the elusive perfect gift

I’ve completed my Christmas shopping. In fact, I was done before Thanksgiving.

giftsNow, before any of you say (sarcastically or otherwise), “Well, good for you!” or mutter under your breath, “I hate you” here’s the whole truth: I only had to buy Christmas gifts for one person.

That’s one of the few advantages of being truly broke, the burden of picking the perfect gift is lifted. Nobody expects gifts from you. In fact, they don’t want them. My family knows I struggle to pay my utility bills, especially this time of year, and they couldn’t really enjoy anything I spent money on. Their concern would go so far as the money spent to mail the gifts to them.

At the same time it makes me incredibly sad. These are the people who are doing everything they can to help me get back on my feet, financially, emotionally, whatever I may need. They’ve been there for me in what was truly my darkest hour, suffered silently imagining what I was going through, and believed in me no matter what the cost.

My relationship with my mom has been strong for years, but events of recent years have established and reinforced a healthier, closer bond with both my dad and my brother. While times have been terrible, results, at least some, have been overwhelmingly good.

I long for the day I’m able to pay them back, if only in the simplest of ways, a Christmas gift or two.

Of course I have no idea what I’d get them. My brother lives on one coast, my dad on the other, my mom in the Upper Midwest, me in the South. We couldn’t be more widely dispersed, that is, in this nation, and as such, we don’t really know what gifts would be most appreciated by the other. Not even what gift certificates would be preferred.

Not to say anyone fails in their gift-giving. We figure it out and do just fine. It’s just that those special gifts you know someone would value because you’ve spent time with them elude me.

So this year I’m looking for a way to say “thank you” and “I love you” that will cost me what I can afford and be valued by the recipients.

Knowing me, I’ll think of that perfect gift in January. Fortunately, my brother’s birthday is just a month later.

giving girl



forgiving you again… and again

I’ve typically been a forgiving sort of person, especially if I feel I’ve been heard, that the offender has truly listened to my side.

When I haven’t been able to express my feelings or concerns, it’s a little harder, but still, usually I move on. It’s easier that way.

Admittedly, sometimes I may revisit a situation years later, typically when I’m experiencing something similar in nature. Thankfully that never lasts a notable period of time.

forgiving when the other person stubbornly remains the same is the challenge.

I don’t know how admirable it is to forgive & forget when someone has acknowledged your concerns. It’s forgiving when the other person stubbornly remains the same that’s the challenge. What happens when the person who has hurt me seemingly listens to me, then proceeds to cross me in the same way time and time again?

I have a friend who regularly oversteps boundaries with controlling behavior and gossip. It drives me batty, and I’ve tried repeatedly to talk through the problem with her. She seems to hear, then goes right back to doing what she did before.

Her attitude toward me is that of parent to child, and it’s to a point that at times I’m ready to walk away from the friendship because of my anger and frustration. It gets to be more than I can deal with effectively.

I don’t say as much because it would hurt her deeply, and I care too much about her to choose to do that. At the same time, she’s pushing her limits, and my measured responses aren’t getting through. So I remain angry and frustrated.

It hardly seems worth the forgiving, because even if I do, I’m just going to have to start the whole process again.

I know the response of my faith should be to forgive continuously, but I haven’t figured out how to do that. Overall my affection for her outweighs my anger, so in that way I do forgive and forget…until the next time.


And that’s the dilemma of all our relationships, I suppose. We are who we are and some things aren’t going to change, no matter how much we know they should. So we seethe until the boiling goes to a simmer, then cools off completely, knowing the fire will light again.

It’s either that or be alone. Some days that choice is tougher than others.

 Daily Post – Forgiveness

Certain details of this story have been changed to protect identity. I discussed what I wrote about in this blog piece with my friend before posting it, and seeing it in writing helped her understand my feelings. Our friendship remains strong.

Image Credit: © yurolaitsalbert – Fotolia

please understand me: being savvy about mental illness

Mental illness is challenging.

Most people with mental illness, or their loved ones, want to have a well-rounded understanding of what’s happening. Unfortunately, it’s not always easy to come by accurate information, or at least to know where to look.

There’s a tremendous amount of misinformation and misunderstanding out there about mental illnesses, and many, even those diagnosed with one disorder or another, don’t know that what they believe may be wrong.

Knowing the individual is not knowing the disorder.

Our best resource sometimes becomes the individuals we know who’ve been diagnosed, and that can be a double-edged sword. While first-hand understanding of how a person with mental illness reacts and responds is invaluable, it’s important to be clear that knowing the individual is not knowing the disorder.

Mental illness will affect how you handle your emotions, but that doesn’t necessarily mean every emotional response is due to one’s diagnosis. It’s best not to conclude any action or reaction is a result of mental illness until you have the facts. That thinking is no more fair than assuming any time a woman is angry it’s hormonal.

That’s particularly true once someone has begun taking medication, since that will have a significant impact on one’s mental health. However, everyone’s response to treatment is different.

When it isn’t possible to have complete information, fill in the blanks with questions and educational material

It’s important, whenever possible, to know the actual diagnosis, and the symptoms and behaviors associated with that level of the mental illness. People with these illnesses often are happy, even eager, to share their own diagnosis. When it isn’t possible to have complete information, and at times it isn’t, fill in the blanks with questions and educational material instead of assumptions and anecdotal information from others.

In fact, that’s a good idea regardless of how much information you already have obtained. At the very least, verify what non-professionals tell you. It isn’t always easy to know.

There are resources on the Internet and in your library, to start, and your doctor may have some information as well. Avoid forums on the Internet, however, as these frequently have no expert oversight.

On behalf of those who must learn how to live with their illness,

just as anyone with any disease or disability must do, listen, learn, seek answers, and especially, ignore anything you see or hear on your favorite television drama or sitcom. TV writers are first and foremost concerned about the story line, not the truth, and they’ll mix & match the real with the perceived to suit their purposes.

Love requires an open mind and open heart, qualities treasured by those who deal with one or more often misunderstood disorders. Those qualities bring us close. A heartfelt thank you for all you do for your loved ones with mental illness.

For information about mental illnesses, explore these web sites:

National Institutes of Mental Health

National Alliance on Mental Illness

Photo Credit:  © Bigstock

your smile can light a dark path

Fresh out of high school, I was driving my shiny new Corolla on the freeway when a car passed by with a seemingly friendly honk.

Unsure as to its exact intent, I glanced over at the driver, who saluted me, while his passenger, likely his wife, leaned over and waved. I’d never seen them before, and as far as I know, haven’t met them since.

red car w sunburstThat split-second encounter sustained me for days.  I was struggling with a not-yet diagnosed mental disorder and falling into deep despair on a routine basis. My parents, now in the middle of their divorce and focused on their own lives, were distant and angry when I turned to them for encouragement. I had little in common with my siblings, and we weren’t much of a support system for each other.

So for strangers to reach out to me in that small way, for whatever unknown reason, meant a lot. What made it even more meaningful was the weary look on both faces of this couple, who had two curly-haired children asleep in car seats and luggage piled high in the back of their small out-of-state station wagon. As young as I was, I knew enough to feel for them, and to appreciate a friendly gesture made despite their own obvious fatigue.

I said a quick prayer for those people who would always be strangers to me, and over the years since, when they’ve come to mind, I’ve done the same again.

Happy And Sad Smileys Showing Emotions

I trust their small yet meaningful act of kindness has come back to them at times they needed it most. Who knows what road life has taken them on; mine certainly went nowhere near the path I anticipated.

A gracious word, a flagging but compassionate nod, an unexpected and sincere grin. Never doubt it: little things mean a lot, and your smile can light a dark path.

Image Credits: (outline of car) ©; (smiling/frowning faces) © Stuart Miles —

you’re my hero, Charlie Brown

In my life, Snoopy, Lucy, Charlie Brown, and the rest of the gang never, ever went away.

snoopy nbg
Give me anything Peanuts — a gift that’s sure to be appreciated!

I’ve literally been a fan my entire life. My mom tells me my favorite toy when I was six months old was a Lucy doll. That vain and loud-mouthed girl rarely failed to make me laugh, and still gets me through the blues today.

Throughout my growing up years, I frequently spent my precious few dollars on the latest Peanuts book. Early on I giggled at Lucy, sitting on Schroeder’s front steps, saying, “It’s amazing how stupid you can be when you’re in love.”

Today, I have a t-shirt with that very picture. More than once I’ve worn it while shopping at Walmart and some poor young checkout girl sighs and says, “that’s so true.” Some things will never change.

Hence the beauty of Charles Schulz’ wonderful characters. They are universal and timeless. So many of the comic strips aren’t laugh-out-loud funny, and yet, they are, because they hit at the heart of who we are, our dreams and vulnerabilities, our best and worst selves, all wrapped up in the innocence of a group of kids from a past era.

A friend of mine can’t bear to watch “A Charlie Brown Christmas” because of the rejection, but I love it for Linus’ simple reading from the Gospel of Luke and the children joining together in the end to celebrate Charlie Brown’s poor little tree.

Somehow Charlie Brown never was a truly sad character to me. He had Linus, Sally and Peppermint Patty, among others, and Snoopy needed him, not just for the food, but for the love.

I was wearing one of my favorite Peanuts’ t-shirts while shopping not long ago, and the store manager told me he’d been a fan all of his life, too. In fact, when he was a child, he watched the Charlie Brown Valentine’s Day special and felt so sorry for Charlie Brown, he sent him a valentine. In return, Charles Schulz sent him an original hand-drawn picture of Snoopy.

Wow. He still has it, and I told to keep it, it’s worth something. You couldn’t pay me enough for something like that, I’d treasure it all my days.

I treasure everything Peanuts I own, as small as my collection has become. I cherish that band of earnest characters plowing their way through the world and making it all work.

I’m glad I live in a world where the Peanuts gang just keeps hanging out.

And for those of you wondering about the new movie, here’s a review by a trusted fellow blogger & Peanuts fan:

The Peanuts Movie — Good Grief, You’re in 3-D Charlie Brown — A Review


starry nights, sunny days, a little rain

When I ponder the future, I imagine it to be much like, and yet nothing resembling, the past.

Starry nights, sunny days, a little rain. The sun will rise, the sun will set, and the sun will rise again.

Crystal BallBeyond that, I haven’t got a clue. Well, a bit of a clue. I’ve watched my parents get older and see myself following in their footsteps. I’m likely to experience back problems like my mom and loss of hearing like my dad. My hair is already white underneath the expert coloring services of my stylist.

The physical changes are about the only things that seem predictable, and even those can surprise or downright shock me. While plenty of things remain in my control, many others do not, and most of the future is a mystery I can plan for yet never be totally prepared to deal with adequately.

The day-to-day likely will be much the same. It’s the split-second life-changing moments we can’t predict, that come hurling at us unseen and knock us over with such force we’re afraid to get back up. Some are wondrous, some disastrous. I’ve lived through a few of the disastrous days as well as the weeks & months that follow, and I’ve learned you survive them, battered, bruised, but intact.

The wondrous days can seem more fleeting, or perhaps their beauty is easier to recognize in retrospect. I don’t know. Maybe they’re taken for granted, or maybe I’m still catching my breath from the dark times when they’re rolling by. Whatever the case is, they do happen, and their memory sustains me.

Starry nights, sunny days, a little rain. I’m thankful for all of it.

Six of One, Half a Dozen of the Other

Image Credit: (crystal ball) © freshidea — < blue background) © geargodz —