Friday, April 27, 2012

Grasping the Little Joys

Last night I had a very pleasant evening - discussing a book with five dear friends...and one cuddly baby, too.  (While baby didn't discuss the book, she made the evening that much more pleasant.).  I almost didn't go, as I started feeling "shy" just before I left my house. I'm not a shy person and I wasn't shy once I was there.  As a matter of fact, the evening turned into a joy to treasure.

The weather today was perfect!  And I found a patio end table (small molded plastic) that matches my (molded plastic) chairs, so I can enjoy my morning coffee on our little balcony this spring and summer.
And, I went grocery shopping, and four of my kids (all adults) piled into my little car.  On the way, we ended up in a lively disagreement...but no one was really angry with anyone, and it was just cool to think we were together.
In the store parking lot, I saw the coolest historic old Ford.  Have you ever seen a car that's a small pick-up truck in the back?  I used to see them fairly often "back in the day".  As some of you know, I get excited about cars: sports cars, luxury cars, classical cars, historical cars. 
We came back to find my husband had beaten us home and was already busy, moving the laundry along.  Now we wait for the easy-to-cook fish baking in the oven (and rice in the microwave...Hey, it's shopping day; let's keep it easy).  Some of us are on computers and some watching t.v., but here we are, enjoying the camaraderie.  

I know that similar scenes take place in many homes (or restaurants).  Some of it may be different.  Some don't go home to a spouse, and some don't have a large family, but most people have someone, whether it's family or friends or a pet or someone they can call and chat with on the phone.  And many people see something beautiful each day.  
But many days we just go along - at least sometimes I do - thinking about the latest news, the latest projects, what bills we need to pay, and what so-and-so said to us. Sometimes I get so wrapped up in the sorrows and the anxieties that I forget to notice and thank God for the beautiful blessings that come our way each day.

But these little every day things are the joys...not just the holidays (which aren't always as fun for those of us who have lost someone recently), not just major social events or fun-filled vacation trips, but the little joys of life that we can grasp each day.   What little joys did you experience in the past 24 hours? 

Monday, April 16, 2012

A Little Face-Blindness Story

This morning I received an email from a friend who wanted to know how I help myself with being moderately face-blind, since she has the same problem (which is not a vision problem but a difficulty remembering and recognizing faces). I wrote back, telling her I don't know anything to do about it, anything to help; but as I told her yesterday's story, I realized maybe there is a little help or at least ways to adapt, not a lot, but a little. So here is my email to that friend:

Yesterday I was at a gathering where I knew only two people. Or so I thought. ;-) As my friend the hostess introduced me to one woman who was sitting next to me, the woman said we had met. Fortunately, she said where we had met, which helped me a little, and I began to realize she was familiar, but I still didn't really remember her until she talked for awhile. But after that introduction, I told her immediately, "I'm not good at remembering faces. I can't picture a face in my mind...not even my husband's, so it makes it hard to remember people." She seemed to accept and understand that. (Whew. ;) ). Of course, her sitting next to me made it easier to explain it to her.

There was another woman I was introduced to, across the room, who said we knew each other. (Shoot, two of 'em. :) ). She said we have met...and we are on Facebook together. She said her first and last name again, and then I remembered her name but not what she looked like at all, no recognition there whatsoever. I didn't try to explain; I just smiled. Well, when I went home I looked her up on Facebook and she doesn't have her picture as her profile. I do find the repetition of pictures helps me a LOT.

So yes, maybe there is something that helps me a little: Pictures. If I see enough pictures of someone, or pictures often enough, then I have a better chance of recognizing the person again in person. The funny thing about that is that I rarely goes around taking pictures of people. Ever since understanding about face-blindness, I've wondered if there is a relationship there. Maybe I feel, subconsciously, like what's the point? That's not how I know the person. I know them by personality, interests, how or where I knew or spoke with them, their voice, mannerisms, etc. But it's interesting how much pictures can help.

For the most part, I just need to see someone often enough to remember them the next time I see them. I've never figured out how many times that is. :) And the thing that seems to help me the most is just acceptance. It's not that I don't try hard enough or that I'm doing anything wrong. It is what it is. :) And if people don't understand, well, it might not be their problem, but it's not mine either. :) Not that I feel that way every moment. :) But I'm getting there more and more. :)

Monday, April 09, 2012

A Picture Perfect Childhood - Book Review

A Picture Perfect Childhood is a beautiful, wholesome book which is so much more than a book full of lists, as Cay Gibson shares with us, in her unique style, the value of sharing picture books with our children of all ages. Lots of great reviews have already explained why this is such a wonderful book of books. So I would like to just share two areas which are dear to my own heart, reading challenges and cultural diversity.

Among her many and varied lists, Cay Gibson includes a section for Teenage Readers, explaining why picture books work for them, along with a list of a dozen books, specially chosen for them. She also has a section for Struggling Readers, with seven books about learning to read.

What I find most exciting about the book are the many lists involving cultures within our own country, as well as in other countries. The Black History section features 52 books, along with 23 books listed under Underground Railroad. The Immigration section lists 45 books and Indian Lore 43. There are 33 books listed under China. There are lists for various countries, as well as for each of our states.

Christmas Around the World includes 16 books. Around the World and Beyond with Cinderella, which is a list of 34 books, features Cinderella stories from Africa, Appalachia, and the Caribbean; Cajun, Irish and Mexican Cinderella stories; and many more.

Whatever your interests and those of your children, this is a book you will want to read, take with you to your library, and even make notations in for future reference. Cay has done the work for us, so that all you have to do is select some of the books from the library or bookseller, and then take 15 minutes a day for “enhancing your child’s imagination and education”.

Sunday, April 08, 2012

Psalm for Us for Today

My Psalm for today (the one that keeps playing over and over in my head): "Out of the depths I have cried to Thee, O Lord. Lord, hear my prayer." I know it doesn't sound fitting for Easter, but for a family whose hearts have been broken by the cleavage of death, it feels appropriate for a holiday...the first with our loved one(s) on the other side of the veil.

Easter Blessing

We are each important to one another but most important is our God.

He made us and we are the work of his Hand.

He does not make us and let us go. He does not love us and let us go.

He made us and loves us…even to sending his Son…even to watching his Son die in agony…for us.

His Son came, suffered, and rose from the dead; that we might have life, and have it more abundantly…that we might know the greatness of His love for us.

He loves us with a tender love which knows our trials, knows what it is to be human.

He loves us with a nurturing love which knows what it is be mothered by the best mother on earth.

He loves us passionately, He who knows what it is to love passionately, both as God and as a human, caring for his family and friends when he was on earth.

He loves us with a faithful love, an everlasting love, preparing for us a place, a place of beauty and joy.

He is risen. Let us rejoice!

Tuesday, April 03, 2012

"People Who Need People" - And a View on Friendship

“People…people who need people…” Barbara Streisand sang in her sixties’ movie, Funny Girl. “People who need people are the luckiest people in the world!”

Streisand’s singing was over- the- top, music speaks to the soul, and there is so much truth in the song.

We need to recognize that we need people. At the same time, though, I have noticed that the need can cloud our vision.

We all know the classic stories where someone stays with an abusive boyfriend (or girlfriend) because she (or he) “needs” the person.

Even in friendship, our need for people can affect our ability to see clearly. Maybe this person we see as a friend is a wonderful person; but maybe she is not the best person for us to have as a close friend.

Or we might find out, as I did recently, that the friend simply wanted to help in some way, but not to be mutual friends, or at least not close friends as we may have thought.

I used to think that if I liked someone a lot, all I had to do was let them know - in whatever way, maybe in various ways – and then that person, that potential friend, would feel the same way.

I’ve learned it doesn’t work that way. Sure, maybe you already knew that. Maybe you’re shaking your head at the naivete of that statement. But often, when we think things of that nature, we don’t really think them through; I think they are often subconscious thoughts. And we act on them without thinking.

Maybe we’ve learned to ignore the warning bells that go off in our head. Maybe as we first got to know each other, we had angry arguments. ‘But that’s okay’, we think. ‘We got past that, and it’s normal.’

But did we really communicate? Do we really communicate? If we had a big misunderstanding in the future, would we be able to talk it out? Or is one person constantly either apologizing or tip-toeing, as I did with one friend many years ago? Or are we constantly having doubts about the friendship?

Maybe it isn’t us. Maybe it isn’t even “them”. Maybe it’s a “friendship” that isn’t meant to be.

As a lover of beautiful cars, I can admire scores of cars and never want them. As someone who now lives in a rented apartment, I enjoy the beautiful homes - or the cozy homes - of my friends, without wanting a home like theirs for myself. Maybe the same could apply to enjoying someone’s company, admiring someone’s character and personality. Because I like someone doesn’t mean I have to become really good friends with that person, share confidences, and spend a lot of time together. Maybe we can just enjoy our neighborly hello, or our working together, and or however we see the person, and leave it at that.

Like the old balance scales, where you put something on one side and an equal weight on the other, there is a balance to be sought in our thinking. Some people, it seems, avoid friendship - at least close friendship - like the plague. ‘All that matters is family’, they say, or: “God and family”. Maybe they are overwhelmed with their family duties. Maybe they have a spouse who wants to cling or possess. Maybe they’ve been hurt in the past. But wouldn’t they be happier with a broader view of life? Wouldn’t life be a little bit easier with a broader base of support?

Perhaps the best thing we can do is to be our own best friend first. When someone whom I respect told me to nurture myself, I was puzzled until she told me to think in terms of what I “want” to do, rather than what I “should” do. Think about it. Which feels better: ‘I should make dinner’ or ‘I want to make dinner for my family that I love’?....‘I should exercise so I will be healthy’ or ‘I want to walk and feel good and feel good about my health’?

I thought about it more. What is my self-talk? What is your self-talk? Would you talk to a friend the way you talk to yourself?

We need God first and foremost, but people do need people. That’s how He made us. And he told us to love our neighbor as ourselves. So, obviously, He wants us to love ourselves. Perhaps we need to be our own best friend first…and then ask for his guidance…and keep our hearts open…to connect with those people with whom we can have mutually healthy friendships, because “People who need people are the luckiest people in the world.”