Thursday, December 29, 2011

Cocooning In The Dead Of Winter

This is the time of year I love most.   It is the time of year when we take a much needed break from Summer and Fall and all the hustle that goes with them.  It is the time for a vacation from the routine and the mundane rituals that go along with work and school.  We sleep in a little longer, live more spontaneously and breathe more deeply.  We relax.

This Winter break, as it is called, has been as close to perfect as I can recall.  It's pace has been slow and each day never more than I can handle.  This particular break is my customary cocooning time. I do it every year.  Its a time when I retreat from the world and most of the people in it.  I hibernate, I focus on home and family and the world is no bigger than the house I live in.  I can stay in my pajamas all day and makeup is never required unless I fancy to apply it. I keep my existence small and introspect.  I heal my soul with reflection and savor the freedom of my time.

Today is the middle of this vacation, the midpoint, the best part of my time off.  I am still walking into this day without the gnawing thoughts of work creeping into the recesses of my mind.  It's coffee and writing and thinking of anything but that grueling drudgery that is my gainful employment.  Today is still "my down time" and that feels as good as slipping on my favorite soft sweater on a cold day.

I do have a "might get to it today" list floating around in my head.  This list is far more hospitable than the "must do" list that flashes like a neon sign in the forefront of my brain when not on a break.  But for now, I'll enjoy my first and only cup of coffee.

This I have found to be true, on a cold Winter's morning, nothing is finer than that first sip of coffee.  I could never drink coffee without it's wonderful companions cream and sugar.  This picture of bliss has been modified however as I no longer partake of refined sugars.  So my beloved coffee is adorned with vanilla cream and Stevia.

This morning, Pinterest gave me this notion to ponder:

I must admit, I drink coffee and I do stupid things and indeed I do them with faster and with more energy.  Therefore, I deem this statement to be true.  Not drinking coffee would not strip my world of the stupid things I do, but there is no doubt they would be done more slowly and with more labor.

But today, I can commit my fouls at my leisure even though my fuel allows me to perform them at a higher speed.  After all, it is the middle of the vacation and yet another day that is mine to design and enjoy.

Sunday, December 25, 2011

The Eve And Ever After

We have made it through Christmas Eve.  While our hearts were not in tune with the season, for whatever the reason, we made it through.

My Son had been asking for a video camera.  This amazing 12 yr old man child is driven to make, direct and produce his own films.  Like most children, I have watched him pass through one phase of interest after another.  For years, and I do mean years, he loved Transformers and then the movies.  But what I saw was that he was as much intrigued by the making of the movies as the movies themselves.  Slowly, the topic went from wanting to watch the movies to wanting to make the movies.  He learned how to shoot videos, edit them on the computer and create his own short videos.  His passion to do this has only grown with time.

When his used camera failed, all I heard was how he needed another camera.  They aren't cheap and I knew Christmas was coming.  I decided to do my best to get him one if I could afford to do so.  As the months went by and the holidays grew closer, the questions from him regarding a camera increased.  I think he was trying to make sure that I knew he needed one.  Like I could ever forget!

The week before Christmas, we were able to secure the video camcorder.  It was my goal to never let him know it was coming.  The questions about whether or not he would get one continued.  I explained that we had looked for one but the prices were just too high.  I told him if we couldn't get one for Christmas, maybe in the spring we would try again.  This darling  young man would say, "Ok, I understand."  I have been blessed with a very understanding child who while wanting something understands when it doesn't happen.

Christmas Eve finally arrived.  The children were absolutely beside themselves having whipped themselves up emotionally into a frenzy that defies logic.  While My Son knows the deal about Santa, the younger child believed that only good girls and boys would be visited.  And that was true.  During the day, the children did everything they could to jump from the Good List to the Naughty List.  They simply couldn't help themselves.  It was as if they were determined to sabotage the only chance for Santa to come and bring gifts.  They fussed and fought, everyone was fighting with everyone and oh BA HUMBUG was growing in our house.  More than once, we called Christmas off due to the arguing.

As evening fell, we decided to force the children to watch a movie to kill time and to give them a final chance to coexist in some sense of harmony.  We made pallets on the floor in front of the TV and made sure there were pillows and blankets so they would be comfortable.  They were close to each other but not too close. Plenty of opportunity to blow their last chance.

We watched "A Christmas Story", a movie well known for the Red Rider BB Gun and "you'll shoot your eye out."  The children did well and when the movie came to the part where Ralphie opens up his present but never sees the prized BB gun, I thought of my son.  I watch as Ralph sat in mature disappointment at Christmas coming and leaving without a BB gun to call his own.  I watched his dad spy some present tucked beside the furniture and Ralphie open it to find what he's been wanting for so long. That part brings a tear to my eye as for a moment, I remember what it's like to be a kid on Christmas Eve.  I can remember disappointment and joy even thought I can't recall wanting something as badly as Ralphie wanted the BB gun or My Son wanted the video camera.

After the movie, we did the Santa deal and then the children were opening their gifts.  My Son opened his gifts with no idea that what he wanted was there.  I saw the face of delight and joy, just as I had seen in the movie only a short time earlier.

While we had felt a lack of Christmas spirit all season long, while we had struggled to make Christmas happen, while we fought to keep the kids on the Good List, we found something we did not expect.  We didn't expect the quiet enjoyment of a movie in a room decorated with a beautiful tree and shining white lights.  We didn't expect time together void of anger and frustration, but we had it.  We didn't expect an evening of laughter and surprises and we found it.

If things had been any different, if we had done this evening any other way than what we did, we would have missed those things in the hustle and bustle of activity.  For us, a quiet Christmas and what it gave us, was the best gift we could have asked for.

We hope that you and yours had a very Merry Christmas and that the New Year will bring the promise of endless possibilities.

Saturday, December 17, 2011

The Best Gift

Every day at work, I hear the morning announcements read over the loud speaker to the students of my campus.  Notices of group meetings, event instructions and various items of interest are read with repetition each day.  As of late there has been an invitation of writing submission to the campus newspaper and the topic was "The Best Gift".

Normally, this would be an activity that would start my writing wheels turning. And I did try but this simple topic had me stumped.  I literally felt my brain wander through my own memories and stumble and wobble this way and that.

My journey took me to a time when My Son was almost 2 yrs old.  We did not have much money that Christmas.  We lived in an apt on the bottom floor of the complex.  The living room had a nice fireplace but we could not afford the wood to burn, so that Christmas Eve night, we burned phone books to warm the room.  My son was already sleeping and I sat there in the brown rocker and stared out the patio door at the small framed area and the fence surrounding it.  Suddenly, I saw a Santa hat appear over the top of the fence and then the smiling face of a boy.  He looked at me and then over the fence he dropped bag after bag filled with things I could not see.  Finally he dropped a small bike on the patio floor and then disappeared.  I sat there quite in shock, not sure what I had just seen and not sure exactly what to do.  Finally, I opened the patio door and brought the bags in the house and began unloading all the carefully wrapped presents.  Clothing, shoes, watches, toys for My Son were unwrapped.  It was a bounty I never expected and I frustratingly sat there with no one to thank.  What a Christmas Eve that was, one I will never forget.  But was it the best gift?

What about the Christmas a few years ago, when a secretary in my building played a part in a wonderful Christmas.  Nancy had mentioned to me in our conversations that fall that the refrigerator had gone out, the AC had gone out and money was tight.  I did the usual encouraging thing and that was about it.  As Christmas got closer, I found myself hearing her more clearly.  There would be no money for the children's gifts this year and money was a struggle.  One of the last weekends before we broke for the holidays, I left work with Nancy on my mind.  Now when I say I had her on my mind, I mean she was heavy in my thoughts.  I didn't have extra money myself but all I could think was "if I had a hundred extra dollars, I would give it to her".   I woke up Saturday morning and instead of the thought fading, it was only stronger.  I told my daughter about Nancy and I said to her "if I only had a hundred extra dollars, I'd give it to her".  I told my son the same thing.  The idea and the need was so strong, it dominated my thoughts.  Sunday rolled around and it was the same level of intensity.  It was a thought I could not get out of my head.  "If I only had a hundred extra dollars, I'd give it to her".  Over and over again, the sentence went through my head, my thoughts, my  heart.

That following Monday, I went to work as usual, sat at my desk and within a few moments, the wife of my landlord came in and we chatted a bit.  She handed me an envelop and told me that the money inside was for my kids for Christmas.  I thanked her for it and tucked it away in my desk drawer.  After she left, I thought, I should see how much money I have to use for the kids for gifts.  I opened her envelop and there is was, 100 dollars.  There was the hundred extra dollars.  My hands shook.  I called my daughter, told her what had happened.  She said, "you know what to do".  I took the envelop up to Nancy's office and pulled her aside.  I told her slowly about my weekend and I saw tears well up in her eyes as I spoke.  Then I handed her the envelop with the money and she naturally declined to accept it.  I was emphatic and I explained to her that after this extraordinary weekend and this obsessive thought that had dominated my mind and heart for days, I had no doubt that this money was never mine, it was hers.  She needed to have it and I was the vehicle it took to get it to her.  Through hugs and tears on both our parts, she accepted it.  To this day, that day is our extraordinary Christmas, hers and mine.

But perhaps the best gift isn't a memory.  Perhaps it is a memory in the making.  We have struggled this year not only with money but with our health and in the wake of the wildfires of the fall, we have found it difficult to look forward to what has always been our favorite time of year.  I love the holiday decorations and the smells of Christmas.  I love giving and seeing the joy in the faces of the children, family and friends.  But this year feels very different.  The Christmas tree is up but it was not done so with the normal enthusiasm. Holiday decorations are tossed around as if it was a chore to place them instead of a pleasure.  Holiday music isn't welcome and I actually just want the time to pass instead of feeling that intense desire to make the white lights and atmosphere last.  So what is it?  What has stolen the Christmas joy?  What am I missing?  What message am I overlooking?

So where did Christmas go and more importantly, how do we get it back?

As we slide into the final days of this Christmas season, I will be listening with my heart for that one thing I'm suppose to do.  That could quite possibly be our game changer.  Maybe Christmas is hidden in a package I have not yet seen, waiting to be opened like some surprise illustrated on the page of a Dr. Seuss book. Maybe the best gift is yet to be revealed.

We have so much to be thankful for and we are thankful.  Perhaps we are simply humbled by the path we must now walk upon.  Perhaps Christmas is no longer glitzy and bright this year for our community. It's most definitely not business as usual.  Its softer and more subtle.  More serene and holy.

And maybe that's just how it should be.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Every Bully Has His Day

Forgive my delay in writing.  I always said that I would write when I had something worthy of telling.  Well, I've been waiting and day has finally come.

In a prior post, I spoke of My Son's daily drama with bullies at his school.  I've heard it said that those middle school years can be vicious.  Last year, My Son's first year in middle school was great.  He loved school, loved every day, nary a complaint.

This year, its much different.  Every day, my "hello son how was your day" is met with a long agonizing detailed description of all that happens to him.  Very seldom is a good.  It tugs at my heart to know that this exceptionally kind young man is tormented each school day by the words and deeds of kids and groups of kids.  I could see it wearing My Son down.  I began to notice he would tell me he didn't feel well and that he was trying to get out of going to school.

Last week, My Son told me he had prayed to God the night before to please let the bullies give him a break.  There is something desperate about a young man praying in the night for relief and respite from chaos and evil.

After the last few days, I have no doubt that God heard his prayers.  He heard the cry of the kind, the generous, the compassionate, the innocent.  He heard the cries of one boy who in the midst of desperation, laced his fingers together and began calling out to his Supreme Being, to his Savior, to his God for help.

Through a series of events, My son's situation came to light.  It didn't just come to light, in a matter of hours, a thousand spotlights were pointed at him and those that torment him.  From many directions, Angels mounted winged stallions and flew to his rescue.  They came to his campus, they went to the haven of his tormentors, they dragged the darkness into the light til there was no place to hide.

This was My Son's day of vindication.  Today he did not walk alone, instead, others came to his side.  Today,  the emotional sword he carried each day was matched by a hundred others.  Today, the bullies had no place to hide and no place to run.

In this world where we easily pass off the cruelty of our adolescent children with phrases like " kids can be cruel" and "boys will be boys" as if almost in an effort to justify their actions, there must come a time when we do not look the other way.  If you ask anyone about the bullying issue, mostly likely you will receive the highest condemnation of it yet when it comes down to it, very little is done to stop it.

That did not happen this week.  This week, young and old, rich and poor, black and white, all came together to stop what should never have started.  Mothers and sons, teachers, coaches, Principals, counselors, friends and family all gave the bully problem the full court press.

It humbled me.  It humbled My Son.  It also made me very proud and hopeful that perhaps at last, we will no longer just say there is no place for bullying, we will actually intervene and demand it be stopped.

My Son's life is worth it.  Every child's life is worth it and we can make a difference all the while knowing that the game isn't over in a day.  The watchful eyes and heart twinged ears must be ever vigilant for the next move, the next quarter, the next play.  When it comes again, the press will be back on again.  Angels will mount their steeds once again and a thousand swords will be drawn in defense of a boy.  My boy who just so happens to be my world.

My sincerest thanks to all those that stepped up and demanded something be done.  Children who live daily with the wrap of tormentors will know better days because of your actions.  You are my Heroes.