It’s Not 2016’s Fault

Trending on twitter today: #2016In4Words. After perusing more than a few tweets, the sentiment is that you either hated everything about 2016 or you loved it. There doesn’t seem to be much middle ground, and for many of those I follow on twitter and am friends with on Facebook, “Worst Year Ever” seems to be the consensus.

Sure, there was a lot not to like about 2016, especially if you are not a Trump fan, and I count myself in that group, but I am not about to let one man ruin my entire year. (If you feel like Trump’s win makes it the Best Year Ever, the jury is still way, way out on that one, so you can stop gloating now. It’s not a good look.)

Sure, a lot of famous people died this year, some expected and some not. Prince, George Michael, Carrie Fisher, y’all are in the latter group, and we are truly sad. Beyond sad. But people die. If you google “celebrity deaths 2016” the world lost many sports figures, entertainers, politicians and more, and each of them will be missed somewhere by someone or even lots of someones.

If you are Syrian or refugee from anywhere, then yep, probably worst year ever. The same for those who were victims of violence. Put down the weapons, people!

I understand bad years. I had one of my very own worst years ever a couple of years ago.

Shit happens.

I’m not denying that bad things happened this year, but I do take issue with those who have so much and still put on their fanciest Chicken Little costume and proclaimed that the sky is not only falling, but it has fallen, lying shattered on the ground. Get a hold of yourself. You are going to be okay.

God forbid, but y’all could all be saying the same thing about 2017 in 12 months time.

Look, I’m not Pollyanna wearing rose-colored glasses. I’m just not going to jump on the 2016 Misery Bandwagon. I want to choose happiness when I can, choose kindness and love over hate always and pray that the world will choose peace. I know that last one is a tall order, but someone has to pray for peace on earth; someone has to champion peace on earth.

You may not control all the events that happen to you, but you can decide not to be reduced by them.

~Maya Angelou

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Dear Mr. Trump,

First off, congratulations on your victory. The battle was bitter and hard fought, but you prevailed despite all signs that you would not, so well done. I would like to be able to give you a chance and to discover why the 62,686,062 people that voted for believed you could do a better job than your other opponents because I can’t believe that many people hated Hillary Clinton that much and saw you as the better candidate. How could that many people be so blind to your panoply of narcissistic traits?

My husband, Roland, has encouraged me to read what the opposition to my choice, i.e., your supporters, have to say, and I would like to, but much of what I see in their rhetoric is so abhorrent and divisive to me that I find I cannot. I have been able to listen to some of whom I will call the “wiser minds” on the right side of the aisle. But during the campaign, many of those wiser minds told us that they saw too many red flags they could not support you themselves. Guess you showed them!

Of course, the left has its own share of shrill, the sky is falling, all is lost and evil is running the world spokespeople. I’m pretty sure Keith Olbermann will not get a Christmas card from you this year, and it’s almost a certainty that there are others on the left that can match your group hate for hate. The right does not have the monopoly on intolerance. [Hey, Keith, I get it. I’m on your side, but sometimes you’re just a bit too much. Carry on. I’ll check in now and then.]

You and I do have one thing in common. Neither of us is that political. I mean, I have my opinions and all, but I don’t spend hours and hours studying the politics of the United States and the world. Of course, I’m not the president-elect of the free world, so there’s that.

I really do try my hardest to find the good in people, even you. But how does the Golden Rule fit into your world? Have you even heard the story of the Good Samaritan? What about second chances and the story of the prodigal son? Anything? The meek inheriting the earth? Not in your world.

No, you appeal to the worst in people and encourage your base to be, well, base. That it’s okay to be a hateful bully. Wear that identity as a badge of honor. Well, unless you happen to be a Muslim hateful bully. Nope, take that shit out of America, because we won’t stand for that.

Oh, I meant for this to be a congratulatory note and my tone has digressed and devolved into something else. I was taught that if you can’t say something nice, don’t say anything at all. I’ll take a page from your book (your twitter feed?) and risk being impolite. It works for you, amirite?

Peace.

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P.S. For the love of God, appoint Mitt Romney as Secretary of State!

I’ve Heard This Before

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Probably one of the most important lessons I learned from participating in NaNoWriMo is the benefit of writing every day. Stop me if you’ve heard this before. Practice, practice, practice, yadda, yadda, yadda.

Sometimes you can’t really appreciate a thing is true until you experience it yourself. Of course, I’m talking about writing, but this doing something everyday can be applied universally to anything you want to improve upon, be it swimming, knitting, playing poker, really listening to what your partner is saying. Anything. The more you do a thing, the better you get.

I’ve already written the novel, but I don’t want to rest on my laurels. I want to have “keep writing” echoing in my head with the only way to make it stop is to, ahem, do some writing. I promise that I won’t post every word that I manage to type or scribble, but blogging is the perfect platform for enforcing a resolution.

Today’s post is inspired by the WordPress Daily Post Prompt Echo.

Balancing the Scales

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Two years ago I beat my demon, conquered my foe, slayed my monster. I flipped the bird at the body shamers, took to heart the quotes on my “Words to Live By” Pinterest board and vowed to love my body as it is or as it ever will be. I changed a fundamental belief that my body needed improvement everywhere, that it was not good enough and therefore I was not good enough to a belief that my worth has nothing to do with how much I weigh or what size I wear and that I am worthy. I am enough.

Growing up in the United States my old body image beliefs had long roots with seeds planted in childhood by Barbie, Twiggy, mini-skirts and a thin mother always on a quest to be thinner.

As my sister and I sat eating our not necessarily healthy after school snacks, watching Gilligan’s Island reruns, our not overweight mom sipped her hot beverage and chewed an Ayds weight loss candy before exercising. We all laughed as she butt-walked down the hall of our mid-century, not yet modern, ranch home.  I can still see her sitting on the shag carpet, legs straight in front of her, scooting by pulling one leg and then the other forward until she reached the far end of the hall, the end of the hall with the full length judgment apparatus, um, mirror.

The specter of dieting loomed throughout our house and because I was a skinny teenager my mother seemed to delight in warning me that “it” would catch up with me. What? Was I simply outrunning some kind of monster waiting to lob globs of fat that would stick forever to my hips?

Apparently.

After having both my children and losing the pregnancy weight quickly, I still found a need to join Weight Watchers using the thin woman’s diet excuse that my clothes didn’t fit. Well, duh, having two small humans inhabit your body has some lasting effects on your shape that have nothing to do with the number on the scale. But, hey, I lost my 10 pounds and became a Lifetime WW member. A curse, I’ve decided now, that says you aren’t good if you don’t fall between the range of  numbers they have assigned your height.

I watched my weight increase over the years and made the same old, same old New Year’s Resolution to lose weight because, ugh, there wasn’t anything I really liked about my body. Until my epiphany two years ago, that is.

After spending decades soaking in the toxic waters of Skinny is Best Lake, I climbed out of that stew and headed straight to the top of Eat Whatever You Want Mountain. There, the air is thin and judgement can be just as impaired as it is in the lake.

So here I am, with clothes that don’t fit, searching for balance between denial and indulgence, coming to the realization that neither is healthy. This search is much harder than I expected it to be, but I’m confident I can at least get close to that place where I can love and accept my body as it appears and also love and accept that to keep enjoying the health that I currently have I need to replace all-out indulgence with some moderation and restraint.


Rethinking The Giving Tree

There are spoilers.

givingtreeYesterday I read reread The Giving Tree by Shel Silverstein, published way back in 1964. This short, sweet story of the relationship between a tree (the Giving Tree) and her boy has been read and reread by millions of parents to their children over the past half century possibly with no other thought than “oh, how sweet. the tree will give anything and everything to the boy she loves.”

When I read it yesterday I thought, “oooh, no. Something about this story is wrong.”

It is the short, not-so-sweet story of the selfless vs. the selfish. Don’t everyone boo, hiss at once. Think about it. The boy (and it is always The Boy as if he never grows up in the heart of the tree) climbs on the tree and eats the apples as a child. And then, lo and behold, he does grow up and he goes away. When he comes back to the tree it is always with a whine because he needs something, and the tree always gives that thing he needs which happens to be part of her very self. Ultimately, she sacrifices her life for The Boy.

Somehow, someway, in Silverstein’s story she still has a voice (life?) as a stump at the end.

And the tree was happy ….                 but not really.

~p. 56 (?), The Giving Tree

But the reality is, when you cut down a tree, it’s all over for the tree. Do apple trees send offshoots from the roots? Do they have more lives after destruction?

Am I being too literal? Where are the tree’s boundaries? Where is its self-care? And where is the lesson that we are stewards of the earth and should treat what is given to us responsibly? Perhaps if the boy might have planted some of the tree’s seeds from her apples before killing her.

Silverstein has personified the tree into a one-dimensional caregiver, capable of only giving selflessly until she has given all. In my oh, so enlightened 2016 brain, this is not a healthy thing to teach a child.

I love a good children’s story about children and the nature that surrounds them, that teaches them how to treat others, and that influences them as they grow older. I’m not so sure The Giving Tree is that story anymore.

 

 

No Escape from Reality

Is this just real life?

Is this just fantasy?

Caught in a landslide

No escape from reality

~Freddie Mercury

 

In the land of the Magic Kingdom, the horrific happened, Mr. Mercury. There is no escape from this reality.

Mr. Dylan, how many times can a man turn his head, and pretend that he just doesn’t see? How many deaths will it take til he knows that too many people died?

Too many.

The answer, my friend, is blowin’ in the wind

The answer is blowin’ in the wind.

~Bob Dylan

 

Not just in Orlando, but around the world, too many are dying. Dying in terrorist attacks, and attacks from those they thought loved them. Dying for lack of health care, clean water, and medicine. Dying in wars and because of wars, stranded far from the land they love. Dying in ways that we cannot even imagine.

Will we overcome one day? Will we all be free, Mr. King? I want to believe.

Deep in my heart,

I do believe,

We shall overcome some day.

~1960s Civil Rights Movement anthem

 

Will that day be in my lifetime? Will my grandchild, Margot, see that day?

I don’t know the answer. This time terror and hate struck close to home, but everyday I pray for the world, everyday I pray for peace. It’s an impossible order, but I pray that no one has to die for who they are or for what they believe.

I have hope, because the alternative is unacceptable.

 

 

It’s Grand

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I saw her and fell hard. A take your breath away, knock your socks off, heart-melting kind of fall. All of that and more. The grandbaby. The anxiously awaited for tiny girl that is a part of me, but not of me arrived almost 2 months ago.

How to explain these feelings without sounding like a sappy goose has been a challenge, but to say that I was not prepared for their intensity would be an understatement. Being taken out at the knees by a small toddler has been my go-to visual. Sure, I expected to love this baby, but the WOW, I LOVE THIS BABY, not anticipated.

I have given birth twice, first to the mother of this new baby, and I love both of my children fiercely. A mother’s love, though, comes fraught with so much baggage. The pressures, the responsibilities, the helplessness that a new mother feels can permeate that intense love and rob a new mom (and dad) of the pure pleasure of their child. Those blood curdling screams that come from such a tiny thing worm their way into an exhausted parent’s whole being leaving them at wit’s end. Day after day, night after night; when will the screaming end?

But this grandmother love? This grandmother love is something different. Pure pleasure, maybe, without the baggage?

When I went home after Margot was born, I wallowed around in my empty nest, wanting desperately to be with the new little family, and share all my immense wisdom. Hah! The hard fact is her parents will have to figure out much of the care and feeding of this tiny human on their own. Living 600 miles apart is hard for me, but that can be accepted and worked around. When your kids grow up, you don’t get to make decisions like where to live anymore. If only.

I have just returned from a second visit to the sweet little miracle. This time felt different. Having adjusted to her existence, knowing that all was well with everyone, I settled in, wanting to help, but also simply observing. I did insist on a date night for the new mom and dad, but probably more for my own selfish “Mimi time with Margot” than for the good of their relationship. During my babysitting time, I contradicted my advice to my daughter to put the baby down every now and then and get some stuff done (sorry, attachment parenters), but my minutes with her were limited and I wanted to make the most of them.

On the last night of my short visit, I was in charge of bedtime. I rocked Margot in the semi-darkness as she wailed. No bouncing, no shushing, just listening to the instrumental Disney songs, and waiting out her distress, that “there’s no reason for it” distress that can drive parents crazy; and she calmed, going from wail to whimper to quiet. As I set her in her crib (apparently the wrong way around because her sweet little face could not be seen on the video streaming to mom and dad’s iPhones), it hit me.

Show, don’t tell. Not only useful writing advice, but a significant life lesson that I, of sometimes many, many words, need to practice often.

Grandmother’s love, wow! I see my own babies’ faces in this new baby, but without all that new parent baggage. I soak in the cries and smiles, the coos, burps and the hiccups; perhaps because I know how fast babies change and, before you know it, they have a baby of their own.

I’m looking forward to my next visit in a few short weeks, and I will soak in her newness all over again.