You Think You’ve Got It Bad?!

13 06 2018

Do you know someone who’s ever said something like this to you, “I don’t know what you’re complaining about when other people have it so much worse?”

Someone I know had that experience, just a few weeks ago. I’m sure the speaker intended to be supportive. I hope that they were just graceless, not mean, but I know it was not helpful.

There is no calibration for grief or depression or sadness – it can’t be assigned a number for comparison with others. The whole thing reminded me of all the times well-meaning friends and coworkers apologized to me for “complaining about (pick some minor emotional irritation) when you’ve lost a child.”

I tried very hard to reassure my friends, but emotions are difficult to visualize, so this is how I finally got through to those who felt that they could not talk with me about their lives because I “had it worse” than they did.

Suppose you’ve broken your leg and are in the hospital post-surgery to repair it, in traction and a huge cast, IVs and monitors going and a nice sweat moustache on your upper lip from the pain and, just as I come into your room for a visit, I stub my toe . . . while I know that your leg must REALLY hurt, it does not hurt ME as much as MY STUBBED TOE.

Your pain is real, regardless of the pain of others. Do not ever feel the need to apologize for feeling it.

Don’t apologize for being happy either – even in the midst of grief – even in the midst of your own.

Life is good. It’s not always easy, but it’s good. I love my friends, even when their efforts to protect my heart were wrong-headed. I love them more because they trusted me when I said, “You can talk to me.”

Friends share feelings – the good and the bad – sometimes clumsily, sometimes hysterically, and sometimes angrily, but we want to share. It’s good to share. It’s what friends do.

You can tell me anything.


f/Stop and Smell the Roses

6 06 2018

This week, I read this interesting NYT article about how to pose for a photograph:

Some of the suggestions made me smile. The very last lines, though, made me want to send the photographer, Peter Hurley, flowers.

“We’re in these bodies for life. We have to figure out what we like about ourselves.”

I know that Mr. Hurley’s comment was made in response to often-heard complaints from his subjects about having a certain facial feature they wish to conceal or reciting some variation of “I have a face for radio,” but the statement certainly applies beyond sitting for a portrait photo.

Wouldn’t we all be happier, more relaxed, and easier to live with if we did not spend so much energy berating ourselves for our imperfections? My life sure got a whole lot less complicated when I stopped looking for flaws and started actively looking for good things – not just in the mirror, but everywhere.

We have to figure out what we like about ourselves (our lives). It’s a smart bit of advice.

Adjust your focus, put your chin up and smile!

Karma for Mrs. Krauss

30 05 2018

She’ll get what’s coming to her!

She brought this on herself!

What can you expect, when you’ve treated people like that?!

I had to sternly remind my mother of this, just last week. She has been scolding me like an angry blue jay. . . because I am “doing too much work” for her. I just had to shake my head and tell her, “Just look at the way you’ve raised me – it’s what you deserve!”

So often, when we talk about Karma, we are thinking only of the bad stuff. Now, I am not religious, not really even particularly spiritual. Okay, let’s just call it like it is: I am shallow! That said, I don’t think that’s how this karma thing works. I think it’s more like the old computing adage that my engineer (and appreciator of a fine home-cooked meal) brother-in-law amended to kitchen wisdom:

Garbage In/Garbage Out, but also Good Stuff In/Good Stuff Out!

If I live to be a hundred, I can never repay my mother for all the hard work, sacrifice, sleepless nights, heartaches, and headaches she’s endured in the name of motherhood.

I hope you all are fortunate to have someone in your life to whom you owe much. I hope we can all be a person in someone’s life who feels that way about us. Keep putting in the good stuff, please.

Good stuff into Mom’s front perennial bed: roses, lilies, deutzia, spirea, 3 yards of mulch, and more!

Pomp and Pissiness – a Little Wedding Etiquette

23 05 2018

Last week, with tens of millions of strangers watching, two people got married. While these two people happen to be a bona fide Brit prince and a beautiful American actress, the promises they made to each other are no different than those made by many other couples.

Sadly, the catty remarks and mean-spirited comments made about this couple and their ceremony are also not much different than those made about many other couples.

What makes people do that?

Envy, of course.

Envy should never attend weddings. Envy takes up a seat that should be occupied by Love or Hope or Optimism or Joy.

We should welcome shared happiness of a loving couple’s wedding into our hearts. If we can’t do that, we should just stay home with our ugly friend Envy. Envy should just RSVP Regrets – after all, isn’t that what she does best?

Congratulations to all the newlyweds in the world, including those who were newly wed decades ago! We celebrate with you!

Out of Order

16 05 2018

Someone I know just lost his twenty-four-year-old son. It is a shocking, awful, unimaginable thing.

I am someone who has lost a child, so I know, with searing clarity, the horror of outliving your child.

What do you say to someone who has lost a child?

You should probably NOT say the first six thoughts that come into your brain. Don’t mouth the empty platitudes. Don’t babble to fill the silence. You should probably not say anything for a while. Try to just BE with the person. Let their suffering flow out of them, absorb it, and neutralize some of it simply by giving your quiet support.

After the shock of the reality subsides, and you’ll feel when the time is right, you can offer heartfelt encouragement. Hearing this simple, but important truth made an enormous difference in my healing and continues to light a path through grief.

You lost someone you loved more than anyone in the world, but there are others here who love you and you love, so you must keep going for us.

I wish peace to the wounded heart of my colleague.

I wish compassion, patience, and perseverance to his friends.

Be kind. Keep being kind.

Color Me Happy

9 05 2018

I used to cling to a grudge the way a barnacle clings to the hull of a boat, like a baby possum clings to its mother’s back, like a wad of gum to a shoe sole .  .  .

Yeah, not attractive.

My life’s a lot prettier, however (though I am the same on the outside), since I decided to stop wearing my ancient history of rue and rancor like battle scars.  I’m not sure exactly when I decided to let go; I suppose it was when I realized I was boring myself with my own peculiar and unpleasant combination of nastiness and whining that I snapped out of it.  I’d like to say I’d been a quicker study, but there it is.

There are perfectly valid reasons to feel anger, grief, or regret, but I try to save those energy-eating emotions for special – truly warranted – occasions. To live in a constant low buzz of discontent is a sure way to drain all the color from life. I want to use every crayon in the box!

Paper-piecing practice in one of my playrooms.

Vitreous enamel on copper, mounted to hand textured and painted background, this is from another of my playrooms – one with a kiln.

Wet-felted merino and silk vessel from – yes – another of my playrooms.

Pay Proper Attention

2 05 2018

“My skin is splotchy.”
“I hate my legs.”
“My hair is too thin.”
“I can’t grow nice fingernails.”

Woe are us, who grew up with Helen Gurley Brown (if you were born later than 1960, Google her). We were conditioned to pay attention to details – especially the ones that made us feel bad about ourselves. We were always inspecting, appraising, and finding ourselves wanting. It sold a lot of cosmetics and clothing and, probably, anti-depressants. We had a well-honed sense of detail, but we had no idea of the proper way to direct it.

Now that I am old enough to wish I was worried about a date-night pimple (If one were to even try to appear now, it would be so well-hidden in my wrinkles, no one would ever know!), it is obvious that my attention should be directed at all the details that make me happy.

My house is a wild mixture of cluttered mess, works of art, pet guinea pigs, and an undemanding husband. The cluttered mess gets some attention, but only when the husband is out, the piggies are asleep, and the art does not draw my eye . . . not often!

My landscape is about half beauty and half disaster area; guess where I focus my eyes. Even as I work to improve the ground-under-repair, my thoughts are of the spots of pure loveliness and I am glad to have work to do.

My self is wrinkled and chubby with ragged cuticles and unkempt hair. I am also unbelievably luckily healthy and comfortable with life. Self has learned that comfortable is the best possible condition.

By paying proper attention to the important details of life – those things, large and small, that bring a smile to the lips, a leap of the heart, or a sigh of satisfaction – we realize that we are surrounded by goodness and it’s there for us to enjoy. Take comfort in those details. They are the ones that deserve our attention.