The Magic Keeper

There is an elf at my house from black Friday til Christmas Eve.  She has a cute cheerful face & wears a red jumper and is supposed to sit on the shelf or hide among the decorations and my granddaughters named her ‘Everbloom Woodsong’ when she came to live here in December of 2010.  This is the 7th season that the little one has come to my house every single morning to look for her.  This is the first season that her older sister did not.

When the eldest comes to my house, either after school or at some time over a weekend, she will say, “where’s Everbloom?” and I love that she asks, particularly if her sister is here anyway, but I am quite certain, as she achieves very high marks at school and is now almost 11 and a half years old, that she does not think, for even a moment, that Everbloom flies back to the North Pole nightly to report to Santa how the girls have been that day.  I am pretty sure that on Christmas Eve morning, when she spies Everbloom at the top of the Christmas tree, where she has her final landing-place every year here, she will grin happily and she might even try to catch my eye, and I will know how much she loves this tradition, and I will know that she knows…if she does not try to catch my eye, there may still be a hint of wonderment but I suspect there is not.  She will however continue to be “The Magic Keeper” for her little sister.  I read an essay on The Huffington Post the other day about that confusing time of year as a parent, or in my case, a grandparent, when you have a child in your life on the edge of believing at Christmas.  The author wrote that when she had THE Talk with her son she told him he was now the magic keeper for his little brothers and I thought that was one of the most beautiful ways to describe it.

I am in my last year of my forties and my parents never had THE Talk with me.  I don’t know when it all changed or how it changed but never once did my parents say there is no Santa, never once did my parents say anything other than “if you don’t believe, where is the magic?”  and for that I am still to this day, grateful.  My Christmas memories from childhood are so full of joy and happiness and love and comfort and all those good words that so many children grow up without.  To say I am thankful for my nearly perfect childhood is a tremendous understatement.  Even after I was first divorced and had moved back into my parent’s home that June with my little toddler by my side, once again sharing the second floor of the house with my sister, in the morning that Christmas, when we awoke, there were presents under the tree.  I never saw my mother or my father place one, I never saw them hidden in the basement or my parent’s bedroom.  My mother never said a word and not one gift with my name on it was seen by my eyes until Christmas morning.  We simply never stopped believing in our family.

When I walked my granddaughter to the bus stop this morning she reported to me that yesterday at school there was some talk among the children in her 3rd grade class that many of them don’t believe in Santa.  She then went on to describe to me in great and animated detail what she discussed with her friends  and that she argued  her point that, “your parents have to pay the electric bill, they have to pay for the house where you live, gas for their trucks, and at my house there are violin lessons and my sister takes like ten dance classes, how on earth do you think parents can pay for ALL of that PLUS all of the presents that we find under the tree at Christmas, are you kidding me that you don’t believe?!”  My heart felt glad, as she stepped onto the bus that although she is taller than most of her classmates, she is still very much a very little girl.

Full disclosure to report here…It is said, although I can’t remember doing it or it actually happening, that one Christmas when I was a young teenager, I found the hidden gifts and unwrapped lots of the presents and then re-wrapped them.  I LOVE surprises and I can’t for the life of me imagine that I did this act, and I have no body memory of performing this act, but I am told that I did do this act.  I remember SO many details from my childhood, adolescence, and teenage years, and am one of those people who just remembers so much random stuff, but I swear to you, I have no memory of doing this, it is just told to me that I did it.  It is a great shame to me still,  if it is the truth…Perhaps that is one of the many reasons why now, all these years later, I am more aware of why the magic matters.  I am going to bake today, and I am going to have Christmas music pumping through all the hidden speakers in all the rooms of my house and it is going to smell wonderful in my little house.  It is going to feel like the special day it is, the Winter Solstice, the shortest day of the year and the day I always like to think about the new year to come, how the days will be longer from this day forward, and how I can make some magic in every one of the days in this new year ahead.  I will find great joy in the simple pleasures of my home and the happiness of the holiday season and, because Everbloom was discovered this morning sitting on the jingle bells hanging on the stainless steel handle of my front door, I will be a very good girl today, just in case…

elf

 

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Soothe Sayer

I’m the last person who could even think to tell somebody what their future might hold as I often have a hard enough time trying to see myself through the next few days, let alone the next year or at all into the future, which for me is most uncertain.  ‘Take each day as it comes and let each day end and be done with it’ seems to be the best way to live, however this time of the year is often so difficult for so many, they want answers, they want to know if things will get easier, if things might get better…some want to think of the closing of a door as the end of a year and gather ideas for a fresh start or a new way of thinking, some want to contemplate things they could drastically change or simply improve, or determine clear ways in which they might better their present circumstances or perhaps more importantly, themselves.  I could easily insert the words I, mine, our, and my here, as we really are all in this together, and regardless of what narrative I use, this blog could just as easily be for you as it is for me.  There are some days and weeks that I feel so hopeless, like I couldn’t find my way out of a paper bag, and those kinds of thoughts do me no good.  Those kinds of thoughts are many things and soothing isn’t one of them.

Honestly, who does not need some emotional soothing especially this time of year when it’s dark before dinner, and it’s bleak and gray in the morning, and it’s raw and cold in the evening, it’s really no wonder so many suffer from seasonal affective disorder or get those most dreaded winter blues. It’s almost too easy to find yourself falling into a month or more of melancholy.  BUT this is something I do know for certain; what we think about, or dwell on or perpetually ponder, becomes the main theme and thread of our thoughts, AND those voices become our narrator…and they repeat, over and over like late night reruns of Friends.  The more we think the heavy thoughts, the heavier our thoughts become and whether you believe me or not, heavy things are really hard to move.  That is not a soothing thought at all is it?  That is not salve for the bitter cracks and painful sores that some of us might be suffering right now in general, and this time of year in particular. The only panacea that seems to work consistently and effectively is controlling the words that you let live between your ears.  This advice for wellness might be the equivalent of spying your cardiologist having a cigarette behind the office dumpster, or finding out that your yoga instructor was home alone over the weekend eating a box of Twinkies with a McDonald’s milkshake and watching “You’ve Got Mail” for the fiftieth time and crying over where she might have gone so wrong…what I mean to say is that it’s all well and good to be told what we should do, how to live better, what kinds of things we can do to make ourselves feel good, but words can only go so far…words can soothe, but we have to put those soothing words into practice if we want to see the benefits.

There are many people I know, some better than others, who are in serious need of soothing right now…some are aching so badly and deeply over recent tragedy that it’s a wonder they don’t break into a thousand pieces from their overwhelming sadness and heartbreak.  A couple of people I know remain so terribly angry over things that happened in their pasts that they keep spinning in circles and just can’t seem to ever heal, and no amount of salve or Syrah can comfort them.  It’s almost too easy, when you are not the one suffering in sadness, to tell somebody else that ‘it will get better’…how do I know that it will get better for them?!  How dare I even try to say “I understand” and offer my sympathy when I myself actually have no idea how awful this person might be hurting?!  These thoughts got me thinking about what I could do, what I could say, what I could write that might offer some level of comfort, however miniscule, to those in need of soothing support right now.

I am writing as an offering, this I can give…comforting words that may or may not provide any recovery of any sort.  It’s easy some would argue, for me to spout cheerful thoughts and quotes about how no pain lasts forever, to make positive affirmations about healing, but really, who am I kidding?  You see there is nothing I can do to heal the heartbreak of a woman I know who recently lost her beautiful, vibrant daughter to cancer; her daughter, the same age as my own, leaving behind a husband, two babies, sisters, parents, friends…there was not one card at the store that even said a little bit of what I felt in my heart for this woman’s immeasurable sadness.  BUT what I can do is write my daughter text messages out of the blue and tell her I love her.  THAT I can do.  You see there is nothing I can do to heal the heartbreak of a woman I know who for months was by her mother’s side at hospitals and worked arm and arm with the nurses, advocated for the best possible care from the doctors and staff, so she would only to have to say goodbye this week, just like that.  BUT what I could do was have lunch with my mom the other day and when we got to her Jeep and my truck in the parking lot, I hugged her and told her I loved her.  THAT I could do.

We’ve all read those quotes about how everybody we meet is fighting their own battles, how what we see on the outside isn’t necessarily indicative of what’s going on inside, and that sometimes explains why people are nasty in line at the grocery store, or driving aggressively or honking you out of a parking spot…all those little things that make us think somebody a real jerk, might very well be aches and unhealed wounds, and the nasty way they behave is just the way they cope…counteract meanness with niceness every time you can, that’s my advice.  Emerson wrote, “You cannot do a kindness too soon, for you never know how soon it will be too late.”  One smile might be the only one some mean old curmudgeon gets that day.  One pleasant ‘good morning’ might be the only one some miserable gum cracking too perfumy lady in Shop Rite gets all week.  You just don’t know how far your little effort can go…You have no idea how much goodness you might have done somebody, just by taking a split second to show the smallest bit of attention or understanding.

I can’t soothe the sadness that people are feeling but I can make the world a better place by giving and spreading all the love and positive thoughts and kind behaviors that I can in each day I have.  AND guess what?  You can too.  We all can give comfort to those we know and those around us by simply being more loving, being more kind, being more tolerant, being more accepting, being more generous, being more cheerful…Soothing spreads farther and wider than we can imagine but it starts right here, now, in your heart. All of that energy goes out into the universe and when we feel that there is NOTHING we can do to make a friend feel better, the truth is that we absolutely CAN do a lot, because it all circles and swirls and twirls throughout each of our days on this earth.

connective tissue

I live in the same county in which I was born.  My back yard, in this house, what I fondly call my “last house,” is 1000 feet from the field and woods and marshes surrounding my “first grown up” house where my daughter played and found adventure as a little girl. We have a small barrier island near here across the bay where my mother’s great-grandfather settled in the late 1800’s and on which she and all of her siblings were born in the late 1930’s and early 40’s.  The same island where my father’s parents vacationed and had a summer home in the 50’s and 60’s .  This island is where my father worked his whole life as a carpenter and where I have been employed since I was 14.  This island is about a ten mile drive from where we all live now.  We have not traveled very far from where we started.  When I was young I used to dream about getting away from here, this place that is sometimes a cultural void, and imagined living in a city or a bustling artsy town, filled with fantastic diversity and magnificent restaurants and unique shopping, but here is where I’ve stayed, despite the few chances to be elsewhere…

I went to a small art show on Saturday that made me feel connected to “here” in a way that was oddly comforting.  When I walked into the space the first person I saw was a woman who I worked with on that island more than 25 years ago.  She sold real estate and worked at the same gallery I did during her slow times of the year.  She also happened to go to school with my mother 25 years before that and she currently owns the only health food store in our area, where I suspect every one of us in that room at that moment, has shopped.  She was speaking to a man who I now work part-time for in the winter who owns a publishing company in our area and who I met more than 29 years ago at that same gallery on that island where we sold his calendars which feature photos of the Jersey shore.  They were standing in front of the woman who was the host of the art show and in whose space the event was held, a woman I had not seen for more than 39 years; you see, when I was a little girl and learning “Hop-Shuffle-Tap-Flap-Ball Change” at the dancing school a mile from my house, where I took lessons for a couple of hours a week for all the years of my youth, she was doing the “time step” from 42nd Street and “shuffling off to Buffalo” with the girls I so looked up to and admired, the teenagers who were called The Starlets, and the dancing school was owned by a woman who had been a Radio City Rockette and with whom my mother went to high school.  This thin and fit woman with the sexiest silver hair and super cool sea-glass necklaces around her neck happens to be married to a man who I see at least twice a year, and sometimes more, who owns a canvas shop on the island where I take my customer’s boat cushions and covers to be sewn and repaired every season, a man who also grew up on the island and who knows both of my  parents.  I then chatted briefly with a woman who is a local writer and artist who I have been friends with on Facebook for more than five years but who I never had met, who dates a man who is the ex-husband of a woman I also worked with at a gift shop on the island almost a decade ago.  Her booth of framed drawings and watercolors was beside a booth where my part-time-boss’s wife was sitting with her fun and funky upcycled objects for sale, one of which I HAD to have, and for which I specifically went to this Artisans’ Festivus Market.  Her table was across the room from a woman who is both an extraordinary seamstress, who owns a store on the island where she sells her handmade bathing suits, and also a potter who does beautifully glazed functional stoneware.  I met her years ago, when I briefly dated a man who turned out to be ‘oh so wrong’ for me, but through whom I met a lot of cool people, and she happens to live on the same street where my former boss once lived, the woman who owned the gallery where I worked, off and on for more than 25 years and her sister-in-law is a woman I was friends with in high school…

And the seasons they go round and round,  And the painted ponies go up and down,  We’re captive on the carousel of time.  We can’t return we can only look behind from where we came,  And go round and round and round in the circle game…”

AND there I stood, feeling so connected to so many people in such a small space…this strange feeling washed over me, how just a few threads join us all in this splendid tapestry…and I was walking beside  the man I love, who I met only 1,619 days ago, but who went to my high school at the same time I did, the same high school where my mother went three decades before us, and with whom I share so many mutual friends and acquaintences…and yet we never had met, never had even known the other existed.  He often says to me, “how could you not have known me, I had long hair and was the drummer in a really cool band?!”  and I respond, “well how did you not know me, I was the captain of the cheerleaders and was tall and thin with big boobs?!”   We laugh a lot about it, how we were so near each other so many times but never met.  We probably were just feet away from each other playing Pac-Man at the arcade on the island when we were 13 and 14, we were probably just feet away from each other near lockers in a hallway when we were 15 and 16, we were probably at some of the same parties or events and no one ever thought to introduce us, and yet here we are now, 49 &50 making a life together, joining his daughter and my granddaughters, perhaps creating a friendship that might last throughout their lives, mixing his martini glasses with my high-ball glasses, his vegetable peeler with my Oneida flatware…I think it’s sometimes these little connections, these tiny bits of glue that join us and create the strongest adhesive.

 

 

Pink Pearls and Peace

I’m feeling that right now is a ‘now or never‘ point in my life…I know, I know, it’s old news and it’s been said and before, but…things that I really think I want to be different I need to make different OR I need to  accept.  Sort of like put-up or shut-up as it’s said.  I’m not getting any younger, there is no way to add time to my meter.  There are MANY things that I would do differently if I could do them over, and MANY things I would not do at all, if I could go ahead and just, well, un-do them…but that is not how life works.  That is not how any of this works.  There is no pink pearl eraser for our actions.  There is no eraser to get rid of what you want to change.  Remember that joy, as a kid, when you got a fresh new rectangular pink eraser, with Pink Pearl printed on it, for the new school year?  Any mistake you made you could just erase away, blow off the paper, sharpen your pencil, and begin again.  It was so easy to un-do what you changed your mind about or got wrong!  To be clear, I am very well aware that I can begin again anytime, and I can write this til my fingers are numb, I can think this til my thinker is sore, and I can shout this from the rooftops til I have a frog in my throat, and still never change a single thing, but that’s my choice too, to act on the thoughts or not.  We all have the choice to act in a way that brings us closer to peace, to erase and start over, or not.

If anything is itching at your soul and making you feel that you are not at peace, if any words are bouncing around in between your ears and making you feel that you are not at peace,  if you’ve let people into your life and they’re making you feel that you are not at peace,  isn’t now as good a time as any to erase these feelings of unease and move towards the comfort of a peaceful life?  What are you waiting for?  Do you think you’ve got time to keep waiting?  The facts of your life up to now are the facts of your life up to now and they don’t change.  How we perceive them, and how we go about working with, or against them, is what makes life tolerable, horrible, or enjoyable.   Your story is what it is.  Whether or not you accept the consequences or the results of these facts of your life is one way to measure the quality of your life, if that’s something you want to do.  There is no pause, no stop, there’s no rewind button or backspace tab, there is no option to Ctrl/Alt/Delete in life.  We can only go on, forward, move ahead, from here.  Wherever ‘here’ is for you at this moment…we can’t go back to any point before right now, no matter how much you or I might wish that to be true…‘everything would be peaceful if only’…well, that isn’t an option…YOU ARE HERE.  STARTING NOW.  On your Marks, GET SET, GO.  We can’t grab a fresh pink pearl and erase, smudge free, the mistakes, or undo the did and begin again…only in science fiction stories can we change what is done, what has happened thus far is the truth of our story.  Wish all you want to the contrary, that’s the truth.  Not my truth, THE truth.  There is no pink pearl to undo what is finished.  We can only go from here.  It’s simple, and sounds simple but some  fight it, some dwell on the “what ifs,” I know I sometimes do which serves no purpose whatsoever.  Some “rue the day” over lots and lots of days, but it’s all for naught…now is from where we start.  Each and every one of us has no other option to begin again than this moment right here.

time

You can certainly claim, or state with an authoritative level of certainty that something is true, and if it IS in fact true, nothing else matters.  BUT if you are claiming something as true, but it’s really your interpretation of an event or situation then it’s not THE truth.  It might be your truth, or it might be perceived as ‘something that is true’ by other people, but argue with me all you like, it is not the truth, it is your perception…the point I am so inelegantly trying to make is that we all have and live with our own truths and points of view, the consequences of our choices, the splendid luck, or in some cases the extreme misfortune of belonging to the families we grew from, BUT we also all live on this planet together where we have to juggle and move through the tangles of the truths and untruths of all our combined stories.  We have to figure out the best way to tackle the day in a way that makes us feel happy, satisfied, joyful, complete…peaceful…whatever words you want to insert here are applicable, but there is no erase if we decide later that THIS is not what we wanted to do, or to have happen, but we’d rather it have been THAT…we have only here and now to begin another beginning.  Say what you will about all this “starting over nonsense” but I personally think it’s awesome!  ANY minute can be the minute that we start over.  Any day we wake up could be the day that we change A, or B, and maybe C, or perhaps AB&C in one swoop.  It doesn’t matter, it only matters that it’s our choice to act and to live and all we have is now, THIS life, this moment, this time in our bodies on this planet, and no pink pearl eraser can undo any of what is already done, we now just go on from wherever we are, however far we might be from where we wanted to be, planned to be, or hoped and wished and worked so hard for…none of it matters, it’s all just here and all just now and peace is right in front of us for the taking.

I fully admit and acknowledge that I’ve made some terrible choices and I don’t shy away in embarrassment over some of the dreadful decisions I’ve made.  I have said some dreadful things and I have done some terrible things, and I am fully flawed.  I suspect that anybody who claims they haven’t is either lying to me or lying to themselves, but that’s not the point of this story.  I believe that when I seek peace, either in my thoughts, through my words, or evidenced by my behavior, I am creating a life that is as free as possible from discord.  I also believe that despite how uneasy you may feel, how distressful your truth might be, seeking peace will bring you closer to where you want to be.  You know those folks who always seem annoyed, or have continual drama, or are easily provoked to anger?  I think they are constantly focusing on their irritants instead of their joys.  I repeatedly see with my own eyes and hear with my own ears examples of this truth, that when we focus on what is disagreeable we drift further from harmony.

I spent Saturday afternoon with a group of 11 women; some I know better than others, one I did not know at all, and all of us playing different roles despite our closeness in age. Some of them have been in love with the same person for decades and some of them are still looking for the one to make their heart sing.  Some of us had wallets that were bursting and some of us had wallets that were empty.  Some of them have lost so much and some of them have lost so little.  So many similarities among a dozen women, and yet so many differences…twelve individual women with twelve different truths and twelve unique paths to peace.  All of us, despite our efforts and our choices, have a few things we would like to do better…next week, or next month, or maybe next year.  No matter how good life is or how difficult, every one of us could make some modifications.  I’m excited to think that even though there’s no pink pearl big enough for all the things some of us wish we could erase, there is a new line to call your starting line, ANYwhere you want it to be, and ANY day you want it to be, for all of us.  Sure there can be next year, next week, later, or ‘not now, I’m not ready,’ OR there can be OKAY now!  meaning? you guessed it, now is as good a time as any and it’s all any of us have.  I don’t have many answers to the questions of how to make your life more peaceful or pleasant but my suggestion for you, and for me too, is to simply  sharpen our pencils, and begin again.