Hello, Christmas?

Hello, Christmas?

Will you please go away and come back later? I’m just not ready to hear your radio jingles or to hear Karen Carpenter pine for home. It’s not that I’m being Scrooge, but the premature holiday season sets me ill at ease.

Would you consider this instead? I’d actually love to sing bygone carols in a candlelit, pine scented church pew that smells like the passing of time. Or the chance to gaze upon a beautiful Nativity and to meditate on what Jesus’ entrance into this world has meant.

Could you please also skip Black Friday this year? Shopping deals, getting up at midnight to beat crowds and waiting outside a store so I can stampede in like livestock make me want to poke myself in the eye with a fork. Maybe we could just have a nice meal together instead?

Oh, and the card thing- let’s do away with that. Fifty cents a stamp, procuring the perfect family photo, and guilt over my carbon footprint killed that for me long ago. People still tell me they liked my card when I compliment theirs so I suppose it doesn’t matter anyway.

However, let’s make an agreement about food. Food is non-negotiable. Warm wafts of oven baked ham don’t bother me at all. Neither does a table of homemade, baked desserts. A slice of chocolate pecan, bourbon pie with a hot toddy are completely acceptable. Walking into a warm home smelling of nutmeg and cinnamon actually have the Pavlov effect of a loving hug. So, let’s agree to keep the food.

You know what, Christmas? I think with these tweaks you might be starting to look a whole lot like your cousin, Thanksgiving. Let’s invite him over now and I’ll visit with you later. Is that a deal???

Dear Younger Me

The band MercyMe sings a message of encouragement and hope to their younger self. I find it incredible to fathom what life might be like had I known then what I do now. At the ripe age of 50 this week, I am aware that inner peace means more than anything else. My younger self sure could have benefited from that memo.

Youth is full of exploration, self discovery and lots of mistakes. Unforeseen circumstances can wreak havoc but we still get to choose our response. When I read the apostles’ journeys from a historical perspective, I am amazed they stayed the course. Being human is not for the meek. Existing here requires work. It requires even more work if you’d like comfort and love of others. The old saying that “there’s no free lunch” is accurate. We can’t pick what family or genes we get, but we sure can pick our attitude and work ethic.

My mom got Alzheimer’s disease in her late 40s. It recently dawned on me that my mom was in assisted living at MY AGE. My mom had left my dad when I was 12 so her disease hit me hard. Her absence and lack of parenting seemed like neglect at the time but now, I recognize it was her disease. So many friends I have are now experiencing their parents’ dementia and it’s strange I had that journey already- in my late teens. Maybe my “helicopter parenting” comes from my desire that my children never experience what I did? As a college freshman, I got the call my mom had been institutionalized and felt lost. Back then the signs were regarded as Schizophrenia but now the diagnosis wouldn’t be missed. Having my mother sick and no home to go to felt like the world suddenly shifted on its axis and spun in the wrong direction out of control. Thankfully, my father opened his home to me.

Another revelation I’d like to tell my younger self would be to quit caring so much if someone dislikes you. They did! They forever will! You can’t stop someone from hating you. Nothing you do or say can change it. Get over it and move on already!! Once my husband, sensing my hurt and vulnerability said, “Sometimes people dislike you for the good things about you.” That was a startling jolt for me. I thought good equaled good. Positivity and hard work meant all would be okay. But actually, no, that’s not the case.

For me, aging has provided me more inner peace. It doesn’t come easily, however. It has to be cultivated, practiced and learned. Just like exercise trains muscles, inner peace comes from diligent effort. It’s taken me 50 years (yep, 5 full decades) to get over a lot of petty stuff and to accept certain things. All the inner turmoil of my younger years has been laid to rest. It just doesn’t matter anymore. I’d tell myself way back when to chill out and forgive. Let go of hurt and always hope for the best. Be open to others and always offer love. It’s amazing how much goodness and mercy exist when we allow ourselves to be a conduit of them. I wouldn’t go back to my youth. Sure, a bikini body was nice, but it doesn’t compare to inner peace. Heck, I’ve had 4 children, so what am I supposed to look like anyway?

Aging garners respect in some societies. Being older equals wisdom. I believe that is a practice our society could use. Most of my older friends (81-94) have deep wisdom that can’t be given or purchased but can be learned. I want to be like them when I fully grow up.

So, dear younger me and you, be happy, be grateful, work hard expecting nothing. Look for goodness everywhere, always. Get over insults and freely love. Look others in the eye and acknowledge everyone in your realm. Many around are hurting. Try to be the change you’d like to see in the world. Don’t stop believing that goodness and mercy matter. And above all, accept who you are and were created to be.

Pants, Wings and a Nudist Beach

 

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Young children are blissfully unencumbered by awkward things we adults have to navigate.  They tend to take things head on and react exactly how they feel or, ignore them altogether. There are three such instances that make me smile every time.

The first occurred when we took our children on a cruise.  Aside from lots of swimming and games, we also took them to an evening show in the ship’s theatre.  It was a show featuring lavishly dressed dancers and music.  One son, being approximately 6 years old had never seen sparkly, dancer’s costumes before.  When the velvet curtains parted, his eyes got wide, he turned around and blurted out, “Daddy, those women forgot their pants!”

Another surprising moment occurred when my husband took one of our 10 year old sons out for wings on a football Saturday.  We were out of town and he took him (here it comes) to Hooters.  When they returned, he said where they had gone. I was very curious how our impressionable, sheltered son would react to the scantily clad servers.  So, I hesitantly asked while fearing the worst but he said he DIDN’T EVEN NOTICE!

Last, but not least, one occurred when our 10 year old went snorkeling with his grandfather in the Caribbean.  When rinsing off in outdoor showers, his grandfather told him not react but a nudist couple was walking nearby on the beach. Not only did his face more than give away his feelings on the matter, but he was reportedly more appalled due to their being old……

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I’ll Be You

In 1989, the Replacements released a song with the lyrics, “You be me for a while, and I’ll be you.” Those words got me to ponder what it’d be like to temporarily be someone else? Being Hollywood’s most successful actor sound like a winner? Or how about becoming a gold medaled, Olympic-athlete? Maybe being royal would satisfy a fantastical life experience for some. I’d personally like to experience being Reese Witherspoon for a day due to her accomplishments: actor, author, and producer. She’s got a book tour, she’s beautiful and rich, however, I digress.

Contrarily, what if you were to swap lives with someone of a different gender, religion, or ethnicity? What about being a kid again and letting your kid be the grownup like in the movie “Freaky Friday?” Not quite as enticing is it? But it seems we may need to do just that to entertain being empathetic and potentially budge from our own rigid opinions.

It dawned on me this morning when I was getting ready for work the shirt I put on was a jewel-toned blue. I had scored a silk shirt of a favorite designer with tags on (!) from eBay. Strangely, the seller advertised it as purple. I realized the metaphor in that moment that each person sees things differently.

We each “see” based on our DNA, personal history, value system, and circumstances. Each of our views is limited in scope based on our location, both physically and mentally. It’s one of the reasons there are many referees on the field in college football. There is so much to see that it is impossible to assess from only one viewpoint. Watching games, we think we know what’s happened but after review, the head ref might change the call.  It’s because he gets additional input from others on the field (and a camera or two). In that same vein, what if we attempted to understand others by taking in many different viewpoints before coming to our own opinions?  Maybe we’d recognize we all want the same things and aren’t so different regardless our ethnicity, political beliefs, gender, or religion? Perhaps there would be less distrust and anger between us? It seems like a possible solution to all the polarization worldwide and even in my own home.

Kindergarten Congress

baby blur boy childIt has been a highly contentious week or so for government in America.  Since we seem to have devolved to bickering, ranting, name-calling and blame gaming, the thought struck me that maybe we should let kindergarteners make decisions instead.  Jesus said to come to Him as little children, not as multi-degreed, life experienced, accolade- laden adults.

Children give transparent, literal, and quite honest opinions.  For instance, when our daughter was in preschool, she saw a woman with a large belly and said out loud, “Look mommy, she has a baby in her tummy!” Nope, she DID NOT have a baby in her tummy, she said, she just “looked like it.” (Face palm inserted here.) Another example was when our son was in second grade and he got in trouble by his music teacher for blurting out during music class.  When his regular teacher heard about his infraction, she asked him why he did that because she just knew he would not do that in her class.  He said, “Yes, ma’am, I would blurt out in your class too…..you said to be honest.”  So there we go.  Honest to the point of fault.  Can we even fathom our leaders being honest to a fault?

Lenny Kravitz sings to “Let Love Rule” in a popular ’90s era song.  Children seem so much more open to it than we “life experienced” adults are.  At a small group meeting at the local retirement home, one woman remarked how it made her so bothered that people don’t “see” her anymore now that she is older.  When I asked her what she meant by being seen, she said just acknowledged when she is passed by.  It got me to ponder my neglect to acknowledge others in my flurry of activities.  Being too busy to be nice is not a good thing.  With that in mind, I have decided to simply “see” people I encounter from now on.  I was taught by an Indian friend that to say, “Namaste” basically means, “I see you.”  It is time to up the Namaste, both in my own sphere and in government.  Maybe then I won’t have to convince my coworker’s grandson to go ahead and run for Congress.

 

 

 

 

Perfectly Imperfect

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Ed Sheeran sings “Life is more than fittin’ in your jeans.  It’s love and understanding, positivity.”  Perfection, physical or otherwise, is an unrealistic, unobtainable goal. It’s an endless mirage that doesn’t exist.

It’s taken me decades to let go of perfectionism. That includes vanity, I hate to admit. My husband says that if anyone looked in a mirror as long as I did that they’d eventually find something wrong.  Now that I’m older and wiser, I realize it’s the caring, warm and funny people I’m drawn to, not the most attractive anyway.  I can remember being a one-time perfectionist about my home, exercise and initially, parenting.  God put my misplaced priorities in the blender and hit HIGH.  Having four children in under two years will make the most staunch perfectionist fold.

I don’t know if it’s learned or innate but some people demand excellence in everything and others could care less.  For example, one son years back was doing homework and repeatedly wrote an ‘S’ for the number ‘5.’ When I corrected him he remarked, “But isn’t it a pretty S?” Another son, in elementary school made an ‘F’ on an assignment. I admonished him about it and he said, “Mom, EVERYONE has to make one eventually!” They just weren’t that bothered by imperfection.  Others in our household put so much pressure on themselves I have to remind them to be nice to even themselves.

The perfect family, house, body, or face won’t grant love or security.  It’s all just  packaging for true riches: love, understanding, positivity. The original queen of exercise, Jane Fonda, was recently quoted as saying it took her until age 60 to become the woman she was supposed to be.  I hope to do it a decade sooner.

 

ANIMAL PLANET

 

I used to say the only mother I could relate to was on Animal Planet. My litter, like theirs, would tussle, prod, and generally aggravate one another until an indecipherable mass formed.  It seemed as innate in them as it was in the wild.  I tried everything to eradicate that instinct but failed.  I suppose it’s natural when three or more come from one crammed womb.  I finally just gave up and pushed furniture back or yelled at them to take it outside (mostly).

My boys seemed to always end up in a pile. This pile could be inside our house, in the yard, on a patch of grass at church (I hated it when they were all dressed up), on a playground, or even in the water.  They looked like a three-headed triclops with numerous, flailing appendages. I’d ignore it (outside the water) as long as the noises emitted from said “pile” didn’t indicate pain.  That sound was my cue to intervene with the water hose, pitcher of water or any other mechanism possible.

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Dumbfounded at how to handle the situation as they grew in size and strength, I finally asked one of the boys what he would do if he were a parent and had three sons constantly wrestling and bothering each other.  Being approximately 11 years old, he replied, “What do I look like…a social worker?” I asked him how he knew what a social worker was.  Dead serious, he said, “I saw it on Sponge Bob.”

 

No Words

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Sometimes silence is more powerful than saying anything. There are circumstances in life that not a single word or combination of them could affect any outcome. We offer words to pacify, heal, anger, inform, encourage, inspire, direct and so on. They seem harmless and necessary but aren’t always.

This week I attended a funeral. When approaching the family, I realized there was not one word of comfort I could offer. Nothing seemed right. It felt intrusive to even look them in the eye. Why did we force them to stand in a line and listen to our babble? They were suffering enough without all of our word pollution.

I am and have always been a talker. (Stop smirking, family). I got an award from my college professors for asking the questions everyone else was afraid to ask. It seemed good to speak up then, but now, I realize it might be time to conserve that resource in certain circumstances.

People know when you care. It’s not what you say, it’s what you do. If actions speak louder than words why do we talk so much? The alternative band, Coin’s song “Talk Too Much” says it’s due to human nature.  I suppose we are doomed without self discipline. The Bible says if we control our tongue, we can control the whole body. Maybe I’m in the gym exercising the wrong muscles.

Next time the right opportunity comes, I think I will try to be quiet. Maybe then, I can do something that matters more.

Brother Bonding

If you think I am about to share a sappy, bromance story you are highly mistaken.  I am not referring to some mommy moment of actualized, parental expectations either. Instead, I am outlining how bonding became a criminal misdemeanor in the Turner household.

This is how the incident came to pass.

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My husband and I planned a short outing nearby.  We lived 90 seconds from a nearby restaurant. (We actually timed it.) We thought, “We need adult time and the boys are older now.  We can steal away for a half hour.  It will be fine.”  I always fretted leaving them but our daughter was about 13, could call us and we were 90 SECONDS away. What could possibly happen in that short of time?

One brother, being easily bored, was in the art cabinet when he found a small tube of super glue.  He may or may not have known its efficacy of attaching items together- one will never know.  Apparently, he went to each of his brothers and said, “It’s okay.  It’s okay. Just stick your finger out…”  Being interested and not realizing what they were doing, they stuck two fingers out and pressed two together. And just like that, four little fingers were super glued together.  This “sticky situation” is our family’s definition of brother bonding.  I’ve hidden the super glue ever since.

Ticket to Joy

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Popular culture has us thinking fulfillment lies in a far off, exotic destination. If we could just get there, life would be great, right? The 1,000 thread count sheets, private concierge and 5 star chef would make us truly happy.  I don’t knock it as it sounds amazing!  I just am sharing a different kind of fulfillment.

Today I heard a sermon about the importance of friends and being a friend like Jesus demonstrated. That prompted me to check on someone that I thought I was just dropping off a token of friendship to. I had no idea there was a lot more at stake.

It is ironic that we make our plans but God intervenes with His. Without knowing this friend had surgery and needed help, I called and went for a quick visit. Unbeknownst to me, they had a great need.  I am so grateful I heeded the prompt from the Holy Spirit. I cannot begin to share the peace and fulfillment of serving someone who truly needs help. I have never found more satisfaction on this earth than when I serve another’s need they can’t meet on their own.

It’s contradictory to human nature and our culture, but it’s awe inspiring. I am referring to the simple act of caring for others and being present. You don’t need  extraordinary abilities, special talents, or abundant knowledge. All you have to do is:  CARE ABOUT OTHER PEOPLE AND THEIR NEEDS and SHOW UP. Simple as that. That is my secret for gaining true fulfillment. Who knows? Someone may get theirs by serving us one day. I’d hate to rob anyone of that.