Be Present

I don’t know about you, but I have been so busy these past few weeks. Always looking at the next thing on my list – what comes next – what is ahead. Constantly peering forward. Hardly paying any attention to what I’m doing.

To stay on time, I have to hurry, which means I have to be early. Rush, rush, rush. That’s the name of the Christmas game. Get everything done and get it done fast.

Who cares how you feel while you’re doing it, right? Just get the stuff done! Oh my, I’m exhausted just thinking about it, much less doing it.

I can hardly remember everything I’ve accomplished this last month or two. I don’t remember having very much fun and I don’t remember . . . well, I hardly remember at all.

And that’s the sad part, isn’t it?! I can’t remember being in the moment for any of it. My mind has always been a step ahead, going to the next task. My body was performing one task while my mind was performing another.

Always there was that disconnect because I was never really there to enjoy any of my Christmas. It has been very forgettable and exhausting at the same time. So this year I’ve decided to slow down and take one task at a time, mindfully. I’m going to be present for my Christmas Day. I want it to be a conscious Christmas where I notice details, little things and nuances.

I want to remember everything – bits and pieces, words, looks and touches. I don’t want to miss a thing, not anything. Every precious moment I want to savor and record as a memory. Faces, tastes, smells, lights, songs, laughs, hugs, warmth, everything the day has to offer, I want to enjoy and memorize.

Being aware of the present truly makes the future easier and less hectic. You really don’t have to be early for all your deadlines. Be brave. Be fearless.

Live for now. Look around. See what and who is there. Make a memory. Be present.

It’s Just A Day

Many years ago, when I was employed as a Nurse, I often worked on holidays. It was expected. Someone always had to. It didn’t matter if you had family or guests coming from out of town or big plans or . . .whatever. When it was your turn to work, you worked.

At Christmas, we would just pick another day and celebrate the holiday as if it were the same – same food, same decorations, same presents, same gatherings, same everything, just different day.

“It’s just a day,” I would say to my family and friends. In our memory it doesn’t make any difference whether we celebrate on a Wednesday or a Friday. The important things can all be there no matter what day we choose for the holiday.

A few years ago Gramps and I actually observed Christmas at home together one day and then took Christmas to Phoenix to celebrate with five of our grandchildren four days later. Both were real honest-to-goodness Christmases because we made them so. They had all the necessary parts plus all the extras, as every Christmas should.

Neither were celebrated on Christmas day but both are remembered as the best Christmases ever, in their own way, as every Christmas should.

I remember one Christmas when I was little, maybe about eight years old. Our Christmas day was nice, but pretty lean as far as gifts went. Magically, three days later we had a second Christmas. My parents told me and my two brothers that Santa had forgotten some gifts originally and had returned to bring them to us.

We three were thrilled! And when we told our friends in school about Santa making a second trip to our house, we were heroes! It was mystical and so exciting for a kid.

Again – not on Christmas day. I was almost an adult before I realized that my parents didn’t have the means to provide a Christmas for us until the after Christmas sales. How loving of them to take a difficulty and make it so wonderful for us. My brothers and I still talk about the year we had two Christmases.

And now, these many years later, it seems we are looking for another day to revel in our Christmas spirit. Why? Because our grandson is working on Christmas, for double pay.

He is very excited about earning so much money in one day and it’s just a day, right?

We are therefore celebrating Christmas on December 23rd with our daughter, son-in-law, grandson and two friends. The house is decorated. Gifts are wrapped. The menu is planned. There will be a fire in the fireplace. Candles will be lit. Laughter will be heard. Stories will be shared. The Story will be read.

The day will be perfect and so will our memories.

Tattoos Talk

Throughout history, tattoos have spoken about clan/tribe membership, manhood, remembrance, love, travel, pain, endurance and just silliness. They send messages to all who are able to interpret. And they are often misunderstood.

From prehistoric times, people tattooed themselves to show membership in a clan or family. Although ancient Chinese criminals were tattooed to warn people of their unworthy ways.

Ancient Egyptians used tattoos as decorative art and medical treatment.

Tattooing is an integral part of the Samoan culture and the word tattoo is thought to have evolved from the Samoan word ‘tatau’.

During Greek and Roman times tattooing was done to criminals, prisoners of war and slaves as a mark of their status. Also some soldiers tattooed themselves.

Tattoos were only common in the military and entertainment business during the 20th century. Many sailors had anchors as a sort of initiation right. A turtle would mean he had crossed the equator and a swallow meant a journey of 5000 miles.

Throughout the 1920’s cosmetic tattoos became more popular for women. Common makeup tattoos included eyebrow and lip liner. But mostly still remained common among so-called outcasts such as sailors, circus performers and criminals.

In the 1930’s, social security numbers appeared and everyone was told to memorize the number. Many resorted to tattooing the number on their body to have rapid access to it. But tattoos were still not socially not acceptable.

1940’s saw color added to tattoos. Tattoos were mostly patriotic, nautical and military during those years. The war years saw an increase in tattooing especially in women.

1950’s was the “bad boys” era of tattoos, which added to the negative stigma.

The 1960’s tattoo parlors were blamed, rightly or wrongly, for an increase in Hepatitis. However, there was an increase in tattooed celebrities.

1970’s saw the peace movement, symbols and messages in tattoos become very popular. Tattooing in general became more mainstream.

By the 21st century, tattooing was common with designs getting more colorful, bigger, smaller, more whimsical, more meaningful, on every part of the body.

I, for one, am fascinated by tattoos. I ask every waiter and waitress to tell me about their tattoos. The stories are amazing!

The majority are memorials to a family member or a dear friend. How many grandmothers are remembered in beautiful ink, I can’t even tell you. The tattoos speak of a love and a reverence in such a special way – and no words are necessary.

I’ve seen many love tattoos, some membership tattoos, several religious, a couple birthday but never any hateful or negative tattoos. I’ve never seen any threatening or troubling designs. I have seen skulls, swords and knives but never felt any danger from them or the person wearing the tattoo. It was all art and well done, I might add.

Yes, tattoos speak and they speak to me. They tell me of loves, memories, relationships, faith and joy. I’ve been looking at them and getting their stories for years and years. I’ve been studying and wondering for years and years. I’ve been envious and curious for years and years.

Finally, I’m ready.

Yes, my sweeties.

Granny is getting a tattoo!

Gramps And I Make A Memory

Oh, my Sweeties! Gramps and I had such a grand weekend! We traveled to the Texas coast – Surfside Beach, to be precise. We went to preview the site of our son’s wedding planned for June 9th.

We were joined be our son Big Boy, his fiance Sweet Girl, her 2 boys ages 6 and 3, and her parents Grandma J and Grandpa J. Our rooms were ON the beach, 2 floors up with large balconies and kitchenettes. The weather, breezy, 75 degrees and partially cloudy. Darn near perfect by my standards!

There is something so soothing about the ocean and the sound of waves. It is universal and yet very difficult to actually put into words. I think it is a residual from our experience in the womb – the feel and sound of water. It takes us back to our roots – literally. Staying right on the shore was so wonderful and to be able to hear the ocean was spectacular. We slept like babies – well fed exhausted babies!.

Big Boy and Sweet Girl are to be married on the beach at sunset, so of course, we had to check out how it would look, the logistics of blocking off a small area of sand, how to keep the reception special but relaxed and how to manage the many children we will have in attendance. It is going to be a wonderful event with the entire family together. That doesn’t happen often enough for me.

The 2 boys reminded everyone we still needed to relax and have fun while planning a wedding. So, in between planning sessions, we managed to swim, wade, bogey board, fly kites and play badminton – which soon-to-beĀ  6yo GS says is aptly named because he plays so “badly”. Does anyone know how to play “goodminton”?

Of course, there were the required sand castles, sand moats, sand dunes, sand towers, sand roads, sand racetracks, sand ______ (fill in the blank) built by little boys. Then the destruction and rebuilding of same over and over again. Isn’t that why God put sand on the beach?

The entire group enjoyed the sunset with snack food and drinks on the balcony. How lovely to chat, laugh, look to the future, remember the past, hug wiggly boys while surrounded by water, sand and sky.

The next morning Gramps and I had breakfast in Grandma and Grandpa J’s room followed by a long walk on the beach. We strolled holding hands with salty wind in our hair. Quite a change from the last few months in our life.

Looking back, I can see only one draw back the entire time – the wind. It whipped my hair around with a vengeance and after an hour or two I looked like a dandelion gone to seed. Pretty bad! Grandma J and I have both decided we are wearing hats for the wedding. We don’t want permanent records of our worst hair day ever!

This weekend will be one of the best memories for me. Not because it took a lot of planning – we just picked a weekend we could all go and made reservations. Not because we spent a bunch of money – didn’t cost much at all. Not because it was a big holiday – it was St. Patrick’s Day, but that was accidental. Not because we got all dressed up – wore shorts, T-shirts and flip-flops.

It will be a great memory because it involved time and family. That’s all. That’s all it takes. Time spent with the people you love, doing almost anything but preferably something fun. It seems an easy thing, yet seems to happen so seldom. I treasure every one as if it were pure gold. A moment of family time is a golden nugget as I experience it and becomes the memory I hold dearest as I age. I know, at some point, my memories will be all I have, so I gather them wisely and often. I wish the same for you, my Sweeties!

A Look At A Book 5

“Memory Bottles” by Beth Shoshan

Nobody knows what Mr. McAllistair keeps in the colorful bottles which fill the shelves of his shed and sparkle with hidden secrets. “Memories!” Mr. McAllistair says concerning his shed full of bottles. “Each bottle holds exactly one of my most special memories. So when I’m old and I can’t remember things I just open a bottle and everything comes rushing back!”

Mr. McAllistair and his young friend spend the day reminiscing and opening bottle after bottle . . . red ones, frosted ones, tall ones, round ones, twisty ones, double ones, super-skinny topped ones. They laugh, they cheer, they travel through the years of Mr. McAllistair’s life. At day’s end there is one bottle left unopened. “What’s in that one, Mr McAllistair?” asks the boy. Mr. McAllistair leaps up, shouting, “TODAY! I’m going to save the memory of today in this bottle!”

What an absolutely charming book! What a sweet way to show how older people can share their lives, past and present, with the younger folk. And it also includes the younger ones enjoying that interaction. This book is one big, delightful tickle!

The book is not very long, only 24 pages. But the illustrations are grand and colorful. Mr. McAllistair’s memories are very touching and take the two from his childhood to his grandchildren. What a great story to share with your “grand” ones and remember your own best memories. There are many ways to store them, even if we don’t have bottles!

The last page shows Mr. McAllistair and his young friend together in the shed, after a wonderful day of sharing. The young boy says, ” . . . . and we fall back into the chairs laughing.” Isn’t that a fine end to a fine memorable day?