Thursday, November 24, 2016

Back To The Fold

I was 75% into a non-traditional, yet festive Thanksgiving Day blog when the words just stopped. It was light and frivolous and very likely to show up one day soon. But it didn’t fit my mood. Originally I wasn’t going to do one at all. People are busy today. Plus there is really nothing new under the sun about the holiday. We know the origins. We are all extremely grateful for our blessings. We live an abundant and wonderful life all things considered. But something kept nagging in the back of my brain. So I decided to just relax a minute and see what else came through my turkey and pumpkin pie haze. So for the next few minutes, without too much filter or editing, I’m going to just speak (aka type) from my heart.

Thanksgiving (and the holiday season in general) is about family. Friends. Gathering and Celebration. We all put on our best and fresh faces and garments. Pull the finest china and goblets from the back of the hutch. Light the candles. We look around at the happy faces and stuffed bellies and feel accomplished and satisfied. All of those things are wonderful. Meaningful. Excellent. But I dare say in many gatherings today, there will be someone missing from the fold. Someone, who at one time was welcomed at the table to share a slice of ham or cranberry sauce. So where are they today? Do we know? Do we want to know? Am I depressing you and ruining the holiday?

There are empty place settings around certain tables because of the ultimate loss. For those I am truly saddened and my sympathies are abundant. It has been several holidays now for me without my mom or my dad. There are those missing because of work or distance or other obligations. But those are not the ones I’m referring to. I am asking each of us to consider the proverbial lost sheep.

Individuals get disconnected from families for a variety of reasons. It can be a bad decision. They took a path that was not in line with the family values. They got lost in a place that seemed shiny on the outside but painful and dark on the inside. Maybe they want to escape but don’t know how. Maybe they chose partners or associates that made the family uncomfortable. Unfortunately biases and misconceptions exact a high price. The resulting toll quite damaging.  

It could be because of hurt feelings. Something said last week or 20 years ago. Often words no one even remembers. How common is that? Feuds and angry feelings fester and are passed down and the original slight cannot even be recalled. Or maybe it can be recalled. Maybe it is heard in the back of your mind every day.

I do not have any real answers. I understand some transgressions are severe and cannot just be ‘forgotten’. Wise people choose to leave a bad situation because it is the healthiest thing for them. Those decisions I applaud and encourage. It takes a brave soul to rebuild and heal yourself. At times doing it all alone.  

However occasionally it is just plain stubbornness that keeps us apart. The unwillingness to forgive or ask for forgivness. Squaring off at a virtual line with each party just waiting for the other one to flinch. Is it really that monumental and earth shattering? Is it worth years of separation and fracture?

Here is my suggestion. If at any point in reading this someone crossed your mind then stop a minute to consider them. Is there a path to reconnect? Today could be the perfect opportunity to reach out with a phone call or text. Say Hello. Say I Love You. Say I’m Sorry. Say I Forgive You. Say something…. Who knows, maybe they were there holding their phone wanting to do the same thing.

And if you are the one alone today or feel estranged, please know this. There are times when standing alone is the hardest yet greatest gift you can give yourself. Find friends and like-minded individuals who can and will support you. But if you have left the family fold and regret it and want back in…. Take action. It is never too late. Again, be brave. Stir up the courage to be humble enough to admit a mistake. Let today be a fresh start.  

Please, please do not let these few words put a damper on your festivities. Maybe they were just meant for me. Maybe there is someone missing from my table. Maybe I am the preacher AND the choir. But if just one person reading this reaches out to a loved one today… then for THAT I will be truly THANKFUL.


Tuesday, November 15, 2016

Treat Me Like A Dog….(Does)

I will be the first to admit that I am not a big dog (or cat for that matter) person. I am not anti-dog, just have never invested the time, money and energy into raising one. However, I know plenty of people who adore their four-legged furry friends. They are considered part of the family. And I take no issue with that. In fact with the more modern view of canine co-habitation some of the traditional expressions seem dog-gone mean. "Sick As A Dog"…"Going To The Dogs"…"He’s A Dog". And while that last one in particular is meant to be an insult, I would like to suggest we evaluate exactly what it would mean if "He" or "She", behaved more like a DOG.  I believe we might all have better relationships if we took our cues from the canine variety.

Let’s Take A Look

They Are Extremely Loyal – This marks the highest and most valuable trait.  Dogs are with you no matter what. Bad hair days all the way to bad everything days. The good ones too. They are unshakeable. Right by your side. Unconditional love. Whether you want to take a run in the park or have to curl up on the couch with the flu, they are faithfully right there.  Is that the way you behave towards your significant other? Do they know how important they are. That you are there for the long haul. They should. Loyalty is the one quality you cannot fake or buy. You either have it, or you don’t.  

They Are Always Happy To See You Come Home – When the key turns in the lock, they perk up. Sometimes you have been gone all day at work. Or it is just a night out with friends. But when you return home, they greet you with a wet kiss and great excitement. When your love walks in, do you take the time to show your delight? To know they have been missed with great expectancy for their return is excellent insurance to secure that return. (Read that sentence again and let it soak in.)  We tend to want to be where we are most appreciated and welcomed.

They Make The Best Cuddle Partners – Whether on the above mentioned flu couch or just all settled in for movie night, your faithful pooch loves nothing more than to scoot in as close as they can to you. When was the last time there was no discernible daylight between you and your partner? Cozy up soon. Even try a little petting. I guarantee you will not be disappointed.  

They Will Run Ahead To Blaze The Path And Stand Between You And Danger – I love that no matter how small the dog or fierce the adversary, your pup will not back down. My heart breaks to read stories of faithful dogs that have paid the ultimate price to save or stay with their owner in peril. Ladies, that is exactly how your man should treat you. Would he run into the fire for you? Stare down a villain? Of course, I pray you never need to find out, but sometimes the little things are important too. Make sure you choose the one who will always have your back. There is a reason they say you can’t teach an old dog new tricks. And while I am not sure that is true, I will use that phrase to share this. You are not going to change your partner. If they are not good to you now, they never will be.

Dogs have other characteristics too. They are very smart. They can be taught to fetch and roll over. (I’ll let you decide when those actions might be appropriate.) They are very playful. And one of my favorites…non-judgemental. They don’t care if you drink the milk straight out of the carton. And they won’t rat you out if you wear the same socks or pjs two nights in a row. (Not that I’m admitting to either….)

Now we do have to put up with some less than stellar attributes as well.

Some shed. So know that wayward hairs can show up in unusual places.

They will watch you eat and beg for food.

On occasion they may sniff around and/or mark their territory. That’s all good. It just means all functions are a go. Being territorial is not always a bad thing. It is comforting to feel insulated and guarded. They say every dog will have his day. So let him have his.

And let’s not forget the treats…. Rewards work well. And I do not mean that in a degrading way. Positive affirmation and special goodies forge a lasting bond. You are barking up the wrong tree if you think you can withhold love and affection to use as incentives. That will only backfire on you. Your favorite pooch will always return home when let out to run, but if you starve them, they may rustle through the neighbor’s yard. Keep them well fed at home.

Ok, enough of the double entendres and silly comparisons. I think I have made my point. As humans we all crave love and attention and affection. I guess, the animals do too. Probably why they are such a good fit for us.  The bottom line is this..…treat your love like you want to be treated. Some would even say treat your love as good as you treat your dogs!

I will now just let this sleepy dog lie.

Hope Out!

Tuesday, November 8, 2016

I am writing this on the evening of my 52nd birthday; sitting on the dark porch of a rustic mountain cabin listening to the beautiful sound of a rushing creek literally feet away. This is a perfect spot to celebrate the victory of another year well lived and the promise of a new one dawning. As I have driven around these mountains this weekend with all their twists and turns and passed trees of magnificent color my heart is full. I am richly blessed and abundantly thankful. And as I pause here on this secluded spot hidden from my noisy and sometimes complicated world, I want to talk a minute about acceptance.

When I look up acceptance in the thesaurus, the three words that speak to me the most are: Approval, Recognition and Permission. All three of these combined embody the sentiment that I am fully aware and give myself the permission and green light to own these personal discoveries. That is actually quite a liberating accomplishment.

Very few days go by where I am not the recipient of an email that states I have been approved or accepted for some amazing offer. An offer that most likely is a scam or the very least sketchy and unreliable. Most too-good-to-be-true deals are exactly that and have a catch.  I rarely ‘accept’ those rainbow and unicorn promises. But as I face the first day of my 53rd year, I have determined there are a few things that I will now accept.

I accept that everything in my life did not turn out the way I wanted. I am not alone in this, I understand. I do however intend to be one of the few who do not constantly bemoan the fact. Short changes happen. Skip overs exist. I did not get hired, chosen or loved on more than one occasion. I grew up in the generation where everyone did not get a trophy for just showing up. I have gone home empty handed. Yet I survived and became stronger. Sometimes it is as simple as a bad decision. Whether rebellion or dream following, a desired path can sometimes dead end. Lead to nothing. Or worse than nothing; heartache, debt or loss. It is difficult to admit sometimes that we need a do-over. Fortunately in life we are allowed U-Turns. There is always a new road waiting to be traveled and explored. I can accept that too!

I accept that I am not a Size 8 anymore. (Ok, maybe I haven’t quite accepted this, but I’m close.) I have three closets full of clothes. A closet for clothes a size too big; a closet for clothes a size too small, and the closet I used today; just right. (I suppose being in the mountains made me channel The Three Bears.) But it’s true. I don’t want to give up the size too small, because maybe…just maybe. And well, let’s face I did eat a lot of junk food this weekend. The closet across the hall might become useful. We put a lot of pressure on ourselves to just lose those pesky ten pounds. Or twenty. But even if only for today, I accept that I am just right!

I accept that I am an introvert. This is a recent personal acknowledgment. I belong to a wonderful and vibrant social group. Over the years I have attended countless events and functions. And while I love them all and have met the greatest of friends, there are times when I feel alone in the crowd. That my emotional energy was checked at the door with my coat. From time to time I worried that I was defective. That it was abnormal. That I was a misfit. I have come to understand, and yes, even accept that in fact I am just an introvert. And to correct a fallacy, that is not even close to a mental illness. It just means that I step a little further inside of myself when I am out in the world. My life’s circle may be a bit smaller than others, but no less dynamic. Being alone for me can sometimes be a blessing and not a curse. And when I choose to engage in a conversation with somone it is because I am genuinely interested and believe I have something of value to contribute. However if I choose to just listen, it is because I am genuinely interested and believe I have something to learn. I may not always love the fact that I cannot be the life of the party or sparkle in the room, but I can accept that I am uniquely qualified to be me. And that is enough.

Finally, I accept that everyone will not like me. This is probably the hardest one. Because I’m such a dang likeable gal. What’s wrong with them? Seriously, I’m a hard core people pleaser and it has been challenging to come to terms with this. But I have. I’m not everyone’s cup of tea. I do not always fit nicely into a pre-determined box. My views and ideals are colorful, diverse and at times even rebellious. I tend to speak my mind more now and worry about it less. Don’t get me wrong; I’m still extremely mild mannered by most standards. But I’m ok with being different. And I’m definitely ok with those that don’t like my  unique kind of different. Their approval is not required to make my life rich and wonderful.

So as I finish up to head inside to fall asleep to the sound of the creek outside my window, I want to thank all of you in my life. Those that have helped me conquer a fear or realize a dream. Those that offered their shoulder to lean one when my life took a wrong turn. Or shared a decadent dessert with me. Or talked to me at a party when I sat alone on the couch. Everyone that helped me learn to accept this wonderful life that I have and aided in my beautiful journey. It is because of all of you that I celebrate this birthday with peace and joy and of course…. HOPE!

Hope Out