Journal Sharing, Personal Gifts, Part II

As part of the Personal Best writing, the journaling group decided to write about Personal Gifts, perhaps listing liabilities that turned to assets.

A computer friend, Missy, shared a quote.  “Writing:  all you do is sit down at a typewriter and open a vein.”  The typewriter dates the author, but the concept is as fresh as our tech world.   Precious life does find a way to flow through the fingers.

When we think a concept, we tend to go round about the core, usually coming back to the same center.  Writing helps us make linear progress,  finding conclusions before moving to new ideas.

As usual, post-its, scraps, edges of newspaper and back of grocery lists needed to be pulled together as I moved from thinking, to scribbling, to writing–to fully opening that vein.

As a teacher, I shuttered when red pencils were forbidden as self-esteem crushers, when the worst of work was to be praised for something or other, when excellence took second seat to protecting self-image.  Not only was that trend over-board, it came close to sinking the aim of education.  All this is to say that I don’t like or believe in a victory dance or even a high-five for minimal expectations.

Balancing Personal Gifts and minimal expectations is risky.   I know that I am polite in most situations, a minimal expectation.  I know that I am honest except when honesty would hurt and silence covers the situation nicely.  I don’t overtly lie, steal and rarely covet…as in neighbor’s spouse or goods.  Again, minimal.

Setting goals and staying with the program is part of my self, taught and reinforced by parents, community, incredible elementary, high school and college teachers.  Parenting and teaching to the best of my known standards was minimal.  I expected no less.

The past couple of years have shown a new self, one that is able to respect and honor the parts of my life long religion while freely speaking to the aspects that are not only short-sighted  (failure to fully honor the women of the church), authoritarian (male dominated and crushing to Jesus philosophy)  and even evil (pedophilia, abuse and cover-ups).  Late coming to my personal gifts, but no less appreciated even if I now see this as minimal expectation.

On the back of a grocery list, I had written, “My best…my family, my friends, my contacts, my life, my everything.”    Has there ever been a better summary of Personal Gifts?





In The NOW? This NOW? Not Now!

That living in the moment isn’t always the sane choice.  To being with, our system has that fatal flaw.  We are born to good-byes.  That fact pretty well covers every moment.  Being the resilient creatures that we are, we learn to handle the short-term moments and the enduring moments with the same flourish–escape.

We escape.  We project.  We time travel to the land of If, Maybe and Soon.

No other way keeps us steady and sane.  A child falters and we wait for the moment,  that moment when we can handle whatever is sending  the wave or the tsunami through our parenting skills.  Sometimes an adult child is standing too far from the measure.  Disappointment, yes, but hope clings to situation with the same force as our overused ‘soon and if’‘.

A financial mistake simply is.  No way around it.  Our process had holes. We take the consequences.  We hope for soon, for resurrection.

Then there are the awful moments, the ones when we realize that love isn’t there anymore.  It died of apathy.  It died because we took too long waiting for the right NOW.

Living in the moment is absolutely doable.  We have to do it.  No choices except withdrawal from a person or from a reality.  However, when it is possible, when it is the sanity saving thing to do,   take a pass.    Deny that it is a forever kind of moment.  Project into a future and better NOW.  Trust that it is coming and be safe in the waiting.

More Beliefs

I believe that friendship is one of  the most delicate of connections. It is a bond strong enough to handle the weathering of the most difficult days, but can wither with the ordinary.

I believe that we parent until we die, though we need to parent very quietly once the child reaches puberty. After the child becomes an adult, totally silent parenting is our best option.

I believe that having fun is vastly over-rated for the young and under-rated for the elderly.

I believe that we have encased self-esteem in fake cotton candy.

I believe that ‘universal truth’ is extremely elusive.

I believe that civil discourse withers as underrated in our age of rage and vitriol.

I believe that those who oppose abortion must, in justice, provide for those unwanted children born because abortion was not an option.

I believe that every child is precious and deserves a run at ‘equal’.

I believe that the values taught in my childhood church grease the wheels of civilization.

I believe that the nuns, the Sisters, have given heart and soul to serve  many of those values.

I believe that social justice is our greatest hope of healing.

I believe that gratitude is under appreciated.

I believe that appreciation is the soul of gratitude.

Measuring The Message

In the not so distant past, a very good friend and I did a workshop on Effects Of The Media Message. We researched, created charts, read books,quoted professionals, supplied boxes of data to support our observations. We made ourselves available to any group who would invite our message.

My friend and I were elementary teachers, sharing a common area outside her music room and my kindergarten classroom. Someone smilingly deemed our school ‘cupcake land’ as we seemed to have so much of the good that circumstance can offer. Even here, we documented the changes so evident in our students.

As we presented our workshop material, we talked about the increase in bullying behaviors, the decrease in respect for others, the harm created by fake self-esteem–esteem bestowed but not earned.
My friend and I had uncounted examples of media messages wherein the ‘put-down’, the sarcastic response, the dumbing-down of interactions were prominent. We had so many examples of winning-at-any cost. Examples of media violence filled several boxes.

We viewed many scenes of young girls being portrayed in ways that took away their childhood. Sculpted hair, make-up and clothing designed to be sexy offered as the ideal.  We found statistics saying that the most popular graduation gift for females was some form of plastic surgery.  Looking good, no matter the cost.

Our girls, our daughters, granddaughters, students, kids next door, feel the pressure of the media messages moving them into behaviors for which they are emotionally unprepared. Fashion demanded tiny tops, short skirts, and tight clothing. These are adult choices, not choices that we should welcome for our elementary and  middle school children.

There are reports of sexting (the subject of an earlier blog), and even oral sex in the school stair wells. Adult choices being forced onto ever younger children. Choices presented to them by the messages of the media.

Our children have a lifetime of choices ahead. We have forced them into early behavior decisions without insuring the maturity to understand long-term results.

We read about large numbers of depressed young teens, especially girls. We hear of overwhelming sadness coupled with acting out behaviors. Books speak to the subject of bullying and the staggering increase in these behaviors. When confronted with accepting responsibility for personal behavior, many teens simply don’t understand the concept.   Consequences are for someone else. The responsibility belongs to others.

This is not a school issue, though many of the difficulties are apparent in school settings. Teachers and school administrators cannot be the solution. Theirs is the business of educating so our children can become fully functioning adults. Mandated solutions rarely produced good results.

That leaves us–parents and even grandparents. We are not our kid’s best friend. We are the adults making the difficult choices, guiding, protecting, nurturing our young teens. And we must make these choices without a guide-book. There are no easy answers. Day by day by day…hard decision by difficult decision, we take back our young teens.

One final  and very sad reality, Gentle Reader…
After completing one of the presentation, I was answering questions and welcoming comments from the audience. A mother shook my hand and thanked me for the material. Then, she said, rather sadly, “You know why you will fail in this effort? Because we need the television to make our lives so much easier. We will not give it up.”

Wintry Woman

Dreaming is delicious whether the meat is of memory or of the wishful.  Even nightmares help to sort.

Last night I dreamed of my parents and grandparents.  They were alive, truly alive in the story my mind produced for me.  In earlier times, I would have been sad, missing them and wishing for the magic might-have-been.

But I am a Wintry Woman in the last of my seasons.  I was orphaned long ago.

Most of us experience the crush of orphan life…a new kind of freedom and the pain of what can never be.  Choices claimed from personal values without the worry of lugging ‘their’ values and deciding which holds sway.  If candy will spoil my dinner, it will delight my moment…and I can  skip the meal and devour the chocolate.

Trivial.  Mostly trivial.  But the other part is beyond sad.  And it makes me yearn for a special warmth in my wintry woman years.

Never, ever will I have a meaningful conversation with my parents.  True, we had a few that bordered on depth, but I always held back not trusting that my truth would be accepted.  Filtering, always filtering.

I want those conversations with my children.  I ache for those conversations with my children.  There have been some sharing times and those moments  have enrichment my thinking beyond expectation.  But they are not yet orphans and I fear that they are filtering, always filtering.

Perhaps that has something to do with the immense value of honest friendship.