Wednesday, December 28, 2011


I don’t even know how to say it. Must I be technical before the computer case is even removed? Can diagnosis be accomplished from the lack of activity on my monitor? If the heart stops beating must I give the cardiac description?

Or may I simplistically wail in anguish, “It’s dead!”

This December I have mourned dear friends who died this year. I grieve with friends who have lost family members too early.

To write of the death of my computer is hardly of the same seriousness. But the last week has been traumatic and continues to be frantically upsetting as I search for saved files and documents, research noted from many thick books I don’t want to re-read.

The memorial service for a dear friend was held in November. Memories of his emails and humor cause me to smile. His dog was an effervescent, shaggy sheep dog and they were not dissimilar. (It must be said that our friend's mind was sharper.)

Another friend is also gone but his life and relationship pokes hard edged into our memories. He was self-serving and often abusive. Enough said.

I remember the year my Uncle’s 5 & 10 store burned to the ground. The pain in my abdomen was similar to losing a beloved family member.

December is a month of remembering people and what we have lost. Our task is to sort through the memories, our shared experiences, conversations as well as words we never said.

As we remember clear eyed, we see what we wish to emulate and the characteristics we resented and need to leave behind. 

Part of the burden of loss is that we must deliberately build a new normal. A friend bemoaned her teenage son's behavior. The important question was, “is he dead?” If he isn’t she can seek guidance being the unconditional loving mother he wished he had. When we change, others change in order to regain their balance. As long as we are in the land of the living, we consider circumstances and choose a new beginning each day. 

And what person shall I become in the new year?


Saturday, December 24, 2011


I have finally discovered the secret to giving the perfect gift. At the same time I found the solution to less-than-perfectly-wrapped presents.

Mostly my immediate family doesn’t exchange presents.

For the extended bunch I craft a plethora of similar products, wrap each in tissue and ship the whole thing across country in a $10 box to my mother. She spreads them out on the sofa and everyone chooses what they like. If they don’t like, they don’t choose. The expectations and hurt feelings that have accompanied giving and receiving in the past don’t appear. Furthermore, I’m not there.

Seeking perfection is like living a delusion. Significant people materialize only in our minds and their past criticisms sound deep into our subconscious. The noises drown out reason. I have it in my power to cut the tow lines and think gracious, self-enriching thoughts. I can choose to watch HGTV artists produce seemingly perfect beauty, and smile contentedly at the simple plastic, red apples I got free years ago.

If I choose the delusion I need to ask myself what I am getting out of it. And what I am missing.

There is a result of continually expecting perfection: Guilt. A recovering alcoholic friend was fond of saying Guilt is the gift that keeps on giving.

Forgiveness, first of myself and then of others, teases out of my experience anger, impatience, and lies that were never true. Once in the light of day they can be replaced and dumped. The best gifts to give are Forgiveness and Grace, beautiful kindnesses that accept reality but are never defeated by it.

Forgiveness is always a challenge, but especially at Christmas (or Hannukah). If I don’t find forgiveness in my stash of gifts, I will pack a load of guilt onto my sleigh. The sleigh will pick up speed and run me over. ("Grandma got run over by a reindeer....")

May you be blessed in your beginnings. 

Wednesday, December 14, 2011


Television networks are airing Christmas musical specials, both new and repeats from previous years. How many ways can one sing “White Christmas?” Church children perform various sketches for adoring grandparents and friends. (Perhaps this year a five-year-old will raise her skirt or shout the lyrics at the top of his lungs.) Crèche scenes are displayed on folks’ front lawns along with Santa, Walt Disney characters and miles of colorful lights.

The message is that this is the "most wonderful time of the year." In some homes this may be unequivocally true. For others the gatherings of family have proven disastrous in previous years.

The Christmas card I received yesterday proclaimed Peace on Earth and Good Will to All Men.

Through past experience I admit that I am only moderately capable of producing either. I accept the reality and relax. I forgive myself and my family for our individual oddities and annoyances. I become more skillful each year at picking the hype of Merry, Merry, Merry, Merry Christmas like lint off my shoulder.

Time to turn on the colored lights, turn off all others and rock slowly in the near dark. Breathe in Grace. Breathe out Peace.

Perhaps this year I can simply hope there is something here that doesn’t depend on me.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011


How can a beginning be numbered? By definition a beginning is always first.

But beginnings do not spring from nothing. Diets are easily begun on Monday morning after a weekend of caloric infusion.

Even mold needs a wet dishrag neglected beneath the sink, or a remnant of cottage cheese forgotten in the back of the refrigerator.

Beginning may happen when we turn from a previous purpose or direction and step away, reaching for new support as we go. We carry wisps of the past clinging to our coat tails and deep in our heart. Inaugurating a new profession, we view each new experience in contrast to the last work, office, or management.

As we step up to take on caregiving for a parent or spouse, we wear our previous relationship even as we reach for the new cloak of responsibility. Unless the parent or spouse is comatose, they also remember their role in caring for us and how we disappointed or made them proud. We should not be surprised when regrets and conflict materialize like steam issues as cold and warm collide.

Beginnings can take us by surprise when our plans become disrupted. Winter drops cold temperatures onto us as we sleep through what we didn’t know would be the last autumn night. A fall, stroke or medical prognosis declares life as we know it at an end. The financial picture of our employer shatters into unemployment. We are pushed into a new beginning.

When we review the beginnings we experienced in our past, we can take heart. We survived before and will flourish as we begin again.