Merry and Bright

Winter is my least favorite season. There. I’ve said it.

I love the holidays, but I really sort of despise winter. I guess we’re not technically there yet—the winter solstice is still a couple of weeks away—but someone apparently forgot to tell the local weather. It’s utterly convinced that the season has arrived.

What that means in the Pacific Northwest is grey skies, fog… and rain. Lots and lots of rain, for months on end. Until recent years, I’d spent most of my life in sunny climates, and I don’t think I appreciated the sunshine enough. I can tell you, it’s not something I take for granted now.

Today there’s been a constant thrum of rain that has all but washed away the noise of the outside world. Without any background sounds from music or television, the only things to be heard are the clicks of my keyboard and a steady musical plink as drops hit the roof’s metal flashings.

And it’s dark. Why is it so dark at 4:30 in the afternoon?

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Change of Pace

Lean on me, when you’re not strong”. – Bill Withers

As some of you may know, or have gathered from previous postings, I’ve had a fun medical year with a broken foot that ended up needing surgery back in September. I am on my feet and walking around now, but I’m still having trouble with mobility and tend to move at what feels like a snail’s pace.

Last week, a friend and I attended an event that turned out to be much larger than I had anticipated. As a result, parking was at a premium, and we wound up in a spot a couple of blocks away.

When we got out of the car, I apologized in advance for the fact it would be slow going, even over such a short distance. Without missing a beat, my friend looped her arm through mine and said “There’s no hurry. We’ll take as much time as you need”.

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Present Tense

“Blessed is the season which engages the whole world in a conspiracy of love.” – Hamilton Wright Mabie

As the temperatures fall, and I begin to see the skeletons of the trees and the frost diamonds sparkling in the morning sun, I welcome the idea of a warm wood stove, and quiet evenings spent with family and friends. This can be the most peaceful time of year, if you allow yourself the freedom to enjoy it.

I realize that may be easier said than done. This month, I did some research on the holiday season and discovered that 62% of people say their stress and anxiety is “elevated” this time of year. I think the biggest reason for that is increased responsibilities; we’re stretching ourselves even further physically, mentally, and financially to meet the demands of the season. You can see my Forbes article that addresses that idea here.

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Character Study

The better you know yourself, the better your relationship with the rest of the world. – Toni Collette

My son is in his first term of college and is taking a career class that is helping him narrow down career options based on his interests and personality. It’s a pretty brilliant idea, actually. I wish I’d done something similar in my first year of college; perhaps I’d have realized that my chosen career wasn’t a good fit for me and changed tracks.* Instead, I had to figure it out the hard way in my 20’s, when I finally started to realize what I was good at, and what I enjoyed.

I don’t suppose I’m the only one who missed the mark on understanding certain things about myself as I established my adult identity, but I got so many things wrong. There really should be some sort of “adulting” certification, and personality testing should be a mandatory component.

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Be Reasonable!

I came to parenting the way most of us do – knowing nothing and trying to learn everything.- Mayim Balik

The teen years. You just start to feel like you’re settling into this parenting thing, and then all the rules change. Overnight, it becomes a balancing act of keeping your kids safe while still allowing them enough independence to learn, grow and become fully-functioning adults.

Sometimes it feels like things are moving a mile a minute, and you wish life would just slow down. But that’s not how it works… for them, or for you. This is when your children get a crash course in the dynamics of relationships, and what it takes to maintain (or destroy) them.

I think that’s why a lot of parents agonize over “dating policies” for their children. For good or ill, we know that the romantic entanglements of youth provide lessons they’ll carry over into adulthood, and we want so desperately to provide the right guidance.

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Fail Safe

“Forgiveness is a virtue of the brave.” –Indira Gandhi

I’ve been thinking lately about the nature of failure and forgiveness.

The thing is, I can be selfish.  It’s not intentional, but I have introvert tendencies, and when I get overwhelmed or exhausted, I withdraw my energies… and my powers of observation seem to tank right along with them. (To be honest, they’re pretty weak to begin with.  I’m not very sensitive and tend to miss both verbal and nonverbal cues that other people seem to pick up easily.)

A couple of years ago, I got very sick with a mystery illness that absolutely flattened me for the better part of 6 months. The doctors had all sorts of gloomy predictions for what might be happening, and the stress of dealing with those ideas, along with the endless testing and overall feeling of crappiness led me to pull back on the time I devoted to making sure I stayed connected in my friendships.

I took it one step further, however, and here’s where the selfishness really kicked in: I was so focused on my own issues that I failed to see that someone I loved dearly was really struggling- and what she was going through brought a much deeper pain than any physical issue I was having. Wrapped up in my own problems, I was totally oblivious…until one day, my fog suddenly lifted, and I thought… “Wait. We haven’t really talked about anything of consequence in months. And that’s not normal.”

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Safe Harbor

Friendship is the inexpressible comfort of feeling safe with a person, having neither to weigh thoughts nor measure words. – George Eliot

How does a friendship start? Do you remember meeting the people who are now your closest friends? I almost always do, because those people play such a vital role in my life.

I met my oldest friend on the school playground, in third grade. She approached me because her mother had advised her to “look for someone who’s alone” to make new friends. I was indeed alone- very alone, in fact, since I’d just moved cross-country, didn’t know a soul, and was facing long, solitary days ahead. We’ve lived thousands of miles apart for many more years than we were ever close together, but even when I’ve been lonely, this lifelong friendship has meant I’ve never been alone. (Undying thanks for that super-timely advice, friend’s mom.)

I connected with another friend due to her son’s thoughtful act; he spoke to my son, a stranger, at the park (Is there a playground theme happening here?), providing words of encouragement that made him feel better in a moment of sadness. When my son told me what had happened, I had to express my appreciation for his kindness- and that conversation served as the beginning of one of my most precious friendships.

I could go on- I find there’s something memorable about how all my close friendships began. (Sometimes, it’s not the first meeting, but a moment when a casual acquaintance clicked over into true friendship.)

What sets these two particular friendships apart is that I have the benefit of being able to actually look at a history of communications with both of them, and it’s very telling.

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