Thursday, December 10, 2009

Saddest Doll Ever

I don't like dolls. Never did. They still kind of creep me out. Saw this one in the grocery last night and honestly felt sorry for her. And some level of kinship, too. Let's be honest, haven't we all felt like this at the holidays from time to time?

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Future Valerie

My second favorite TV show is How I Met Your Mother. (Don't want to leave you hanging. #1 is Big Bang Theory.) On a recent HIMYM, Marshall finds a letter he had written at age 15 to his future, 30-yr-old self. He was a little disappointed that he hadn't reached the level of fame and fortune his 15-yr-old self had aspired to. It ended with him writing another letter to his future, much older self.

Yesterday, I had lunch with one of my oldest friends, Alison. She surprised me with a couple of old pictures she'd found including this one of us, taken in 2000, age 26:

My first comment and reaction was hers, too: Wow. We look so young. And happy. And rested. (And we had chins and cheekbones.) We both wondered what had happened to us over these past 9 nine years and quickly came to this conclusion: motherhood.

So I want to take a minute and address a letter to future Alison and Valerie, in 2018, age 44:

Girls -

This is past Valerie writing to you. Hope you're both doing well. You look fine. Stop obsessing about how you look. You know, you'll look at a picture of yourselves taken back in 2009 and think how good you looked and wonder what happened. That's fine. It's called living. Don't see bags and wrinkles and gray hair but rather moments and memories. Know each line has a story and hopefully a laugh attached to it. Things are going to have happened over these past nine years - good and bad. Take them in stride as you always have. And cherish this friendship that started way back in 1979. You're both amazing women and have something really special - a going on 40-year friendship. Good for you. Go ahead and take a picture of yourselves now so in nine years, you can look back and think "wow, we looked good in our 40's." Just don't spend too much time looking back because you might miss something ahead in the process.

Signed 2009 Valerie

Valerie & Alison
January 1992

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Valerie's Christmas Wish List | 2009

I just posted this video to my Facebook page but the link above will take you to it, too. It’s 2.5 minutes long. Find time to check it out. This group puts this type of video out each year. It changes from year to year but the message is the same. They may be crazy zealots with mismanaged funds but I’m not asking you to invest in them specifically but just hear their message as it reflects what I have been saying the last few weeks.

I have friends and even family members who think I've lost my mind (thank you to the handful who embraced me and this notion and said "I get it"). But this year, I've just had it with the commercialism of the holidays. It sickens me. And I'm sure it's not sitting well with our Father. I hate to sound like a bad Lifetime movie-of-the-week but seriously, have we totally lost sight of what this time of year is about? And why is it unheard of for someone to say "I don't want anything this year?"

Webster was no help in defining "gift" for me. It defined "gift" as a present and "present" as, you guessed it, a gift. Wikipedia was slightly more helpful:

A gift or a present is the transfer of something, without the need for compensation that is involved in trade. A gift is a voluntary act which does not require anything in return. Even though it involves possibly a social expectation of reciprocity, or a return in the form of prestige or power, a gift is meant to be free.

By extension the term gift can refer to anything that makes the other happier or less sad, especially as a favor, including forgiveness and kindness.

This year, I've really focused on talking to God LESS and listening to Him MORE. Wonderful things happened when I did this. I'm not tooting my own horn. I'm not yelling, "hey, look how good I am now!" I'm simply saying I really think we, as a society, have lost our minds a little and have lost sight of what's important. And I want to try to get it back. Maybe that means taking a stand one year and being difficult by saying I don't want or need anything. I realize this will be done at the risk of alienating some of those closest to me. But I'm willing to do that...for Him.

Over the last few weeks, I feel I've been bombarded by stories of those who are hurting, in need, and all of a sudden, a new sweater under the tree seems a little selfish. I want to share a few of these with you - humor me (initials are used below to protect the privacy of the individuals involved):

B.C. - B attended FRA with me and graduated a year before me. On the morning of November 19th, he was travelling in his car on the interstate when another driver lost control of their car, crossed the median and landed on top of him. Although he'd probably not planned it, he met Jesus that day. And left behind a young wife and a 5-year-old and a 3-year-old.

J.G. - J is leaving in a few days to spend Christmas in Africa, near where I spent a week and a half this summer. She's going to provide beds to young people and children who have nothing. Nothing. For $88, she can provide them with bedding to sleep on and separate them from the dirt and a net that will exponentially increase their chances of not being stung by a mosquito while they sleep and infect them with malaria, a certain death sentence where they live.

G.T. - G is literally fighting for his life. With a bleak diagnosis, each day is truly a gift, though it's disguised in unbelievable pain and endless doctor visits and bills. When his fight ends, he'll leave behind two grown children, a mother, two younger children and a wife who's not really sure how to press on, financially or otherwise.

?.?. - There's an angel on the Salvation Army's Angel Tree who is a little 5-year-old girl. In the "wants" area of her application, all she put down was "doll." Just something to hold. Something to open Christmas morning. Yes, it's true her parents may have made some poor choices but that's not really her fault, is it? It's not too late to pick up an angel from the Salvation Army's tree and return presents to an area mall this week.

M.G. - M took her life the day after Thanksgiving this year while suffering from Post-Partum Depression. Her husband and three children were in the house when she did it.

Grace - This is from Katie Davis' blog: Grace is maybe 60 years old but looks to be pushing 100. She can't weigh more than 85 pounds. Grace is a mother to six children, but 4 have died of AIDS and the other two have deserted her for a better life. She lives in a 4 by 4 foot room that is pitch black, but she doesn't mind; in addition to being too weak to walk, Grace is blind. She NEVER has any visitors. At night her bones ache against the hard dirt floor and her feeble body shivers with cold. A cough racks her body and her stomach rumbles in hunger making sleep impossible. It's sad, huh? How sad though? Sad enough that we want to do something about it? Sad enough that we will remember Grace tonight as we snuggle down into our beds or next month as we pay the bills? Maybe. But maybe not. Because it hurts, but it doesn't hurt that much. It doesn't hurt the way it would if Grace was your grandmother all alone there in the dark. It does for God. Because Grace is His. As I watch Grace rejoice over the gift of a scraggly old blanket, I allow the tears to fall.

And, no, I haven't completely lost touch with my materialistic, old self. I still want (and somewhat need) new shoes and new work clothes. I long (and sometimes lust) for a new (bigger) home. I dream of going to DisneyWorld again. Literally daydream about being on the rides. But there has been a little shift in me lately. All of a sudden, trading $20 gift cards with people on my list seems a little silly. And creating a long, flowing wish list for myself seems just downright cold.

So, if you've asked me "what do you want this year?" and I haven't rattled off a list, this is why. I'm not being trying to be difficult. Just kinder. Gentler. More aware.

Happy Holidays and Merry Christmas to all of you.