I Am Awesome. And So Are You.

I am!!!

Inspired by my lovely niece, who was in turn inspired by her lovely friend, today’s post is a celebration of what I love about myself.

Normally, I’m not one to point out my strengths or qualities. Like (I would suspect) most of us, I tend to dwell on my weak points and foibles. I’m quick to rattle off a list of those: I’m a klutz, I’m a dork, I’m lazy, I’m a little slow on the uptake. I think we all do that – we’ve rehearsed the list all our lives, until it becomes a common bond that we can share with someone else. Instead of being a humble confession, it becomes almost vanity, a point of pride to be ‘worse’ than other folks. “You think that’s stupid? Well, let me tell you about when I cut the miniblind cords off because they were too long!” (True story.)

So today I step out of that comfort zone of self-deprecation and admit that there are some good – nay, great – things about me, things I’m proud of that make me happy. I’m awesome, and I’ll give you ten reasons why.

  1. My brain. I was lucky to be a bright child – quick to learn and understand. I did well in school, earning scholarships and accolades, and my parents always encouraged me to think and absorb the world around me. As a result, I have confidence that there is nothing I can’t learn or teach myself. I especially love that ‘aha’ moment when a concept clicks and all those neural traces connect – I love being able to relate something new to something I already know. I love how my brain can stow bits of trivia and then retrieve them at the most unlikely moment. The brain is a magnificent organ, and I only wish I had enough time to learn everything I want to know.
  2. My sense of humor. Each of my parents had an offbeat, upbeat sense of humor. They did silly things and taught us to see the humor inherent in life. All of my siblings and I possess that same quality, and I firmly believe that is a very strong part of the bond that connects us. When I’m amused, you know it. I love to laugh, and I love to make other people laugh, too. I love to clown around and crack wise; like my niece said, the world is sad enough as it is. Let’s have fun!
  3. I root for the underdog. Pa once told me that I had a strong sense of fairness and a lot of moxie (which, by the way, is one of my favorite words). I have always cherished his assessment. It’s important to me to stand up for what’s right, even when it’s unpopular, and to champion the little guy. It’s who I am.
  4. I’m authentic. There is no pretense with me. What you see is what you get. Like Popeye, I Yam What I Yam. Heck, I don’t even color my hair or wear makeup. I’m just plain old me, and if you like that, great. If you don’t, well…<shrug>.
  5. I’m compassionate. I’ve had some rough spots in my life, and I have come out on the other side with a renewed sense of kindness and understanding for others. While I don’t consider myself a ‘bleeding heart’ with exaggerated sympathies, I do care a great deal about people and try to be considerate and compassionate. Sometimes it’s hard to be kind, but I’m always trying.
  6. I’m quirky. My medical history is populated with strange events and afflictions. My running joke is that because my mother was a week shy of 37 when I was born, my oddities are a direct result of her ‘old eggs.’ So, I laughingly told her that my hypermobile joints (double-jointedness), inner ear disorder, migraine cluster headaches, third set of front teeth, missing wisdom teeth, mismatched vision (one far-sighted eye, one near-sighted eye), and other physical quirks are because her eggs were past their pull date. But that’s the stuff that makes me, me.
  7. I can write. Ever since I can remember, I have been in love with words. I love to read, and I love to write. I have always been able to express myself in writing, and I’ve been able to use this gift to help other people over the years. I believe my friend’s assertion that ‘everyone has their own talent,’ and while I would love to be able to draw or sculpt or bake or craft, I am content to have been given the gift of writing.
  8. I’m a spoiler. I will go the extra mile to do something special for people I love. I used to put notes in my kids’ school lunches to let them know I was thinking about them. I enjoy spoiling Mr. Stuck. I have a soft spot for the elderly, especially little old men. I will go out of my way for you, just because.
  9. I have great hair. I’ve always loved my hair, except during my adolescence, when, try as I might, the Dorothy Hamill bob and Farrah Fawcett look escaped me. Once I came to terms with that, I’ve been happy with it. Long or short, it was thick and healthy, with its own waves and cowlicks and a very pronounced widow’s peak. Like me, it has a mind of its own, doesn’t care for the muss and fuss of curling irons and hair spray, and is at its best when left alone. It’s greyer and thinner now, but I still love it.
  10. I have a great smile. I used to have a gap between my front teeth. It was handed down through the generations on my mother’s side, and several of my sisters and their kids also have gaps. Mine was huge – I used to joke about being able to floss with a tow rope. Getting braces and a permanent retainer eliminated that gap, but I still love my smile. When I am happy, there is no mistaking it: apple cheeks, bright eyes, and a big, wide grin with my whole mouth.

It took me a while to come up with this list, and I changed my mind a few times. I wasn’t even sure if I could find ten whole things. But I’ve looked it over, and I am satisfied.

Now, a few things I need to work on:

  1. Patience. I’m just not very good at it, especially when I get behind the wheel.
  2. Procrastination. Unfortunately, I’m an expert in putting things off. Like blogging.
  3. Follow-through. I’m a great starter, but a not-so-great finisher. I get bored too easily and switch gears. I need to learn to see things through to completion, whether it’s a book I’m reading or organizing my closet. Or blogging.
  4. Judgment. I struggle with being too judgmental. It is something I work on every day. I think it comes from being judgmental toward myself and then spreading the misery. Ugh. Let me apologize in advance.
  5. Self-control. I have long said that I can resist anything but temptation. I have the ability to talk myself into and out of just about anything, especially if it’s not good for me. My overdeveloped conscience helps me behave most of the time, but too often, the devil on my shoulder wins out.

you are awesome

Now, I’d like to invite you to tell me at least one thing you love about yourself. We spend so much time being critical that we often forget to celebrate our wonderful individuality. Learning to love that unique, amazing person in the mirror is another step toward being healthy and happy!

So let’s hear it!!

 

photo credit: parker yo!  and torley

It’s Random Acts of Kindness Week! Feb 10-16, 2014 #RAKweek

kindness

I love to do little things for people ‘just because’. It’s how I was raised.

It’s Random Acts of Kindness Week — let’s turn our thoughts into actions! I know you guys can think of something to do to participate!  I didn’t know there was a designated week for this, so I’m a little late on this post, but I think it’s great.  Check it out here:

Random Acts of Kindness Week!

I’ve talked before about my mother sewing for the nursing home residents with her ladies’ group; doing nice things for other people just for the sake of doing them was ingrained in me from an early age.  I remember Mother saying I was ‘earning jewels for my crown.’

I’ve bought meals and coffees for people I didn’t know, fed parking meters (before I knew it was illegal — oops!), held open doors, allowed people in front of me in line at the store, carried things for people who were overloaded — nothing big and life-changing, nothing for recognition, but small kindnesses, just the same.  I like to think my kids have grown up understanding why I do these things, and I hope they will do the same when opportunity presents itself.

Our family has ‘adopted’ our elderly neighbor, Harvey, who is a widower who lives alone.  He’s a great guy with a lot of fun stories and a wicked sense of humor, and I love to bring him soups and stew and other treats if I’m not having him over for dinner.  We look after each other, and that’s how it ought to be.

Perhaps Random Acts of Kindness Week can help inspire those who want to do something but aren’t sure how.  Their website has suggestions and some great, uplifting RAK reader submissions.  They ask you to tag your kindness posts on social media with #RAKweek so they can see them and post some on their site.

Tell me your stories!  I love inspiration!

 

 

photo credit: SweetOnVeg

 

Remembering June.

GE DIGITAL CAMERA

Been in rather a blue funk for a few days.  In addition to the letdown after the hyperventilation surrounding high school graduation for my youngest; the impending 6-week hiatus from our dear friends; and the sick week I just had, it’s June.  June is Father’s Day and graduation, or, for those with younger kids, the month when school lets out and kids are underfoot.  Roses fill the air with their perfume; gardens explode in green; we celebrate the summer solstice; and Sir Paul McCartney and my friend Chris blow out birthday candles in June.

And it is also my sister Missy’s birthday.  Next week she would have been 52.

Two years ago, two of my sisters and I flew down to Georgia to visit Missy and join the sister who was already there.  It was the occasion of Missy’s 50th birthday, and she was in the hospital.  We wanted to make sure to give her a 50th birthday none of us would forget.  We brought along goodies she loved but couldn’t get in Georgia and took decorations and funny things to make her laugh.  Once there, we went shopping for more.  We got her a cake and even a little contraband — small ‘splits’ of wine we thought she might like to try.

None of us could voice what was aching in our hearts.  We were there because we feared that this birthday would be her last.  She needed us, and we needed her.  So we went down to spend time with her, all of us, together.  We would bring some fun to her for awhile and show her some sister love. Our eldest sister was already there helping to care for her, which was a blessing.  We came to see her husband and children and give them some support, as well.

When we first surprised her in her room, on our arrival, it was wonderful.  She hadn’t known we all were coming, and it was a joyous occasion.  Missy perked up, and we set about fussing over her, laughing and joking like old times.

A couple of nights later, in the darkened and vacant hotel lobby, with poster board, markers, and stickers, the four of us made signs to brighten her room.  We laid the paper on the floor and drew around our feet; we traced our hands and thought of silly slogans to write.  We talked and sang and danced and laughed until we nearly wet our pants.  I haven’t felt so close to my sisters in a long while.

The day of her birthday, we arranged for her to be taken out of her room for a few minutes while we set up her party decorations.  We had hoped to put a sign on the outside of her door, as well, but the staff wouldn’t allow it.  No matter — we had streamers and hats and noisy things and cards and little fun gifts for her.  We had cake and shrimp and the contraband wine.  We had to stall the nurse a bit, but when it was all ready, we gave the high sign for her to come in.

She was happily surprised at the party; in addition to her husband and sons and us girls, she had other visitors and well-wishers.  We sang and chatted and she opened her gifts; we had silly hats and glasses for her, as well as a big round ‘button’ made of a paper plate pinned to her gown that said, “Ask Me about AARP!” (American Association of Retired Persons)  We all had fun.  Afterward, she was tired, so we toned it all down and left her to rest.

I will always remember that visit more for the bonding we shared during those days than for what specific things we did or talked about.  We all carry the scar of losing the sister who died with our parents fourteen years ago; that is a sad, but strong, bond we already share.  Even as different as we all are, our love for each other is steadfast.

I wish I could better describe that feeling of oneness with my sisters; it is rather new, as we are not all close in age, and therefore didn’t all grow up together.  We are of three different groups within the family: the two eldest sisters and my brother, who is firstborn, are the first group; after a five-year gap, there are two more girls; after another five years, Missy and me.  We have always been a close family overall, but after we lost our parents and sister in 1999, we realized how short life is and we drew tightly to one another.  We are not often all together physically, either, since one lives in Georgia, one spends half the year in Arizona, and the rest of us live in Washington.  For those few days, we were all together, with no agenda but to be grateful for them and enjoy ourselves.

There is a lot more to this story, but there will be time for that.  Let’s just say that she left us at the age of 50, which was far too young.  Life is so damned short.

So I’m blue.  My heart aches with the weight of memory and loss.  Junes will come and go, but they will always be Missy’s month: not only was it her birthday, but her husband’s birthday is the week before, and their wedding anniversary falls in between.

Dads and grads may take the spotlight, but June belongs to her.

A Patchwork of Memories.

quilt
Memory quilt

5/21 Daily Post: Bittersweet Memories.
You receive a gift that is bittersweet and makes you nostalgic. What is it?

The monumental task of clearing out my parents’ home after their deaths was made even more difficult by the tragic circumstances under which we’d lost them.  Nothing was normal about it, and every little normal thing in the house just reinforced that.  What to do with the contents of a house that grew from small to huge as the family itself grew large?  Where do you start, in a house where most of their 55-year marriage was nurtured and against which all of our childhoods were staged?  We did our best to evenly distribute the “things,” the mementoes of youth, the heirlooms, the books, the spoons.

When it came to their bedroom, it was another matter.  Here was the heart of the house.  Here is where the window stayed open, even on the coldest nights; here is where the ‘workin’ things’ that resided in my Pa’s pockets would tumble onto the nightstand: washers; marbles; screws and nuts of various sizes; a bit of string or wire; a fuse; a flashlight bulb; a butterscotch candy; a hose clamp; a wire nut; some coins (he always jingled the coins in his pocket); and maybe a broken piece of something he intended to repair.  Here were Mother’s ubiquitous safety pins and headscarves and the jewelry she seldom wore.

My parents’ bedroom was normally off-limits when I was a child; without express permission from one or the other, I had no business in there.  I am glad that my parents taught us to respect their privacy; we kids always knew that while we were loved and important to them, they put one another first.  A happy marriage makes for a happy family.

It was difficult to dismantle that room, probably more so than any other part of the house.  Aside from the closets and dressers filled with clothing they no longer wore, there were memories stashed everywhere — everywhere: Birthday cards.  Letters.  Dad’s WWII memorabilia.  Photographs.  Reminders of the early days of their marriage and family, when money was tight and they scraped to get by.  Gifts that we kids had proudly made for them; baby clothes; items that they had kept from when their own parents passed away.  Each drawer, box, and bag spilled more memories.

When we got to the clothing, we knew that most of it would be donated to charity; however, there were a few things we wanted to keep that were meaningful to us.  Those of us who could wear Mother’s lovely wool coat or her favorite blouse were able to choose those things.  There were plenty of Dad’s heavy, plaid flannel shirts to go around.  The clothing with tears or stains that was not going to be given away we set aside for the rag bag.

One of our cousins, who was very close to our family and our parents, is a very talented seamstress.  With great love for our family, she offered us a priceless gift: she would make each of us a quilt from our parents’ and sister’s clothing.  If we would select the items and cut the squares, she would help us lay out the pattern and she would do the piecework, with custom embroidery.  We would select the fabrics for the backing and the binding; a friend of hers would do the quilting.

IMG_20130521_210717_361
windmill pattern

Each quilt (she made SIX of them!) was crafted with loving care.  We chose our preferred fabrics and colors and cut the pieces.  She helped us lay them out, and she pieced them together.  There were scraps of Dad’s work jeans; mom’s aprons; the daisy-printed sheets we all remembered; my sister’s blouses; a red handkerchief here; and a tee-shirt there; all affectionately combined to make a quilt that would warm our bones and our hearts.

The relationships we had with our family reflected in the items we selected to use.  Each quilt is an original; none looks like any other.  Each quilt mirrors its owner and honors its subjects.  Each is embroidered with a brief note of provenance: my cousin’s name, the date, why it was made, and for whom.  She made us promise to use the quilts, not box them up and leave them in a closet.

I have kept my promise.  Mine is no longer stiff and new; it is soft and shows wear on some of the seams.  Some of the squares were made with fabric that was thin to begin with, and those have now worn through, showing the backing behind.  I sometimes look at each square and sigh as I remember Dad in his flannel shirt or Mom in her headscarf; I finger the fabrics deliberately as my mind wanders down that path.

This gift was truly the most heartfelt and bittersweet of anything I have ever been given.  At once it represents sorrow and joy; fun and work; and family and love.

A Greater Miracle.

Day 13;365 {{ 10 things about ME }}

Could a greater miracle take place than for us to look through each other’s eyes for an instant?
~ Henry David Thoreau

So opens a short video that was shared on my Facebook feed today.   It is a promo bit for Cleveland Clinic, but it shares a profound truth.  It is a series of silent vignettes of people in a medical setting: patients in a waiting room; doctors performing treatments; visitors; people sharing an elevator.  With each scene, some text emerges above the subjects: 19 year-old son on life support appears with a worried-looking couple in a hospital cafeteria; doesn’t completely understand displays above a vacant-eyed elderly woman sitting with her middle-aged son before a doctor.  In the elevator, a man worries about his wife who just had a stroke; a woman in a white coat is newly divorced; and another man just found out he will be a father.

Each bit of text leaves us with an impression of the subjects’ state of mind.  We see sorrow, uncertainty, joy, love, and worry etched on these faces, and we can empathize.  Immediately, our heart goes out to the little girl who is visiting her Dad and the woman who is in shock at the doctor’s news.  We see ourselves in the waiting area for three hours (or more).  These are actors, of course, but they represent a universal usWe are all the same.  Doctors and nurses have joy and pain just as patients do, just as the family does, just as we — I — do.

It never hurts to remember that we each have our stories.  That driver who sped recklessly through traffic may be on his way to the hospital to see his daughter who clings to life after a drunk driver hit her on the way to school.  The cashier at the grocery store who seemed to ignore you may be thinking about how to tell her children that she and her husband are divorcing.  Perhaps the reason your boss didn’t seem to be listening to your big proposal is that his wife is coming home tonight after a month-long work assignment in another city.  Your child’s teacher was just diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis, and that’s why she has been acting a bit ‘off.’

You just don’t know.

By the time the 4-minute video came to an end, I had tears welling up in my eyes.  Compassion is a vital virtue; a walk in someone else’s shoes may be your most valuable journey.  Too often we misread intent in others because we don’t know the back story or we misinterpret their actions.  Sometimes, it’s haste; sometimes, it’s indifference; sometimes, it’s just that we don’t see.

I recently spent the better part of two days waiting in a hospital.  I had brought plenty of reading material, as well as a tablet for surfing the web, but I passed a lot of time watching other people:  The shabbily-dressed, unkempt man sitting alone at the large cafeteria table looking only at the bag of chips he hungrily consumed.  A small knot of middle-aged women in the corner laughing heartily, drawing annoyed glances from a quieter part of the room.  The housekeeper pushing her cart from restroom to restroom, perfunctorily cleaning up after the steady stream of visitors.  The elderly couple checking their watches, anxiously watching the status board.  The gowned patient with the tube taped to her nose, noiselessly escorting her IV stand to the end of the hall.  Maybe they saw me, too, with my tote bag of crossword puzzles and bottled water.

There’s no way, of course, to know what’s in someone’s heart; we judge people by their behavior and assign our own meaning to their actions.  But just as we want people to treat us with compassion and respect, we must do the same.  We must learn to look beyond the overt, and resist the urge to ascribe our own interpretations.  We must not be so quick to assume, and instead, we must try to understand.

That short video spoke strongly to me.  It said I need to try harder.  It is far too easy for me to merely respond to the actions and not consider the reason.  What if I could step into their skin for a moment?  Would I treat people more gently and with greater kindness?

I may not see from their eyes, but I can be “a little kinder than necessary,” as Peter Pan author J. M. Barrie put it.

Watch the video.  Learn the lesson.

 

photo credit Nina Matthews Photography

Happy Mother’s Day, Momma.

Back in the day. That’s me in the front.

5/12 Daily Prompt: Hi, Mom!
Today is Mother’s Day in the United States. Wherever in the world you are, write your mother a letter.

Hi, Mom.
It’s been a long while since I’ve heard from you: 14 years and a couple months.  I can actually remember the very day, because it was my birthday.

Things are pretty good here.  I”ll try to catch you up.
Daughter Dearest is a good mother with two lovely little girls of her own; they always put a smile on my face.  The boys are fine young men; I’m sure you’d be proud of them.  One’s in college and the other graduates high school next month.  They all have the world at their feet.  I love that they have the same sense of humor you have — silly and smart.  They sing songs and change the words for fun.  They make up words and aren’t afraid to make fun of themselves.  And they have good hearts, all of them.  They have compassion and kindness and respect for other people.

I wonder how you managed with all of us, your ‘passel of kids.’  Sure, the older ones helped a lot with the younger ones, but you still had to supervise and make sure the household ran as smoothly as possible.  You cooked our hot breakfasts, the wonderful homemade soups, the freshly-baked breads and pies, and my personal favorite: the roast beef and Yorkshire pudding.  What I wouldn’t give for a nice Sunday dinner at Mom’s.

Now that I’m older, I can appreciate your sacrifices so much more.  Some of them I never knew, but that was your way.  You always worked behind the scenes, talking to Dad on our behalf, fixing things, and helping us along.  Your own dreams were replaced by the dreams of your children; you wanted nothing more than for us to be healthy, happy, and kind.  You taught us to be thankful for the life we have, to work hard, and to keep a song in our hearts.

My mother on my wedding day.
My mother on my wedding day.

We all come to the point in our lives where we look or sound like our parents.  I remember you talking about that.  I laugh when it happens to me, when I cry out in frustration, “Oh, peanuts, popcorn, and Cracker Jack!”  Or when I hear a song on the radio and sing your lyrics instead.  Or when I stand at the stove with my hand on my hip and realize that I must look exactly like you from behind.

Oh, and I have a confession: yes, it was I who dug down into the chest freezer for those tubs of frozen berries.  I would only take a few at a time, so nobody would notice, and I’d replace the tub where I had found it.  They were so good, I couldn’t help myself.  Yes, it was I who found those large packs of Wrigley gum that Dad had confiscated from my sisters and stole one piece at a time — again, so nobody would notice.  Yes, I smoked cigarettes out my bedroom window.  I thought I was getting away with it until my sister found the butts and turned me in.  Well, that and the small burn in the window sheers.

I know I was a mouthy brat as a kid.  That hasn’t changed much.
What also hasn’t changed, and never will, is my love and respect for you.

Happy Mother’s Day.

wreath 3-15-00 cropped
Rest in peace, Momma.