Politics and other awkward stuff

The Year That Was

Confetti and noisemakers are so yesterday. But maybe that’s just me.; party animal was never in my DNA. Luckily, my husband was also more into cozy over carnival New Year festivities. Except for an early Chinese nosh, our couch, movies and snacks were our go-to gala though I admit funky party hats were occasionally worn on said couch. Some might think we were either too lazy or minus the imagination to celebrate the night with abandon. But, the cancer elephant in our room was more than enough excitement in our lives. It made more mucho sense to do happy over hoopla.

I suspect I’m plain not wired to do the full New Year’s monty. Having a low-key mindset is not such a bad thing, however. In fact, it came in handy in widowhood. Being able to ‘adapt’ to revelry without my handsome dude in the blue glitter top hat, was an asset. Come to think of it, my kids and married granddaughter must have also inherited some of the New Year homebody genes — so mea culpa in advance for that, guys.

What the new year brings to you depends a great deal on what you bring to it.” Vern McClellan

In the end, the New Year’s Eve ball will never need my help to make its descent into the next year. No liquor store will miss the sale of my one glass of wine and while my comfy jammies don’t fit the red carpet dress code, they are their own microfleece party. My snacks are obscenely healthy. And my out-of-control revelry consists of journaling, movie bingeing and phone gabbing with friends. It works.

When you give yourself space to think about the year that went bye-bye, all kinds of observations pass through your mind. Me? I think about the wide eyed, sweet little New Year’s baby who, by the end of each year, morphs into the weathered, tired Father Time. As each year closes, that long bearded dude passes the torch back to the diapered newbie who takes tentative steps into the next 365. Are we as innocently optimistic about a brand new year as that little tyke? Maybe not but I suspect none of us are ready to be a cynical Father Time either.

 “An optimist stays up until midnight to see a new year in; a pessimist stays up to make sure the old one leaves’”.  Bill Vaughn

Politics can tick us off big time. This past year, walls and homegrown gun deaths went up; morale and trust went down. The rich got mega richer while the poor still poorer. That daily crazy alone can make us doubt we’ll ever be spinning on an even axis again. But, things have a way of turning around. Finances, ditto. Illness? Grief? Those are the toughest of all. When either touch us with the heaviness of a well thrown brick, it’s hard to see any good in the year that passed. I get it. Boy, do I get it. It’s hard to be Pollyanna discovering a silver lining to anything that rips our heart out. Sometimes the digging is hard to find the beautiful moments, the ones that touch that same heart that is also broken.

Copy that., Holiday Madness

Grinch in Movie Wonderland

By the time the clock strikes Christmas Eve, most of us have watched more than our fair share of holiday movies. Thanksgiving weekend alone, the annual kickoff for all things merry, aired enough saccharine Christmas movies to replace the pecan pie. The year I binge-watched Hallmark Countdown to Christmas, I vowed to set limits on the sugary sweet flicks that populate the season like chocolate sprinkles on a sundae. There’s just so much of that stuff you can inhale before your sugar high propels you to la-la-land.

“There is nothing in the world so irresistibly contagious as laughter and good humor.”  A Christmas Carol

When my kids were small, we nailed all the prerequisite family holiday movies from  Frosty the Snowman to A Charlie Brown Christmas, colorful animation to traditional Yuletide schmaltz. We cheered the Grinch’s change of heart and Rudolph’s blinking red badge of individuality. But, like anything else, an overdose of sugar can put your teeth on edge. Maybe Christmas movies come only once a year so you have time to regroup before getting your next fix of contrived holiday cheer.

But that’s just me.

When the kids flew the coop, movies like Santa is Coming to Town went with them. Grown-up shows rang in the season but didn’t always ring my bells. My house didn’t quite measure up to the mind-numbing holiday décor that draped over every Hallmark movie set. (and to be honest, eeew) My Christmas lights would never compare to Clark Griswold’s and my slowly morphing monochrome color schemed house (think coastal, remember?) would disappoint any self respecting North Pole resident. Truthfully, isn’t decorating perfection exhausting?

In my very empty nest, I let my not-so-inner graphic designer out, choosing ‘white space’ and a Pantone color palette to Santa’s workshop. Still, I’d watch those Hallmark movies with a certain amount of guilt — and curiosity. How DID that snow, that fell artfully on coats and hats, never melt? If MY hair was pelted with the white stuff while I was gleefully building a flawless snowman, I guarantee it would have that wilted, wet dog look not one ‘fresh from the salon’. And those dollhouse movie towns, bedecked in snow globe perfection? Has anyone ever seen one? They are all a little too blindingly bright, a little too magical for my taste. Any resemblance to the world I live in is purely coincidental.

“Welcome, Christmas, while we stand, heart to heart and hand in hand.” How the Grinch Stole Christmas

Living in a less than picture perfect world is not a bad thing; it’s a real thing. Unlike a Hallmark holiday-wrapped movie, life isn’t perfect but it’s mostly good, even blessed at tomes. It’s not covered in fairy dust but cookie crumbs, crayon marks, dog hairs and milk (or wine) spills. People don’t always end up happily ever after but lose one another through misunderstandings, hurt and yes, death. Unlike the wistful happy endings in celluloid, they are often just the stuff of dreams.

Still, those Christmas movies, heartfelt or cheesy, come with something for everyone, including a good shot of holiday spirit. Forget the recycled plots and inexorably happy endings we know are the stuff of screenplays. It’s the life lessons, the timeless moral fables that sucker us back in each Christmas season.

If I have to pick a few favorites, one has to be the offbeat (more than a little) Christmas Carol remake, where Bill Murray plays the snarky, jaded Frank Cross. As unhappy and ruthless as his fabled predecessor, Scrooge, Frank Frank learns to “Keep Christmas in my heart” by living in the past, present AND future. He’s transformed into someone whose heart opens to suffering, and struggle. I can’t help but think this tale is even more timely, given these fraught last few years when we, like Frank, are all called to be aware and awake to the injustice and need around us. And, bonus, this Christmas Carol is also as hilarious as heck, populated by characters like a passive aggressive sugarplum fairy who smacks Frank in the head with a toaster. Ah, ya gotta like a woman with spunk!

“Seeing is believing but sometimes the most real things in the world are the things we can’t see”. The Polar Express

Who doesn’t love ELF? With all the reasons to be cynical, depressed about the state of the world and politics (don’t get me started), there are a lot of reasons it might be harder to jingle your bells this year. If you’ve lost someone, it’s even more difficult to experience the season of light without variations of darkness, too.  Buddy the Elf, takes us out of ourselves as he makes the best of every situation. Despite his challenges, he’s determined to spread cheer and positivity everywhere. When he says ‘Smiling is my favorite’, he invites us to do the same. And it’s good to remember that even just a smile can be a light in someone’s darkness.

Continue reading “Grinch in Movie Wonderland”

View from the Shoe

#gratitude

They say the secret to having it all – is knowing you already do. But it’s the knowing that often escapes us. Thanksgiving is a pretty good time to put on our grateful glasses and think about what being thankful actually means.

There are things it’s easy to be thankful for, like Amazon, your dishwasher and okay, your cellphone. (Pajamajeans come to mind, too, but that’s just me. Hey, don’t laugh until you’ve tried them.) Seriously, there’s a boatload of deeper, richer things that over my heart like grandkids’ tight hugs, seeing my adult kidlets happy, laughs shared with friends, even the odd parade of wildlife through my back yard.

They say that even when you have 99 problems, you probably still have 99,000 blessings. Unfortunately, they often get lost in the shuffle of just the daily detritus. But even if we’re having a bad day (week or year) we can always be thankful for the troubles we DON’T have. The stuff of gratitude can be pretty great, but when life is really hard or really hurts, gratitude seems like a foreign word. We’ve all been there, too.

I’m thankful for my struggles for without them I wouldn’t have found my strengths.

Over the years my Thanksgivings have changed. I no longer make the turkey; I bring the sides. My table no longer hosts a Thanksgiving throng; I head to my kids’ homes. Not to worry. I have dibs on
Christmas and Easter and, to be honest, I much prefer tagliatelle to turkey anyway. Still, Thanksgiving is that time honored holiday when gratitude is the main course; that is if we do Turkey Day right. Continue reading “#gratitude”

View from the Shoe

You’re An Open Book

So, what’s your story? Huh? Come on, everyone has one; the trick is knowing the naked, authentically real story, not the sanitized one we’ve been telling ourselves for years. Your one true story is the one that started at birth, and weaves all our experiences, the happy, the pain, the mistakes and the hurt together in book only we can write. Some chapters are positive, sparkling even, and some are hurtful, mysterious, lonely or disappointing. Personal narratives alone, however, don’t always tell the whole story. The outline of your story, the way it weaves experience together with emotion, that’s what helps shape the narrative.

“Tell your story. That’s the secret of immortality. The one true way to live forever.” Brad Meltzer

Here’s the thing – everyone has a story.  Yours, though, is the only one you have control over.  You can picture yourself through those cool gels cameramen slap on their lenses to fuzz out all the imperfections. But, hello, we can see right through that and you can, too. Write your truth.

Stories can be runaway trains or, depending how we spin them, old pals who we know aren’t a good influence but they just feel so comfortable in the retelling. These insidious inner spirits are more than happy to reinforce every negative story we tell ourselves. They whisper that we are not worth much, that we made too many mistakes, that we shouldn’t expect too much because they’re down with that. Yet, there’s a small voice that we don’t always hear. This is the one who tells us truth, unvarnished but not unsympathetic, not unkind and not hopeful. These are the dudes who call BS when you’re in that ‘it’s all my fault’, ‘I don’t deserve any better’ and ‘it’s too late to change the story’ mood.

“We’re wired for story. We feel the most alive when we’re connecting with others and being brave with our stories. It’s in our biology.” Brene Brown

Your story is a work in progress. As long as we are breathing we can still revise the content. We can try to do more good, give back, be open to change. Maybe you are a unicorn with a pristine, tale of pure blockbuster perfection. If so, blessings! But knowing that life can easily turn an uneventful upside down in a nanosecond, be ready to write your story with a different pen, a revised outlook.

If you were putting pen to paper today (or keyboard to computer), what would the plot be? Would your tale tell soothing things to your inner child or does it only tell that kid off? Even if you view your life story as a chronic clean-up on aisle 6, your story is still chock full of everything life is about. From intrigue, love, humor, and mistakes, even serious ones, to success, growth and yes, trauma and tragedy. If we lived it, we own it and we need to learn from it, all of it. We can’t revise the already lived narrative but we can shape the final chapters. Continue reading “You’re An Open Book”

Politics and other awkward stuff

Red is Not My Color

Jazzy red cloak. Wacky white bonnet.  The perfect outfit for women in jeopardy. As political climate heats up, The Handmaids Tale is becoming a little too close for comfort. Thought Margaret Atwood’s book was dystopian fiction, real life is often much, much stranger. Inspired by the sociopolitical issues of the early ‘80’s, I’m sure Atwood never imagined it could become a playbook for current events. But for years, politically and religiously radical movements have been brewing a perfect storm.

The surreal fiction of The Handmaids Tale depicted women in reproductive slavery. They were forced to bear the children of the elite, where their scarlet cloaks and crisp bonnets underlined their subservience. Most of the unlucky women had become infertile due to environmental toxins (yikes) except for a few like the iconic protagonist, Offred.

Atwood wrote that “the heavy-handed theocracy of 17th century Puritan New England, with its marked bias against women, would need only a period of social chaos to reassert itself”. Chilling? Well, put on a sweater because politics has woven its way to the bedroom. Once again, legislating womens’ rights has become more than rhetoric and waving a righteous flag. It’s gotten teeth and bitten into state rulings, deciding by male jury what is best for womens’ bodies.

Newsflash. Getting pregnant is generally not a solo activity. Even if you hail from Gilead, it still takes two. Perhaps men need to be reminded, before they rule on what a woman can do with her own body, how procreation works in the first place. Unfortunately, like in Gilead, women are considered responsible for whatever happens to them and men are free – to judge.

“Ignoring isn’t the same as ignorance; you have to work at it.”  The Handmaid’s Tale Continue reading “Red is Not My Color”

Chick stuff, View from the Shoe

Bring It.

Kindness costs nothing. Sprinkle that shit everywhere.

 

What seems like a very long time ago, I walked into a boutique advertising agency and asked if they were hiring.  There was no job opening.  So, they made one up and that tiny ad shop became home – for the next 11 years.

I learned more there than I could have ever imagined when I stuck my head in the door that first day.  Having left big NY agencies, the partners brought their own blend of remarkable savvy. But it was the kindness they brought that shone just as much. Yes, the creativity that bubbled over in those small rooms made believers out of some very big clients. But, beneath clever taglines and spot-on campaigns, was a culture of taking great care, not only of the client but of each person who helped bring those campaigns to life.

What we see depends on what we look for. John Lubbock

Long before inside-joke agency pictures became Facebook postings, we had our own odd assortment of the sweet and strange. There was the authentic Wurlitzer jukebox near the reception desk, and an ironic Garfield fish tank nestled alongside shelves of creative awards. To mark a milestone agency anniversary, we hopped into a limo to celebrate, but, true to form, dinner was hardly the expected.  Unless a famed NYC drag show qualifies.

In a world where you can be anything — be kind.

Then one day, the bird left the nest – with a little help. A nester by nature, I can’t say layoffs could ever be my ticket to ride. Branching out into the unknown and trying new things is hardly new but it’s seldom an easy fit. Even when serial jobs are the norm these days, lift-off is still more difficult when it’s a surprise walk off a cliff.  Still, at one time or another, almost everyone has been dropped on their head in that proverbial lake and been forced to sink or swim.

Mostly, we swim. Continue reading “Bring It.”

Politics and other awkward stuff

UnGREATful History 2.0

Before you yearn for ‘Great Again’ — take off the rose-colored glasses.

History is a funny thing. Depending on the glasses it’s viewed with, the past is either cringe worthy or really, well, great. In truth, it’s a combo platter of both to the max. No matter how we’d like to retouch it, history is life, with all its scrapes and bruises. The words ‘great again’ in relation to the good ol’ USA are meant to call back a time when we were mythically perfect. But then, who believes in fairytales?

In advertising, I knew snappy taglines when I saw them but ‘great again’ hearkens back to a country across the pond when the words “Machen Deutschland wieder groß” were a rallying cry. We all know how well that turned out.

When, in our history was America ‘great’ enough, perfect enough for an encore? If a handy time machine could transport us to the past, where exactly would we land? What era would our GPS point to as great enough to repeat? Should we go back to when we elbowed out the first inhabitants, elbowing Native Americans out of the way for us bad white selves? Was it when we bought, sold, traded slaves to build a spanking new country where WE could be free while enslaving others? How about those scary days of our childhood during the Cold War when we scurried beneath our desks with arms over our heads? (like that would have helped) Oh, and who can forget the good ol’ days when brown skinned peoples drank only from ‘colored’ drinking fountains, gays stayed tucked in the closet and women remained silent and in the kitchen.

So when was that glorious golden age of ‘great’? When were we all, regardless of color, culture, religion or gender, peaceful, successful and happy? Can’t remember? Neither can I. Even so, in a country of more than 318 million people of every diversity, we don’t always stick the landing. I’m old enough to have lived through several wars, from Vietnam and the Gulf War to Iran, Iraq and Afghanistan. Having been born with white skin that burns easily I never experienced Jim Crow laws that brutalized a whole portion of our fellow Americans. I was never sent to the back of the bus, or denied use of the same restrooms as my neighbors. As a woman of the 60’s, I was lucky enough not to have lived in a time when I couldn’t vote because of my ‘weaker’ sex. I was a young mom by the time Roe vs Wade signaled the end of back-alley abortions and same sex relations were taken off the list of criminal offenses. Our land of opportunity didn’t always gift those opportunities to everyone. For many — it still doesn’t.

But to all those who wax euphoric over the ‘great’ ol’ times, I get it. It can be really scary to lose your place, especially when you’ve always been assured of one, right? Women, people of color or LGBT people can’t identify, never had a golden ticket to economic and political power as destiny. When you have, it can really suck to realize you might now have to share your place in line. You might even feel like — well, everyone else. Imagine that. Continue reading “UnGREATful History 2.0”

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