C Is For Cookie… And Communication

communicate

The link above is for a classic Sesame Street clip about communication. Say it with me children- communicaaation.

Communication is a funny thing. It can be a thousand page novel or a single word. An hour long speech or the chorus of a song. It could be a gesture or a glance. A simple touch.

Often much is communicated through complete and total silence. (Although not usually what the non-communicator thinks is being communicated)

Miscommunication isn’t a funny thing. Miscommunication leads to anger, resentment, frustration, hurt, sadness, missed opportunities.

Back in history, communicating with those not close by meant days, weeks, months of waiting for a reply. Today we can send a message in an instant.

And yet we continue to struggle to truly communicate.

I “communicate” a lot. I’m active on Facebook, somewhat on Twitter, I text, I email, I blog. Yet somehow, I am losing my ability to truly interact and communicate with people.

When you call me, I likely won’t answer. Why have a whole telephone conversation complete with awkward moments when I can say what I have to say and then it’s over?

I used to like to talk on the phone. I have spent hours on the phone with friends, family. In my past dating life I could spend all night talking on the phone, falling asleep to the voice on the other end of the line.

That’s a big part of how my husband and I fell in love- when we weren’t even dating we would talk on the phone for hours at a time and never get bored with each other. We talked about our plans for the future, our dreams, our past, the silly things that happened throughout the day.

After we were living together, every night felt like having a sleepover with my best friend. We would talk about our own lives, we’d talk philosophy, religion, politics, whatever.

Now, many evenings are spent with him on his tablet trolling Reddit, while I’m on my phone scrolling through Facebook or playing Candy Crush.

We have to purposely set aside time to talk with each other now. We have to set our phones down and look each other in the eye with intent to listen and understand. It doesn’t come as easy as it used to.

He still likes to talk on the phone,  and he makes phone calls whenever he gets in the car. (Don’t worry, he has Bluetooth.) I, however, turn up the music and pretend I don’t have a phone. If my phone rings, I will only answer if I think it’s important. I don’t want to talk to anyone. Text me what I need to know.

My kids give me grief about how much time I spend on Facebook. Funny how this means of communicating with all of my “friends” has impeded real communication with the people standing right in front of me.

There are a lot of people I “talk” to on Facebook whose voices I have never heard. I’m not saying that’s a terrible thing. One of my favorite books of all time is “84 Charing Cross Road,” a true story about letter correspondence between a man and a woman that spans more than 20 years. Their friendship was real, despite their never having met, laid eyes on each other or spoken on the telephone.

And I’m not saying that my friendships on Facebook aren’t real. Some are with those I used to see all the time, some are with those I see sporadically, some are with those I have never physically met. But that doesn’t mean they aren’t real. It just means they are limited. They don’t require much of me.

todays_communication If you spend most of your time in level 1 and 2, you might want to examine a few things in your life. I know I am.

I think part of what is so appealing about electronic communication is that it removes uncomfortable emotion from difficult conversations. I don’t have to SEE your hurt, your anger, your frustration. You don’t get to SEE my hurt, my vulnerability, my insecurities.

I’m also a writer, not a speaker. I’m the type who can think of something clever and witty to respond… 5 hours after the conversation. When I speak, my emotions overcome my brain function. I do a lot of sputtering and then my mind goes blank.

When I type, I can “speak” with confidence, especially knowing I can edit or delete before sending. I can allow you to “see” as much or as little of me, my heart, my soul, as I want.

Why is communication so difficult? Because it involves revealing ourselves; The good, the bad, the ugly.

It’s so much easier to say nothing than to say, “It hurts me when I see that you had an event where you invited everyone but me,” “Your insensitivity to my situation was painful,” “Your lack of support is deeply disappointing.”

It’s so much easier to say nothing than to say, “I’m scared,” “You hurt me,” “Why am I not enough?” “I don’t want to lose you.”

Easier, maybe, than being angry or acting indifferent.

Romantic relationships, family relationships, close friendships- these are the areas where the most miscommunication takes place. These are the people in our lives that truly matter, so why do we allow so much time to go by before resolving communication issues? Why are we ok with seething over a perceived wrong, instead of allowing the “offender” to make things right? Why would we choose to dwell in that nebulous area of wondering, instead of asking the questions? Why hold grudges instead of fixing the problem?

I think most of the time we are afraid of the answers we will get.

“Because we didn’t want you there.” “Because you made a choice that I cannot accept.” “Because I don’t believe in you.” “Because I just don’t feel it.” “Because there’s nothing you can do to make this right.”

So we stay with the unknown. It’s emotionally safer than confronting reality. We can project our own thoughts and feelings onto another, justify and bolster our opinions and feelings about them.

There have been a lot of times where I have had whole conversations in my head with someone else. By the time I have an actual conversation with them about the issue, I find that they don’t usually react the way I had predicted they would. Humility where I expected defensiveness. Hurt where I had expected anger. Confusion about how I had come to the conclusion that they felt or thought a certain way.

The truth is, some people are terrible at real communication. They just are. If you ask them, they are often baffled about how what they said or didn’t say, did or didn’t do, is completely misinterpreted by others.

There are those who use communication (or lack thereof) as a weapon or self-defense mechanism.

There are those who use communication (or lack thereof) as a means of control and manipulation.

There are those who think you should “just know,” regardless of what they are showing and telling you.

I’m a firm proponent of saying what you mean, and meaning what you say. Don’t say something unless you really mean it. And don’t leave things unsaid that need to be known. It won’t get you where you want to be in that relationship. Unless where you want to be is NOT in that relationship.

I believe that if you care about someone, you should tell them. If you’re hurt by something they did, tell them. Give them an opportunity to make it right. If you’re angry or feel disrespected, try to understand where they are coming from, but tell them how you feel. They may not realize, and if you don’t give them a chance, a whole relationship can be destroyed.

I should point out that communication is not talking at someone, it is talking with someone. It’s not about getting your point across, it’s about respecting someone enough to keep the air clear between you. It’s about relating to someone on a deeper level.

Having said all that, I have a minor announcement to make. Starting January 1, 2014, I will be on a 21 day social media fast. My goal is to work on my interpersonal communication skills, to be more present in my physical life and not in my electronic one, to take time to write, read and pray that would normally be sapped by the time I typically spend on Facebook.

It was a difficult decision for me- an actual food fast would be easier. And you all know that’s saying something.

I told my daughter yesterday as I tearfully described what I was considering that I felt like I would be putting in jeopardy what I have been building here with this blog and my Facebook page. She assured me that my loyal readers (all 5 of you) will understand what I’m trying to do, and will still be here when I return.

I hope to come back with a fresh perspective, renewed mind, and better personal relationships. I’ll be sure to take notes on all the things that happen around here so you won’t miss a thing.

Thank you all for your support these past several months, and for (hopefully) understanding about this brief hiatus. Honestly, you probably won’t even notice I’m gone.

Meanwhile I’ll be over here doing deep breathing exercises and self- control mind techniques to stay away.

I’ll leave you with this:  Talk to each other. Life is too short to dwell in misunderstandings. Tell those you love that you love them. Leave no doubts. Tell those you’ve hurt that you’re sorry. Tell those that have hurt you the truth, and allow for reconciliation.

Oh, and did I mention tell those you love, “I love you?” Do it.

imagesTODNQKB2Don’t end up like this guy.

 

 

 

 

It’s Not Reindeer Sausage

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Sunday night Zoe, Parker and I went to a Christmas gathering hosted by my mom’s Goddaughter and longtime family friend. It was a white elephant party, and I felt pretty good about what I was bringing.

First was a recorder. You know the kind- the instrument everyone tortures their parents with in the 4th grade?

recorder

Next was a KISS Pez dispenser.

kisspez

And finally, A Justin Bieber Santa hat.

jbsanta

We brought 3 gifts, because Zoe and Parker wanted to participate in the gift exchange also. Kind of like the three Wise Men, without the wisdom or the men.

Right before dinner our hostess announced, “Just for full disclosure, these meatballs are half venison, half beef.”

I said, “Oh. I haven’t ever had venison before.”

She said, “Well if you’ve been eating any of that summer sausage over there, you have.”

I had eaten one piece, but Zoe had eaten several.

She wandered into the kitchen and I said, “So, that sausage over there? It isn’t beef.”

She said, “What is it?”

My friend said, “horse meat.”

Zoe’s eyes got huge.

I said, “She’s kidding. It’s not horse meat.”

“What is it?”

“Venison.”

Blank stare.

“You know that head hanging over there in the living room?”

She gasped.

“You liked it, it’s fine. A lot of people eat venison.”

My friend said, “This isn’t that deer. We ate that deer a long time ago.”

She wandered out of the room in a horrified daze.

Later, as we were filling our dinner plates she pointed towards a chafing dish and said, “Is any of this part horse meat?”

“None of it is horse meat.”

“Is it deer?”

The chafing dish contained mashed potatoes and vegetarian sausage.

“Nope.”

I watched her scoop two meatballs out of the crockpot, but said nothing. What you don’t know can’t hurt you, right?

After dinner we played the white elephant game. I attempted to explain the directions to Parker, but all he knew was there was a pile of gifts and he was going to get one of them.

I was number 1, so I got to go first.

I got a Magic 8 ball.

magic8

Parker was number 7.

His first choice ended up being a red lunch tote. He was not thrilled.

When someone stole the magic 8 ball from me, I stole the tote from him, so he could either steal or grab another gift. That’s the kind of nice mom I am, so when they try to tell you otherwise, remember this story.

For his second choice, my friend veered him in the direction of what turned out to be a giant footlong candy cane. We decided we might have to lock Parker and her 3 year old daughter in a room with the candy cane and the recorder to see what sort of mayhem might ensue.

But still Parker was unsatisfied. The allure of the unopened gifts, his insatiable greed left him discontent.

When my lunch tote was stolen, I took the candy cane from him so that he could get something else. I tried to talk him into grabbing a gift card. Someone offered him the recorder (NO!!!) and tried to tempt him with wooden puzzles. But no- there were untold treasures still wrapped.

As he reached for something my heart sunk. I knew it was a candle. I said a quick prayer that it would end up being a box of frangos (For my sake as much as his.) But no- my instinct was right. It was a candle. A very nice Yankee candle. But still- a candle.

Greed had made Parker a loser in the White elephant game.

Zoe had stolen a fuzzy blanket and Christmas mug from someone and was contentedly wrapped up. No one was going to attempt to take it from her.

My friend’s father -in-law got the Bieber hat, and proudly wore it the rest of the night. My mother got the KISS pez dispenser. She said, “Oh I love this!” And I said, “No you don’t.” I am expecting to see it reappear tomorrow morning somehow.

As the game came to a close, there were two remaining gifts that had been brought as extras in case someone forgot.

Parker didn’t feel the game could possibly be over with two remaining gifts. He had a great trouble accepting his fate.

He pulled his sweatshirt up over his head and pouted on the couch as people began to leave. He made some references to cheating, because in Parker’s mind, when something doesn’t go his way, someone must have cheated.

And then he turned on me, accusing me of stealing all his gifts.

I tried to explain that I did that to help him, to no avail. I told him he could keep both, I didn’t care, but there was no reasoning with him. So I left him on the couch.

After saying our goodbyes I went down the hall to my friend’s 3 year old daughter’s room, where she and Zoe had gone.

I opened the door and heard music. It was dark in the room and they were sitting on the floor in front of the tv.

“Are you watching ‘Little Mermaid?'”

The three 3 year old said in her tiny voice, “She want to watch ‘Bambi.'”

I looked at Zoe, who looked sheepishly back at me.

“Feeling a little guilty about eating deer? Watching ‘Bambi’ as penance?”

She didn’t answer, but continued to look chagrined.

As I walked out the door I couldn’t help but throw back, “It’s not like you were eating Rudolph.”

It’s little joys of parenting that sustain me.

Thank you to all of you who have supported me through these first 6 months of my blog. It means a lot.

I hope you all have a very Merry Christmas and here’s to a fantastic 2014!

21b877d7c99e891a5314c7d80662aa51

 

 

 

 

 

Can’t We Just All Get Along?

children

Maybe I’m naïve. Maybe I’m sheltered and unworldly. Or maybe I just believe that we’re better than this.

My heart has been troubled the past few days over what I have seen coming through my Facebook feed. I have no desire to enter into a conversation about the latest “controversy.” Jen Hatmaker’s blog http://jenhatmaker.com/blog/2013/12/21/the-duck-thing-is-there-another-way said everything I would have liked to say about this specific issue.

This particular firestorm is just the latest in a series of issues where I have seen people I like exhibit behavior I don’t like so much. Political discussions have never been so vitriolic as they have been in the past couple of years. I saw a cavernous divide between people I care about over a fast food restaurant. Unfettered racial rants. Gun control debates. Discussions about health care where actual human beings are likened to inanimate objects. Diatribes about the poor.

Often at the center of all of these discussions is Christianity; those who profess a Christian faith and those who not only don’t ascribe to it, but are openly hostile towards it.

I believe there are ways to have these controversial discussions without it leading to the numerous comments I have seen about “unfriending” people. Are we really to a place where we cannot abide those who believe differently than we do?

There must be a way to have a civil conversation about religion, politics and social issues without ending friendships.

As I mentioned previously( http://kbjackson.com/zero-shades-of-grey-confessions-of-a-black-and-white-thinker/ ) I’ve spent most of my life debating, whether in a legitimate forum, or just in my every day life. Because I lean towards being a black and white thinker, I am usually pretty tenacious in defense of my position once I have decided where I fall on an issue. Facebook hasn’t helped this.

There are many nights where my husband will look at me hunched over my phone typing furiously and say, “What are you arguing about now?”

And I will respond, “I wish I could walk away. I do. But when they say these things… I can’t NOT respond. How do you do it?”

“I don’t get involved in the first place.”

I have been working on strengthening this muscle in my own self. I chant to myself over and over, “Let it go. Let it go. Let it go.”

Sometimes I think I can make a tiny comment and walk away, but those who are already worked up will pounce and then I’m sucked in. And it’s an awful experience usually. I walk away feeling like I’ve been through something. There are those that attempt to keep things civil and those that don’t even try. My brain tells me there’s no point in trying to engage or convince anyone of something that is contrary to their position, and yet, there’s that part of me that says, “If you just say the right thing in the right way, maybe they will stop and think about it.”

But they never do. And still I never learn.

So the past few days I have been thinking very hard about this whole issue of conversations, how we can do them better so that everyone doesn’t leave it feeling terrible, feeling attacked, feeling misunderstood.

Here’s what I have come up with:

First and foremost, in order for a conversation to stay civil, we must come from a place of respect. If you don’t respect the person you are talking with, you might as well walk away right then and there, because it’s gonna get ugly. You know that old adage, “no one cares how much you know until they know how much you care?” Totally true.

I’ve seen many people come to these conversations loaded for bear, and their aim is to annihilate others with their “knowledge.” They are condescending and yet seem baffled when people start ganging up on them. I’ve actually seen people who agree with people like this ideologically say, “dude, you’re making the rest of us look bad.” Of course, there’s always those willing to tag team with them, they feed off each other’s comments and make the conversation no longer viable for civil discourse. There’s no place for common sense to enter in, so their nasty words go unchallenged and they feel victorious.

I think it’s important to be a good listener.

In regards to sensitive topics, often we are too busy talking to hear the pain behind the angry statements being made by others. Or we listen just enough to make a snappy rebuttal. Why do we feel like we’ve “won” when we’ve cut someone down publicly, causing them to slink away with a tail between their legs? We think we’ve “won” when they stop fighting back, never realizing that the last one standing in an argument like this is one who has bullied their way to the end, crushing people as they go. We feel self-righteous in our ability to speak our minds, never once stopping to ask ourselves if we might be causing damage to someone else.

1000779_10151676256829089_152994531_n Having freedom to say something, doesn’t mean you should say it.

 

I think it’s important to be empathetic. What people who are incapable of having a good back-and-forth without making everyone despise them are missing is empathy. You have to be able to stop and look at things from someone else’s point of view.

Your life experiences are YOUR life experiences. Much of your perception on how things work in this world is a direct result of that. Guess what? Other people have DIFFERENT life experiences. This has led them to see the world differently. Their perspective is not wrong, it is THEIRS.

Those who grew up in poverty have a different perspective from those who grew up in wealth. Those who are white have experienced a different world than those who are people of color. People are usually experts on their own lives, and yet somehow they like to believe it makes them experts on the lives of others.

It doesn’t.

We can learn so much if we take the time to understand where someone else is coming from. Sometimes things make sense in my own logic, but when I talk with someone who has actually experienced what is to me just an abstract concept, I find that my mind expands and I come to a deeper understanding of how the world truly works, not just how I think it should.

Of course, I believe there are moral absolutes. I believe there is truth and there are lies. I believe there is good and there is bad. There is right and there is wrong. But I didn’t create those moral absolutes and it’s not my job to enforce them. My job is to live them as best I can and love others.

83cdc-i-desire-mercy-not-sacrific

 

I believe it’s important to know which battles to fight.

I saw someone liken their fight against Obamacare to the struggles of Nelson Mandela.

I’ve seen people on both sides of the aisle passionately defend politicians who have done little more than pad their pockets and inflated their own egos.

I’ve seen people take a stand for things that have left me scratching my head. Are we really so complacent and comfortable in our own lives that we have no concept of which injustices are truly worth fighting for?

When I saw people outraged over the backlash against the owner of Chick-fil-A to the point that they were gorging themselves on chicken sandwiches in defense of his right to speak of his values, I found myself wondering if there might be a better way to live out our faith.

We “live our values” by posting Facebook rants from the comfort of our cushy homes, and the arduous task of waiting in line for an hour to consume fast food.

Meanwhile the world watches us live out our values. They see so clearly what we seem to be missing.

329465_10151069030594089_739508836_o We call this “taking a stand?”

We here in America are so clueless about real persecution it is flabbergasting.

The LGBT community is being persecuted because some redneck with a reality show thinks their sexuality is sinful?

Christians are being persecuted because a multi-millionaire can’t say whatever he wants without there being consequences?

You want to know about persecution? Look outside of this country.

https://www.persecution.com/

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MrKfzhFdNH0

http://www.crossroad.to/Persecution/Martyrs/Boxer.html

http://www.buzzfeed.com/saeedjones/76-countries-where-anti-gay-laws-are-as-bad-as-or-worse-than

http://www.un.org/WCAR/e-kit/gender.htm

Christian martyrs. Murder of gays. Ethnic cleansing. Girls who are denied education and sold into sex trafficking.

Let’s be advocates for GENUINE persecution victims.

Don’t make blanket accusations or place labels.

Just because someone is of a certain faith or political party does not mean that they ascribe to every ideal that others do. Within each party, within each faith, there is room for dissension. It’s not all or nothing. Also, you can hold a belief without bashing people over the head.

You can believe in the Biblical definition of traditional marriage and NOT be homophobic. Homophobia implies that one is either afraid of the gay community or hates them. It’s simply not true. Does that mean that there aren’t those who profess a Christian faith who truly are homophobic? Of course not. There are, but that is not living by the example of Jesus. You CAN believe the Bible teaches homosexuality is a sin, and still love people who are gay.

You CAN be a Christian with gay friends. Honestly, if you call yourself a Christian and you don’t have people in your life that you love who aren’t living their lives exactly like you are living yours, you’re probably missing a huge component of what it means to be Christ to the world. The Bible says, “Be in the world, not of it.” That doesn’t mean “close yourself off from everyone who doesn’t think and believe like you so you won’t get their sin on you.”

For my non-Christian friends, it is hurtful when you attack someone for not believing the same way you do.

For my Christian friends, it is hurtful when you attack someone for not believing the same way you do.

It’s not ok.

Please don’t use the Bible as a weapon.

I cannot tell you how many conversations between Christians and non-Christians this week have including both throwing the Word of God around like a Frisbee.

Christians: Do you not value the Scriptures more than to use them to hurt others? To bash them over the head with verses that mean nothing to them, but reinforce why they want nothing to do with God? Why must you take verses out of context so that all people see is judgment and not Grace? Don’t forget that it’s God’s kindness that led US to repentance. Perhaps we should consider that example one to live by.

Non-Christians: Unless you have a master’s degree in Christian theology, please do not attempt to use the Bible against others in a conversation meant to make them look foolish. Taking verses out of context to make your point is disrespectful and rude. Your understanding of our faith is limited, and cherry-picking verses when you do not have a concept of the bigger picture will not dissuade anyone.  While you may have decided that the Bible is untrue, that God doesn’t exist, please understand that for those of us who do, your condescending use of something we hold sacred is a gross display of the kind of intolerance you say you despise in Christians.

The harder we try to be right, the more wrong we are.

At the end of our lives, do we want to look back and see all the moments when we were right? Or do we want to see the moments of love, service, kindness, reconciliation?

Do unto others as you would have done to you.

We call this the “Golden Rule.”

You can find this concept in every major religion and ancient philosophy throughout history. Funny how we just can’t seem to get this one right.

Whether someone is of a different ethnicity, whether they come from a different political ideology, whether they are gay or straight, Christian, Muslim, Hindu, atheist, we should be able to live our lives by this concept.

An interesting thing happens… we teach people how to treat us by the way we treat them and those around us. When we engage them with kindness, they often will reciprocate. When we are rude, they get defensive and rude back. When we say hateful things, they feel justified in hating us.

When we treat others in a way we would like to be treated, we open up a dialogue, not a debate. We can leave conversations feeling good about ourselves and those we engaged.

After all, those victories earned by belittling others are shallow and unsatisfying. It’s just not what we were made for. We were made for more.

dounto

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I Wouldn’t Trade My Christmas Memories for a PS4

My beautiful picture

I’ve been transferring old family slides into digital format the past few weeks, and I’ve come across some real gems. One of the things that struck me, especially when looking at photos like the one above, is that I wasn’t imagining it… Christmas felt different back then. And I think I know why.

Look at the expressions on the faces of my sisters and I. (My sister Shannon is on the far right, Colleen is in the middle, and I am the blondie on the left.) Christmas held a wonder for us that I just don’t see in the faces of my kids. Gifts didn’t have to be extravagant to get reactions like this:

My beautiful picture

This picture is blurry, so I have no idea what she just opened, but I can tell you, it wasn’t a $500 video game system. When was the last time your kids responded like this? I can’t think of the last time mine did.

Parker wants a WiiU. We have a Wii, but the new games he wants can only be played on the WiiU. $300.

Nathan wants a PS4. He has an XBOX 360 and a PS3, but those are considered old junk now. $500…if you can find one.

Eventually, they also want an XBOX One. It’s not their first choice, but, after all, the 360 is sooo outdated, eventually we will HAVE to get a new system for all those games we have.$400.

And yet, when I think back over my life, most of my favorite gifts cost less than $25. The year I turned 20, I had a jerky boyfriend who wasn’t around on Christmas and I was pretty bummed. I am the youngest in my family, so when I went up to my parents’ house, it was just the 3 of us for the first time ever. It was pretty depressing. That was until I opened a gift that my mother had gotten for me- Molly Ivins’ book, “Molly Ivins can’t say that, can she?” I started reading and soon I was laughing so hard I could barely breathe. It saved me from the Christmas blues.

My childhood is filled with gifts that spurred my imagination and just looking at the pictures of them brings back memories of fun times. Some of these you may remember, some may be earlier than your time. These items represent my Christmases past.

little people a frame

What is more 70’s than an A-frame house? A turquoise and brown A-frame house. This toy reminded me of the cabins at the camp where my family spent a lot of my childhood, El Camino Pines near Frazier Park, California. We called it “Walton’s Mountain,” because much of the show was filmed up there.

My beautiful pictureCabin in the background

Another “little People” set I loved was the Sesame Street neighborhood.fp_sesame_street6

fpsesame

I spent hours re-enacting episodes.

Many girls my age wanted Easy Bake ovens, but I had to have the Holly Hobbie Easy Bake oven.

hollyhobbyoven

My beautiful picture

If I’m being honest, I’m not sure a lot of baking went on after this Christmas morning. I seem to recall eating dry cake mix a lot. (If I ever start a career as a rapper, that could totally be my rapper name- Cake Mix-a-lot)

I was a big fan of Holly Hobbie. I’m guessing that’s why in so many pictures I have come across, my sisters and I are wearing bonnets. That, and “Little House on the Prairie.”

I also loved Colorforms, and one year I got a Holly Hobbie Colorform set exactly like this:

holly hobby

I spent hours arranging different scenes.

I was also a Barbie girl. Most of my Barbie stuff I seem to recall came on my birthday, but I do remember one Christmas I got the Ballerina Barbie.

ballerina barbie

I got it from my great grandma Lulu. (Her name was Mildred, but she came from Honolulu. It was our way of distinguishing her from another Grandma- Grandma Mexico, who, you guessed it, went to Mexico on vacation one time.)

We spent that Christmas in Laguna at my grandparents’ house.My Grandma Charlotte (who was just “Grandma”) had hidden the gifts under her bed. I couldn’t contain my curiosity, so I snuck a peek, and discovered by stealthily pulling down one end of the wrapped gift what it was. I was excited for the Barbie, but that taught me a lesson- it’s no fun to pretend to be surprised when you’ve already ruined it for yourself. I never did that again. I believe that was Grandma Lulu’s last Christmas with us.

Another “last Christmas” memory is from my dad’s dad’s final Christmas before succumbing to cancer.

We knew he was ill, and so we made the trip to the Bay area of Northern California, and my mom’s side of the family came as well. We showed up on Christmas Eve to discover he had not decorated the house for Christmas. There was no tree. He had thrown away all of his ornaments.

We got in the car and drove around looking for an open lot, but they were all closed. My father eventually hopped a fence and stole a tree. We went to 7-11 and bought flocking spray and tinsel. We went back to his house, put up and flocked the tree, and decorated it with snowflakes we cut out.

Because there were so many of us, several slept out in the living room. It was like a giant family slumber party. I had trouble sleeping, so I stayed awake playing with my yes and no book.

Yes-Know-11-12

( I liked to challenge myself by getting the books that said they were for older kids.)

I spent hours playing with these books. Hangman, trivia questions, dot to dot.

Mastermind was fun too, but you had to have someone playing it with you, and as the youngest I was on my own a lot.

mastermind14

 

Not that we didn’t also have electronics.

My first electronic toy was Alfie.

playskool-alphie-electronic-robot-1978-abb83

Alfie was amazing. He beeped and booped when he turned on. I could change the game card and play all different sorts of games. When I was right, he be-booped in celebration. When I was wrong he did the “beee-booooo” of a disappointed robot.

I didn’t get the Coleco football game, but my sister Shannon did, and I often stole it from her.

coleco football I could never play this now, those tiny red blinking dashes that represented my players would be nothing but a blur to my old eyes.

Another cool electronic game that I had a lot of fun with was “Merlin.”

merlin http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kX_wlcpNMaE

I don’t remember a lot about the games. I think there was tic tac toe, some sort of musical game, and I swear something like blackjack. Nothing like getting kids started gambling at a young age.

When they turned my favorite video game, into a watch, that hit the top of my list. pacmanwatch

It wasn’t the most responsive game, and the buttons were tiny, but boy was it cool.

And then there was the Texas Instruments computer.

tiplusgames

See that slot on the right? That’s where you put the “software” cartridges. I think mine came with TI Invaders, a knockoff of Atari’s Space Invaders.

Of course you didn’t need cartridges to play with this computer. It came with a programming code guide, so I taught it how to run programs that would guess math problems. All I had to do was copy the programs from the book and my parents and grandparents were amazed. Child prodigy, they said.

A few months later I was in our local Safeway (which also had laser discs for home rental at that time) and saw a bin filled with cartridges on sale. I bought myself the Alpine skiing game (it even had a yeti that would jump out. Strange, considering the yeti lives in the Himalayas and not the Alps).

Alpiner2Is that a buzzard flying across the screen?468257-alpiner_6I never got this far

Notice the phenomenal graphics- In color!

Unfortunately for me, that sale bin was a sign of the end for the TI system. Within a year of getting it, they stopped making it and it’s accessories.

And then there was the Christmas of 1983.

cabbage

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9sOlIvx7Pvs

Cabbage Patch Kids. People were going out of their minds in the hunt for these dolls whose butts bore the autograph of their creator, Xavier Roberts.

xavierrobertscabbage patch doll

I was one of a million girls that year who put a Cabbage Patch doll on my Christmas list. My parents tried in vain to locate one, with no luck.

My mom, never wanting to disappoint, somehow managed to find a woman who made look-alike dolls. When I opened it Christmas morning, I remember feeling a mix of emotions. It wasn’t a legit CPK, but I knew somehow that it was more special. It represented my mom’s heart, and I was thankful for that. I named her Charlotte Claire after both of my grandmothers.

My sister Shannon, a senior in high school, was working at a store called Sprouse Reitz. For those who have never heard of it, Sprouse was a small department and drug store.

sprouseWayyyy before my time, but you get the gist.

This past Thanksgiving the topic of Sprouse came up, and my sister swore she is still in possession of the horrid brown polyester uniform she had to wear while working there. With her name tag still on it.

Anyway, the day after Christmas, she went into work and they had received an unexpected shipment of Cabbage Patch Dolls.

I could have one if I wanted one.

I agonized over the decision, because I didn’t want to hurt my mom’s feelings. She said she understood, but I just wasn’t sure. In the end, I did get one, but it was never as precious to me as the doll my mom had made for me.

I get a little sentimental when I think about those Christmases. I think about the year my parents couldn’t afford to buy me the outfit from Laura Ashley that I wanted, so my mom went and bought the pattern and sewed it for me. She even sewed in a piece of ribbon that said “Laura Ashley” so it would look like a tag.

I think about that ratty leftover Christmas tree that my dad hopped a fence to steal, that was decorated with paper chains and homemade snowflakes, but stood tall in the center of a room full of people I loved. Some of those people were gone within 5 years, and we never had a Christmas with everyone like that again.

I try really hard to create special moments for my kids, but in the end, it never is about the gifts under the tree that stick with you. Memorable moments can’t be choreographed with the perfect music and candlelight. They just happen.

My beautiful picture

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Zero Shades Of Grey (Confessions Of A Black And White Thinker)

image

A couple weeks ago I was standing on a busy street corner in downtown Spokane. We were walking from our hotel to the shopping center for our annual black Friday trip to see Santa. As we waited, others began crossing the street against the light.

I said, mostly to myself, but in my husband’s hearing range, “I just think rules are there for a reason.”

He laughed.

“What’s so funny about that?” I asked.

“Nothing, really. It’s just such a YOU thing to say.”

He’s right.

I’m a rule follower.

I have been my entire life. I have a healthy fear of authority, and I get really uncomfortable when boundaries are violated. Particularly legal ones.

image

Don’t get me wrong- I’m no angel. I’ve made mistakes and crossed lines. I’ve tested limits and even pushed past them. But deep down, I HATE breaking rules. And I’m not a fan of when others break them either.

Sometimes I get personally offended when I see drivers not following road rules.

My biggest pet peeve in life? People not doing what they are supposed to do. Second biggest? People doing what they are NOT supposed to do.

Last week at the grocery store I was first in the self-checkout line. There were at least 5 people behind me, and we were waiting for one of the machines. There were two on the left, two on the right, and two on the other side of those. At the far end is a store employee, whose sole job is to regulate the self-checkout area.

A woman wandered up and started  hovering near one of the far right checkout stands, looking confused. As I was walking over there, since the man who had been using the machine had just begun to walk away, the store employee went over to the woman and asked her if she needed help on the machine.

I said, “We actually have a line over here, and I was next.”

The employee said, “Oh.”

The woman stared at me, and then started scanning her items.

I made the walk of shame back to the line just as another register opened up.

I was seething.

How dare she? We all followed the rules, we waited our turn, and yet there she is, cutting in line. And he didn’t even care! There were no repercussions for her rude behavior.

There is a right way, and there is a wrong way. She did it the wrong way.

Truthfully, if she had apologized, said she hadn’t realized she was cutting and offered to wait, I might have felt a little mercy towards her. I might have said, “That’s ok,” and let her go ahead of me.

Maybe.

She didn’t just cut in front of me, she also cut in front of everyone behind me. I was indignant on their behalf as much as I was on my own.

And him. He should KNOW better! He’s the authority in the self-checkout area. I rely on authority figures to keep others in line, so I don’t have to.

I will, you know. It’s a burden I’m willing to bear, even when others slack off.

I have been known to alert flight attendants to people who try to turn their cell phones on mid-flight, or who haven’t shut down their laptops in preparation for landing.

Many of you missed one of my early blogs about flying to Vegas last May. ( http://kbjackson.com/come-fly-with-me/ ) This should give you a pretty clear insight into the way I think, and how I respond to people who don’t follow the rules.

When the FAA announced they were allowing electronic devices for the entire flight, and perhaps even cell phone use, I went sideways. All this time they’ve had me convinced that one kindle that is not completely off could take down a 777. Now it’s a free-for-all.

Washington State has recently legalized recreational marijuana use for adults. The closest I have been to inhaling pot is a contact high from the secondhand smoke at the Folk Life Festival or an Eagles concert. I grew up in the Nancy Reagan/ Mr. T “Just say no!” era.

1317849356-nancy_reagan_on_mr_t_s_lap

So what’s a rule follower to do when the rules change?

The answer is- keep following the original rule. It’s so deeply ingrained in me by now, I don’t think it will ever change.

I used to be a church youth group leader back when I lived in Utah. One night the youth pastor decided to do an exercise to illustrate the point he was about to make.

He told everyone to go to one side of the room if they believed every moral decision in life is black and white, and the other side if they believed there were shades of grey.

All of the kids went to one side of the room, and I was left standing on the other side alone. A moment later, one of our summer interns joined me.

I said, “I can’t believe I’m alone over here. I’m glad someone thinks like me.”

He said, “So, you don’t believe there are ever any shades of grey?”

“No, I really don’t. I feel like things are one or the other. Shades of grey means moral ambivalence. I don’t operate that way. What about you?”

“I’m only over here because I wanted to understand why you are over here.”

A few years later I found out that he was at that time coming to terms with his sexuality. Actually, I found out that he and at least two other of our close-knit group were dealing with similar feelings. I had no idea.

It was then that I realized what he was really asking me: Can you still accept me if I’m not who you think I am? If I challenge what you believe, will you reject me? Will you shun me? If there are no shades of grey, where do I fit?

I also realized the missed opportunities to be there for these teenagers who probably saw me as someone inflexible, unyielding; Opportunities to love on them and let them know that no matter what, I was in their corner.

image

In the mind of a black and white thinker, there’s not really not a whole lot of thinking. It’s more about responding. Everything that is presented gets immediately placed in a mental category.

Is this good? Or is it bad?

Does this make me happy? Or unhappy?

Is it right or wrong?

My husband says I have two categories when it comes to picking a movie to go see- I want to see it, or “I have absolutely zero interest in seeing that. Ever.”

This technique would be great if I was a competitor on “Minute to Win It” and I had 60 seconds to categorize the world and morality.

It doesn’t work so well in relationships with real people.

I heard someone once say, “In this world there are two kinds of people- black and white thinkers and people who are wrong.”

When you’re a black and white thinker, how do you have a relationship with an imperfect person who, surprisingly, doesn’t agree with everything you believe? How do you navigate the ups and downs of marriage and friendships that don’t always fit into one box or another?

The challenge comes when life gets messy and complicated, and the rule-following black and white thinker has to reevaluate: If I respect this person and they don’t agree with me, does that mean I’m wrong? (No, probably they just don’t have all the information. I shall give it them! THEN they’ll agree with me. )

Parenting is probably the greatest challenge to a black and white thinker. Understanding that not only is this a separate human being, with their own hopes and dreams, they also have their own way of thinking, that… gasp! might be different from mine is a tough concept to grasp.

My physical therapist told me a few weeks ago that black and white thinking is a form of mental illness. I can see her point. It lends itself towards inflexibility, a lack of compassion, a lack of empathy, judgment without grace.

In reality, being a “shades of grey” thinker isn’t about moral ambivalence. It’s about coming to terms with the idea that… I don’t know everything. I don’t know what it feels like to walk in that person’s shoes. My views are a culmination of my own personal experiences. Those who have had different life experiences are bound to have a different perspective. Different doesn’t mean it’s wrong, it means it’s THEIRS. And they are entitled to it.

My whole life I have been ingesting information, placing a value on it, and then making that snap judgment part of my core being. I haven’t always allowed for the possibility that there is more, even a whole other side to the story.

One of my favorite subjects in high school was debate.(If I’m being completely honest, MOST of my classes I turned into debate classes.)  Debate is a great activity for a black and white thinker. It didn’t matter the challenges to my viewpoint, I held firm in the knowledge that I was right, and my opponent was wrong. I was undaunted in my defense of my position. I remember getting an evaluation back from my debate teacher that specifically mentioned that my arguments held little room for compromise. My response? Of course not. Why compromise when you’re right?

Maybe it’s hitting midlife. Maybe it’s maturity, who knows. Somehow over the past few years I have found my mind expanding, and with it my ability to try to see things from the perspective of others.

I have been reading books that challenge my way of thinking, resulting in some actual changes in thoughts and feelings for some issues, and a further resolve on others.

Who knew that you could open your mind up to other possibilities without your head exploding? Not me.

I’m learning to try to actually listen to other people’s feelings and beliefs, rather than simply looking for counterpoint opportunities and flaws in their logic.

Sometimes I will say out loud, “I really don’t understand what they are thinking, or where they are coming from,” and my husband will simply respond, “I know you don’t.”

This process hasn’t always been a fun one. 2012 found me often in near-panic mode, as I considered alternate realities to my long held belief system. Boundaries and rules leave me feeling safe. When those boundaries are challenged, I feel like Sandra Bullock in “Gravity.” Or Major Tom.

When I feel that anxiety, I remind myself that I’m getting what I’ve always craved- knowledge. And along with that, hopefully a more understanding and compassionate way of viewing people around me.

I still like rules, and I still believe they exist for our protection. Mostly. And I still believe in moral absolutes. However, I am willing to concede that there are definite shades of grey in this life.

Actually, I am currently wearing three… my sweater is heather, my shirt is oatmeal and my boots are taupe.

See? Progress already.

image I just figure there’s a reason for this rule. Who am I to challenge it?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

If I Could Turn Back Time- Why Would I Turn It To 1991?

elite-daily-food-coma

If you’re like me, this is how you looked after consuming your Thanksgiving meal.

Maybe it was the tryptophan. Maybe it was the pie that pushed me over the edge. Maybe it was that last Hallmark (Lifetime? Ion?) holiday movie about going back to your teen years to try to prevent the 17 year old you from making life-changing mistakes.

Whatever it was, I awoke on Black Friday from a crazy dream. And I haven’t been able to shake it.

In my dream, I was transported back in time to 1991. I wasn’t 1991 me, I was 2013 me, trying to navigate through one day. As I encountered each scenario, I realized how different the world was back then.

Small example- a friend walked up to me and asked me to take a picture of her with her boyfriend. I said, “Sure. Give me your phone.”

They stared at me like I was insane. Back in 1991 hardly anyone had cell phones, and No one had camera phones, much less smart phones.

Since I woke up from the dream, I have been trying to determine: why 1991? Why would my mind try to go back to 1991?

1991

At the beginning of 1991, I was a freshman at the University of Washington.

I was dating a Marine, whom I had met the previous summer. As I had left for my high school graduation trip my mother said to me, “Two things I ask. One: Do not walk alone on a beach at night. Two: Do not talk to any Marines.” I met him walking alone on Waikiki Beach one night. (In my defense, he looked a little like Tom Cruise from “Top Gun” and one of the restaurants had “Take My Breath Away” streaming out of their speakers. )

In early 1991, my Marine boyfriend was in Kuwait when Operation Desert Shield became Operation Desert Storm.

The relationship ended in the summer of 1991. There were a lot of reasons it ended, the number one being I wasn’t in love with him. Oh, and he was a man-whore.

I don’t have any regrets about the ending of the relationship, so that certainly couldn’t be why my mind picked 1991.

I had a bad spiral perm that instead of looking like this:

curly-hair

looked like this:

180447_10150096742524089_5443258_n (Unfortunately this is an actual picture of me)

In 1991 you could often find me sporting overalls.

overallshortsoverall shorts

overalldressoverall dress

And of course, always…

will-smith-one-strap-overalls-w352overalls with one strap down.

I had my Kswiss shoes, gleaming white…

kswiss

I sported my cross colors t-shirts

cross-colours-love-see-no-colour-one-size-t-shirt_290554540823

yadig

My shirt like this may be long gone, but my husband still occasionally looks at me and says, “Ya dig?” In fact, just last year, as we were playing “Draw Something” he sent me this:

IMG_0012

This is his impression of the me he met in 1992.

However, I don’t think my mind would send me back to 1991 to right the wrong of my fashion choices. There are so many other eras that would also need correcting. (The 70’s bell bottom comeback of 1999 anyone?)

In 1991 I went from working at a greeting card store in downtown Seattle to working at a music store at Northgate mall. (Kids, once upon a time, you had to physically drive to the mall and go into a store that sold only cd’s and tapes in order to buy music. (oh tapes? That’s a whole other post. And don’t even get me started on ‘CASSINGLES’) )

I remember the first time I heard Nirvana’s “Nevermind.” We had gotten an advance copy at the store, and Roy, our resident audiophile, was quick to put it on.

Other Roy, not to be confused with Troy or assistant manager Roy.

Troy was our manager. He drove a Geo storm and got fired for embezzlement. He dated a girl with an identical twin and liked to make insinuations about that.

Roy was our assistant manager. He was from Ohio and constantly talked about how he went to college with Melina Kanakaredes.

cu

Other Roy smelled like patchouli, owned a laser disc player and taught me everything I needed to know about the Seattle Grunge scene. (Did you know that Pearl Jam was named for Earl the Pearl because Eddie Vedder is such a huge basketball fan? And that originally they were named ‘Mookie Blaylock’ after

mookie_blaylock1<<<<<<

but he didn’t like that so much, so he made them change it.)

Anyways, Seattle in 1991 was THE place to be for music. Sir Mixalot was hanging with his posse on Broadway getting ready to hit the world with “Baby got back,” Nirvana dropped “Nevermind,” Alice In Chains, Soundgarden and Pearl Jam were playing at local venues and everyone and their brother were forming bands.

I must admit that the first time I heard “Smells Like Teen Spirit” I wasn’t a fan. I listened to top 40 pop and R&B, and I thought it was just a bunch of noise. Since we played it round the clock in the store for about 2 weeks, though, I eventually came to like it. It was that or stab a hot poker in my ears.

But I don’t need to go back to 1991 for the music. I have a whole 90’s playlist on my iPod that I can listen to on demand.

George H W Bush was president. Rodney King was beat up by police, And the only computer I had access to was in the basement of my dorm building where we would go into “chat rooms” to talk to people.

I made choices that year that maybe I’d like to undo. I didn’t go to class as often as I should have. I changed my major 3 times. (I’m going into political science and I’m going to be a lawyer! No wait- I’m going to double major in communications and atmospheric science. I’ll be a weather girl! oh, I have a D- in atmospheric science. Probably should have gone to class more than 3 times. I guess I’ll be an English major since those are the only classes I actually like. I’ll figure out later what to do with an English degree. (Hint- you’re reading it))

I made poor relationship choices. Would I tell 1991 me, “No, probably not a good idea to date a guy with no job and a soon-to-be baby mama “ex”-girlfriend.” ? Would it matter?

In the holiday movie I watched, 2013 Kristin realized it didn’t matter what she told young stubborn Kristin, she was going to do it anyways. And also, if you change something in your past, good or bad, it changes a little of who you are. Maybe it changes a lot of who you are.

If…Then…

We are the culmination of our life’s experiences. The best lesson I can take from this dream is that 20 plus years from now I may have another dream, remembering back to 2013. The choices I make today may be the regrets of tomorrow, or they may be integral parts of the tapestry of my life as a 61 year old woman. I need to make today count.

Oh, and never get a perm again. Ever.