Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Reflections on 2013

            2013 has been quite the year. I experienced the greatest loss of my life in May when my son, Alex, passed away and no other emotion during the year comes close to the sadness that accompanied that. However, as difficult as it is sometimes to clear my head of the grief that wants to set up camp there, I realize that life does carry on despite the setbacks.
            I was reminded in 2013 about love, about that unconditional love that some people may not even know they possess. It takes a crisis, I suppose, to pull it out of us. I have heard folks say that unconditional love is nonsense, but I disagree. It’s real. I’ve felt it. It’s fraught with intention and fight. “You never give up on the people you love,” I’ve said time and again. In my life, that’s a fact.
            I was reminded in 2013 about caring, that fickle feeling that escapes us sometimes and at other moments consumes us without our even thinking about it. My husband, though very discriminating, has the ability to care more deeply than just about anyone else I know. I like that.
            I was reminded in 2013 about friendship. I have remarkable friends, some old, a few new, and all invaluable to me. True friends have another’s back no matter what. I have been given the gift of friendship this year over and over. Thank you, my friends. You know who you are.
            I was reminded in 2013 about the diversity of family. It’s not unreasonable to mention that some family members can disappoint, disregard, or frustrate even the most stalwart among us. Stirring the proverbial pot seems to give a few of them pleasure. Fortunately though the antithesis exists. Family can provide such warmth, affection, joy, and happiness I want to dance and sing! I love my family.
            I was reminded in 2013 about the importance of tolerance. The world in which we live is so diverse and so disparate it is amazing it still is spinning on an even keel. Acceptance is not always easy; and it might take real courage, but it’s worth it. It helps to listen; it helps to communicate; it helps to step back and say, “It’s not all about what I think,” because, guess what? It’s not.

            Today is the last day of 2013. It has been a year to remember.

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Christmas Eve Ramblings

Christmas Eve brings back many memories. I spent several childhood Christmases in England, a few in Texas, and more in Kentucky. What I wanted most was a white Christmas, but, even in Kentucky, heavy snow didn’t occur often. Instead, we might be teased with flurries, fat flakes that floated down from a grey sky, drifting with the wind to the ground and melting in seconds. More often we would endure bitter cold nights and crisp days, the light, blue skies covered in wispy, white clouds. Layers of clothing, scarves, mittens, and earmuffs never seemed quite enough to combat the chill. That didn’t matter though, for it was the holiday season: time to be happy and, moreover, good!

When I was a child, anticipation overwhelmed me. I counted the days, even the hours, until Christmas morning. Sometimes my brother and I were allowed to open a “Christmas Eve” gift. Otherwise, we endured that final, long night and were up at dawn ready to open presents. My family was not wealthy by any means, but my parents always made sure, within reason, of course, that we received what we had asked “Santa” to bring us. We would wrap ourselves in warm, wool or chenille robes and wait for the coal furnace to crank up enough for the festivities to begin. Those mornings were happy, and years later, when my own sons were with me still, I did all I could to recreate in my own home, a similar atmosphere of warmth and joy.

Years have sprinted by. Times have changed. No children will be tugging me out of bed the minute the sun slips over the horizon tomorrow. Instead my husband and I probably will sleep well into the morning. We celebrated with the grandchildren three days before Christmas this year, and I pretended it was the “real day”. It worked. We had a wonderful celebration with good food, lively conversation, lots of hugs, plenty of photographs, and, of course, those gifts. The highlight for each grandkid this year was receiving a mini iPad. I told my son, Justin, that his children would probably never speak to him again! “Their eyes will be glued, more often than not, to that little illuminated screen,” I told him with a smile. He chuckled, but inside, I believe he must have shuddered slightly.  

Tomorrow, on Christmas, for the first time ever, my husband and I will be at home together, alone. It seems a bit odd, and yet, I am not disheartened. We’ll have a nice day. Gifts for each other (and for our dogs and cat) are under the tree. So, although it is different, it is the same; the nuances of the occasion have just changed somewhat from years past. 2013 has been one of loss, but as with all else, we cannot alter what is. Our love for our family and friends and for the son we lost, is very much alive and well, and on this Christmas Eve, we remember.


Friday, December 20, 2013

What do YOU want under your tree?

When I was a little girl all I wanted for Christmas was “a tea party”. My parents made sure I received just what I desired: a short-legged, little table with two chairs, a tea set consisting of four, tiny cups, matching saucers, and a squat tea pot that held real tea. Oh, and I was given a baby doll for good measure. In an ancient, photo album somewhere is a faded, black and white photo to prove it. It’s a picture of contentment.

When I grew older, I was given a record player along with a 33 rpm record of Johnny Mathis (really!) and fortunately, one of the Beatles. (Most youngsters, and perhaps a few adults, this day and age, wouldn’t have a clue!) I always loved Christmas, and in my house, it was Christmas. My parents were churchgoers, believers. That’s just the way it was. I grew up saying, “Merry Christmas!” and that’s okay!

Today, I say more: Merry Christmas, Happy Holidays, Seasons Greetings, Happy Hanukkah, Happy Kwanzaa, Joys of the Season, and Peace on Earth. (And I apologize for leaving out any number of other salutations that fit the season.) It is not my intention to offend anyone. For me, all it means is that I hope everyone, no matter what one believes, is content this winter as the hubbub of each celebration revs up and then winds down.

So, what do I want under my tree this year? I want love and peace. I want patience, contentment, and tolerance. I want good health and happiness. I want to wallow in sweet memories. And, yes, to round it all out, I’m looking forward to those hot, red Valentino sunglasses I plucked off the “sunglass tree” at my husband’s office. Ho! Ho! Ho!

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

It’s About Time

Time is evasive. It will not let me get ahold of it! Sometimes it teases me by creeping by at the pace of a sloth. Other times it zips by at warp speed. I can’t get a handle on it! Maybe it’s an issue of time management. Have you ever had your day planned out just right? You know exactly how the hours will be spent, only to find that a friend calls, and it’s more important to talk to her than to do some mundane task that can wait? How many times have you spent time doing something you detest such as waiting for too long in a doctor’s office, in a long queue at Costco, or trapped in traffic at the Novato narrows? I hate wasting precious time. It can turn me inside out! Yet, how wonderful it is to take time to do the things I love, like writing for a time, even if it’s only about time.

As the end of 2013 approaches, perhaps it’s time to take a moment to think about what life has offered up for us. Have we used our time well or have we squandered it with nothing to show for its passing? Have we given or have we taken? Have we spent too many minutes looking inward rather than outward? It’s a matter of balance, I suppose. Quite likely we need to do both in order to sort through what has happened in the last twelve months before we venture forward into 2014.

I’m not really sure why time is on my mind this morning, but it is. Time flies. Time’s a thief. Don’t waste time. Time to get busy. Time is fleeting. There’s never enough time. Time goes by too fast. Take time. We’ve heard it all, and somehow, just thinking about it, makes me want to stop for a second simply to reflect. The past year has given me new friends, new experiences, new challenges; it has broken my heart, bolstered my spirit, made me cry, and let me laugh. No matter how daunting, how difficult, how poignant, how heartening, I am grateful for it, for every second.

Until next time . . .

Monday, December 9, 2013

The Season of Firsts

Maybe it’s the holidays. Everyone said it would be rougher, tougher now. Someone told me it was the season of “firsts”: the first time you missed your birthday; the first Halloween you weren’t dressed in a crazy costume; the first Thanksgiving without you at my table; the first time you didn’t nuke a plate piled high with leftovers; the first holiday season without you here; the first time you haven’t said, “It looks great, Ma!” when the tree is decorated; the first time you haven’t snagged a few Christmas cookies fresh from the oven; the first time I have not bought you a present or two or more. And now, I’m facing a new year without you. I don’t like that idea.

At first I thought I would never smile or laugh again. I did. I have. Yet, when I least expect it, I cry. Grief doesn’t feel good. I don’t wallow in it, but it shows up from time to time. You were my first child and losing you has been my greatest loss. This is the first time I’ve written at length so publically about how much I miss you. It may not be the last.

This is all I have to say today.