Low No Expectations

My older son held a crystal in front of me and asked me what I thought of it. It was the tenth rock I’d seen and they all looked fine to me. Then he said he was going to give it to his brother. Before I could say that was nice of him, he added, “this one isn’t as nice as my other one, so he can have it.”

And so my thoughts began…

Dying flowers make me sad...
Dying flowers make me sad…

Giving:

In one way, I can acknowledge that a gift of any kind should be appreciated. But I can’t help but be bothered by this.

First of all, a gift that is knowingly “less than” really isn’t much of a gift- it’s pawning off something that didn’t mean much to you. It’s not a gift of thought or heart; it’s more an act of convenience that serves to make the other person think you are kinder than your intentions are. It’s deception.

Perhaps gifting is an art that must be learned so that we might recognize a gift is more than an object.  I am honored to receive a gift that shows a person pays attention to me and knows the little things that make me smile.

I'll look at the pretty colors, but I won't eat them (except for maybe a couple purple ones!)
I’ll look at the pretty colors, but I won’t eat them (except for maybe a couple purple ones!)

Receiving:

On the other side of that proverbial coin, receiving a gift that is devoid of thought or meaning just leaves me feeling sad and unappreciated; like I’m invisible. It’s worse than not receiving a gift at all.

When presented a gift that is completely not me, I force myself to put on my best gracious smile and say, “thank you.” I hope my smile covers up my hurt because even though I’m devastated inside, I would feel worse if I made the giver feel bad about the gift.

I realize that my expectations sometimes get in the way. I do expect people that know me best to have some idea of who I am and to be able to choose a gift accordingly. Or, if they are still stumped, just write a note; tell me why I matter.

Maybe if I can learn to expect nothing, then I won’t be disappointed. I’m not there yet, but no expectations might be just a gift away.

Letting Go, Reaching Out

Nothing says "Jesus lives" like processed sugar...
Nothing says “Jesus lives” like processed sugar…

Yesterday I went for a morning run. I jogged past houses with parents in robes watching their children hunt for Easter eggs. I smiled when the kids squealed with delight and knew they’d found one of the colorful prizes. I remembered those days when my kids would be so thrilled to find a bright orange egg “hidden” in the middle of a freshly-mowed lawn.

My boys are 12 and 9 so they are past this, which does make me a little sad. In fact, my 12-year-old’s reaction to his Easter basket was, “This is so lame. I got up early for this?” Well, he didn’t actually say these words (I don’t know if “lame” is even used by his generation) – I just put words to his grunts and eye rolls. Even the cookies-and-cream Easter bunny and enough candy to send him into a diabetic coma failed to impress him.

I feel both of my kids stretching for their independence and I struggle to step back and let them explore. I let them ride their bikes to the park without hovering over them (but make them call me every hour just to make sure they are okay.) The Easter Bunny must sense my desire to keep reaching out to my sons because they each received a game in their basket, which we can play together. I won’t push it, but if they ask for my time to play, it’s theirs.

My younger son hasn’t quite gotten to the separation age, so I have him for a while longer. My 12-year-old, on the other hand, is horrified at the thought of being seen in public with me.  At home, he will visit with me… sometimes. He may not be reaching out to me, but I have to keep trying.  When the day comes that he does need me, I want him to know I’m right here.

Always.

A Tale of Two Houses

Every year, the kids beg me to buy those gingerbread house kits. Every year, I give in. It’s like I forget about the huge mess they make. Or, maybe I think the joy they get from decorating the houses outweighs the annoyance of sweeping up bits of candy for weeks afterward.

Yeah, I definitely forget about the mess :razz:

A couple days before Christmas, the kids got out their kits (I learned years ago that they could not build one house together.) I was working, so it was a great excuse to stay out of their project. I like things tidy, so my presence would’ve put a damper on their fun anyway (I think my younger son had more frosting on his jeans than his house.)

My older son (he’s 12) presented his masterpiece, complete with candy cane arch and candy walkway. The showoff even made a guest house out of regular graham crackers:

01-07 Gingerbread1

My eight-year-old son was frustrated that his house wouldn’t stay ‘glued’ together. I heard his aggravation, but he didn’t ask me for help, so I stayed away. When he did come get me to look at his creation, he presented it as a “gingerbread house in a tornado”:

01-07 Gingerbread2

I found this interesting, because it seems as we get older, we tend to color inside the lines, so to speak. I like my younger son’s creative spin (haha, spin… tornado… never mind) because it reminds me that things don’t have to be perfect to be visually interesting.

This is a reminder that once in a while, I should take the opportunity to toss the rules and let my creativity just happen.

Wrapping Cats, Playing Games, and Grasping Happiness

The “things” that contribute to happiness cannot be wrapped and tied with bows.

Ironically, these are the very things we take for granted.

How do you wrap a cat?  Um, you don't!
How do you wrap a cat?   Um, not very easily!

Around Christmas, marketers hope that we get caught up in the deftly executed ad campaigns. Some unwittingly fall into the trap of overindulging and overspending. Others turn themselves inside out to find the perfect gift to make loved ones happy.

How silly – happiness can’t be purchased. It’s in our heads (and hearts.)

We have a budget for Christmas, and our kids’ requests often fall outside of that budget. So, instead of their dream gift, they get a lesson in handling disappointment. Sometimes, though, they are pleasantly surprised.

We let our kids each pick a gift to open early. My older son tore through the paper on the box and tossed the packing material aside. He examined the bubble-wrapped object in his hand and said, “Oh. It’s an ornament.”

He thought we got him a new phone. He’s twelve- and delusional, it seems.

My younger son ripped the paper from his box and squealed with delight when he saw the game Apples to Apples. “How did you guys know? I love this game!”

Now, that reaction made me smile. A couple months ago, he begged me to buy that game for him because he’d played it at school. I listened (and surprisingly, remembered.)

My kids ‘ reactions illustrate how expectations can lead to disappointment when actuality doesn’t live up to our anticipation. Sure, we could go into debt and “wow” my older son with a phone, but I think the greater gift is to learn true happiness can’t be found inside a box under the tree.

Some people never learn this and spend their lives filling the void with “things.”

On Sunday evening, we played Apples to Apples as a family. Even my older son (who had proclaimed the game as “stupid”) eventually joined in. We spent time together- interacting and laughing. We had fun.

We found happiness in each other’s company.

For those who celebrate Christmas – I wish you a merry one. For those who do not – I wish you happiness. “See” you after the new year :)

Not That Different After All…

No, this isn't my husband (usually)
No, this isn’t my husband (usually)

I’d say the most unexpected part of marriage was holidays with my husband’s family. After seventeen years, I can still see stark differences. Sometimes the differences are frustrating and aggravating, but examined with a sense of humor, they can be amusing.

Of course, I choose to view life through a lens of humor!

My husband’s mother and one of his brothers (along with his youngest two children) stayed with us for several days. Our Thanksgiving dinner was an eclectic mix of traditional food (my fare) and more ethnic food (compliments of their Greek heritage.)

I am not adventurous in my food, so I didn’t partake of the pastitsio my mother-in-law made. The lamb, noodles, two sticks of butter and aromatic Greek cheeses didn’t appeal to me. My brother-in law made turkey – I was excited for some ‘normal’ food. I didn’t know he would go all Emeril Lagasse on the bird, though. It came out with a strong garlic/citrus taste. My husband said it tasted like the waste from a living organism (well, he didn’t say exactly that, but I’d like to keep this a PG blog.) My assessment was a bit kinder: I ate it. (However, days later, I’m thinking the ice chest the turkey marinated in may never be the same.)

On the flip side, I’m sure my stuffing was bland for their palates. The green beans with onions and bacon were probably a few notches below boring. But they ate it anyway.  My pumpkin pie may have been passable smothered in whipped cream, but I still had leftovers.

Despite out differences in taste, we did manage to agree on one thing: we were thankful to be able to spend the holiday together.

Their early departure indicated there is at least one other thing we agree on: four days is enough family time for one visit.

How long is long enough for family to visit? I’d love to know your response!