Monthly Archives: December 2015

Forget It

I was raised to be a good girl. If I didn’t have something nice to say, I wasn’t supposed to say anything. Go along to get along when necessary. Other people may do or say things that hurt you, don’t embarrass them.

This is probably how I ended up studying public relations and cultivating a career in the profession. It’s never what you say, it’s how you say it.

A few years ago, after years perfecting the ability to clean up other peoples’s messes with a nice turn of phrase, I burned out. Or flamed out. Whatever you want to call it. As I rose in the pr ranks of experience, I began to hate what I did. I tried extended breaks. I tried telling myself I’d get over my professional issues – they were a hazard of the job. 

But I couldn’t “pr” my personal life anymore. I couldn’t let people walk on my feelings and emotions any longer. I’ve become dangerously real since my children were born. Dangerously real for a person who thinks it’s important not to bottle emotion. And it shows. I’ve lost friends, jobs, and reputation. 

People are emotional beings. We have feelings for good reason. Not only are they there to speak to us about our own state of mind but they exist to remind others when they may have erred or stepped too far. And vice versa. Yet in today’s age, we are called by society to be emotionless. We’re never to call out anyone who hurts us, slights us or does something wrong. As a prize, were never to be challenged by others.

This is vanity. It’s the very thing that draws lines between people. That teams us up against one another like when the two most popular kids in the class got to choose teams for dodgeball in grade school. (I was usually called last.)

Earlier this week, amidst Christmas prep stress and all the crazy mental trappings of end-of-the-year holidays, my emotions broke free of their chains once again to spar with someone who may or may not have deserved it. My opponent was not able to excuse my outburst and write it off as frustration, as I see fewer and fewer people are able to these days. Friendships much longer and stronger than this one, ones with years of memories and love, are dissolved for one mere emotional explosion. Years of comraderie are instantly tossed because imperfect humans are always expected to be perfect managers of feelings. It’s like working for a tyrannical business manager 24 hours a day. Friends are no longer friends forever. 

Days have gone by and I’m left alone now with my feelings of inadequacy when it comes to social skills. I acted a bit childishly, venting to Facebook friends, many of whom reminded me of what I’ve been dwelling upon – why have I been vilified for being the person I am? That “real” human being who can’t help but bubble over from time to time when the world demands too much.

Why are we all so quick to jettison people from our lives for being real? For exhibiting feelings and emotions we’ve all felt at least once, or that make us think about our own behavior? Why can’t we forgive even when we receive apologies from those who need to give them? Why can’t we accept that people deal with frustration and rejection in different ways? We all do these things? I know I do.

It does hurt from the other side, too, where you end up wondering what happened and how you could be so misunderstood. Maybe this one will work itself out. Maybe it won’t. I’m sorry for my part in upsetting someone else. But I’m also not completely unjustified. I know I’ll never perfect the ability to make myself and everyone else happy. 

Forgiving I suppose is one thing. Forgetting, or the inability to do so, is something different. One of those human conditions it’s hard to overcome. Perhaps a survival instinct. Maybe we emotional weaklings will be evolved out of society someday.

Better news? Maybe I have a New Years resolution to work on. Don’t just forgive. Forget.

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Believe

If your a parent of a school-age child, you probably know the last thing that’ll get you into the Christmas spirit is the annual school Christmas concert.

It’s always just a few days before the big day, there’s no where to park and sometimes no where to sit at school, parents are all dancing around getting the back of their heads in someone else’s video or picture,  there are strange delays in the schedule – like unscheduled bathroom breaks, crying or a performer who won’t take the stage, tweens who take the stage and refuse to sing because they’re too cool, wardrobe malfunctions and so on. 

Our annual concert was shaping up to be more of this chaos, up until the actual event. My kids were complaining about changes in words, songs and choreography for weeks. We parents weren’t really crazy about having to pull together “costumes” while making our traditional Christmas time purchases. And a new teacher was producing the show. No one knew what to expect.

We got the traditional stuff. Phones in the air blocking everyone’s view. Kids off key, words forgotten, wrong gestures at the right time, and so on. And of course, huggable little ones smiling, hamming it up and “hi Mom-ing” it from the stage, while some how forgetting the words to Frosty.

But as acts moved from kindergarten through the eighth grade (this is Catholic school), something happened. The Christmas Spirit I’ve been struggling to find for weeks showed up. The seventh grade, a class I have no children in, began to sing “Believe” from The Polar Express movie. These kids – many of whom I know personally and love dearly – began to sing about growing up into not believing. Some of the same kids who have been sewing doubt about Santa in my girls. And I began to think – the worst thing anyone can do at a time like this.

I thought of those kids on the stage, coming out of childhood into a world where they must face so much more than I ever had to at that age. How the simple fact that we outgrow Santa signifies so much more. The song wasn’t sung perfectly, the music wasn’t live, but I found myself crying as I watched one of my favorite, most active young men sing this gentlest of carols. 

“Turn back!” I wanted to yell to him. “Stay young! Be a kid while you still can. Growing up only brings confusion, pain, and things that aren’t any fun!”

I began to realize my own age. My parents age. I remembered that this year, I have one major Santa skeptic, and one true believer. And I began to think about my own waning belief that there are decent people still in the world. And I realized that I want to be one of those good people.

And then, I knew what I wanted for Christmas. I want the patience, wisdom and understanding to love those I’d rather not. The courage to stop hiding from other people because I don’t want pain, rejection and pushback. 

At the end of the show, all of the kids sang “I’d Like to Teach the World to Sing.” So simple. Yet so meaningful in our day. 

Those children. At one of those chaotic concerts. You’ve taught my heart to sing. And helped me find the real spirit of Christmas. Thank you.

The Force is Strong with this One

My oldest daughter is just not into the whole Star Wars thing. She’s asked me more than once what the fuss is all about. 

I respect her skepticism and her curiosity. Yet as someone who watched George Lucas’s world blossom as a child, fell in love with Han Solo as a tween and wore Princess Leia costumes for Halloween before they were readily available in stores, this is devastating somewhere in my inner psyche. Thank God for the younger child who asked for a Lightsaber for Christmas, even if she still calls it a Light Saver. 

Star Wars, I told my daughter, is about more than toys, robots and coffee creamer with Darth Vader’s picture on it (yes this exists). The phenomenon is actually based in something quite important to our world – the epic struggle for good and evil. That is why it’s so all encompassing and so beloved by my generation, the first to grow up espousing the virtues of the Force. 

 

Me, channeling my inner Princess Leia , with the Jawas at Disney World’s Star Wars Launch Bay.


 I know, you’ve heard it before. I’m not the first to say it, and certainly not the one to say it best. Joseph Campbell did that when he wrote “The Hero With a Thousand Faces.” Luke Skywalker, our hero, embodies the goodness and innocence essential to save the galaxy from evil, illustrated through, guess what, government. There are so many parallels to the modern struggle that even Disney couldn’t have projected a better time to release this movie. But that’s not the point.

We need rich stories like Star Wars to remind us what the focus of human development should be. To wrestle the story of humanity from the red tape of living and teach us how to behave honorably. Sara gave me a pretty blank face when I told her something similar. I was talking above 10-year-old again.

So I went somewhere that would make other Star Wars geeks gasp – the Wizarding World of Harry Potter. Sara’s been reading those books and knows the story. She knows good wins, evil loses again as it has over and over in the greatest stories of all time. Think about it: Harry as Luke, Ron and Hermoine as Han and Leia, Dumbledore as Obi-Wan/Yoda, Voldemort as the Emporor. You get it. Same story.

One of the more beautiful facets of the Star Wars Saga is its basis in the goodness of family. Our heroes are tied together by family, albeit probably the most disfunctional one ever imagined. But in the end, it is the tie that binds – Darth Vader’s dying words “Tell your sister you were right.” 

Luke is right about so many things – but ultimately about the fact that he could not have come from someone completely evil. That he and his sister were honorable people created and born from love that was indeed a good thing. We cheered Darth Vader when he threw Palpatine into the abyss to save his SON. Family saves the universe. 

I probably over philosophized this one, but Sara got it. She’s been running around telling me what other stories she’s found the classic good vs. evil theme running through. She’s also finding that good ALWAYS wins. I hope it’s giving her solace as we face unthinkable evil in our real lives.

I’m looking forward to seeing The Force Awakens, and feeding my Star Wars geekiness. It’s already resurrecting old jokes and fun memories I share only with my older brother. And I am excited about sharing it with my girls – particularly in the form of Princess Leia, who after my mother was my first role model for the woman I wanted, and still want, to be.

I worry in these last days before the release that the theme of good and the strength of family ties will be diminished in the movie by the darkness that hangs over our world today. But I know in my heart that is what makes Star Wars the juggernaut that it is. It’s hollow without it.

May the Force Be with You.

It Takes a Family

After I had my children, I often wondered how friends who had moved “away from home” (away from their parents and families) were able to cope.

My mother and father, in many ways, make my family possible. In today’s crazy world of child rearing, it’s inexplicably hard for mom and dad to do it alone. Without grandmas, grandpas, uncles, aunts, cousins and the like nearby, I don’t know how other parents do it.

Today, as I sit in a hotel room in Omaha, supporting my husband’s employment with an out-of-town company, my mother is walking a few days in my shoes. Since Wednesday, she’s been shuttling my girls to and from school, to and from gymnastics and cheerleading, feeding and enduring my ridiculous dogs, likely doing my laundry and cleaning my house. This trip, she dealt with the dishwasher repair man and a birthday party I forgot about. And she still has a makeup trombone lesson to get to before I land back home. Her gps is getting a workout, and no doubt everything she brought to my house is covered in white fur.

As a parent, I often wondered how the mothers of my generation – those 70s and 80s moms – ever dealt with being mommy. They seemed to be so much more graceful, competent and together. Then, I remember disposable income then was much less (meaning fewer belongings), fathers did less helping, kids expected less and women perhaps were not pulled in so many directions. But they were still better at it.

I’ve always worked to keep my family in driving distance of my extended family. We’ve never lived more than an hour away, and our most recent move, to within a half hour of my parents, was designed with grandma and grandpa in mind. 

I’ve been blessed to have never had to leave my children with anyone other than the most trusted people in my life. I’m glad I’ve never had to decide if new friends in new towns or some type of service was safe enough for my kids. They stay only with people I trust most. I’ve often wondered how hard it must be for parents to leave their kids with strangers – that stat, one in four girls will be sexually abused by 18, echoes in my mind. I can’t imagine the stress.

We’ve never had to board a plane or travel farther than across town for holiday celebrations. I watch my mother and father’s brothers and sisters struggle with geographical distance from their grandchildren, and I pray their hearts heal. I send gifts and drag kids to family events so that each of my aunts and uncles and even my brother’s in-laws hear the sounds of kids laughing regularly, and see the miracles of their growth. It’s a gift I find I’m always able to give, that’s always happily received.

Extended family is more than people to babysit and car pool when you can’t, however. They comprise a community that provides love beyond the nuclear family and provides kids with a safety mat that spells out what might happen if mom and dad are somehow restricted by health, distance, or even death. Extended family is extra padding, backup support, a help desk. It’s permanent. It teaches all how to deal with relationships we can’t jettison from our lives and what it’s like to have people we can count on when the world lets us down.

Families can be close even if they aren’t geographically near. And they can be distant even if they live across the street. But children so often have the super human power to heal family wounds and rejoin broken bonds. Let them work their magic where possible.

Family first, as my 10-year-old reminds me. Family first.

Hope Lies with Everyday People

My family and I just wrapped up a Christmas-time visit to Walt Disney  World in Florida. The resort and parks have always been promoted as a magical place. I’m beginning to think the Disney people could be right.

Not in a pixie dust, mouse who talks kind of way. But in a real world example kind of way. 

In the last few months, the possibility that our world will ever be at peace again seems to have slipped even farther away. Blacks hate whites, whites hate Muslims, Muslims hate everyone. Democrats hate Republicans. Old school Republicans hate new conservatives and the media hates Donald Trump. All we hear about is how people around the world with different belief systems and ideas cannot coexist.

Or can they?

If you’ve been to WDW or Disneyland in California recently, you know at the end of your trip you’ve had all that you can take. Not because of Disney. You likely know everything they do is exceptional. But those of us who visit…we’re the reason Disney has to be taken in small doses. It’s the strollers, stroller parking lots, scooters, people driving scooters like they’re at the Richard Petty Driving Experience, infants screaming on busses, on rides and at resorts, daily rain showers, toddlers spilling ice cream on their Bibbidie Bobbidie baubles, boys smashing people with Pirates of the Carribbean swords, the lines for Peter Pan’s Flight, people causing bottlenecks while they decide how many quick service meals they have, drunk parents in the Germany and Italy pavilions, parade watching areas, no chairs at the pool, people considering shirts in gift shops, people stopping everywhere to take pictures of everything, everyone checking the app to see how long the wait is at Test Track, and people, people, monorails, people, busses, boats and even more people.

After a day or two navigating the ocean of Disney, not only are you in physical pain, your at wits end. And then you have to battle TSA to get home.

But If you stop for a moment or two, and open your ears, you’ll hear people discussing all your family is dealing with in a variety of languages. It’s amazing really. In the last week, I’ve heard Spanish, Japanese, Chinese, Farsi, German, Italian, and a lot of other languages I couldn’t pin point. I heard British, Australian, Brooklyn and Southern accents. I saw a very happy young Muslim woman wearing-glow-in-the-dark green Mickey Mouse ears over her head scarf and a group of Indian teen girls dressed as Jasmine from Alladin. I saw a very imposing African-American dad wearing R2-D2 Mickey ears and a hipster girl wearing a Yoda backpack. They were all bumping into people, strollers, signage, scooters and merchandise trying to get somewhere. But they were ok with it all because they wanted to be there.

And while factors that should have led to major annoyance and perhaps arguments and violence continued, everyone was relatively happy, gracious and hospitable. Disney was piping in traditional Christmas music. A choir, with Neil Patrick Harris as emcee, sang age-old Christian hymns while people jockeyed for the best view in the rain. Santa was everywhere you looked. People were saying “Christmas.” We listened to a   Beatles cover band together and watched Asian monkeys swing overhead. No one complained, poked fun, fought or antagonized. People were organized, well-behaved and happy. Weird.

I saw lots of very thankful kids of all ages, and parents who may have been worried about the cost indulging them out of love and true affection. There was no “privilege.” Just people who worked hard to give their kids or themselves something special.  There was almost no negativity. 

People – at least everyday people – CAN actually get along with and respect one another in non-ideal, maddening circumstances. It’s amazing we can take the stress of rat-mazes like Disney and daily life, yet our leaders don’t trust us-the ones living the American life they discuss-to tell them what we need. 

Don’t believe me? Try standing in line for the Seven Dwarfs Mine Train sometime. On a Saturday.