The Sad Season

The holidays are winding down. Lots of folks get depressed after the holidays…Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) or just plain old sadness that the holidays are over. And then there are people like me who have experienced loss…and the unfortunate few of us who have actually experienced loss during the holidays.

Tomorrow is the second anniversary of my mother’s passing…two years without my mother. She fell ill on Christmas Eve 2017, and I received a phone call at 8:30 that night…she was in the hospital in Alabama. My little family rushed through opening gifts in Charlotte that night, and before the crack of dawn on Christmas Day, I left to go be with my mother. As I drove to Alabama, I was thinking of how I was going to tell my mother that she was coming back to Charlotte with me. I was thinking of how angry she would be that I wanted her to leave her house. But I never got to tell her she was coming home with me. The doctor made it clear to me on December 26 that she would not recover, and since both my grandmothers had died on December 26 in different years (eerie, right?) I needed Mother to make it past that day. I asked the doctor if she was likely to make it to the 27th, explaining why I was asking, and he assured me she would…but not much longer. I didn’t want her to die at all, but if she had died on the 26th, every year after that, I would have been waiting for something to happen to me on the 26th. We needed to break the cycle. She made it to the 30th.

Last year, the first anniversary, was a terrible day…terrible. I didn’t sleep at all the night before, and it was just a terrible day. But this year, I am bound and determined to make it a happier day. Of course, I’m still sad my mother isn’t here, but instead of crying all day, I hope to be celebrating her life…drinking a toast to her memory.

In fact, as I type, I’m on a plane to Los Angeles…a vacation with my daughter, her friend, and my nephew and his friend. Mother would have loved knowing my nephew is vacationing with us. We have a lunch reservation tomorrow at a fabulous restaurant, where we will remember Mother. We might even order a Bailey’s and coffee, her favorite, after lunch.

And as hard as I will try to be happy, positive, and upbeat, I know a little sadness will creep in. I know that, because I just tried to read a piece by Sean Dietrich (see Sean of the South on Facebook here), and I couldn’t get past the first couple paragraphs about his dad, who he lost years ago.

So right now, for this second anniversary, I’ll take “mostly happy with a little sadness creeping in.”

All this is my way of reminding everyone that some people are sad right now. Some are suffering. Some are just trying to push through the season. And then some will be even more sad at the thought of starting a new year without a loved one. I hope I will show mercy and offer courteous goodwill to those who need it. I hope I will try to help my friends and family into 2020…with some love, patience, hope, and clarity. And I hope they will do the same for me.

Let’s make 2020 a good year.

 

What Do You Do With Christmas Cards?

A friend asked me recently what I do with my Christmas cards when the holidays are over. She said she had been admonished by friends after she told them she throws them away. And I started thinking: what do other people do with their holiday cards after the new year rolls in?

I posted the question on my personal Facebook page and got lots of interesting answers. I had no idea people got so creative with their cards! At our house, as cards come in, we put them on our Christmas tree. That way, we get to see them all the time, and anyone who visits can see them too. Just in case you want to ask…the placement is totally random. But when we take down our tree, I take one more look at the cards before disposing of them. When my mother was alive, I would put them all in a Ziploc bag and show them to her when I visited her during the holidays. But since she passed away, my husband would kill me for keeping extra stuff around!

As your holiday greetings arrive this year, put some thought into what you might do with them. Here are some things my own friends do with their holiday photo cards:

  • BOXES/TRUNKS. Several people said they have every holiday photo card they have ever received. Seriously?!?! I came across one from a few years ago when I was getting the ornaments out of the bin. It was the two lovely daughters of a neighbor…I’m talking to you, Jennie from the block. But that’s the only old card I’ve found. I think I probably have a Ziploc bag or two stashed somewhere, but we likely won’t find them till we clean out the house to sell it…who knows when that will be?!
  • PHONE CONTACT. Three very creative friends said they use the Christmas card photos as the contact photo for the person in their phone. They take a picture of it, save it in their contacts, and then they dispose of the actual card after the holidays.
  • PHOTO ALBUM. Several friends said they put the photo cards from family and/or close friends in a photo album, so they can see how they change over the years. That’s actually a lovely idea…too bad I didn’t think of it twenty years ago!
  • LAMINATED PLACE MATS. Yet another friend said that when her kids were little, they would cut the pictures out of the cards and make laminated placemats for Valentines Day! Wow! But then they threw them away after that.
  • BIBLE. Another lovely idea? Place the photo cards in places throughout your Bible. Then when you come to that picture during the year, pray for that family. Wow…that one is impressive too. Afterward, she throws them away.
  • SENIOR CITIZENS’ CHURCH GROUP. My friend, Linda, keeps them in a red and green bow basket till the next year, and she enjoys looking at them as she addresses the next year’s cards. After that…she donates them to the senior citizens’ group at her church, where they are used for craft projects. As she said, “They are born again!”
  • HOLE PUNCH/CLIP/RING. A couple of people said they hole punch them, and put them on a clip/ring…keeping them on the coffee table as a conversation piece. One of them keeps them on the ring for eternity, and the other throws them away after the holidays.
  • ST JUDE’S RANCH. One friend suggested sending them to St Jude’s Ranch’s Recycled Card Program. They are not able to use all greeting cards, but you can read at their link to see what they are able to accept. Great idea! See the link here. 
  • ORNAMENTS. One person said she has a friend who cuts the photos out and attaches them to cardboard ornaments to regift to the original sender! That’s a great one too!
  • SEND BACK. And here’s another idea I like: one friend said she has a friend who keeps all the cards for a year, and the next year, she sends them back to the original sender with a little handwritten note. I like that idea too!

So go ahead and start thinking now about what you’re going to do with all those cards as they’re coming in this year! I will still display ours on our Christmas tree throughout the season, just as I always do. When Christmas is over, I will gather them up and put them in a Ziploc bag till I decide what I want to do. I might actually keep them this year and make ornaments for my friends/family for next year. That’s ambitious, though, so don’t be surprised if I don’t pull it off!

Favorite Ornaments

This week, I decorated our Christmas tree. My husband carried the bins down from the attic, and I went to work.

We have a lot of meaningful Christmas ornaments. My mother was a big collector of ornaments, so I have lots of crystal and sterling ornaments. We have some lovely ornaments my husband’s family gave us. We have ornaments commemorating our first Christmas together and the birth of our daughter. We have lots of ornaments our daughter made in preschool and elementary school. And we have some silly ornaments we collected along the way.

When I was growing up, my favorite ornaments on our family tree were some ornaments that looked like the toys from the Island of Misfit Toys on Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer. I know I brought those back after my mother died, but I’m having difficulty locating them. It’s not likely I will find them this year, but I hope to put my hands on them before next Christmas.

We do, however, have some fun ornaments from A Christmas Story…one that looks like the house from the movie, and another of the leg lamp and Ralphie. The ones that really made me smile, though, were two ornaments from the Nickelodeon show, iCarly. Our daughter loved the show when she was younger (and likely still does), and her very favorite characters were Carly and Sam. I don’t remember where I purchased them, but when she was a little girl, I found some Carly and Sam ornaments.

Back then, we were still doing the Elf on the Shelf thing, and our daughter loved the Elves (yes, more than one…we were overachievers) as much as she loved iCarly. She often wrote them notes…sometimes asking them questions about themselves…favorite foods, favorite TV shows, favorite sports, etc. And sometimes, the elves brought little gifts…very small gifts…but they generated a lot of excitement. One morning, she came downstairs to find the elves had brought her a Carly ornament from iCarly, and the next morning, she found a Sam ornament. Carly and Sam were the two main female characters from the show, and she thought they were hilarious. She adored them. I didn’t park her in front of the TV when she was really little, but when she was elementary school aged, I didn’t mind if she watched a few shows here and there. She loved iCarly so much, that she knew the title of each episode! In fact, I’m guessing she can still name each episode and give a brief synopsis.

All that is a long way of saying that yesterday, as I pulled ornaments out of the bin, I found the two cheap iCarly ornaments that generated so much excitement on that December morning eight or ten years ago. I hung them on the tree together…they’re pals, after all. Our daughter wasn’t home, but I took a picture of them and sent it to her, asking, “Recognize those ornaments?” She replied, “OMG! Yes!’ I couldn’t see her reaction, but I imagine she felt like she was six or eight years old again…just for that second. She likely remembered exactly how excited she was to receive them.

And you can bet your sweet bippy they will continue to be on our tree every year…right up there with all the sterling and crystal ornaments from my mother.

 

 

 

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Run, Don’t Walk…to Season 3

I’m five episodes into Season 3 of The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel on Amazon Prime, and I just can’t get enough! I have been wrapping Christmas gifts while watching…very relaxing…and I actually get to watch the show, because my husband wants nothing to do with gift wrapping. He will not darken the door of the room for fear of being asked to help.

I’m not going to officially review the series, but I will say I absolutely love it. I love the characters, the scenery, the wardrobes, the humor…it’s all fantastic. If you haven’t seen any of the episodes, start from the beginning. It’s worth your time, but make sure you have time, and make sure there are no distractions. You don’t want to miss a single line of the dialogue. You don’t want to miss a single scene.

When I was younger, I often found myself adding a little pep to my step after watching certain music videos. Back in the day, some of Madonna’s videos…Express Yourself and Vogue…made me feel stronger. As a middle-aged mom, I get the same effect from The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel. Midge Maisel’s view of the world is very different than my own, but her point of view somehow emboldens me. You guessed it…I want to be Midge Maisel.

Alas, Midge and I have very little in common, and that might be the very reason I find her so fascinating. She’s a divorced, Jewish, stand up comic who grew up on the Upper West Side of Manhattan. I’m a WASP, middle-aged mom who grew up in Alabama. Yet, I get her! I understand her! I want to be her!

And the other characters! The parents play a big role in Season 3! The relationship with her ex-husband, Joel, has a twist! The character of Suzie Myerson gets more depth, and we even see a lot more of Sophie Lennon! And the settings! Vegas! Miami! And imagine those cities in the early 60s!

All of this is my way of saying, “Run watch season 3!” It’s hard to believe the writing for the series has stayed as consistently good as it has…but I think it might just continuously get better! Each character becomes more developed as the series continues, and each one has more and more depth…revealing fascinating flaws, humor, and compassion.

Here’s how much I love it: last winter, I went on eBay and purchased a couple of velvet swing coats…just like the ones Midge wears in Season 1. I can hardly wait to wear them this winter! And Revlon has a set of lipsticks based on the series. You can see them here. I will be getting them for Christmas…thanks Santa!

Christmas Card Photos

Have you finished your holiday shopping? How about your holiday travel plans? Have you locked in your airline reservations? What about hotels? And just when you think you have everything done, you remember you have to do holiday cards! Try finding a picture of the whole family together…good luck finding one where everyone is behaving nicely.

Yesterday, I said to my husband, “We need to get a photo for our Christmas cards.” He asked, “Can’t we just do a card with no picture this year?”

And you know the top of my head almost blew off before I calmly said, “No. Our card always has a picture on it.” He replied, “Well, maybe this year we change it up.” Nope. Nope. And nope.

So last night, I sat down and starting scrolling through the pictures on my cellphone, trying to find one that would work. I could find pictures of my daughter and me. I found pictures of my husband and my daughter. I found pictures of me and my husband. But finding a pic of all three of us? That’s tough.

I decided to get creative. Since I couldn’t find a good picture of all three of us, I decided I would create one! I found a picture of Velma, Daphne, and Shaggy from one of the Scooby Doo movies, and I superimposed our faces onto their bodies. Yes, I let my daughter be Daphne, and I became Velma, while my husband was Shaggy. I laughed till I cried thinking of my husband dressing and acting like Shaggy. And my daughter walked in while I was laughing by myself. She looked at me like I’m a weirdo…the same way she always looks at me, because she’s a teenager…and asked, “What are you doing?!” I said, “Working on our Christmas card picture.” And I showed her my creation. She was not amused.

So I tried something else and put our faces on Carly, Sam, and Freddie from iCarly. It had the show’s logo across the top, and I kept Spencer in the photo too. If you’re familiar with Nickelodeon’s iCarly, you know the characters. If you’re not familiar with the show, you can see info here. When I showed that picture to my daughter, she let me know I was taking things too far, “Mom, no. Just no.” Seriously, though, her reaction made me really want to use that one on the card.

But after that, I tried a different approach. I found a picture I liked of me and my daughter, and I added my husband’s face to it…like he is sticking his head into the picture from the side. When I showed it to the daughter, she laughed and said, “Add the dogs too!” So I did. It was a joke, but then, I kind of liked it, and the daughter liked it too. But the husband absolutely did not approve. In fact, he went back to “can’t we have a card with no picture?” I told him that indeed, he could, if he were married to someone else, but I love photo cards! And he said, “Let’s take a picture of the three of us this weekend though, and we can do that.” He has no idea how hard it is to get all three of us together…showered….dressed….and photo ready…at the same time.

So at some point this weekend, we will try to get a picture of the three of us. It won’t be professional, but maybe we will pull it off. If not, folks will be receiving a card with the picture of me, the daughter, the husband’s face Photoshopped in, and the dogs Photoshopped in too! I know…if you’re on our list, you’re hoping for the Photoshop picture!

***Once we find an acceptable picture, we will upload it to Shutterfly.com to make our cards. You can see Shutterfly card options here.***

Complimentary Letters

How many times have you called a business and complained about something that happened while you were there? How many times have you emailed an online retailer to complain about the quality of a product or the slow shipping time? How many times have you complained about bad food at a restaurant? How many times have you complained about bad service on an airplane? How many times have you complained to an administrator at your child’s school about a teacher, an incident, or just something you felt was substandard?

Now…stop and think about how many times you have written an email or letter to compliment someone for offering outstanding service. How many times have you told the manager of a restaurant that your server did an excellent job? How many times have you told administrators at your child’s school they are doing an outstanding job or that a teacher is making a difference in your child’s education?

It’s easy to get into a habit of complaining. It’s easy to call and say your child is being treated unfairly at school. It’s easy to tell an airline how mad you are that your flight didn’t go as planned. It’s easy to send your food back in a restaurant. Complaining is easy.

Let’s try an experiment for the month of December.

Starting now, let’s make the last month of this year…this decade, even…the most positive month we can make it. Sure bad things are going to happen, but unless they’re really going to affect someone’s life long term, let’s try to see the sunny side of things. Let’s try to give recognition to the people who make a difference in a positive way. I know what you’re thinking…”Who would that be?!?” A lot of people are likely making a positive difference in your life every single day. I believe in writing complimentary letters or emails when someone offers me exemplary service, and I do it regularly. My family makes fun of me, in fact, for always writing complimentary letters, but I always remember that people are quick to tell someone when they’re angry, but not so quick to tell someone when they’re happy.

  • The barista at your local coffee shop who starts making your coffee when she sees you drive up every morning? She’s helping you start your day right…with caffeine…and without having to talk before you’ve had it!
  • The teacher who smiles and waves as you drop off your child at school in the morning? He got up extra early to work carpool duty, and he’s doing it with a smile, so your child will see a smiling face when he arrives.
  • The TSA agent at the airport who is at the end of her shift but still smiles and tells you she likes your shoes? She could just herd you through like cattle, but she makes a conscious choice to be friendly with everyone who goes through security.
  • The food truck employee who helps you pick up all the belongings that fell out of your handbag and onto the sidewalk? He could have looked the other way.
  • The administrator at school who decides to close the school because inclement weather is expected? And maybe the weather never arrives? That administrator was looking out for the welfare of your child and others based on the information he had.
  • The waiter at your favorite restaurant who greets like an old friend when you arrive? And then brings your favorite drink before you order it? He could act like he has never seen you before and give you standard service, but he chooses to go above and beyond.
  • The employee at the dry cleaner who helps you carry your dry cleaning to you car, because you have twenty items, and they’re heavy? He could have let you struggle with it all.
  • The teacher who stays late at school to help your child who has fallen behind in math? She has kids of her own who will need her help when she finally gets home.
  • The airline reservations agent who works extra hard to find you a seat on a good flight after your flight cancelled? She could have taken one look and decided you would have to leave the next day. Instead, she got creative and found a way to get you home that day.
  • The nurse who is caring for your terminally ill mother, but takes time to check on your emotional well being? She could be uncaring. She could do what’s required of her and nothing more, but she knows it’s hard for you.
  • The airline employee who pushed your grandmother’s wheelchair from the airplane to the curb when she came to visit? And they seemed like old friends by the time they got to the curb? He could have pushed her in silence, but he chose to engage her in conversation instead…and she had a big smile on her face, even though you were a few minutes late picking her up.
  • The grocery store employee who walks you to the item you’re looking for instead of giving vague directions to the aisle? She could have just said “aisle 3” without even making eye contact, but she dropped what she was doing and walked with you to the item.
  • The hotel employee who, upon finding out your child has the flu, sends up a complimentary bowl of chicken soup through room service? And some hot tea for you? He wanted you to be comfortable and went above and beyond to make it happen.
  • The hotel employee who has your favorite bottle of champagne waiting in your room when you arrive? She’s making you feel special.
  • The Walmart greeter who has been greeting you for years with a big smile every single time.

For the month of December, take notice of all the folks who make your day a little brighter…and write those complimentary letters or emails. Talk to their managers. Tell the administrator you think she’s a good leader. And if you’re in a situation that calls for tipping, tip extra to those who make you feel special while telling them you appreciate their kindness and outstanding service. You will likely make their day, and you’ll feel a lot better too!

Maybe a month of positivity will make it a habit! 

 

 

Take Ten Seconds

A friend just shared on Facebook a video of Mr. Rogers accepting a Lifetime Achievement Award at the Daytime Emmy Awards in 1997. In his acceptance speech, the beloved Mr. Rogers asks if everyone will take “just 10 seconds to think about the people who have helped you become who you are…the ones who cared about you and wanted what was best for you in life.” And he silently keeps time on his watch…just ten seconds to think of the people who helped you become who you are. You can see a clip here.

I loved Mr. Rogers. It’s no secret. My friends have known that for years. In Pittsburgh a few years ago, I forced everyone in my party to visit the Heinz History Center to see the Mr. Rogers exhibit…some of the pieces from his television show. I was happy. I looked at all of it and thought how much my little girl self would have loved to see it all in person back in the 1970s. Mr. Rogers was a part of my childhood. If you are close to my age, he was likely a part of your childhood too. You likely know the theme song for his show. You likely remember some of the characters from The Neighborhood of Make Believe. Sure, we sometimes made fun of Mr. Rogers and his cardigans and practical shoes, but we all learned something from him.

And as it turns out, Mr. Rogers, in his acceptance speech, was still affecting people. In fact, he’s still affecting us today. That very video made me stop and think about something I hadn’t thought about before…the people who helped me become who I am.

For me, there are many…my parents, my family, some of my teachers, my college friends, other friends…you know, the usual. I won’t name any names, but there are other people who helped me become who I am, and some of them did not do it intentionally. You know who really helped me become who I am? People with whom I had a disagreement of some sort. Seriously. Think about that. When you have a disagreement with someone, it changes who you are…hopefully for the better. And I truly believe that, when I’ve had disagreements with folks, I have been introspective afterward…thinking about where I might have been right and where I might have been wrong. There are also people with whom I had a chance encounter…maybe they helped me carry my groceries; maybe they blessed my day; maybe they stopped me from doing something stupid; or maybe they encouraged me to take a risk I wouldn’t normally have taken. The list is long.

But the list of people who have cared about me along the way? I have a small family, so that list is not particularly long. I have some great friends with whom I will be friends till I die. And I’ve had other friends who aren’t still around, but they cared about me at some point, and I cared about them…and deep down inside, I truly care about anyone who was my friend at one time. Truth. And even if they don’t care about me, they still shaped me in some way.

I’m a firm believer that everyone we encounter affects us and shapes us in some way…maybe it’s a positive and maybe it’s a negative.

So stop and think about the people who have made you who you are. Sure, some of them cared about you. Some of them just affected you in a chance encounter. Be restrospective and introspective. And then, get out and go see A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood, starring Tom Hanks as Mr. Rogers. Just seeing the movie trailer makes me cry, so when I go see it, I’ll have lots of tissues. I plan to see it within the next few days.