Monday, December 31, 2012

Life is What Happens


Every year I make resolutions.  Some folks think I am foolish for doing so, but it lets me feel as if I have some control if after all  “Life is what happens while you are busy making other plans.” 
The year 2012 was full of sorrows. 

I lost a precious grandson, a toddler, and I lost my older brother. Several of my friends lost husbands, mothers, sisters, and sons – all just as precious to them. I do not know what we are to learn from this other than life is fragile and temporal. It reassured my belief that there has to be more than what we know of existence.  
I broke my right foot in June.  Bummer. It took six weeks and not eight as the doctor predicted to recover, but it restricted my exercise routine for the next three months. My tootsie still tires easily but it doesn’t keep me from getting into trouble.  
Then there was that “other” inconvenience when I discovered I had Type II Diabetes.  Rhubarb! (That’s my version of a cuss word.)  I‘ve learned to live with it. I take my meds and watch my diet.  

The year 2012 was also full of successes and blessings.

In June, I became a grandma for the eighth time.  He is beautiful and smart and energetic. His mommy and I made a pact – I get to sit him for one whole year.  She gets to gain some mileage on her college degree, and he gets a reprieve from day care until he can communicate a little better.
Besides attending five symphonies, six Broadway plays, one Rodeo performance, and several concerts, HoneyBunch and I took a couple of small road trips. But the highlight came in May when HB dragged me off to China for two weeks.  I climbed the Great Wall, rubbed noses with a Terra Cotta Warrior, and ate funny, squishy things with chop sticks.  
Amid all this, I worked on my writing career. I attended my weekly writing group, three conferences, and several book club meetings. I finished one novel and then reworked another one entirely. I also entered a writing contest. Though my entry didn’t do well, effort counts, so yay me.  
I also voted in the national election.  I studied the candidates and the issues, then made my choice.  Kind of like the writing contest I entered, my nominee didn’t do well, but there is no shame in having convictions and standing by them.

So here comes 2013, and if “life is what happens while you are busy making other plans,” I have made my resolutions. I wrote them down in my journal back in September and regardless what life has in store for me, I will persist and plug away at them.


Monday, December 24, 2012

Yes, Virginia . . .


Yes, there is a Santa Claus.  There, I’ve said it.
He may not dress in a red suit and drive a sleigh driven by magical reindeer.  He may look more like Mommy and Daddy and drive an econo car, but he exists. “He exists as certainly as love and generosity and devotion exist.”
The world out there is ugly and cruel, a nightmare where incomprehensible things happen in front of and to our babies, so why not allow them a joyful childhood within the safety of their homes, among the people who love and understand them the most? “There would be no childlike faith then, no poetry, no romance to make tolerable this existence.” How wonderful to listen to their giggles, or to watch their eyes when they open their presents or see the feast you set before them.
We can argue religion or commercialism, but who ultimately teaches that to our children?  Who controls that within our homes? 
My three grew up knowing that Christmas is about the birth of Jesus, yet they wanted to pretend and enjoy the magic of Santa Claus as well. I saw them play with the baby Jesus statue in the Nativity Set. They marched the Three Kings around the dining room looking for the star.  They’d kiss the baby and tuck him in at night, yet they also watched every Christmas special on TV and wrote letters to Santa, knowing full well they were writing them to me. 
If the gift giving gets out of hand, whose fault is it?
“Yes, Virginia, there is a Santa Claus.” Allow your children the use of their imaginations.  Believing in him is no different than playing pirates or pretending to be a princess, getting lost in a book, or cheering for our favorite sports team. Believing in him teaches them that being good and working hard will be rewarded.  Someone loves children so much he wants to bring them joy.
“How dreary would be the world if there would be no Santa Claus!” How dreary would be our world if we didn’t have the laughter and the innocence of little children.

Monday, December 17, 2012

The Ugly Christmas Sweater



I realize I have no one to blame but myself.  One look at my wardrobe as a career teacher and I realize I misrepresented myself. My real persona has a T-shirt and jeans, old rocker chick vibe, but that is not what I wore to work for thirty-odd years.
I owned an extensive mix and match “uniform” of shirts and blouses, dresses, pants and skirts in the school colors.  Some of my tops were emblazoned with the school mascot across the chest, on the back, and sometimes both.  I was an Indian, a Falcon, a Wildcat, and a Rocket during the day, and a regular person at night and on weekends.
My jewelry and accessories consisted of the same kind of stuff, plus I added “seasonal” pieces, like Christmas socks and special holiday shirts.
I was easy to shop for, and over the years, students (and their parents) gave me dozens and dozens of earrings and pins that went with my teacher uniform.  I have almost every piece of jewelry that comes in the shape of an apple, a school mascot, or in the school colors. If I were to wear them all at once, I would look like a conventioneer.
The biggest surprise (and disappointment) was the year I got THE CHRISTMAS SWEATER. It is a red, knitted vest covered in a half-dozen Christmas scenes.  Things dangle from it and scream, Look at me!
(May I refer you to my first paragraph; the one about my biker chick persona?)
I have never worn it nor have I thrown it away. It is tucked in the back of my closet and I run into it every time I reach for my other holiday tops and socks.
If you can figure out why I keep it (when I got rid of my other teacher-ish wardrobe pieces), please let me know.  It totally baffles me. 

Monday, December 10, 2012

What is Family?



I’ve never been alone.  I am covered in family, an overabundance of sibs and assorted other relatives.  I even worked at a profession for thirty-something years that afforded me little privacy.
I know, I am blessed, but . . . I envied the only child, the sequestered nun, Tom Hanks in that movie about the island and the basketball.
For years I drove to and from work in absolute quiet, reveling in the brief solitude of my very own space, no one talking at me, breathing my air, or demanding conversation.
Don’t get me wrong.  I love my family and my friends, but I also love being alone. When someone complains about being lonely, I offer them a few dozen of my relatives.  They thank me thinking that I jest, but I am dead serious. My family will cover the whiner with their effusive love and dizzying attention, and before long, the lonely soul will see my side of it (and long for silence and a space of their own).
What defines family?  Do you have to live under the same roof?  Do you have to be related in some way?  Is there a minimum number of people to be considered a family? I am not talking about the cold definition for family that one finds in a dictionary or in the IRS 1040 Instruction booklet, but something that encompasses all the different constellations within our homes.
Why can’t a household with one person and a pet (or pets) be a family?  What about two people who live together, related or not, married or not?  Why wouldn’t they be a family?  We lost the Ozzie and Harriet family a long time ago, and what we have now is just as valid and just as comforting.
Come on, I know you cried when Tom Hanks lost Wilson in Castaway. Tell me that didn’t feel like family.

Monday, December 3, 2012

Five Hair Mistakes



     
In the 60’s, everyone wore their hair long, men and women.  I grew mine past my shoulder blades, parted it in the center, no bangs, and topped off the look with “John Lennon” specs. It took my sister an hour or so every weekend to iron (yes, iron like in Sunbeam with Steam) it straight.  It was that or sleep in 16-ounce can curlers.
          In the 70’s, I lopped off all my hair and went Afro.  A severe Afro that stunk like burnt tires and required a steel pick so dangerous it qualified as a lethal weapon. The poof dwarfed my face and what was left was covered in large dark glasses that made me look stoned.
In the 80’s, the look was the wanton, “loose,” natural curl, the kind that created long coils and fell “naturally” about the shoulders. It also cost three digits and took half a morning to get the perm done. I couldn’t believe that I was paying to put in what I was ironing out two decades before. I looked like the Cowardly Lion spruced up to meet the Wizard, but I was in style.
In the 90’s, it was time to do something about my gray.  I refused to dye it so I frosted it blonde, thus “easing” into old age. Eventually I went from ash-brown to tortoise shell to totally blonde. Besides the expense, keeping up with it gave me as much gray as the gray itself.
In the 00’s, I went chocolate brown.  For once I looked good, but my hair grows very fast, faster than most folks, so I had to spend lots of money (again) every month to get my roots redone. When I skipped a month I looked like a skunk, white streaks running in straight lines wherever my hair parted.
I realized I had spent a lifetime looking like everyone else, forgetting that the true road to happiness is to be yourself.
In 2008, I sheared it all off, as close to the scalp as possible, and after fifty years of copying everyone else, I was dealing with my own hair
Old habits die hard, so sometimes I discuss coloring it with my stylist. She tells me that white-gray is the latest fad and clients of all ages come into the shop everyday willing to pay three digits to have their hair done like mine.  
Who knew? Lookee me.  I’m the latest fad.