This blog is dedicated primarily to women who have overcome life-affirming obstacles to eventually soar to their greatest heights. As we all know, challenges are not specific to gender, race, culture or creed. Today, as I was reading an article by Dr. Phil McGraw on the Oprah Magazine Facebook page it brought to mind an entry from the manuscript of my "Oh Dear!" book of essays.
One of the key sentences in the article that struck me was, "I know exactly who I am, so why would I give my power away by putting my self-worth in anyone else's hands?" This one line is critical in overcoming the judgment of others while dealing with the consequences of disempowering choices - choices that we all make from time to time because we are human.
Hopefully, we all learn from our mistakes and when we can either make different and better choices or, where possible, make amends.
In the interest of the latter, I offer my lighthearted apology to Dr. Phil.
(See link to the O Magazine article below.)
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[Original letter penned 11/24]
"Dear Dr. Phil:
My sincerest apologies to you. I apologize for thinking of you as a lumbering troglodyte each time your figure appeared on my screen. Of course, it was lovingly directed as it was the only time I would ever have occasion to use the word troglodyte. It is as much a nod to the 70’s Jimmy Castor Bunch as it is to your take-no-prisoners imposing frame. Not much of a television watcher, I never understood the appeal of a TV psychologist who constantly yelled obscenities at his guests AND got paid quite handsomely for doing so.
As someone with a flavorful background, hailing from the Caribbean, I found some humor in your folksy deliveries even if I didn’t quite get them all. Through the yelling, the sayings and the often teary confession from a guest or two, I occasionally made it through an entire episode of your show.
One day, that all changed. The details of the particular show escape me now. However, I heard or probably overheard you say, “no matter how flat a pancake is, it always has two sides.” No, I didn’t run to my pantry to whip up a quick batch of Bisquick mix to test your hypothesis. Maybe it was true. Maybe it wasn’t. Instead, I chuckled, then I pondered and while still laughing, I pondered some more, then realized how true the statement was. I thought to myself: That Dr. Phil . . .
I have since applied your culinary litmus test to situations I find myself having to adjudicate. Whaddayoukno’? It’s true. I eventually discovered that what I termed yelling on your part was merely passion and as for the obscenities, well I guess that’s just Texas speak.
Kudos, congratulations and a heartfelt thank you to you for hosting the Dr. Phil show for 11 years displaying your brand of wisdom. It’s obvious that that’s 'workin’ ' out for ya.' "
"FEELING, FAITH and FACT"
"Three men were walking on a wall
Feeling, Faith and Fact
When Feeling took an awful fall
Then Faith was taken back
So close was Faith to Feeling
He stumbled and fell too
But Fact remained and pulled Faith back
And Faith brought Feeling too."
Life's challenges got you feeling down? The fact is: you are stronger than your problems and bigger than your mountains. Have faith in yourself and your ability to overcome. You have been through stuff before, haven't you? You have triumphed before, haven't you? No matter how you feel, FACT is: this too shall pass. FACT: You are an overcomer. FACT: You can do it. YES YOU CAN!
It’s the most wonderful time of the year. The stores are abuzz with activity as everyone hustles and bustles through the aisles looking for that perfect gift. It seems that everyone has made a list and is checking it twice. Some have already completed their shopping and are prepared for the big day to arrive. Others are waiting for the annual thrill of the last-minute rush. But there are those who, for some reason or another, are not able to provide their families with the items on their wish list this Christmas. Perhaps a job loss or slow business derailed this year’s finances. The provider may be completely overwhelmed by the prospect of a giftless Christmas, especially if there are children in the household. But there are ways to make the holidays just as joyful as ever.
As much as children like to unwrap presents, what they crave most from us is our time and attention. Instead of focusing on the usual techie gadgets, games and Barbie dolls, a few thoughtful expressions can make this challenging season one of good cheer.
Here are a few ways to overcome the holiday overwhelm without breaking the bank or looking like Mr. Scrooge:
* Create a family album with snapshots of times spent together and gift each member a copy.
* Make a video with little vignettes from past occasions. Add captions to identify the event time and place. Overlay with a playlist of background music that captures the essence of the family.
* Purchase tickets for a holiday-themed event that takes place just after the holidays when the prices will be deeply discounted.
* For those who absolutely, positively believe that opening a present is a must, then hosting a Secret Santa with each family member responsible for providing just one gift is a surefire way to keep costs down. This way everyone gets a gift and no one goes broke.
* Organize a charity event in which everyone participates by donating toiletries, gently worn coats, books, old cell phones or any other requested item to a local nonprofit organization, hospital or homeless shelter.
* Last but not least, engage everyone, especially the children in the old-fashioned, now unpopular tradition of sending Christmas cards. Have them purchase a few boxed cards to handwrite and mail to the elderly, sick or shut-in relative or neighbor. This exercise will teach them the joy of giving which is the true spirit of the season.
By creating an experience, you will give the young members of your family a lasting memory that they’ll talk about for many years to come. Who knows? They may even pass the new tradition on to their own children during the happ. . . happiest season of alllllllll
. . . to be jolly." FA LA LA LA LA LA LA LA LA!
But not everyone is singing.
I recently caught up with a few sisters from a fellow service organization and learned that some of them were not doing so well. Between hospital stays, surgeries and therapies, many are dealing with overwhelming challenges. Needless to say, holiday festivities are not high on their priority list this year.
Knowing how vibrant these women used to be, I felt that I needed to do something to help lift their spirits. It did not take me long to figure out what to do. Each of the women is unique and has very distinct needs. I knew immediately that a gift basket, personalized to suit each particular situation would give them a little holiday cheer.
So, I set out to work. No ordinary cookie-cutter store-bought basket would do. Not for these special friends. I would have to create each one myself.
So for the Top Lady who had hip surgery and is still undergoing physical therapy, she would get a package containing a gift certificate for house cleaning, some of her favorite delicacies and her signature orchid. For the avid reader who is questioning her parenting, she will receive a swag bag with a taste of "Chicken Soup for the Mother's Soul" as well as some encouraging, inspired literature. For the one who is overwhelmed by life, a gilded box with soothing fragrances and a few other indulgences would be her gift . . . and so on and so forth . . .
I thoroughly enjoyed the idea of putting these packages together. Some thought, a little creativity and a smile made it all too easy. It is not so much about the gift as it is about the "giftee."
In the end, the real joy turned out to be mine, the "gifter's," because without any forethought, this Christmas, a brand new business was born.
. . . FA LA LA LA LA LA LA LA LA!"
" 'Tis the season to get rid of clutter." Baggage. Garbage. Rubbish. Stuff. Trash.
In an aim to clear my living/working space and my head I've been feverishly eyeing, noting, labeling, designating, packing items that I need to release. A cluttered desk, they say, is a sign of a cluttered mind. It all started with an impromptu garage sale. Tagged to go were sundries, tchotchkes, novelties and the vagaries of my mind.
Not a resounding success, the hurriedly put together fun project, in the end, yielded more clutter and even less space. Items that were holed up in nooks and corners were now laid out in the open in previously untrafficked rooms. Now I was left to determine what to do with the unsold pieces staring me in the face. Angry that they had been disturbed, they beckoned me from their newly occupied floor space and challenged me to find them a permanent home. Rather than lug them all back up the stairs, I chose to donate some of the smaller bits and put the larger pieces by the curbside.
Within 24 hours of depositing a chest and two night tables on the sidewalk, interested parties slowed their cars to examine, one neighbor called to determine and a stranger rang my doorbell to ascertain if indeed the furniture was being thrown away. It all got me to thinking. Did I throw out something of worth? Was what I labeled annoying of value to someone else? Obviously, because later that day all three pieces were gone.
The old adage, "one man's trash is another man's treasure," instantly came to mind. How could it not? Here was a textbook case in front of my eyes or, at least, it was 24 hours earlier. It got me to thinking again. While the initial purpose of the exercise remains a work in progress, the lesson I took away is: before labeling anything, whether tangible or intangible, as trash or discarding any experience, pleasant or otherwise, it would be wise to first examine it with eyes of a different perspective. The things, the persons, the thoughts that we want to so readily dismiss may yet hold some virtue of which we are not aware.
Granted, I still need to get rid of a lot of stuff, or (as a dear little seasoned auctioneer schooled me) "deacquisition." However, in my quest to get clarity, I am now acutely aware that the things and experiences that I acquired along the way at one time served a purpose. Before relegating them all to the dumpster, I would do well to make sure that their usefulness has been exhausted.
As it turns out my trash was also my treasure. Gift. Present.
So, today, December 3, we celebrate Giving Tuesday, a day set aside to release our inner philanthropist and give generously to charitable organizations. Coming right after Black Friday, Small Business Saturday and Cyber Monday, supporters are hoping that the now annual event will become a part of the national consciousness.
I can stand behind that.
It is more blessed to give than receive, the Scriptures teach. While we may be a nation of shoppers, we are also a people with heart. "Last year, Giving Tuesday drew donations to about 2,600 nonprofits . . . " according to an article in Money & Co. We consistently and charitably believe in giving back.
I can definitely stand behind that.
But what about those among us who are chronic givers? There are those who give of themselves until they have nothing left to give. They don't just give back, they give without being asked. They give first. They give to family, friends, charities. They willingly offer advice and help to loved ones or anyone who asks. Eventually they become depleted. It is obvious that their giving is a symptom of a deep need for fulfillment; obvious to everyone else but themselves.
Today, I would like to make an appeal to those who are so inclined to take a little time and do some personal inventory. Should your fulfillment account be found wanting, then it may be time to take stock. Maybe now is the time to give, not to anyone or anything else but to your SELF. Unless you are whole you can give only of the broken pieces of your being. It is time to put yourself back together. On this Giving Tuesday, commit to give to YOU. Your loved ones will fare well. Once you're whole again, instead of trying to be a rope to pull them up, you can then be a ladder to help them climb up.
I most assuredly stand behind that.
The holidays are here! The holidays are here!
Thanksgiving dinner! Hannukah! Black Friday sales! Cyber Monday discounts! Christmas shopping! All the festivities ring with joy and laughter. Eat, drink, shop and be merry seem to be the order of the next few weeks.
Then we all get ready for the New Year. Armed with sturdy resolutions we will soldier on and do like we do every year__ make those cherished New Year's resolutions. But how many will be kept? How many goals will we meet?
According to Statistic Brain (statistics verified by: the University of Scranton, Journal of Clinical Psychology, 2012) the top 10 New Year's resolutions for 2012 were:
1. Lose weight 6. Learn something exciting
2. Get organized 7. Quit smoking
3. Spend less, save more 8. Help others in their dreams
4. Enjoy life to the fullest 9. Fall in love
5. Stay fit and healthy 10. Spend more time with family
According to the same study, people who are successful in achieving their resolution total 8%, people who have infrequent success make up 49% and people who never succeed and fail on their resolution each year account for 24% of total resolutions made.
Where do you fall on the scale? I know where I do as I never make resolutions solely for New Year's. What I have done with varying degrees of success and what I will do this year is forge ahead and keep pressing for the mark of the prize of my highest calling regardless of the day, date or time on the calendar.
How about you? What are your plans?
Jennifer Lavern is a keen observer of the issues that affect how women view themselves and how they interact with their world.