"There's a bit of magic in everything, and some loss to even things out." -Lou Reed

Sunday, December 25, 2011

Giving (and Getting) Hope for Christmas

Maybe I worked a few too many years of retail at Christmastime, or maybe it was just that I was alone during the holidays for a lot of years, or maybe it was the news each year, showing shoppers trampling each other to get the best deal on the latest gadget or gift. Maybe all those things combined left me expecting less from people at Christmas, watching how rude shoppers seemed to be to each other, and to retail employees, and how lost all the giving was in the getting.

Because of all that, I swore off of Black Friday shopping, and ended up doing more of my shopping online over the years than I wanted to. I believe in supporting local businesses, especially during the holidays, but after a few trips out in past years, being pushed or rushed and just watching the attitude of the general public, I started to feel like whatever I could do to avoid going out in all the Christmas madness was a good thing.

This year, things seemed different to me. Maybe just in a small way, but it seemed like maybe, just maybe, a lot of other people felt the same way and decided to do something different this year. One of my favorite quotes, and one I try to live by is: “You must be the change you wish to see in the world”. I am sure Mahatma Gandhi had bigger things in mind when he spoke these words, but you know what, maybe these small things are just what he was talking about.

Yes, this year there were idiots out there pepper spraying fellow shoppers to get video games. And yes, there were other stories of ridiculous behavior all in the name of saving money and getting the hottest gift this year. And maybe it’s just me, but there seemed to be more stories of good things people were doing this year.

The first example was the many “Layaway Angels” across the country who anonymously paid off people’s layaways at various stores. Once the first story aired, the idea caught on and spread, and I honestly just loved hearing and reading about those instances of the real sense of giving, of truly making a difference for people trying to make Christmas special for their families.

Without a doubt, I love giving gifts more than I do receiving them. Don’t get me wrong, I adore my Christmas gifts from my husband this year, and I always have a list of a things I want laying around; but nothing gave me as much joy this year as seeing my husband open a very special gift I surprised him with. I could have done without anything else except that moment. That was Christmas for me.

Several of my friends from completely different areas of the country posted on Facebook that someone anonymously paid for their breakfast, lunch, or coffee at a drive through in the last few weeks. These were unrelated instances, and in the comments, others would talk about also having had this happen to them.

All of this giving was contagious. People would read or hear about a random act of kindness, and it inspired others to join in. How amazing is that? Without exception, the people who were on the receiving end of those small gifts were touched deeply, and amazed at these strangers reaching out for no other reason than to give and be kind.

The lesson in all this is that these small things matter. Every day. You never know what a small kindness will mean to someone.

Several years ago, I was battling a deep depression, and I can remember so vividly one night driving home from work and just feeling so insignificant and small. I just wondered why I was even battling this depression, why I was even trying.

I stopped in the grocery store to get something for dinner, and I was fighting back tears, just trying to get through the line and get home. The line seemed to take forever, and when I got up to pay, I realized that I didn’t have my wallet. It hit me that I had taken it out of my purse at work and likely had left it there. It was one of those “straw that broke the camel’s back” moments. I teared up and told the cashier I didn’t have my wallet and needed to just void the sale, and from the next line, a customer walked over and swiped her credit card in the machine in front of me. It was a small total- I think maybe $20.00. She signed the receipt before I could say anything. She looked at me and touched my arm and said, “I saw you earlier in the store and wished there was something I could do for you- you looked like the weight of the world was on you. I am so thankful I could do this small thing.” She gave me a hug and walked off, smiling. I remember getting in the car with my bag after just being so shocked by her kindness. But I remember—and I always will—that feeling of that moment. I needed someone to reach out so badly. Even a stranger. It made a world of difference that day. I sat in my car and cried, but it was because I was so touched- and I felt like someone “saw” me. We all need to know we matter.

I have tried many times to replicate that moment for someone else. Writing this tonight made me realize that I need to try even more.

This year was the best Christmas for me in so many ways. I know a great deal of that is due to my husband and our happiness…but a lot of it was just taking time to savor these moments and appreciate everything. I realized that maybe avoiding the Christmas rush each year isn’t the key, it’s doing what so many others did this year —getting out into the craziness and changing it—one small act of kindness at a time. 

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year from my house to yours. I hope 2012 is filled with many random acts of kindness for all of us.

The view or purchase the ornament pictured in this post, or to see more of the artist's work, click here.


Friday, December 2, 2011

Merry Textmas!

I don't know this family, but I want to. How funny is this card? Also note the texting lingo used for the greeting on the card (to the right).

Our holiday cards won't be nearly as clever!


Thursday, December 1, 2011

Zach Wahls: Defining Family, Defining Love

Zach Wahls, a 19-year-old University of Iowa student spoke about the strength of his family during a public forum on House Joint Resolution 6 in the Iowa House of Representatives. Wahls has two mothers, and came to oppose House Joint Resolution 6 which would end civil unions in Iowa.

You may have already seen this video-- it has gone viral, has had over 5 million views, and the number is constantly rising. If you have not seen it, I ask you to please take a few moments to hear this young man speak so eloquently from his heart.

Of the many things I take for granted that I have that others don't, I try not to ever forget how lucky I am that I found the love of my life--and we were able to get married. All it took was a little paperwork, a small fee, and by our choice, a ceremony. It both breaks my heart and simultaneously makes my blood boil that many people that I love and care about, people that have impacted and changed my life in amazing ways, people that I don't want to put in any other category except that of being dear to me--cannot marry the ones they love. Not only can they not marry, they are treated as second-class citizens in many other ways as well.

I have been so fortunate to have people in my life --both gay and straight-- that have taught me about love, equality, and acceptance. I cannot understand the lack of clarity and the depth of prejudice and discrimination all around us. Love is love. Love has no gender.

The video above is such a beautiful tribute to one young man's family-but it is also a shining example of the product of love and a loving home. Why we are still debating, judging, and arguing this issue in the year 2011 is beyond me. And how anyone can listen to this young man's articulate, powerful speech and not be moved or even changed by it will remain a mystery.

Hats off to Zach Wahls, and to the two women who raised him--obviously very well.


Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Happy News for Warren and Jackie Hance

For those of you that read my post about the tragic deaths of Diane Schuler and her three nieces in 2009, or if you knew of the case from the HBO Documentary or other sources, I have a wonderful bit of news.

Warren and Jackie Hance, who lost all three of their daughters in that crash, have just recently had a new baby girl. 

The original story was heartbreaking and confusing--with more questions than answers. A total of eight people were killed that day: Diane's own daughter, her three nieces, three other victims in another car, and Diane Schuler herself. But I couldn't stop thinking about Warren and Jackie, who lost so much--all three of their daughters. I often wondered how they managed to get through each day.

There is precious little information out there about Jackie or the baby. (And if anyone deserves their privacy, these people do). There were articles and photographs of her pregnant from September of this year, but I had trouble finding out anything further.

Then, I checked The Hance Family Foundation website. This is a foundation that Warren and Jackie started in memory of their girls. And on the front page, as part of a post about Thanksgiving, Warren mentions the baby, the girls' baby sister, Kasey Rose.

I cannot imagine how hard holidays must still be for them, and how huge the loss still is. I am amazed at the beautiful work of their foundation. Mostly, I am so happy to know that they have a little baby to bring some light into their lives this holiday season. 

I wish them nothing but joy and love.

Learn more about The Hance Family Foundation here.
Read my original post about the tragic events here.
Read this beautiful article by Jackie Hance written with such grace and strength earlier this year.


Thursday, November 24, 2011

To be Thankful

So much to take in…
The scenes of the season
Not enough words-
Not enough ways-
To say thank you.

How do you give thanks
For your dreams coming true?
Knowing this love-
Knowing these days-
Are all we wanted.

One of many days
Strung together like pearls
Unbreakable threads
Of time and trust-
Not just holidays.

And it all adds up…
New meaning in each day
Just more precious-
Just more thankful-
Than ever before.

Strands of lights glowing
Summoning what’s next
I want to press pause
I want to breathe in
This moment we have.

It is in my heart
It is all too lovely
It is so much love
And now it is mine
To be thankful for.


Sunday, November 13, 2011

I Carry Your Heart (I Carry it in My Heart)

Two years ago today, I went on a date. I had no idea then that it would be THE date. The first date. The last person I would date. With the man I would marry. 

We knew each other growing up, went to the same junior high and high school, but lost touch after receiving our diplomas and tossing our caps. We were photos in the yearbook to each other, and a few shared memories.

We reconnected 21 years later, through the magic of Facebook, and more than a little nudging from my best friend, who also happened to be my husband’s prom date at one time. (Their one and only date).

I probably knew around the third date that he was the one. But, I also knew my history, my luck with love- or rather lack of—so I held my breath and waited for something to go wrong. It didn’t.

We were married a year ago today.

Love stories happen every day, all the time, magical stories of all kinds taking shape and ending with cake and frosting, a white dress and vows. Sometimes, it all begins to seem commonplace or even expected.

I am not saying our love is any more special than anyone else’s, and although our story is unique and I think romantic, there are a thousand more out there like it, or even more beautiful in their histories, their struggles, or what they have survived or overcome for love.

But what I can say for certain, without pause, and with all my heart is that we are lucky. Lucky to have connected after so many years, lucky to be so well matched, lucky to know that we both are in this for the long haul. Lucky to have found each other in a world that can be harder than it should be, and less like a fairy tale with each passing year. Life is hard, life is uncertain, and the pain and dreadfulness that people go through, survive, or sometimes perish from can make me weak in the knees to witness.

I had my own journey before meeting my husband Shea, and he had his. We both endured our share of pain, loneliness, and longing. We both readily agree that it was worth it—however trying, however painful—so long as we ended up here. I had given up on so much watching the world wiz by, thinking that I wasn’t destined for some of the better parts of it. But, here I am today, lucky in love. And I know it doesn’t happen for everyone, and I know there are no guarantees. I know that being single and wanting it can be one of the loneliest places in the world.

So tonight, as we slice into our wedding cake – the small top layer we have preserved in the freezer to share a piece each year on our anniversary- I will say thank you  to the universe, to fate, to Facebook, and my best friend Kim Linville, for making this happen. I will say a thank you in my heart for Shea’s heart, which is so giving and compassionate, and which beats in time to mine. 

I will close by sharing a poem that my dear friend Judith read for us at our wedding. It is one of my favorites, and I love that it was a part of our ceremony.

i carry your heart with me
by e. e. cummings

i carry your heart with me (i carry it in
my heart) i am never without it (anywhere
i go you go, my dear; and whatever is done
by only me is your doing, my darling)
                                  i fear
no fate (for you are my fate, my sweet) i want
no world (for beautiful you are my world, my true)
and it's you are whatever a moon has always meant
and whatever a sun will always sing is you

here is the deepest secret nobody knows

(here is the root of the root and the bud of the bud
and the sky of the sky of a tree called life; which grows
higher than the soul can hope or mind can hide)
and this is the wonder that's keeping the stars apart

i carry your heart (i carry it in my heart)


Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Hidden Beauty

For what seems like the hundredth time, I have been sorting through boxes that have made it through my most recent move, trying to see if there are any items that I need to purge, or things I want to pull out of storage now that I have a little more room for odds and ends. Luckily, our garage is very large, and right now, half of it is overtaken with boxes and bags, framed art and lampshades, packages of memories and forgotten pieces of my past.

Three moves ago, before I had met my husband, I went through a great deal of my belongings, things that had been in storage for ten years or more. This in itself was shocking to me, and marked a big portion of my life when I could not part with anything that was remotely sentimental. The odd thing was, I think I was holding on to every torn scrap of paper, every memento, every picture frame, hoping that when the time came and I could take it all in, I would somehow find answers in the things I had preserved and carried with me all those years. I thought maybe the sum of all those things would make sense further down the line, so I kept it all, and waited and hoped.

Finally, when I was forced to downsize and couldn’t afford a storage unit, I had to purge. I had to be reckless and not ponder every note, every greeting card, every trinket, but instead let go of things that truly didn’t matter. I couldn’t hold onto the pieces of some imaginary jigsaw puzzle, that honestly, when put together wouldn’t make any more sense than all the scraps of my life combined.

I kept the important things. Journals from so many stages of my life with words dripping in such reality, such perfect snapshots of moments, that I was left gasping at the vividness of the pain. My books from kindergarten – one for each letter of the alphabet, written in my five year old hand- the deliberate strokes so evidently mine- so reaching for perfection even at that age. All the poems I wrote over the years that at times shock me in their maturity and help me see through the eyes of my younger self what once was. And books. All of my books. The books that opened so many other worlds to me when I needed to shut the door to my own and find somewhere safe to go. I can’t easily part with books for that reason, even today.

And then, there was the yearbook box. All of my yearbooks- well, most of them- from kindergarten to high school, some falling apart at the seams, poorly bound, and faded with age. I have rarely opened one of those yearbooks over the years, except to solve a mystery when talking with a friend…what was her name—the girl we knew in fifth grade? Or something similar. I avoided looking at all photos of myself from any of those years. I would actually check the alphabetized list of names if I was looking for someone or something, and make sure I was skipping the page of students in my grade with the last name beginning with “S”.

However, the yearbooks have now taken on new meaning. Although my husband and I are just about to celebrate our first wedding anniversary, and our second year together, we have known each other since seventh grade. We went to the same junior high school and high school together. We passed each other in the hallways, shared lunch time in the cafeteria, sat a row apart in Language Arts class. But we were acquaintances at best. We knew each other, but weren’t close.

We reconnected through Facebook (and my best friend’s urging) over 25 years later…almost half a life later. So, as I came across the yearbook box in the garage a few weeks ago, I smiled thinking of all the captured moments of the two of us that we might have missed. Random group pictures and candids in familiar hallways and classrooms.

As I brought them upstairs, my husband immediately recognized what I had in my hands and moved to the couch so we could share each book together. In the first book, my husband scoured the alphabet to find my last name, looking for the “me” he knew so long ago. I honestly felt my heart begin to race. Even though I know he loves me, the thought of him seeing me then, captured in all my teenage horror, was unsettling. And then he found my picture. 

And so did I.

I couldn’t believe the face staring back at me. What I didn’t tell him was that I believed myself to be hideous all those years. Not in a normal, teenage angst kind of way, but in a way that I cried almost every morning for years, looking at myself in the mirror before school, feeling I was almost deformed, I was so ugly. It started in grade school, but grew worse in fifth grade, and was all downhill from there. I finally worked out a way to only look once in the mirror before I left for school, just to make sure I was as presentable as possible, or hadn’t forgotten a stray hot roller, or smear of makeup.

I cannot express the weight I carried every day, feeling that I was the ugliest person in the world, feeling that no one would ever love me, that my friends were in a way, taking pity on me by being friends with me. It was the life of a young girl completely stripped of self esteem. I told no one, and turned more inward every day.

But sitting on the couch that night with my husband, I was frozen, staring at the seventh grade “me”. I am still astonished to say that I was completely and utterly shocked to see a normal teenage girl staring back at me. This girl was not hideous, she was not ugly, she looked just like every other teenager in that book. As I write this, I cannot believe that it took me this long to realize what I had put myself through every day, and what I somehow still held onto as the vision of who I was.

As we opened one yearbook after another, I began thumbing through the pages to find myself…and I did. Each time, a little older, another year survived.

I finally came a little more into my own in college (didn’t we all?).  But even as I felt that I wasn’t as hideous as I once had been, I still doubted every time my friends or even boyfriends said I was beautiful. I could never truly accept that compliment. I thought people said it to be kind, or to make me feel better, compassionately overlooking the reality of what I looked like because they cared.

I don’t believe I was born with low self esteem, I don’t think anyone is. Maybe I am wrong, but I believe it is something that is taught. Intentionally or not, it was taught to me- and I learned the lesson far too well. It took me over half my life to see myself when I looked in the mirror- to face the mirror every day and like the girl I saw staring back. I can’t begin to count the mirrors I turned away from, the moments of self doubt that took things and people away from me.

It was the doubt that grew in a quiet house of pain, it was the whisper of my father’s voice that stayed in my ear for far too long. It was the uncertainty and fear of a place that should have been safe. 

When I see it all from a distance, I understand how those thoughts formed, why I lost faith in myself, and why I couldn’t see that very normal girl looking back at me that I see now. I hurt for her. I want to go back and explain it to her. I want to rescue her and tell her all the things I have learned, all that I know now. I want to tell her that his words are not the truth. I want her to believe me.

But, I can’t. All I can do now is tell her that it all turns out ok in the end. Better than ok. And that one day, she will see herself as beautiful…more beautiful than she could have imagined. And a large portion of that beauty will come from everything she lived through, everything she overcame, everything she survived. 

It will all add up and even out.

It will all be …beautiful.

The artist for the work featured in this post is Beatriz Martin Vidal. View more of her stunning work here.


Wednesday, November 2, 2011

The Secrets of a Successful Man: Exposing Hillary Adams' Father

Her name is Hillary Adams. If you haven’t read the stories today connected with her, I promise you after reading this post, you won’t forget her or what she endured anytime soon. As I clicked the link to the story about this today, I had no idea what I was in for.

Hillary posted a video of abuse at the hands of her father that is so chilling and disturbing, I have to warn you repeatedly before you click to watch it. In the video, captured 7 years ago, her father reveals himself to be a monster, almost enjoying the abuse. This is not discipline. It is a man out of control, and a vulnerable, disabled daughter who thankfully taped the abuse and kept it all these years.

I have done as much research on Hillary and her father as I can, the story is very new, but is spreading like wildfire across the web. Hillary was 16 at the time of the video. Whatever her offense, she is not deserving of this treatment. ALL 16-year-olds make mistakes, do stupid things, sometimes very wrong, very dangerous things. Nothing, and I mean NOTHING makes this even remotely right. This beating happened because she had downloaded music and games off the internet.

Again, I must caution you before watching this video, it is graphic and disturbing.

I do think it is important to watch this video for many reasons. First, this is going on in more homes than any of us care to realize. It is easier to believe that no one you know, none of your neighbors, none of your family members are behaving this way. But sadly, it is a secret a lot of people are keeping. You can’t spot abusers, there are some signs, but many of the people who abuse children and spouses are amazingly adept at covering their tracks. Hillary’s dad is a judge in Aransas County, Texas. I imagine that no one outside of his home knew who he really was or even had an inkling of what he was capable of. I was happy to read that he has been asked to step down temporarily while an investigation takes place.

Another reason I hope a lot of people watch this video is that if someone doubts whether what is happening to them or someone they know is abuse…seeing this video and the overwhelmingly outraged reactions to it may help clarify things and enable someone who needs it to reach out and ask for help. It sounds strange to say that—that a person wouldn’t know if what was happening was abuse. But the truth is, a child in a home like this knows nothing else, and most children believe on some level that they deserve the abuse. Also, if God forbid, you watch this abuser and see someone you know, or even yourself, get help. Report it. Don’t second guess.

While the physical abuse in this video is troubling enough, listen carefully to the words being said. “You are not fit to live in this house”. What does a 16 year old do that actually makes you not worthy of living with your family? Everyone says words in anger sometimes, but these words, laced with profanity, are horrendous. Every word said like that is a battering of self esteem, a doubting of self-worth, and it can take years and years of therapy to stop hearing them in your head.

As for the mother, Hillary has stated that her mother has left the marriage, and that she doesn’t blame her, as she was caught in the same cycle of abuse. While I understand this cycle completely, and I understand the codependent, battered wife syndrome and all of its intricacies, I have little respect for any woman who stands by or PARTICIPATES as this woman did in the abuse of her children. At some point, you have to break the cycle. While Hillary was 16 at the time of this video, I have no doubt that this abuse had gone on as long as she was living and breathing in that house. I am glad her mother has left, and is supporting her daughters. But, I cannot suppress my anger for her participation, as Hillary no doubt believed that both of her parents were against her at that time. What a horrible feeling at any age for a child.

My blood has been boiling today as I have read comments on some of the different articles about this story. Readers commented that they were spanked as a child and turned out fine. Others spoke of “different times” and how this was once acceptable. What you see in this video is not a spanking. It is not discipline. This man is clearly out of control, speaking to Hillary in an abusive, menacing manner. Anyone who sees this video as anything other than severe abuse is misguided.

Hillary has been contacted by countless media outlets, and on her Twitter stream has expressed some regret for posting the video and “ruining” her father. I can only imagine the mix of emotions that she is feeling right now. There will probably always be some amount of fear associated with her father. It is hard to reconcile fearing someone who is supposed to love you and protect you. Her father has admitted it was indeed him in the video but said the abuse was “not as bad” as it looked. I hope Hillary will not let the media frenzy get to her. For whatever reason she posted the video, it was the right decision. I wept watching it, my heart pounding. I wanted so badly to save her.

It looks like she is saving herself. And hopefully, a few others along the way.

The original article I read today can be found here.



  © Blogger template ProBlogger Template by Ourblogtemplates.com 2008

Back to TOP