Monday, July 18, 2011

Gifts Are A Good Thing

    “Tis the gift to be simple, 'tis the gift to be free, 'Tis the gift”…. The words to that old song, written in the mid eighteen hundreds, still have a lot to say about gifts. The best gifts are thought out, simple, and freely given. What are your best gifts, and this time not family and things like that, but gifts you have received from someone?

     I have always abhorred the greedy nature that gift giving can take on, especially during Christmas. I don’t understand the whole, “make a list of what you want and I’ll fill the list”, mentality. I never allowed my kids to ask for more than one thing from Santa, and I will admit I kind of steered what they ask for, towards something I knew could get for sure! They used to ask me why they could only ask for one thing when some kids had a list a mile long. I used to explain that Santa only has room in his bag for one thing for each child. That took care of that!

      From Kerry and me, the kids always got about ten gifts each for Christmas. It’s the one time of the year we wanted them to have lots and lots of gifts to open. They were simple things, most of which I’d be buying over the course of the year anyway. I got things like their own packages of six little cereals for breakfast Christmas morning, (we opened our gifts Christmas Eve). They always got a new bed pillow for their beds to sleep extra good that night, a new pair of pajamas which I’d already washed so they were ready to wear to bed, a box or two with some kind of clothes, socks and underwear, their own six pack of soda (k that sounds horrible these days but I did..) and three or four toys that they really wanted. I knew what they really wanted because I spent a lot of time with them and I knew what each one really liked.

       Now that the kids are grown, I try to go with a theme of some sort. One year I got them all snowboard gear and we went snowboarding. The big kids hadn’t gone skiing or snowboarding since high school Luther league and Sydney had gone quite a few times but always rented her stuff. The next year I got them all six man tents, and they have all had a good time with them. I don’t know what they need anymore, so I still like to surprise them with some experience. I usually give them several small things leading up to the big one. For example, the camping year first they all got flashlights, camping forks, tent lights and several other little things moving up to a couple sleeping bags and the tent was the grand finale ha... They loved it! No one asks for any of it, or had any idea what they were getting, but they all loved it. This year they already know they are getting a cruise to the Bahamas! I just told Kerry last night the reason we got it so cheap was probably because October is hurricane season! I didn’t do my homework there. So hopefully that won’t happen.

       Some of my favorite gifts I have gotten have been a walking doll with blue frosted haired when I was ten from my parents. My horse Cowboy Clark from my Dad when I was eleven which was a total surprise!

      Probably one of the most unusual Christmas gifts I got from Mom was her own jewelry she bought herself as a souvenir from Hawaii.  She’d already worn them for about ten years. We didn’t know the extent of her Alzheimer’s and she gave me her coral/silver earrings complete with ear gunk from her ears still on them! I looked at my sister Kathy, like what in the heck? Then Kathy opened hers and got a similar turquoise set. We talked about it later, and wondered what was she thinking? Did she think she bought them for us and really forget she wore them for ten years? Is she worried about spending money at Christmas and knew they were hers? We hated to take them even.  What was going on in her mind we wondered? These days I can’t bring myself to wear those earrings in case I lose them, because I realize now, it was the beginning of the end for Mom.

      Kerry gave me a wooden paper towel rack once and I didn’t even know what it was...I still have it sitting by my toaster. It has traveled with me because he put thought into that. Not the most romantic thing but something we needed when we didn’t have a lot of money to spend on Christmas. My other favorite gift from Kerry was a new Bible one year. I was struggling with depression and he got me the newest version of the bible to replace my old King James with Elvis glued in the cover. Kerry wrote a whole page in the front cover about hoping it helps.

       When Brendon was in about the third grade he and I went to Minot with my friend and her son, who was his friend. The boys went shopping for us and we sat under the big clock in the center of the mall where we could watch the boys going from store to store. Brendon chose the prettiest black tiger eyes earrings for that Christmas Eve, and I still can see him in the jewelry store buying them. When Brendon was sixteen he got his first job at Kings Food Host as a bus boy.  For my birthday he bought me a hundred something dollar stereo for my birthday, which I kept for years long after it stopped working. I loved the stereo but the generosity he showed meant so much, because at sixteen you sometimes wonder if the kids even like you at all.

       Shelbey always bought me crystal from Home of Economy when Mom took her shopping for me when she was young. She would get in the store and be taken in by the crystal under the store lights. Another year she chose a gemstone bracelet from Penney’s and got the other kids to go in on the purchase. I saved it and she wanted me to wear it = so I did one day. We stopped to get gas. I was out pumping the gas and she was sitting in the car on the passenger side. I forgot about the step up cement block, and right in the middle of a sentence to her, I tripped and fell.  I slapped my wrist down on the pavement about ninety miles an hour bending all the prongs and messing up the bracelet!  She couldn’t stop laughing because I was there one minute and out of sight on the ground the next! Just call me Grace! Last year she sent me flowers in Minot after a rough time with Kerry and shocked me but good!

        Sydney loves to get me Brighton’s jewelry. I love each one she has gotten me. The girls got me an angel necklace and earrings from there when I had my hysterectomy. Because Sydney is with me a lot yet, she pays attention to what I am into at the time and gets me that. I got a pretty pink and blue necklace from Target that she saw me admire once and went back and got it. I’m still a jewelry freak, even though I make it now.  

         My favorite gift from Marcy was my scrapbook she made for my fiftieth birthday. Where she found time to make a big fat scrapbook while babysitting her Grandkids at the same time I have no idea! My favorite gift from Kathy was all the children’s books she and her family gave me last year. Although the Dept. 56 Halloween houses she gets me I love too.  

       Gifts are not about the expense of them, it’s about the thought put into them and whether it’s freely given from the heart. “Tis the gift to be simple, 'tis the gift to be free, 'Tis the gift”….

Thursday, July 7, 2011

How Do You Measure Your Life?

     How will you measure your life? When you get to be my age (fifties), most of us that try to live a mindful life, start to come up with some sort of a measuring stick. I’ve heard it said that you either look back on your life with accomplishment or with regret.

     For a lot of people life and everything else it seems, is measured by money, money, money! Money can buy power, fame, lifestyle, and prestige. Sometimes money can even buy other people. I venture to say most people measure by money first, and foremost. I grew up in a family that was all about money. Sometimes it felt like money took precedence over people. “What does that cost“? “What did you have to give for that“? From that, I adopted my theory that money is just paper we use to get what want in life. I value what money can do, but people are first. It seems a lot of older people get almost obsessed about money…God, please spare me that down the road?

     Being the richest man in the world does not guarantee you are the happiest man in the world, by any measurement. Money beyond my family’s immediate needs has never been high on my lists of priorities. It’s important for security yes, but I could care less about how that moves me up, having to do with what people think of me. Some of the best people I know are the poorest, and some of the greediest people I know are the richest.

     How much success did you have in your career? Depending on which career, we use different measuring sticks. If you’re an athlete its all about awards, a writer wants a best seller, an singer a Grammy etc. If you have put all your eggs in the motherhood basket like I did, you measure what kind of people have we raised? I feel very proud of the people Kerry and I raised. They are all down to earth, sensitive (maybe a little too much so even), kind, caring, good people. They accept everyone, and support and love each other. We have had problems like everyone else but when you know better you do better and that’s all anyone can do.

     How am I doing compared to other people my age? Don’t you think that’s one of the most common measurements? This is a really flimsy measurement tool, because to many times we let other people measure our success. People can be so insensitive about making what others do for a career choice their business, and even being brass enough to comment on it.

     Sydney and I talk about this. She meets insensitive people all the time that say things like, “so this is what you want to do with your life…cut hair“? “Are you going to college for something“? She’s even had people tell her she could have done so much more with her life. It causes her to question herself, rather than pat herself on the back for going to a free technical program college that you could do while you were in high school if you had enough credits, had high enough grades, and followed a strict set of attendance rules etc. She can make as much in a day as someone with a four year degree and has no school loans to pay off. That money doesn’t come easy however. Doing hair is hard work - hard, hard work! People don’t think about holding your arms up most of the day, all the bending while doing shampoos, chapped hands and standing on your feet all day. It’s a hard job, but she balances that with the friendships she makes with her clients, and loves visiting and meeting new people and she’s good at it! Some would rather see her graduate from a 4 year college with a bunch of college loans and no job, than give her credit for doing what she’s done and does. I say if you are doing what you love to do, whether it’s the surgeon or the nurses assistant, you have already succeeded in your life, and it is after all, it’s your life.

     Regard, how do people regard me? I use that to measure my life to some extent. I really, care about what people think of me, but I care more what I think of me. I remember telling someone who said they don’t like me that, “I don’t care if you do or don’t like me…I live my life by my own moral compass”. I can honestly say I am never rude to anyone. I have the same regard for every person in this world…and I want the people that know me to hold me in positive regard, but I can’t be everything to everyone either. When I look in the mirror I like the internal person I am for the most part, it’s the outside I fight with mostly. I can easily fall into a self hate thing so that’s why I try to be like a duck and let the negative things roll off my back ( ok so I quack about em’ for awhile first!)

      My favorite measure of my success is, staying true to myself at the end of the day. I am sure above all, that God lays out a path, and it’s… your path, not someone else’s! He gave you talents and gifts to use in your own way, so comparing yourself with someone else is a waste of time, and kind of an insult to our Maker. I am thankful for my successes and pray for help, for my weak areas. No ones life that I know of, is all wild success with no failure. I have less regrets than accomplishments, so that tips the scale to success in my mind and… in my mind is all that matters. How do you measure your life?