Posted in about me, ebb & flow, follow-up, gifts, meandering, motivation, vulnerability

Hello? Is this thing on?

I like to been seen. So do you. Might be in totally different ways or contexts or audiences, but we all want to be seen, understood.

As a kid, I was introverted and socially anxious, good academically, and eager to please. In elementary school, I more or less spoke when spoken to. I remember clearly getting in trouble for blurting out an answer once in fourth grade, and while I can’t say for sure that’s the only time it happened, it was rare enough that that once sticks out.

I was “seen” by doing my work well on time. A sticker or a pat on the back. Because that’s good enough at that level and that was enough.

As school got harder, I found a niche and a family in performing arts. I was never great at any of it, but I was dependable, and for what we were, that was enough.

And then we all grew up and life went in planned and unplanned ways, and some combination of social struggles (in part because of childhood emotional trauma, in part because we societally don’t value introverts), and “good enough” and “dependable” not being enough to be seen, and choosing a career path (teaching) that’s considered “less than,” and within that choosing a specialization (band) that is constantly fighting for time, students, space, validation, I’ve spent a lot of time feeling … invisible.

All this to say that this is why I have a stormy swirl of emotions regarding birthdays (and now also Mother’s Day).

Because I want to be seen. And if the anniversary of being born is a socially acceptable day to get positive attention, I’ll take it.

But we’re adults and I’ve certainly heard enough times to grow up, that birthdays are for kids (with the possible exception of milestone birthdays, though their importance is pretty random unless you’re becoming eligible or ineligible for something legally).

Birthdays always runs into gifts, and I’ve written about gifts before.

I don’t like obligatory, “I have to have something to give you” gifts. But I love gifts that are thoughtful. A couple of years ago, The Climbing Daddy threw a surprise party. A few people brought gifts: a stainless steel water bottle; a bag for dance shoes; a vegetarian cookbook for backpacking (or camping) and a gift card for REI; a pair of earrings from a friend who always picks out the best earrings. (Others, but that’s enough to make the point.) They are really different things, and they all say HEAT all over them. Having the party in the first place was amazing enough. Gifts that say “I see you, I know you” were icing on the proverbial cake.

 

 

Posted in about me, gifts, parenting, storytelling

Father’s Day gifts…belated

So … it’s not anywhere close to Father’s Day.

Here’s the story:

The Kid and I went to Burst of Butterflies, a local painting place (canvas, ceramic, etc.) where he painted two small identical tiles that said #1 Dad.

We were traveling for the actual holiday and picked up the tiles after we returned. We had talked about what we were going to do with them but didn’t do it.

And didn’t do it.

And forgot about it.

A week or two ago, I was cleaning out one (of too many) piles in the office and found the tiles.

Oops.

So I mentioned it to The Kid, and we decided to continue with the plan.

What was the plan again?

I’m not sure that what we settled on is exactly what we had decided originally, but what we made turned out well.

He chose a photo of himself with each daddy; I had them printed.

Using some craft foamy stuff, hot glue, and wide popsicle sticks, we made a picture frame for each photo (photo very much not removable), then added the tile to the top left corner, as per The Kid’s requirements.

We agreed that magnets would be the best way to make them hangable—they’re very imbalanced—but I don’t have any on hand. Those will need to be added later.

Overall, they turned out well, and we’re both happy with how they look. As for the daddies? They haven’t seen them yet, but moreso than in June, they’re sure going to be surprised!

Also, on a tangent: as we were getting all of the materials out and organized, The Kid said, “You know, Mom, we could make a video about making this and post it on YouTube. And then other kids could know how to make a great Father’s Day present.”

We could. But Mama is tired. And other minor resistances.

So when I sat down to write a blog post and was completely uninspired, I asked The Kid, “What should I write about?”

“Mom! You should write about making the Father’s Day presents! It’s a good story!”

And so it came to be.

By request:

The end.

Posted in connections, gifts, gratitude, mindset, thoughtfulness

Giving, generosity, and the humanity of recipients

Thanksgiving. Natural disasters. Christmas. Man-made disasters.

Toys. Food. Clothes. Household items. Socks. Diapers. Toiletries.

There are always people in need. There are times when, as an outsider, it seems more dire. And so, we have stuff drives.

My request to you—and it’s definitely not an original to me—is to be mindful with your donations.

The climbing gym has a food drive every winter that includes a sign indicating that expired foods won’t be accepted. Because they had so many people “donating” expired food.

It’s not a cleaning-out-the-pantry exercise. You’re providing food for people who don’t have food or don’t have enough food. Give them something tasty, something decent-quality. Give them something you would serve to guests.

Can you imagine how hard your life would be if you were food insecure? How much pride you’d swallow to eat at a soup kitchen? In that moment, imagine the food you’ve been gifted is not just better than nothing but is actually a treat.

That meal is extra luxurious in the midst of hardship. Simply because a donor spent $15 instead of $6 on donated food.

Clean out the pantry and throw away expired food. (If you won’t eat it, don’t give it to “beggars can’t be choosers” to eat.)

In the wake of disasters, in donating household items, again, it’s not a time to purge things that are not in good condition. Do that another time. Books should have all their pages. Games and puzzles should have all their pieces. Clothes should be clean and without tears or excessive wear.

Again, put yourself in the shoes of the recipient. Your house filled with water. You and your family are safe (or maybe they’re not…) but all of your possessions are gone.

You’re grateful and humbled by donations to get you through until you can get yourself moving again. (Months? Years?) What do you want? Are you “just happy to have something” if the clothes you’re offered smell? Or are stained? Are you grateful to have toys for your kids if the toys are broken?

As hurricane season commences, donation centers will be popping up. The holidays fall in line behind that.

Be generous. Be thoughtful. Be humble. Be grateful.

Posted in connections, gifts, vulnerability

Advantages to living out loud

The Climbing Daddy needed a run. I wanted to take pictures of some of the fantastic thunderheads we had that day. We went to a local park with small mountains/big rocks where he ran, I photographed, and we were both happy.

(Thunderheads are big, puffy clouds that are common during monsoon season here.)

I got a few good shots—mostly of cactus and trees, though one or two of clouds—and posted them on Facebook. (I’ll share them here on Sunday in my weekly photos post.)

The next day, I got the text in the above image.

Dear Heat’s Camera,

Are you seeing the clouds right now?!

-[friend’s name] eyes

If I wasn’t an “oversharer” on Facebook, I wouldn’t have gotten the tip to head outside.

(I did go out, and the clouds were amazing—added bonus for heat lightning!—but there wasn’t anywhere good to shoot from at home. We need to build a crow’s nest for just such occasions!)

This lesson has been a long time comin’. I’ve always been socially anxious and also introverted. (You can be introverted without being socially anxious; I’m not.) I’ve spent decades working on being more comfortable talking to people, and while I’m still not good at cold-starting conversations, I can hold up my end most of the time. (If I’m comfortable with you, I can and often will talk quite a bit.)

I’ve learned that in being somewhat transparent about my experiences with depression, I’ve given others someone to whom they can say, “Me, too.” That point of connection, especially in darkness, is priceless. (Every post on this topic, whether here or on Facebook, elicits at least one person reaching out.)

I’ve learned that in being open about my experience with cancer, friends who know someone diagnosed will ask me for advice in how to help them navigate their new minefield. (Unfortunately, this happens at least once or twice a year.)

I’ve learned that in talking about health- and wellness-related topics, people are more often comfortable asking me questions… which helps them on their path.

And, as in the example above, I’ve learned that if I’m just open about things I’m trying, places I’m going, things I’m thinking, sometimes someone else will have a tip for me.

I know I’ve done that as well—saw something and thought, “Oh, This Friend is into That Thing. I wonder if they know about This Thing that I just saw!” And I’ll let them know about it.

Sure, sometimes there are duplicates, but rarely are there so many that I feel anything negative about it. How lovely that people see something that reminds them of me and they take time to tell me! And, fortunately, all of the “somethings” so far have been positive.

Every now and then, it even leads to a tangible gift: a kitchen tool or a yard tool or a book or some other small miscellaneous thing that is perfect for whatever random project I’ve dreamed up.

It works in reverse as well. I had a new friend who posted on Facebook that they were looking for a roof shingle or two at the same time that we were getting our roof replaced. Perfect! If she hadn’t said anything, I never would have known.

So hobbies and stories and struggles and dreams and new pursuits and ditched pursuits will all still be shared, because I know that some of it reaches people who need to be reached … and sometimes that someone is me.

Posted in food, gifts, know better do better, thoughtfulness

Pretend it’s Thanksgiving

Every winter, there are countless holiday food drives. I’ve donated to some of them. I suspect many of you have as well.

But now is actually the time of year when they need more.

Why?

School is out. (Or it’s getting close.)

Many impoverished kids get two of their daily meals at school. Others get their only two meals at school.

With schools closed, food banks become more necessary to those communities.

I’m not sure if it’s the lack of feel-good or what that has prevented “school’s out” food drives, but I’ve never seen one.

While we’re here and talking about it… I’ve read that donating money to food banks leads to more food availability than donating food itself. The explanation I saw said that because they can buy in bulk or otherwise have cheaper-per-unit powers, giving $1 buys more food than donating a $1 can of something.

There are also issues of fit with the community, of health issues within the community, and of people just plain being jerks and donating expired food.

It’s not an opportunity to clean out your pantry.

So. If you’re a food donating kind of person, take a few bucks to your local food bank and help out your neighborhood youth. They’ll be grateful.