New Year Blessings

It is that time of the year:  Out with the old and in with the new.  The whole concept has enveloped me this year as I move into next year. 

Recently, I was blessed with the return of two old friends to my life.  Both were people with whom I shared a spiritual path and both were people with whom I lost contact somewhere along the way.  It has been such a joy to have them both back in contact and present in my life. 

Sadly, though, I have also recently come to realize that I have friends and family members that I simply have to let go.  Attempting to have closer relationships with them is a frustrating, futile effort that leaves me feeling empty and emotionally barren.  Fortunately, one family member has been amazingly honest in disclosing that he does not intend to change the behavior that drives a wedge between us.  I thank him for that.  It makes it so much easier for me to establish and maintain my boundaries with him. 

Without that type of honesty, I can easily get trapped in hope and the resulting disappointment when my hopes are not realized.   His honesty made me realize that I need to have that type of honesty with myself and realize that my hopes are just that – hopes – and I create my own disappointment by misplacing that hope.  When I look with greater honesty, I can see who is a blessing in my life and who is not. 

I’ve been struggling with my daughter’s stuffed animal collection.  It is overwhelming our house.  We recently established a one-in-one-out policy to keep the clutter under control.  Perhaps, I need the same policy with people in my life.

Imagine if, every time someone wonderful comes into my life, I were to eliminate some of the clutter of toxic people.  It seems like it would not take very long to surround myself with only positive, loving people.  Hmmmm.  A new year’s resolution perhaps?

Post Christmas Follow Up

Our new Wii is in the house.  There is a new Wii in a neighbor’s house as well.  The difference is that the neighbor’s Wii came with my favorite – you guessed it – Guitar Hero.  I finally got to see Guitar Hero first hand.  Although I actually did not spend much time checking it out, I did notice some of the song titles and was not surprised to see that even the song titles contained suggestive themes.  Being familiar with those songs, I knew they were not the songs I want stuck in my daughter’s head. 

We all know that sex sells.  Combine those suggestive themes with Rock and Roll and you have a match made in capitalism dreamland.   And the game even looks fun. 

Fortunately, the neighbor’s Wii system also came with an Indianapolis speedway game that was more fun – something about driving backwards through the brickyard and causing crashes really appeals to those kids who are, in my opinion, much too young for the suggestive themes of Guitar Hero.  Ah, the innocence of youth.  I just hope they don’t grow up driving that way in my neighborhood.

Merry Christmas

I am sitting here, looking at Christmas Tree number 2 (number 1 is outside with bird treats hanging from it, safe from catching fire and burning down my house), and waiting for my daughter to call.  This is the first Christmas in my life on which I have awakened in an otherwise empty house – alone.  It is the first Christmas of her life that we have not awakened together.  It is strange. 

Later my daughter will be here, friends will come by and we will visit other friends.  Until then, I have made a pot of coffee, turned on the Christmas lights and am reading a book, writing in my journal and generally having a pleasant morning.  On any other day, I think I would cherish such a morning.  But, this morning it feels lonely. 

Perhaps that is why I have come here to reach out.  I will not know who reads this, if anybody does.  But, I will know that I have expressed myself .  That, for me, is enough right now.  For most of my life, I have allowed the lack of appropriate response from other people to keep me from expressing myself.  My new year’s resolution for 2008 was to express myself anyway.  So, here I am, keeping my resolution and feeling rather good about it.   What a lovely Christmas present to myself.

Walmart’s Values – rated “L” for “Lacking”

Wow, Walmart, bringing families together, way to go.  Oh, excuse me, my tongue got stuck in my cheek there for a minute.  What I meant to say was, “Could Walmart be any less family oriented?” 

 

Several times lately (obviously, I am watching too much television), I have seen a commercial for Walmart and Guitar Hero® that absolutely blows my mind.  (You can see it here:  http://commercial-archive.com/node/146624.)  At first, it all seems so incredibly nice – a whole family, gathered in the living room, playing Guitar Hero® together.  Music, dancing and smiling faces – what could possibly be wrong with this picture. 

 

The baby in the high chair is swinging his/her feet in time to the music, with head bobbing.  The preschool daughter jumps up and down in her purple patent shoes while her blonde ringlet curls bounce along with her.  The son, probably 7-8 years old plays drums, with his head bobbing to the beat.  Dad sets the rhythm at the beginning of the clip and then is seen in the background jamming on a guitar.  Mom is the star, up front playing guitar and thanking Walmart for making the Xbox and Guitar Hero® affordable so, “now this family is always together.”  The whole family. 

 

Are you wondering yet why I think this is not a “family-oriented” commercial and Walmart really blew it?  The answer comes at the very end of the commercial when the voiceover informs us that Guitar Hero® and, indeed, maybe this entire vignette, is “rated T for teens.” 

 

Now, I don’t proclaim to be any kind of an expert on rating systems, but I assume that “T for teens” means there is something about Guitar Hero® that is inappropriate for younger children.  The Guitar Hero® website identifies “mild suggestive themes” as the reason for the rating.  I have no idea and will probably not bother to find out exactly what “mild” or “suggestive” mean in this context.    

 

Walmart, on the other hand, should find out.  Walmart is sending this not-quite-Currier-and-Ives scene into our homes for the holidays.  Why, I wonder, could they not have used a family with teenage children.  Don’t families with teenagers need togetherness?  I suspect they have already saturated the teen market and are looking for a new demographic to target. 

 

Is anybody else offended by Walmart and their “togetherness” family beaming with joy (and greed) while the baby in the highchair participates in an activity rated “T for teen?”   I really can’t blame the mom – I know she is only an actress and those are, likely, not her children.  And, besides that, she is barely out of the teen years herself. 

 

My friends know that I am not against my daughter watching television or playing video games in moderation.  They also know that I try to keep my daughter away from television commercials.  She is way too easily influenced by them in extremely subtle ways that she cannot comprehend and guard against.  She knows that Walmart wants her money, but she does not understand the extent to which Walmart is willing to portray life unrealistically to get it.  She has no idea that Walmart is willing to ignore family values and common sense, sacrificing the greater good of children and families in the process, in their quest for the last Christmas dollar of the season.  Unless prompted, she would not even question the underlying message that we should all just ignore the rating system and let even the baby play the game rated “T for teens.” 

 

My daughter does not know these things.  The adults watching should. 

 

When the teen market has been saturated, Walmart needs to go after a younger market, so Walmart does.  That is capitalism.   Maybe the target of my outrage should be Activision Publishing.  According to its Guitar Hero® website, the game ratings range from “Everyone 10+ to  Teen.”  Is this really necessary?  It seems simple enough to create a version of Guitar Hero® that is appropriate for all ages.  There are plenty of good songs with family-appropriate lyrics and no suggestive themes, mild or otherwise.  I think it could be done.   

 

Even at E-10+, Walmart’s happy family need not apply.

He Lived for Less than an Hour; He Weighed Less than a Pound

Today is my son Matthew’s birthday.  It is also the anniversary of his death.  24 years ago he was born.  He lived less than an hour.  He weighed less than a pound.  These are the harsh details that seem to stick in my mind – he was just less than 1 in every way.  The medical details are unimportant, but he had no lungs.  Other than that, he was perfect in miniature – just 1 important organ short of 1 healthy baby; just slightly less than the 1 son I wanted to love and take home to a beautiful life. 

 

Today, I went to the cemetery where his ashes were scattered among the rose bushes.  I went early and watched the sun rise.  It is a sight he never saw.   The gates were not open yet, so I sat in my car near the locked gates and engaged in my annual ritual of reliving the day of his birth – the day of his death.  The sound of the rain tapping on the roof of the car lulled me into an almost trance-like state.  I could almost see the hospital lights and hear the monitors beeping and chirping. 

 

I objected when the anesthesiologist called me Liz:  “I am not Liz,” I said from where I was floating near the ceiling, just before the darkness invaded my being.  Then I remember waking up and being cold – I had never before been so cold.  The warmed blankets the nurses brought me could not penetrate through that cold.  I simply could not feel the warmth they brought me. 

 

Then, they told me my son had died.  And, suddenly the impossibility of feeling even colder became my reality.  The fires of hell could not have warmed me at that moment, although I thought for sure that is where I had awakened.  I had known the likelihood of his death, the very slim chances of his survival.  I had been living on hope and, now, that had been taken from me. I had nothing left to live on.  I have no fear of hell now because I have been there and survived.

 

I saw him – very briefly, a tiny lifeless body resting gently in the palm of my hand.  He fit in just one hand – just slightly less than a pound – and reminded me of a newborn kitten.  Well-meaning people hovered about, tending to me, trying to be supportive, not realizing that I wanted privacy.  I wanted to spend a private moment with my son.  I wanted to spend a private eternity with my son.  I wanted to rip myself back open and put him safely back inside where he could grow and become whole.

 

I go to the cemetery every year on his birthday.  I sit near the rose garden and grieve.  I grieve because my pain is all I have left of him since the hope was taken away.  I have no fond memories of him, but I have become fond of the ritual and the pain.  I cling to the pain as if letting it go would be to let him go all over again.  I rip myself open and allow the pain to grow until it is my whole being.  Then, when the fires of hell have burned themselves down to glowing embers, I go back home and continue my life until next year. 

 

Today, I took my only picture of Matthew – a Polaroid taken at the hospital – and scanned it.  After 24 years, it had faded.  But this picture I cling to, just as I cling to my pain, and I needed to preserve it.  Pictures fade faster than pain.  I do not know how I will preserve the pain if it ever starts to fade.