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The other day I was in the elevator at a major Boston hospital heading to the 16th floor.  The elevator was full of people; visitors carryi...

Sunday, February 27, 2011

Growing up in a culture of mean.



The everyday kindness of the back roads more than makes up for the acts of greed in the headlines. ~Charles Kuralt, On the Road With Charles Kuralt


I watch a lot of TV with my almost 12 year old daughter. I like to see what she is watching. Kids learn a lot from TV and other media as well. But mostly TV.

And what I see is a whole lotta mean.

Let's start with SpongeBob Squarepants. A funny enough program. Until my then 5 year old started calling everyone an idiot. She did that because of Squidward. She had no idea what idiot meant, but how bad could it be? I mean, Squidward is saying it, on TV no less.

Fast forward a few years. Now we have TV shows that show parents to be utter morons and way too much reality TV that is far from real. And what do we have? Kids and adults who think that mean is funny.

And I think adults are sometimes worse than the kids, quite honestly.

I just don't get it. We are so afraid of a swear word here and there, but we allow this utter mean nonsense into our lives. And we tivo it for goodness sakes.

Look, I am no goody two shoes. I have said things no child should hear in the car with my daughter listening.

But I am not mean. I do not call people names (well, unless they cut me off in traffic) and I don't make fun of people. I don't belittle people and think that it is funny.

But we are exposed to this daily, sometimes even more frequently. And I think it is the worst thing ever.

Now, I am not saying that anything should be censored. I know people will say that you can just shut those things off and not watch them. Fair enough.

But I think we are too far beyond that. I think we live in a culture of mean. A culture where anything goes. Where manners have disappeared. Where being mean is considered cool. And I think it is sad.

If there was a show on TV that showed respectable kids like Leave it to Beaver or shows I grew up with, they would not last long. I sometimes have my daughter watch old reruns of these shows and she is like, "Can I go now?" And I am sure that if we had had shows like they have today we would have watched them, too. And why not.

But that is all my daughter and her classmates know. This is the culture they are growing up in.

And that is hard to change.

I know there are no answers. No solutions. Not really. I do watch these new shows and suggest to my daughter that they are mean spirited. And she says she knows. That she gets it. But the shows are funny. And "all the kids watch them."

I suppose that is true.

So, how do you survive in a culture of mean?

And I am not simply talking about kids now. I cannot even watch Sunday morning TV anymore as the political pundits are just as mean as some of the characters on Family Guy. Just less funny.

I don't know. I am not sure where this whole thing will go. Perhaps it will go nowhere. Maybe it really won't matter after all. Maybe I am worrying about nothing.

After all, our parents and grandparents lamented when rock and roll came about, and we all turned out okay. So maybe I am just overreacting.

But the thing is, rock and roll did not make me feel bad. But this new culture sure does.

I am not sure it is worth the few laughs it gets. Seems we are all just more miserable than ever. No one is happy and laughing more that I can see.

I guess I just don't get it. Nor do I want to. Not really.

So I will just keep doing the things that make us happy. Like being outdoors, playing and taking care of animals, watching documentary films that they all complain about but like, making art, traveling, seeing art and listening to music. A little here and there sprinkled in our weeks. A bit of softness and love that perhaps will drown out the mean.

Surrounding ourselves with things that feed our soul is the only protection I can think of. Because we can't just turn off the culture we find ourselves in. Not really.

But we don't have to buy into it, either.

Being considerate of others will take your children further in life than any college degree. ~Marian Wright Edelman

Treat everyone with politeness, even those who are rude to you - not because they are nice, but because you are. ~Author Unknown

Don't be yourself - be someone a little nicer. ~Mignon McLaughlin, The Second Neurotic's Notebook, 1966

A person who is nice to you, but rude to the waiter, is not a nice person. ~Dave Barry, "Things That It Took Me 50 Years to Learn"

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Sarah McLachlan-Ordinary Miracle



When you wake up everyday

Please don't throw your dreams away

Hold them close to your heart

Cause we are all a part

Of the ordinary miracle...


Happy February Vacation Week.

Saturday, February 12, 2011

What's Good About Goodbye / The Promise (I'll Never Say Goodbye) - Nancy...



One of my favorite singers...she died at a young age from uterine cancer.

A beautiful love song for Valentine's Day. Crank it up and dance with the one you love.

And if I never
Leave your arms,
I really would have
Traveled everywhere
For my world
Is there.

When I say always
I mean forever
I trust tomorrow
As much as today
I am not afraid
To say I love you
And I promise you
I'll never say goodbye.

Don't forget to say the words.



Looking back, I have this to regret;
That too often when I loved, I did not say so.
~~~David Grayson



Oh, the unspoken word. I cannot tell you how many times I hear people say that they wish they had told someone that they loved them, or that they were special to them or that they were important in their lives. So many regrets. So much pain that could have been avoided.

I am sure we all have meant to tell at least one person that we loved them and then didn't, and it really was too late. But most likely we still have a chance, we just feel that it is too late. That too much time has gone by or a silly disagreement left us apart for too long.

Or maybe we think it is corny or we are too embarrassed to tell someone how we really feel.

Well, I am here to tell you that it is not too late as long as that someone is breathing. So get over it. Time to put on your big girl panties or your big boy boxers and just get on with it.

Stop procrastinating. Stop making excuses. Stop thinking you have time. You may not. And then you will be filled with regret.

It is simply not worth it.

I have met so many people that will never hear I love you from a mom or a dad, brother or sister, best friend or loving Aunt. This is what the person probably thought; they thought, "Oh, they know that I love them." But then they were gone and the words were not spoken.

And just so that you know, knowing and hearing are different. We want affirmation of love. With words. Repeatedly. Or at least occasionally.

So what better occasion to tell someone you love them than Valentine's day. A perfect day to say the words. Or to write them down in a note and send them. Do not text, do not email. A card is a treasure that one can keep. An email, not so much.

Hug your kids and tell them that you love them; your husband, your wife, your significant other, too. But also call your brother or sister, your mom and dad or that old friend you haven't talked to in awhile. Or send a note that says, "You mean a lot to me, just wanted you to know."

It takes so little time to make someone feel great. Two seconds and a 44 cent stamp.

Really? Really.

So, what are you waiting for?

Here are some ideas:

* Write on a card 14 things you love or admire about your spouse, friend or family member. Fourteen special things for the 14th day of February. People love that. So much better than a store bought verse.

* Look through old forgotten pictures and send one to an old friend or family member. So many of our pictures sit forgotten on shelves or in boxes. Someone would really enjoy an old memory.

* Make a memory scrapbook for Valentine's day, or any special day for that matter. (We do Christmas). Put pics and cards and write what you did. Add photos. Just a page. Just tape them in or buy a clear plastic pocket folder insert. Not a big time commitment. But each year when you look back you will be glad that you did because we forget so much.

* Okay, flowers are easy because you don't have to do anything but spend money. So do it. Everyone loves flowers. Just send a handwritten note with them.

* Buy a card or make one. Or write a poem down on a pretty piece of paper. What ever. But do something. No one will remember the card so much as the fact that they didn't get one.

The point is to do something. Valentine's Day may not be as important as Christmas or Easter or Passover, but it is the universal day of love. And we all have someone that we love.

So tell them. They want to know. They would love to know.

I promise, you won't regret it.

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Do broken hearts mend?




Where do you start?
How do you separate the present from the past.
How do you deal with all the things you thought would last,
That didn't last.
With bits of memories scattered here and there,
I look around and don't know where to start.


I see a lot of heartbreak in my job. Spouses married for decades losing the love of their life. Newly married couples stunned to find out they have just months left after searching years for one another. Lovers separated by years and miles who found each other in their golden years, hoping to grow old together, but certainly won't.

It is sad and unending, but somehow still shocking and surprising.

I guess I have been thinking a lot about love since we are in that month of love, February. Valentine's day. All those shiny hearts hanging everywhere. But these hearts that I see will surely be broken.

And I wonder. For good?

I know lots of people who have suffered broken hearts along the way, myself included. But we grew up and moved on and found new loves or new interests and the wound somehow healed. There may be a flicker of pain occasionally, but it dissipates readily.

But these wounds are different. Lives that are certainly intertwined now coming apart. Memories that seem to have only each other now becoming painful instead of sweet.

Lives built. Houses filled. Homes made. Families raised. Two people who have hung on for dear life and survived intact after bitter disappointment. Two people who have celebrated milestones. Two people who really only know life with one another. A life they lived for so long. One that they thought would never end.

So how do you mend a heart when your whole life goes away?

I have three couples who have been together decades that I am currently taking care of; an elderly gentleman and his lovely wife, a younger unmarried couple in their forties and another long time married duo in their 60's. Each has a spouse or significant other dying from a nasty cancer.

They talk to me a lot about things they used to do before the illness. Most don't want the illness to define their marriage or their relationship. They show me paintings and projects, work being done on their house, pictures of kids and grandkids. They talk of trips they hope to somehow still take, birthdays coming up, how they hope to return "to normal" once again. But there will never be a normal again. Just a new normal. A new reality.

They try to be strong. But they are holding on tight to the life they once had. So afraid to let go. They tell me they don't know what to do. They haven't even made funeral plans. They can't think about it. They cry. They become silent. They look down at their hands. They seem lost.

I never say anything then. I just let them talk. I allow them their silence. I know that nothing I will say will make it any better. They know that I know how this will all end.

But what I don't know is, how will it all begin again. How will their heart feel a day, a week, two years from now. I know that everyone grieves differently. Some soldier on and others collapse and hide. But no one really knows what goes on inside another's heart.

So I guess there is no real answer to the question of a broken heart. I suppose we will all find out when we get there. So we will just keep loving and living until that happens.

The quote I started with is a song about a life coming apart, who knows why. It talks about how you cannot separate the present from the past, how you never really move on completely. How the heart never really mends and never really forgets. It doesn't say that you are sad. It just says the heart remembers, so that seems right to me. That a piece of everyone we have ever really loved stays with us always.

And that is a comforting thought. That is what makes love so worth it. Our hearts are strong and will survive, wounds and all.

The song ends like this;

One day there'll be a song
or something in the air again.
To catch me by surprise and you'll be there again,
A moment in,
What might have been.
Where do you start.
Do you allow yourself a little time to cry.
Or do you close your eyes and kiss it all goodbye.
I guess you try.
And though I don't know where and don't know when
I'll find myself in love again
I promise there will always be
A little place no one will see
A tiny part within my heart
That stays in love with you.


Happy Valentine's Day.