime. In that movie, Dad and Mom are quirky, but they seem to have a real affection for each other, and their kids, with an enthusiasm for life.  Add some holiday twists to their situation, and there you go!  It turns into something iconic for the season.  Even if we’re single, we don’t end up feeling lonely and left out, like a romance story can do.  We were once kids ourselves, and the story is told from the oldest child’s point of view.  So we become a bit nostalgic – and most of Christmas is about nostalgia. We can see how our parents may have been like his parents in some ways, and we snicker.  Or we just feel the warmth of remembering our parent’s enthusiasm for filling in their family roles.  If we’re parents now, we may see ourselves in his parent’s actions and cringe with a blush – but it’s all in good fun and utterly warmhearted.  These parents aren’t brutish or crass, but they are imperfect – the thing is that they are present and accounted for come what may.  Even if a pack of dogs eat the turkey – someone remembers the Chinese restaurant is open and gets the family there for dinner. That’s all any kid ever needs to feel solidly loved and good about who they are. To have parents who are present and don’t bail.

With every Hallmark movie turning into a romance story, they are turning many of us away in droves.  Young kids don’t want romance.  To them, the opposite sex is viewed with some suspicion.  They are either an utter bother, or they can be acceptable playmates – until they aren’t. So, all of those romance movies are not usually good for family viewing.

Some of us are happily single, or just not drawn into the fiction of romantic dialogs that no one can match in real life without a script (that’s another blog for another day).  I’m not too old for affectionate relationships with family and even good friends who I adore.  I just don’t enjoy watching a young couple I don’t know working out their romantic complications. I won’t enjoy their romance story in a vicarious way at all.  I have many friends who are my age who would push me away and say that they love a good romance; but Hallmark is cranking them out so cheaply that they aren’t even putting out GOOD romances.  So even these friends are sighing in discomfort and wishing there was better stuff to watch.

My point is that most of the world doesn’t revolve around romance, though there is a market for it if it is done well and in the right places.  You need a real story to go with the romance that caters to the rest of us,  – like Miracle on 34th Street did or as they did with The Lemon Drop Kid.  Or even as It’s a Wonderful Life worked.  There’s a romance in It’s a Wonderful Life, but the story is about how lives are valued. Since Christmas is an easy crisis point for anyone’s life – it’s become iconic and is watched and enjoyed by folks of all ages and stages.

You get something like White Christmas produced as a movie, with all of the over the top pageantry and a distinctively appealing song that wasn’t about romance, and that becomes the formula for success that keeps the family watching it over the years (though kids can be bored with the story, which makes it a good bedtime movie).

Some think they can’t make ‘em like that anymore “because the age of the musical is over”.  Tell that to the folks counting the revenues from Dirty Dancing and High School Musical (both 1 and 2).  There’s an audience, if the story is worthy, the production solid, talent pool dug deeply enough, along with the tunes being catchy and applicable to our lives.  Again, those were centered on romances, but there were enough other things going on to confound or enhance the romance angle that they could draw in those of us who aren’t drawn into romances.

There’s no real explanation for the attraction for A Charlie Brown Christmas beyond the need for something that draws us out of the clamor of the season. It reminds us that we don’t have to be perfect, or drawn into overspending thanks to smooth marketing, or even gathered in a group, to enjoy the holiday’s appeal.  If there’s anything else like that one out there, I don’t know what it could be.

What makes this all a bigger sore point for me, and the reason I am taking Hallmark to task more than the other producers of “Holiday Specials for Family Viewing”, is that I used to enjoy Hallmark’s television specials and looked forward to them every holiday season.  That was long before they had a channel all their own, though.  Now, I don’t even bother turning any of them on without checking to see what the story line is, first.  And every time I check these past few years – it’s some shallow storyline that is poorly produced and always just about a complicated romance – with no strong talent pool performing the script.  Even the commercials for these movies aren’t alluring.

Hallmark – are you listening?

Advent is Important to Me

There are some holidays that just thrill us to think of them.  Sometimes it’s because of a particular memory, and sometimes it’s just because of the thrill of the things that are traditional to the holiday.

One of my favorite holidays is Advent.  I separate it from Christmas, because Advent is my worship portion of that time of year.  This is where I take time out for my Creator who kept His word to all humanity, in spite of the centuries of time that it took to make it happen.  It’s enthralling to consider why God waited until all of humanity was able to know about the promised Messiah.  This was thanks to the Roman roads and authority that kept travel safe, and also promoted the transfer of knowledge between civilizations.  There needed to be a way for most of humanity to learn of God’s promise, and then of how it unfolded with a newborn birth of a babe in a manger.

There’s a song titled, “It’s About the Cross” that was popularly recorded by Philips, Craig and Dean, and I like it – but it’s wrong.  Advent is a great deal about the Promise coming true, more than the cross.  The cross is critical to the fulfillment of the Promise, that’s true.  But Advent is about preparing for the Messiah’s coming, and acknowledging that we needed Him.  The cross comes after that, and has a place all its own.  There’s no need to blend them, or there is a danger of overlooking the singular value of each occasion on its own.  The cross gets our focus at Lent and Easter, and it deserves separate consideration.

So, Advent is where I intentionally make a quiet place in time for me to ponder the significance of God’s promise to send a Messiah from Davidian lineage to overcome the enemy that caused Humanity’s fall.  This is where I consider that God chose to send His Son because no other person in time could do what needed to be done.  This is where I consider how he arrived at the decision to send Jesus – Yeshua in Hebrew – as a babe with a birth that would be witnessed and noted significantly by people of that time.  You have to hold a newborn infant closely, not just stand back in awe.  They must be embraced and given focused attention, or they will not thrive.  I’m reminded that my love for God has to be like that, close and with focus – or I will not thrive.

Traditionally, Europeans would use Advent wreaths for devotional expression during the four weeks preceding the celebration of the infant birth.  The wreath would lay on a table, or be suspended horizontally from a ceiling, with four candles on the wreath and one in the middle.  Coming from a European background, I embrace that tradition with its quiet influence.

As I raised my young children, we honestly enjoyed the Advent wreath ceremonies very much.  Some nights we might start out feeling pushed into something inconvenient.  But every time we were at the end of the worship activities, it felt a bit sad to blow out the candles and turn on the lights for all of us.  Sometimes we just didn’t do it right away.  We’d enjoy some treats and just visit a bit and talk about whatever we wanted to talk about.

There were some weeks that we missed lighting the newest candle.  That was ok, since there were other nights when we could light up more than one.  It was rare for us to miss the final week when all four candles would be lit.

Christmas, for me, was the secular and happy occasion that followed Advent.  I could allow Godly memes and themes to influence my decoration choices, and certainly my song lists; but I admitted that it was secular, and still joyous and happy.  It was where I could shop and give gifts, and dress up for happy occasions, as well as gather with family and friends for good food and perhaps some games and teasing.

Once all of the children were grown and flown, and I was on my own, I would choose to set up an Advent wreath and forgo the decking of a tree.  My time was limited with work or perhaps my health wasn’t up to the work of a tree.  A wreath was simpler and more possible.  It was also more beneficial to me, than the hustle and bustle of the secular holiday.

Some folks are working hard on making Christmas their act of worship, and I don’t think that they are wrong at all.  I just couldn’t make it work for me.  Just as there are so many different ways to decorate a Christmas tree, there are so many ways for people to celebrate God in their lives.  All of them are valid if what is being done stays focused on God more than the ceremonies or the decorations.

I couldn’t say that was true of my ability to celebrate Christmas most of the time.  I certainly enjoyed more than one church program, service or musical performance, and basked in the warmth of the Pastor’s blessing as the congregation was reminded of our Creator’s intentions during this season.  I’ve also positively pointed out to my children how the evergreen trees point toward their Creator, and how they are evergreen because they never die – like God’s love for us.  I have definitely had a nativity scene for them to set up and discuss as well.  But, it all tended to get overwhelmed in the holiday blur of baking all of the right foods, hurrying to each of the events, and ensuring we were dressed appropriately for the pictures that would be taken, as well as having all of the gifts bought and wrapped for the folks we didn’t want to forget.  Advent never seemed to have that problem – for me.

Even a huge snowfall that might ruin the plans for the special visit with family or the musical event at church, or – whatever we thought we had to hurry to – even those plans didn’t matter if we chose to just stay home and light up the candles on the wreath when I had a family.  As a single, senior aged, woman, it still doesn’t matter so much to me that it’s just me lighting the candles, reading scripture, and praying to God.  This is where I keep my heart in the right condition to enfold the Messiah (or even letting the Messiah make my heart right to enfold Him) who came so long ago.

If I get no gifts, I know that the biggest gift was given to me before I knew I needed it.  If I can give no other gifts, I try to offer the one I received much later than it was given.  The gospel message and the offer of a Savior instead of a Judge.  If I have no decorations, I will revel in the ones that others have worked on displaying, and let them know, when I can, how much it touched me to see and enjoy their efforts.

So, Advent is my favorite holiday at this time of year.  How about you?  What do you like most about this time of year, and what makes it consistently special even through a hard time of austerity?