Gift Buying

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In the past, I started Christmas shopping in September and finished on Christmas Eve with the intention of spreading the cost over a period of months. I love to choose gifts, matching the gift to the person. I will never add up the total I previously spent on gifts because it was a passion and a hobby. So much love, care and thought went into the choosing of each gift and I received so much enjoyment. As someone who can never say a positive without adding a downside and one who suffers from foot in mouth disease, this was the one area where I conveyed my love with the hope that each gift represented my understanding of who they were and what they enjoyed without saying a word. My mother and I share this love of gift buying and I will be forever humbled by her spirit.

Over the years, our grandchildren would be overwhelmed by all the gifts to the point of their eyes glazing over with the realization of another gift. Their mothers were burdened with too many phone calls asking too many questions, the end result would always be and still is, “They will like anything you get them.” I saw looks of confusion as if thinking, “What is this?” or “Why this?” but that only dismayed me for a moment because there were “Wow”s” and “I love this.” to offset the disappointment. Some gifts seemed like a good idea at the time and even I questioned their usefulness but that was often part of the fun. An example is the recipe journal I gave our youngest daughter for committing her  favorite recipes  to paper in order to hand down the book down to her daughter. She seemed to think it was a good idea but now she has two daughters. Oh well, it was the thought.

The most disappointment Danny and I ever got was when we bought our first grandson a yellow Hummer bicycle. We loved the bike much more than he did and he rode it no more than 3 times. What we realized later was that his legs were too short for it making him even more self-conscious of his small stature. His younger brother eventually ended up riding it and I’m not sure if it ended up being pawned or whether his brother has it. You win some and you lose some.

As my wise mother told me, you have to draw a line somewhere when your family starts growing and it can make you sad. So I cut back over the past few years discovering that the grown children enjoyed the stockings as much as the actual gifts. The stockings were often as elaborate as the gifts containing luxury underwear and stylish warm pj’s, C.D.’s and colognes for the men and always bath gels that never failed to earn the comment, “Someone must think I need this.” Then last year, we moved to Colorado which sucked up our Christmas money. We made do with buying Colorado t-shirts for the grandchildren and Colorado bumper stickers for the adults. It was the best we could do and it hurt me but that was when I realized that the time had come to draw the line.

This year, we moved for the third time in a year and we also have limited income so I shopped Wal-Mart thinking I could have them picked up from our adult children’s local stores. What I discovered was that the great deals I was able to get locally did not apply online. I still chose each inexpensive gift for each grandchild with care and minimal phone calls and didn’t break the bank. When it came to our adult children which always includes our son and daughter-in-laws as they have become as much our children as if we birthed them (honestly, I didn’t birth any of them yet I am as grateful for the gift of them as if I did), we stood up to the challenge with couple gifts that were not expensive but thoughtfully chosen. Their dadd (not a typo) chose each with the love and attention that is normally reserved for me. Though they are the same, they are different based on the individuals.

I have been influenced by Danny’s philosophy which is to buy gifts with the person in mind not the cost incurred, high or low. His gifts say, “I thought of you.” no matter how large or small a gift. What that says to me is that it doesn’t matter how little we have to spend, we will give our gifts in love.

We have all received gifts from that person who is so pleased with their choice yet the gift makes you want to shake your head in wonder. This year, think about the joy it gave to that person when they believed they were choosing the perfect gift for you, no different from the gifts your children made in school, and feel the love.

 

 

 

An Open Letter

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I came across an open letter to shoppers who consoled a woman who had an emotional breakdown in response to a call from her brother. The call informed her that her father had taken his own life early that morning.

The woman, Deborah Green, abandoned her full grocery cart in the entryway of Whole Foods. She started to scream and cry as her whole body trembled and she fell to the floor as her knees buckled. Strangers who were entering Whole Foods to do their grocery shopping could have simply stared at her as they passed her by but instead they surrounded her as she yelled through her sobs,  “My father killed himself, he’s dead!”

Someone asked for Deborah’s phone and inquired as to who they should call, her password, and her husband’s name as they searched through her contacts. An urgent message was left for her husband to call her. The group of strangers discussed among themselves who should drive her home in her car and who would bring that person back to the store. None of these people knew Deborah but they worked together to help her in any way they could in what she calls, “The worst moment of my life.”

Deborah was able to say that she had a friend who worked at Whole Foods and one of the strangers brought the friend to her. As she sat with her friend, one of the kind strangers sent over a gift card to Whole Foods. This gift card fed her family when she couldn’t find the emotional strength to cook.

Deborah never saw the person or persons who reached out to her in the bleakest moment of her life but she says she will never forget them. It strikes me that in the moments after the phone call from her brother, a time when no one should be alone, Deborah was surrounded by selfless, caring individuals.

I found this story reassuring that all the hatred, strife, bitterness and anger that is going on in our country currently has not destroyed the compassion of those who were brought up to reach out to someone who is hurting whether it be family, friend or stranger.

Original story by Deborah Green from reflectingoutloud.net as published in Reader’s Digest, November 2106.

See Something, Say Something, Do Something

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When I was in a domestic violence situation, there were many opportunities for intervention by acquaintances and strangers who witnessed the abuse. Yet no one wanted to get involved and I did everything I could to keep up appearances.

I was silently screaming for help but was too ashamed to reach out. How I wanted someone to care enough to take the situation out of my hands, to force me to leave. I suppose acquaintances were afraid of my ex because it was obvious that he was vindictive. My family respected my boundaries and honored my choices leaving me to feel love for their lack of interference and resentment for their lack of interference. Domestic violence victims experience many emotions, one being confusion.

I have been publicly humiliated, threatened and emotionally, physically and verbally abused to which there were witnesses – Strangers, acquaintances, family and friends. No one had the courage to stand up for me or even reach out to me. The two times I reached out to acquaintances, they told me that they didn’t want to get involved because they didn’t want to lose his business/friendship. My family respected my choices and boundaries even though they disapproved. I have never been more alone.

The thing is that most victims of domestic violence are like children, they feel helpless and they obviously live in fear. People in general are afraid of losing the victim’s friendship or love by what they consider to be interference. There is also a fear of crossing the victim’s boundaries. To those people I say, “Would you prefer to risk their losing their lives or having a psychotic break or risk their being angry and/or losing their friendship/love?”

I believe that when you love and/or care about someone, you have a responsibility to have the hard conversations. There are times when you have to put another person’s health and well-being before your own feelings and fears. I am not asking that you put your own life at risk but there are things that can be done safely such as:

  • Have a conversation regarding their situation calmly and rationally.
  • Explore options with the victim to staying in the relationship.
  • Offer financial or housing assistance until they can get stabilized.
  • Help the victim make a safety and/or escape plan.
  • Supply them with the number to a Domestic Violence Shelter and/or Hotline
  • Offer the victim transportation to a shelter.
  • Let them know they can reach out to you any time day or night.
  • Encourage them to report the abuse to law enforcement.
  • Call the police.
  • Create a distraction giving the victim a chance to escape.
  • When strangers, make it obvious to the abuser that they have been observed, therefore, can be identified.

Unfortunately, the decision to leave has to be the victim’s. Often there are circumstances which prevent them from leaving such as lack of funds, no place to go, children’s safety etc. When a victim is forced to leave or take action, more times than not they can be easily enticed by the abuser to go back.

Please don’t make excuses to look the other way. If one day your son or daughter became a victim of domestic violence, what would you want someone to do?

Kindness of Strangers

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One night, I found myself abandoned on the service road of a freeway with no gas in my car and a half-full gas can. The gas can nozzle was meant for a lawn mower so I couldn’t get much fuel in the car. My ex-boyfriend/later husband had pushed me out of his car with this gas can and left me to my own devices. I had committed the crime of “forcing” his mother to cross the service road to a McDonald’s rather than leaving her in the car on the service road alone while I went to call him for assistance. This was before cell phones were in every hand and roadside assistance was not a standard insurance perk.

Once I got some gas fumes in my car, I drove it as far as I could before it was dry again. I was able to pull into a Mustang Tractor drive and feeling distraught started walking. By this time, it was close to midnight. I had never risked anything like walking down down a freeway alone at night before because no one I had known would have put me in that situation. I was in too much emotional pain to feel fear and trying to make a decision as to whether to call a friend or family member to pick me up. I decided I was too embarrassed for anyone to know that I would put up with this type of treatment, one of my character flaws. Appearances at all cost.

A mini-van stopped and a man asked if I needed help and I told him about the gas can problem. He asked if he could give me a ride back to my car to see if he could remedy the situation. He saw that I was hesitant so he told me that his wife and mother-in-law were in the vehicle with him and that they had been to a church event that evening. On the drive back to my car, he asked me what I was doing on the freeway with a gas can. It was obvious that he wondered why someone would give me a can of gas and leave me without making sure I got my car running.  I told him that I didn’t want to talk about it and he didn’t push. When we got to my car, he broke a beer bottle he found on the ground and used the neck as a funnel. He then followed me to the gas station to make sure I got there safely.

When I got home, I was furious and let my boyfriend know that he had left me in a dangerous situation. He knew he looked like an ass so he comforted me with apologies. The next morning, his mother tried to fan the flames as was usual in order to show me who had the power over him. This got his stepfather involved who made disparaging remarks about my coping skills. Surprisingly, my boyfriend took up for me saying that he had put me in harm’s way so he couldn’t give me a hard time.

I will never forget the kindness of the family who rescued me. This man was reaching out to me having correctly guessed that I was in an abusive situation. At times I wish I had confided in him, his wife and mother-in-law and maybe, just maybe, they would have encouraged me to help myself sooner than I did.

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“She Adopts Babies Who Are Left to Die Alone”

I recently read an article in Reader’s Digest about a woman, Cori Salchert of Sheboygan, Wisconsin, who has adopted two babies who little to no chance of living. Cori was a registered nurse and perinatal bereavement specialist who helped families cope with the loss of a pregnancy or newborn child. When the parents were not emotionally equipped to hold their child, Cori cradle the child in her arms so that they did not have to die alone. About five years ago, Cori was diagnosed with an auto-immune disease that rendered her unable to work. However, she was able to connect with Children’s Hospital of Wisconsin’s treatment foster-care program and foster hospice infants.

The first baby was two weeks old and nameless with no one to care for her. She was born without the right or left hemisphere of her brain and doctors said there was no hope for her. She was in a vegetative state  – unable to see or hear and only responding to painful stimuli. If left with the hospital, she would have died wrapped in a blanket and set aside since she was being sustained by a feeding pump. The hospital contacted Cori and asked if she would take the baby in.

The baby girl was given the name Emmalynn and was gifted with a full life for the 50 days she lived. Cori and her family gave Emmalynn the honor of becoming the youngest of nine children. She was held constantly and taken everywhere the family went.

When the night came that Cori knew Emmalynn was dying, the whole family held and kissed her. Cori’s husband “tucked her close with her little head tucked under his chin and sang to her”. As most of the family “drifted off” to bed, Cori and her daughter, Charity, stayed awake with her.

Emmalynn died snuggled against Cori’s furry warm bathrobe as Cori sang Jesus Loves Me.

Two years later, Cori and her family took in four-month-old Charlie. Typically a child with his type of brain damage dies by age two. His condition is not considered terminal but is “life limiting”. Charlie is on life support and has been resuscitated at least ten times in the past year. He will not be resuscitated should he code again. This time, he will be let go. Cori and her family give Charlie the best quality of life possible given his limitations.

Giving these children love and affection even though they cannot give back is considered a gift by Cori and her family. The family gives deeply of themselves, loving and cherishing these babies and grieving their loss. Cori compares her families’ hearts to stained-glass windows made of broken glass that has been forged back together. Though their hearts are broken, they are even stronger and more beautiful for having been broken.

by Leah Ultatowski – Reader’s Digest November 2016

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Taking the Time to Consider

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I recently read about a 15 year old girl who had a premature baby in her bedroom. The baby was born alive, weighed 2+ pounds and the girl threw the baby out the window. The baby died.

I find myself trying to assess blame. Do I blame the 15 year old girl for being heartless and not taking responsibility for having gotten pregnant? Do I blame the father of the baby for getting a 15 year old girl pregnant? Or, do I blame the parents of the 15 year old girl who had not built a relationship with their daughter based on trust. A relationship that would enable her to turn to them  when she is in trouble. A foundation that would ensure that their daughter would know that though her parents would be disappointed and upset, they would get her through any situation.

The truth is that I don’t know the intimate details of the story or even the parents side. The reporter wasn’t interested in writing about the human side of the story or may have been prevented by the girl’s age. Was the girl molested by an adult, was the father an older boy, were the parents aware that she was pregnant, had plans been made for finding another home for the child, did her parents plan to raise the baby? The publication only seemed to care about the shock factor and I rushed to judgement based on the little information presented. It is good that I waited a couple of days to write this so that I have had time to ask myself the hard questions. Who am I to judge, where is my compassion, what were the circumstances and the really hard one – what made me read the article?

I wish I could tell you that I won’t read such articles in the future but that would not be the truth. I know myself well enough that there is no doubt that I will continue to read articles pertaining to child abuse, neglect and murder. I must admit that the shock value attracts  me as it gives me a thrill and a target for my outrage and anger. But there’s something else it gives me and that is insight and compassion. I come into contact with young girls who desperately need someone to talk to and they are very much afraid. The reasons they are afraid vary but they don’t feel that they can talk to their parents. These girls need encouragement and reassurance that they can get through any situation. Talking with these girls builds compassion and dampens the rage and anger because I can do something to help.

I write a lot about my mother and how her alcoholism affected my life. What may not get across is how very much I appreciate her as a mother. I did not have to hide anything and could always turn to her. Did I know she would be angry and/or disappointed? Yes, but that did not stop me because in the end, I knew that I did not have to go through anything alone. My mother is all about unconditional love and understanding. My parents allowed me to make important decisions about my life even though they did not always agree. They taught me independence and self reliance. My mother worries about me because I am the middle child who expresses her deepest emotions and she sees that as a weakness. She is only late in life coming to understand that emotions are healthier when they don’t have to be hidden. She doesn’t have to worry about me because thanks to her and my dad, my core is solid, emotional but solid.

Marriage Myths Four

MYTH: TALK THINGS OUT UNTIL YOU AGREE WITH EACH OTHER.

Sixty-nine percent of marriage problems are managed rather than solved, according to John Gottman’s research. “The common lore is that conflict avoidance is a bad thing, but it really works for a lot of people to just ‘agree to disagree,'” he says.

The key is to avoid a “gridlocked conflict,” in which you can’t make headway in a recurring fight. At the bottom of these issues, the Gottmans have found, are core value differences that take couples by surprise. For instance, a fight about finances isn’t just about the cash but about the meaning of power, freedom, and security. You might not be able to find the perfect compromise, but by creating an open dialogue, you can discuss the issue without hurt feelings.

Coming from different cultures but growing up in the same environment, Danny and I are different yet the same. Early in our relationship Danny and I unconsciously developed a method for conflict resolution. We will discuss a subject until we realize that we have hit a wall and neither of us is capable of climbing over it at the time so we drop the subject. Because the issue is unresolved, it will come up at another time and we discuss until we at least understand the others’ feelings or opinions. Sometimes it can take a long period of time and several discussions for us to find common ground. As I see it, we respect our relationship enough that we are willing to table the discussion knowing that eventually we will at least understand where the other is coming from. I think that during the time that the subject is being given time to breathe, each of us has stopped to consider the others’ side so we seem to get a little closer to a resolution each discussion.

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Have you just forgotten to be Happy?

So happy to have discovered this blogger! This is one of the most brilliant posts I have ever read.

The happy Quitter!

being lost

I follow so many bloggers who seem to be struggling with their own identity. “I feel lost,” that’s a statement I have read over and over. It always makes me wonder what happened to them. How can you get lost, if you are always there?

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Be Kind to Yourself

Why do we treat strangers and our families better than we treat ourselves? Be kind to  yourself today!

  • Ask for help.9319250-two-young-business-people-talking-and-discussing

 

  • Craft

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  • Take a walk in the park alone.Featured Image -- 1615

 

 

  • Read a good book for an hour.

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  • Watch a silly television show.

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  • Spend time with your child doing something you both enjoy (just the two of you).

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  • Have breakfast, lunch or dinner with a friend.

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  • Take an extra 10 minutes in the shower just enjoying the spray on your face.

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  • Buy yourself a wonderful herbal shower gel.

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  • Have a date night.

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  • Do nothing for a half hour.

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  • Don’t think about any problem for 20 minutes.

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  • Take a nap.

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  •  Go Window Shopping

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  • Spend the night alone or with your spouse in a hotel just because…

Historical Galvez Hotel Galveston, Texas

  • Give yourself a hug.

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No guilt! We all have a “child within” who needs to feel special. You will be surprised at how 22673131-child-with-gift-box-near-white-christmas-tree-isolatedhow much more relaxed and happy that child will feel. You don’t need for someone else to give you a gift, give it to yourself. Let yourself know that you care. Sound silly? That is because it is outside your comfort zone. Inside your comfort zone, you 

  • Put yourself last!
  • Worry about what others will think!
  • Are waiting for someone else to show you appreciation!

Martyrdom is not attractive and your life is passing you by.

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So take a ME day, you deserve it!

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So You Think You’ve Escaped Alcoholism

2592So you think you’ve escaped alcoholism, not a chance. You don’t have to be an alcoholic to be effected by alcoholism.

Alcoholism affects everyone who comes in contact with an alcoholic. It could be a parent, a sibling, a relative, a boyfriend, a girlfriend, husband, wife, friend, child, or a co-worker. That is why Ala-non, is a support group for families and friends of alcoholics not just families of alcoholics. You may not have the disease but I can say that you have the ism’s  without ever having met you.

It is said that alcoholism is a family disease and I believe it with all my heart. I grew up in an alcoholic home. Why do I call it an alcoholic home? Does that mean that all my family members were alcoholics? No, our home revolved around my alcoholic mother because her actions or in-actions affected every one of us. Our emotional make-up developed around coping with her drinking and the effect it had on us. I like to see my mother as having alcoholism rather than as an alcoholic but it is my habit to use the term alcoholic which is unfortunately a label. She grew up in an alcoholic home just like I did.  I have the utmost love and strive to understand because but for the grace of God, go I. As alcoholism is said to be genetic, I could have followed in her footsteps. I am lucky, I don’t like the taste of alcohol and yet I am unlucky in that I don’t like not having control. Why is that unlucky? Because I have to fight the tendency to control everything around me to ensure that it doesn’t give me that feeling of not having control over my life and to avoid the helpless feelings I had growing up. I also believe it is a learned behavior, we do what we know and alcoholism is what we know.

That is why even though you think you have escaped the parent or ex, you are wrong. You were affected and I can prove it.

Do you have problems with authority figures?e75f70e61261afa370d84fcbf1da6be7

Do you have problems getting along with others?

Do you have control issues?

Is your relationship picker broken?

Are you hyper-vigilant?

Do you fight depression?

Do you lack confidence?

Are you an under or over achiever?

Are you a people-pleaser?

Are you a care taker?

Are you a fixer?

There are many other symptoms but I’m sure you get it and you know which one of these have developed in you.

In my work as a Crisis Call Counselor, I could pretty much bet that regardless of the crisis, the conversation would eventually reveal that the caller had been affected by alcoholism, either theirs or someone in their past or present life. I consider alcoholism an “emotional” disease because it can bring about anger, sadness, depression, resentment, etc. in the alcoholic or those affected by a person’s drinking. The reason persons affected by another person’s drinking are considered to be co-dependent is that while the alcoholic is addicted to alcohol, the affected person is addicted to the alcoholic. I have had so many friends, boyfriends and a husband who were addicted to alcohol and in the beginning of the relationship, I didn’t know there was a problem. It’s like a magnet! I have friends in Ala-non who say it is because alcoholics are charismatic and exciting. Perhaps we see something in their personalities that we wish we had.

I can’t tell you how many times I have heard, “I’m not with him/her any more, so I don’t need Ala-non.” I have thought that myself but I always end up going back because my ism’s become overwhelming. This post is not meant to advertise or push Ala-non or Adult Children of Alcoholics, yet it is what I know so I do highly recommend them. Just like the person with alcoholism, only you can decide that you need help and what support is best for you. I have been told, “When it hurts bad enough, you will get help.”

“Co-dependent No More” by Melody Beattie is a really good book for understanding the effects of alcoholism. I read this book like a person dying of thirst drinks water. It told me that I was not crazy and there was hope.

People addicted to alcohol and/or drugs will to try to convince others that it is your fault, don’t take it on. Think 3 C’s – You didn’t cause it, you can’t control it and you can’t cure it. Seeking help is nothing to be ashamed of, alcoholism in you or someone else is not your fault but it is your responsibility. If you are afraid of the alcoholic becoming angry because you are seeking help, 12 step support groups are anonymous as is therapy. If you go to a meeting or see a therapist and you are not comfortable with the environment or personalities, try another meeting or therapist. There are many meetings and therapists available. If you are in a remote area, I understand that there are meetings online. Just do an Internet search of Ala-non or Adult Children of Alcoholics. There are two daily readers, One Day at a Time in Ala-non and Courage to Change that are utilized by Ala-Non. I find ODAT (nickname) useful when you are in a relationship with an alcoholic and Courage to Change is a good all-around book. I mostly use Courage to Change and it seems to be a favorite among recovering Ala-Non’s. Before using these books, it would be helpful to do some research on alcoholism. People active in Ala-Non attend open AA meetings to learn what the person with alcoholism experiences.

I have tortured my mother all my life by trying to get answers or justifications.

Whatever you decide to do, know that you are not alone. Everything you have experienced, someone else has experienced. It helps to talk with other people who are experiencing the same thing or who have been there and survived.

There is always hope.