Ugly Is In The Eye Of The Beholder

My ugly sweater
My ugly sweater

The holiday party at my work is on Wednesday and they are having an ugly sweater contest.  When I first read the memo, I thought, “meh.”  Then the more the idea settled, the more fun it seemed.  I searched through thrift store racks for something so ridiculous no one could argue the ugliness.  Then, I began to think of ways I could make it look even worse.

Last night, I finally got around to sewing strings of bells onto my sweater.  I finished one sleeve and examined it, convinced it might just be hideous enough to win.

And then my older son walked into the room (he’s thirteen.)

“Why are you sewing bells onto your sweater?” he asked.

“Because I’m making my ugly sweater even uglier.”

“But it’s not ugly, it looks kind of pretty.”

Pretty?!  I stopped to look at his expression, certain he was messing with me, like when he convinced me a bee had landed in my hair.  (There was no bee, but I hope he enjoyed the show, because I have not forgotten… and I will get him back!)

“It looks fancy,” he said.

Well, fancy wasn’t what I was going for.  I decided that ugly was in the eye of the beholder.  And then my thoughts led me down the loopy path that became this post…

Ribbon and cats do not go well together
Ribbon and cats do not go well together

The gifts under my 4-ft Walmart tree are not adorned with bows or ribbon.  I have never lived with a cat who could not resist chewing and ingesting the ribbon.  It’s like ribbon is woven with tuna and catnip and is too irresistible to the feline palate.  Never mind the intestinal issues that follow… not even that will deter them.  This is why I have a strict no ribbon policy and no matter how much the kids beg for the “pretty stuff”, it won’t happen.

Some might see our gifts as not aesthetically pleasing; even ugly.  I’m so used to “plain” presents that I see the assorted wrapping papers and think, “pretty!”

Again, ugly is in the eye of the beholder.

Here’s where my thoughts looped again, and I associated this statement with people.  I’ve met people who, on the surface, seem ordinary or dull, but once I got to know them, they were quite interesting- whether it be fascinating travels, quirky sense of humor or unique hobbies.  What a pleasing surprise that is!

On the other hand, it’s a crushing disappointment to be enamored by the fluff and frills, only to discover that once all that’s gone, there’s nothing of substance.  When that happens, it’s hard to remember what I found so beautiful in the first place, because all I could see was the ugliness beneath it all.  It’s like even the memories were a fraud; they became fuzzy and disconnected from the reality I learned.

Ugly really is in the eye of the beholder.

Age has taught me a few things.  Like, gravity happens, but it matters less and less.  And, maybe my parents understood more than I gave them credit for.  And, the best friends are those who don’t need to be everybody’s friend.

And finally, real beauty isn’t observed in a glance.

Have a beautiful Tuesday (even if you happen to be donning an ugly sweater!)

Color Me Hopeful

I am a firm believer that my attitude is the crayon that colors the blank white paper of my life.  It’s no coincidence that on my cranky days, I see “idiot” drivers, rude people and inconsiderate actions everywhere I look.  On these days, my life is three shades of gray, accented by swirls of darkness and anger.

I seriously doubt that the world saves their worst behavior for my cranky days.  It would be egocentric of me to assume the world cares enough about what I think to go to such trouble.  No, I think less-than-flattering human behavior is always there and the severity doesn’t vary greatly from day to day.  The difference is me.  When I have my “Mauvelous” crayon in hand, I also see “Carnation Pink,” Cornflower,” “Mango Tango,” and “Vivid Violet.”  Gray still exists but is not focus of my attention.

Attitude can be a struggle for me.  Sometimes being positive isn’t as easy as plucking a brightly colored waxy stick from a cardboard box.  Seeing the good in a world full of evil, or hope in a time of desperation takes conscious effort.  Sometimes things happen that sour my attitude and force my life into gray dullness.  Those things make me doubt the presence of goodness in man and drain hope from my heart.  Luckily when I’m at these low points, I often see something that will allow hope back into my heart.

Let me explain.

Last week, I wrote about my heartache about the famine in Africa.  My sadness turned to disgust this week after I read another news story about famine aid being stolen and sold on the black market.  Children (and adults) are suffering on a long, miserable road of sickness, weakness, and finally death and these “businessmen” are out to turn a tidy profit for themselves.  Have they not seen pictures of the emaciated children?  Are their bodies devoid of souls?

My belief in human decency and hope in humanity were on empty when I read another article, which restored some hope.  A man in Albuquerque, NM witnessed a kidnapping and followed the van in his own vehicle.  Eventually, the van crashed and the driver ran away, but the child was safe.

Did the man who followed the van save the child?  Probably.  His presence may have rattled the driver enough that he crashed.  I don’t know what the kidnapper planned to do with the child, but I’m fairly certain he didn’t intend to take her out for ice cream and bring her back home unharmed.

The man who followed the kidnapper restored some of my faith in humanity.  Despite the danger of tailing the kidnapper, he did it anyway.  In this one act, he proved that selflessness and caring may be on the endangered list, but there is still hope for survival.  His actions cut through the bleakness of a selfish world, stirring in me a deeper appreciation for goodness.

I see that gray has a place and a purpose in my life.  If nothing else, it makes me celebrate the vibrancy of the other colors even more.  If the world didn’t have evil, I would take the good for granted and not give it the thankfulness it deserves.  Yes, there is beauty in the gray, because if I look close enough, I see hope shining through.

Did anything disappoint you this week?  What made you appreciate the glimpses of goodness in the world?  Your thoughts/comments are always welcome!