Attitude Adjustments, Be Happy, Be Kind, Being Strong, Compassion, Coping, Courage, Emotions, Family, Happiness, Holiday Spirit, Holidays, Kindness, Laughter, Laughter is the best medicine, Love, Memories, Negativity, Passion for Living, Relationships, Self respect, Thankfulness, That's life, Togetherness, Uncategorized

Love and Laughter in 2018

Happy 2018!  Last night, we returned from a whirlwind trip to Kansas City, where we spent the week with my family for the first time in years.  It really was a great time, even if it was cold, busy and chaotic.  That’s kind of the way my family is during the holidays….. NOT cold, but busy and chaotic!  Laughter, kids, memories, and constant activity is pretty much the norm for us.

My family is big……maybe not big by some people’s standards, but my parents were each one of 5 children, and I am also one of 5 (all girls).  My parents have 11 grandchildren, a few of them have spouses, and there is one great grandchild (my grandson). My daughter’s boyfriend has 2 children, who only added to the fun!  My sister also had two other guests, who were visiting from Japan, and they added to the fun and laughter.  Between all of the people, 2 dogs, the great food, cousins leg wrestling on the family room floor, Nerf gun fights, building train tracks on the floor, pretending to cook (and eat) the Fisher Price food, and our excursions into the city to visit the Nelson Atkins Museum (Picasso, Monet, Pollock, Warhol, etc), Union Station, Crown Center, ice skating (just the kids….not me!),  breakfast with my aunt and nieces, Al and I going out with a childhood friend of mine, and Al going out for a jazz night at Plaza III with our brother in-law, it was a packed few days!  The cold temps didn’t stop the fun!  My family welcomes everyone, and treats everyone with love and acceptance, if they are willing to put up with our noise and silliness!  This is really the first time Al has had a chance to spend any real time with a lot of my family.  He got to see first hand how loving and accepting they are.

I thought back on times when my sisters and our families would all gather at my parents each year (either on Thanksgiving or Christmas).  At times, there might be around 23 of us packed into their little ranch home in Springfield, Missouri.  Noise, laughter, children, food, games, movies, sports on TV, and just spending time together laughing and reminiscing was such fun.  Or the times when we would gather at my grandmother’s house in Wichita with all of my aunts, uncles, and cousins……times change, families grow, and loved ones leave us eventually…….but no one can take my memories.

2017 was not easy on me in a lot of ways.  I’ve tried to stay positive, and grateful for all I have, even when I’m physically struggling.  My first trip to Europe, which I was so looking forward to, turned out to be very hard because of a lot of the physical problems I was having, without knowing what was wrong with me.  I tried to do what I could, but I ended up spending a lot of time unable to enjoy a lot of it.  Once we got back, and I got a diagnosis (a benign brain tumor, called an acoustic neuroma), I had to figure out a lot of things.  I dove into information, trying to learn all I could about it.  But mostly, I counted my blessings.  It could have been a lot worse.  My emotions went into overdrive……I can cry at the drop of a pin, and I have a few unpleasant symptoms that are the new normal for me, but I started appreciating things I hadn’t even noticed before!  I also told myself I would not waste time on people or things that were negative or tried to drain my happiness.

I’ve had a lot of hard times in my life, but I’ve also had a lot of very happy times.  My big family has provided so many happy moments for me, and the memories of the love and laughter keep me going.  I always try to stay positive and not let negativity bring me down, but that seems so much more important now.  So, like every year, I will vow to keep my chin up, stay positive, be nice, friendly, compassionate, and happy.  Even though I have been presented with a new obstacle, it doesn’t change my outlook on life.  It may be a new year, but it’s the same love and appreciation that I always strive for.

The important things in life are love, loved ones, laughter, memories, and good health.  Laugh and learn to enjoy everything you have.  Cut out the negativity and negative people who don’t love you back, don’t care about you, or don’t appreciate you.  Stay positive.  Stay happy.  Enjoy the chaos and laughter in life.  Don’t waste time sitting around getting old. I’m so thankful I come from a family who loves to laugh and have fun…..it keeps us young and healthy!

It’s great to be home where it’s a little warmer, but I have some great new memories of this trip, and of my big family and friends.   Happy New Year, and here’s to a fun 2018, filled with love and laughter……curing all that ails us!

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Attitude Adjustments, Be Happy, Be Kind, Compassion, Courage, Egos, Emotions, Get Over Yourself, Happiness, Holiday Spirit, Insensitivity, Kindness, Love, Manners, Negativity, Relationships, Respect, Thankfulness, Uncategorized, Understanding

The Season of Giving……Year Round!

‘Tis the season of giving…….actually, I think giving is healthy year round, especially if you are giving of your time, support, sentiments, prayers, etc.  I have people in my life who I would do anything for.  I don’t give to them for recognition, or because it’s expected.  I do it because it’s the right thing to do.  I do it because I care.  Sadly, I have learned that others just don’t care as much.  I may be limited on finances, and sometimes my health hinders how much I can do, but I still try.  There are other ways of giving.  There are some people who never give, and I actually don’t understand how they can live with themselves.  There are some who give because it’s expected of them.  There are some who take advantages of others’ generosity.

We’ve all heard the phrase, “tis better to give than to receive,” which is from the Bible, “It is more blessed to give than to receive,” (Acts 20:35).  I don’t want to get preachy here, but it’s something that can and should apply to all of us, even if you don’t follow Christianity.  Unfortunately, some people just don’t know how to give, or be gracious when receiving.

I have met narcissistic people, who care about nothing but themselves.  They don’t understand or care about the pain they cause by not appreciating everything others are willing to do for them, and aren’t considerate of others’ feelings.  They just don’t care.  Maybe they were spoiled as children, and they aren’t capable of appreciating the little things in life.  They always put themselves first, justifying this by saying they “deserve” to do that, or they’ve earned it.  There is nothing wrong with rewarding or treating yourself, but when that becomes your focus, over what you can do for others, then maybe you aren’t a very nice person.  People like this take advantage of those who love them, and don’t think about how it hurts.  But then…..I guess they don’t care.  They’re very selfish and Ebenezer Scrooge-like!

Don’t be a Scrooge.  Give something…..and give it year round!  Give kindness.  Give manners.  Give politeness.  Give compassion.  Give a smile.  Give understanding.  Give patience.  Give gratitude.  Give communication.  Give humor.  Give of yourself, and don’t take advantage of those willing to give so much to you.  Someday, they may not be there anymore.  Leave your egos at the door, and try to do something for someone else for a change, appreciating what others are willing to do for you.  However, if someone continually rejects your acts of kindness, or shows they don’t appreciate you or care about you, you certainly don’t have to continue giving to that person!  Protect yourself in this process!  Feeling rejection is painful, and damaging to your well-being.  Don’t be unkind, but make sure you focus where the need is.  It doesn’t mean you can’t still offer a smile or politeness to that person.

With our current political and social climate, we are seeing enough egos, negativity, narcissism, and arrogance.  There are enough Ebenezer Scrooges in the world. If we expect things to change, or we want a nicer place to live, then we need to be getting along with each other, and be the givers. Stop putting ourselves first, and think about what a difference we can make in someone else’s life just by giving a small act of kindness or compassion.  And do it year round…….make the season of giving a year round habit.

Anxiety, Childhood Innocence, Christmas Movies, Christmas Stories, Happiness, Holiday Spirit, Holidays, Innocence, Laughter, Love, Season's Greetings, The Polar Express, Uncategorized

I Can’t Stand The Polar Express!

Why does everyone but me love The Polar Express movie?  I will admit, that the book, written and illustrated by Chris Von Allsburg, has beautiful illustrations, but an entire movie about it????  It’s dark, and creepy, and sad.  I find nothing enjoyable about it at all.  The season, and the movies that accompany it should be joyful, happy, and make you feel GOOD!  So before all of you Polar Express fans start beating me with your Christmas bells, let me explain…..

So many things don’t make me feel good about this movie.  Children get on a train in the middle of the night with strangers.  Haven’t they ever heard of “Stranger Danger?”  It’s a fairly modern tale……I know there are stories from the past that have children doing all kinds of dangerous things (Home Alone has dangerous antics, but at least it’s funny), but this is creepy. If my kids took off in their pj’s when they’re supposed to be in bed, I would hope that law enforcement would issue an Amber Alert…..even if it was Tom Hanks who took them!  Haven’t they told their kids not to get into a car (or a train) with a stranger?  Not only do they board a train, but they also end up on TOP of the train with a hobo, who is also played by Tom Hanks.  Who the heck was that guy?  Why did he need to be in that movie?  Is it symbolism that was lost on me?  I could not connect the dots for this one.  He serves no purpose except to add more creep factor, in my opinion. That entire scene made no sense, and really scared the crap out of me!

There are a bunch of hot chocolate guys who dance and sing through the car.  Why?!  It doesn’t flow with the rest of the story at all.  Strange little men, doing acrobatic type stunts with hot liquid on a train car full of children.  They may as well be running with scissors too!

The characters aren’t attractive or appealing either.  They look very cold, expressionless, and sad.  At first, I thought it might be because of early computer animation, but the conductor looks just like Tom Hanks, so I don’t think that’s it.  They’re just unattractive and stiff!  And the poor little boy sitting in the car all by himself…..what’s that all about?  Is he being punished for being poor?  Tom Hanks’ conductor character is rather intimidating and impatient.  Why is he working with children? He needs to be more patient to work with kids.  Why would a child go with him when he isn’t exactly oozing with charisma?  He actually seems a bit threatening and mean about those darn tickets, even if he can make art with his hole punch!

The scenes from the North Pole seem like an industrial country left over from the Cold War.  The way the citizens/elves and children cheer for their leader, Santa…..also voiced by Hanks, is rather reminiscent of the old film footage of the citizens of communist countries cheering for their leaders…..or like a cult worshiping their leader…….spooky! And Santa isn’t merry and jolly and happy…….why?  Where is our happy Santa?  Why is this movie so dark???

I need joy, laughter, and happiness for a Christmas movie.  I don’t want to be afraid, confused, or see characters as something scary or dark.  Give me Elf, A Christmas Story, It’s a Wonderful Life, Charlie Brown, Rudolph, and the original Grinch.  Those each have a happy ending, full of love and hope.  They don’t leave me asking questions about the plot line or symbolism.  The Polar Express leaves me feeling sad and depressed, and has me completely freaked out while I’m watching it!

As much as I love Tom Hanks, Christmas movies, and the holiday season, I just can’t get into this movie, no matter how hard I try.  Believe me, as an educator who has to watch it every year, and a mother who’s youngest child loves it, I’ve tried!  I just don’t like it.  I’ve always wondered if there are more people like me out there…..hating on this movie.  Anyone?  Or am I alone in my disdain for this film?

Be Happy, Christmas Stories, Family, Growing up, Happiness, Holiday Spirit, Holidays, Laughter, Love, Season's Greetings, Uncategorized

My Favorite Christmas Story

Everyone has their favorite (or least favorite) Christmas stories, right?  Certain Christmases stand out more than others, or you remember getting something very special that you had really been wanting.  I have a few of those memories, mostly from childhood, but a few as an adult too.

I remember my grandparents taking their first trip on an airplane, coming from Alabama, to celebrate with us in Sikeston, Missouri.  That same year, I got a little high chair for my dolls (I still have it).  My grandpa gave me a piggy bank at that time, which I also still have.  I remember the year that all I asked Santa for was a box of crayons, and I got it!  I’m not sure why they were so important to me that year, but as a 6 year old, it’s all I wanted.  I’m sure my parents were thrilled that I didn’t want much!  “Santa” still brings me a box of Crayola Crayons every year!  I remember the year that our Boston Terrier, Pepper, ate my chocolate candy cane, leaving the foil in little pieces all over the living room carpet, and I cried.  I remember Christmases at the farm in Alabama, in Wichita at my other grandmother’s house, and in many homes that my family lived in during my childhood.  We had a lot of good food, and played games, but we also always got to hear my favorite Christmas story…..I know what you’re thinking……it must have been about a little baby born in a manger in Bethlehem, right?  Well…..yeah, that’s a pretty nifty story, but the one I always looked forward to hearing was about the time my dad shot Santa Claus.

If you knew my dad, you know he liked to tease, and was very funny.  He was also a great story teller!  I’m not sure how old he was in this story, but I think he would have been in his late teens or early 20’s.  Daddy had two nieces, Martha and Bobbie, my Aunt Estelle’s daughters, who were maybe about 5 or 6 years old, and they were at the farm for Christmas.  The family had gone to Christmas Eve services at church, and my dad and uncles decided to play a trick on my cousins.  They put rocks and sticks in Martha and Bobbie’s Christmas stockings! The girls were obviously upset, and crying, asking why Santa would have done that to them when they had been such good little girls.  Daddy and his brothers announced that he couldn’t do that their nieces, and decided to “take care of him.”  Daddy grabbed a shotgun, and they went outside.  He fired a shot in the air, one of my uncles let out a yell, and they came back in, declaring, “Well, we got him!” My cousins were a LOT more upset then, and so was their mother!

By the time I started hearing this story, my cousins were adults, and Bobbie was telling me she would never forget when my dad shot Santa Claus.  She was, of course, laughing about it.  I’m not sure my aunt ever forgave her brothers for that, but I think she probably did.  I am completely anti-violence in any way, shape, or form, and I’m not crazy about guns, but I think this is a pretty cool story…..how many of you can say that your dad shot Santa Claus?

Anxiety, Bad Attitudes, Be Happy, Be Kind, Compassion, Happiness, Holiday Spirit, Holidays, Innocence, Kindness, Laughter, Love, Negativity, Passion for Living, Season's Greetings, Togetherness, Uncategorized

Stay Off the Naughty List!

Each year at this time, I’m reminded of the time I was at the grocery store a couple of years ago just before Christmas.  The place was a madhouse, packed with busy, stressed, uptight shoppers.  Apparently, I wasn’t moving fast enough for one shopper, because she very impolitely ordered me to, “Get the hell out of my way!” I moved, but looked her in the eye, smiled, and said, “I guess we know who’s on Santa’s naughty list!”  She didn’t appreciate it, but I got a good chuckle out of it!

I have a ton of holiday cheer.  It’s not unusual for me to be playing Christmas music in the car, in my classroom, at home while I cook, in the bathroom, etc.  I love my decorations and my tree.  I love Christmas movies.  I’ve talked about this before, so I won’t bore you with it again.  But the most wonderful thing about about this time of year is the spirit.  Yet, I try to keep the spirit alive all year with a positive attitude, cheerfulness, appreciation, and compassion for others.  I don’t like it when someone tries to kill my spirit.  That lady at the grocery store tried to kill my spirit.  People who insist on taking the fun out of Christmas or other times of year are attempting to kill my spirit.

I used to stress about the holidays, trying to get everything done with my kids, my family, shopping, wrapping gifts, traveling, cooking, and also taking care of my students, planning fun activities for them as well.  It was ALL on my shoulders.  I felt such pressure to make it all perfect for everyone else, and I really didn’t take the time to appreciate the true meaning of love, sharing, giving, and togetherness……and I never felt appreciated for all I did. I have learned not to stress as much, and to let some things take a back seat to others.  Because of my health, I’ve also learned to say no, and stop with a few unnecessary things.  I’ve scaled back on my decorations a lot, but still have a houseful.  So when someone else puts grumpiness, anger, negativity, or extra burdens on me, it makes me upset that they are trying to kill my spirit.  I want to enjoy this time of year without feeling pressure to do what everyone else expects of me.  I need to stay healthy, so I can’t do it all anymore. I have to slow down and take time to enjoy the spirit.

I decided today that my dog needed a new sweater for Christmas because his is looking a little shabby (Shhh!  Don’t tell him).  I went to the little shopping center where the pet shop is, but I couldn’t find any parking spots.  I drove in circles through the parking lot, trying to find a place to park, for at least 10 minutes.  It seemed like it was taking a lot longer.  I had a couple of spots picked out, and was waiting for the other driver to pull out.  I waited patiently with my blinker on, only to have someone pull in from the other direction before I could get in.  I could have become angry and cursed them out, but what for?  What good would it do?  If they didn’t do it intentionally, then I might be ruining their spirit by getting mad at them.  If they did it on purpose, I wasn’t going to let them ruin my spirit by getting angry.  I eventually found a spot, and enjoyed a nice little (long) walk into the store to find the doggy sweater.  When I got into the store, I was surprised by Santa Claus, who was taking pics with pets.  He was sitting alone, and caught me off guard.  I said, “Oh!  Hello Santa!” He said, “Hello Little Girl.  Have you been good this year?”  I actually stood there, and thought about it for a minute.  Then I told him I have!  I’ve been really good!  It’s been a rough year in a lot of ways, but I’ve been good, and I’m still full of happiness, positivity, good cheer, and holiday spirit.  He wished me a merry Christmas, and then welcomed a couple of little dogs in elf hats onto his lap.

Others can choose to be negative, angry, suspicious, manipulative, mean, and critical.  They can attempt to kill my spirit when they have none.  Others can choose to rush, and put pressure on themselves to do everything, feeling stressed and drained of any Christmas cheer.  Don’t force that on others who choose to be appreciative of life.  Take your “Bah humbug!” somewhere else.  Find your true Christmas spirit, and keep it all year long!  Spread true Christmas cheer year round.  It will most definitely keep you off of the naughty list!

Attitude Adjustments, Childhood Innocence, Commercialism, Holiday Spirit, Holidays, Innocence, Materialism, Season's Greetings, Thankfulness, Togetherness, Uncategorized

Stop With the Commercialism!

Well, I noticed it happening about a month ago……that dreaded event that sends many people on both sides of the debate into a frenzy…..some even getting hysterical and violent.  Yes, I’m talking about the Christmas decorations in stores……BEFORE Halloween or Thanksgiving! Enough, already!

Don’t get me wrong.  I LOVE Christmas, and the spirit of Christmas.  My mother loved that time of year, and made sure to instill the spirit of giving and spending time with family into my sisters and me.  She never once told us that Santa wasn’t real, and I have never once said that to my children or anyone else.  Santa, or the spirit of St. Nicholas and giving, IS real. Without turning this into a religious debate, or theme, the Christmas SPIRIT is about love, family, friends, food, giving and sharing, time to be together, etc.  Christians celebrate the birth of Christ, but I have friends and family who are not religious, or follow a different religion. They can still celebrate this season because they appreciate that spirit. Yet, when we have the commercialism of the season thrust in our faces well before the season is upon us, it does make some of us want to boycott.

I understand kicking off the season during the Thanksgiving holidays.  I used to watch the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade every year, as I could smell the turkey roasting in the oven.  As soon as it was over, with Santa making his first appearance of the season, I would help my mother and sisters with the preparations for our family meal.  We began putting up our tree during this week because my sisters would be home from college, and wanted to participate.  My mother decorated the whole house beautifully with lights, greenery, decorations, and the tree with our treasured ornaments on it……some we made when we were little, some belonged to my grandparents, and a lot were given to my parents by church members.  I have a lot of those ornaments on my tree now.  My tree definitely doesn’t belong in a department store, and doesn’t have a color scheme or particular theme, but it is FULL of love and memories of people I love, and places I have lived or visited.  I think it’s beautiful!  It represents our family, and the love we share.  It always makes me a little sad to take it down.  I look forward to putting it up every year, and decorating the whole house, but not before Thanksgiving, and don’t even talk to me about it before Halloween!

Thanksgiving deserves to be recognized more.  It does go hand in hand with Christmas, and the love of family and gathering together, but why do we skip straight to Christmas without being thankful for all we have?  My husband spent a long time living out of the country, so he missed out on Thanksgiving for thirty years.  He loves Thanksgiving! He really gets upset to see the Christmas decorations out in stores too early!  Now that he’s back in the United States, he wants to enjoy this holiday as it should be enjoyed……being thankful for EVERYTHING…….family, friends, love, good health, food, a roof over our heads, jobs, freedom, and having each other.

The commercialism of Christmas is greedy, and is killing the happiness that some of us feel about it.  Am I sounding a bit like Charlie Brown here?  When I say I love Christmas, some have misunderstood, thinking I love the commercialism.  Nope!  Nope! Nope!  Absolutely not! I’ve never been to a Black Friday sale.  I’ve never bought into having to have the latest trendy toy for my children, risking my life to get it! I put my tree up during the Thanksgiving holiday, and leave it up until New Year’s.  I’ve never felt like I have to compete with someone to make sure we have the best toys, clothes, gadgets, electronics, or furniture.  I hate going into stores during the holiday season because of the crowds. I hate seeing the Black Friday (or even Thursday) crowds trampling each other for material things, or hearing of people shooting each other for merchandise.  That’s not what it’s about, folks!  Fortunately, some stores are starting to at least stay closed on Thanksgiving, but it isn’t enough.

We have to stop buying into the corporate greed and forgetting the true meanings of these cherished holidays.  Stop buying into the greed and meaningless newer customs of having to have more and more materialistic things! If you want to keep your tree up year round, decorating for different seasons, go for it.  A lot of people do this.  But don’t shove fake spirit down our throats.  Commercialism and greed disguised as spirit isn’t spirit.  Look around you.  Be thankful for all you have.  Stop buying crap you don’t need just because some talk show host or magazine article says you need it.  Better yet…..why not carry the true spirit of Christmas with you year round?  Why not be in the holiday spirit every day, giving the gifts of love, time, patience, tolerance, generosity, thankfulness, togetherness, and compassion for each other?

Yeah…..I don’t have much faith in that either…..but I can at least try to set that example.  In the meantime, I guess Al and I will just stay out of those businesses that insist on blasting us with their phony corporate “spirit” and greed.  And no one better ever tackle me for a holiday air freshener just because Oprah said to buy one!  Call me Scrooge or the Grinch, but I’m pretty sure I have a better handle on this than those who insist on rushing the season, and forgetting what is truly important in life!  Corporate America, and American consumers need to stop making it about money and materialism. That’s not what it’s all about.