Tag Archives: language

That the Powerful Play Goes On and You May Contribute a Verse

“Oh me! Oh life! of the questions of these recurring…

…What good amid these, O me, O life?
                                       Answer.
That you are here—that life exists and identity,
That the powerful play goes on, and you may contribute a verse.” –Walt Whitman, Leaves of Grass

 

Here’s the thing about poetry. Poetry does not have time for your b.s.

Poetry is not here for your shenanigans. It does not care about your posturing. It demands distillation, crystallization, honesty; it insists that you decide what you’re going to say and then pushes you to get to the business of saying it. It’s not going to set a word limit (for which Dante Aligheri and John Milton were profoundly grateful, no doubt), but generally speaking it’s going to start giving you the “wrap it up” gesture if it catches you pontificating. Poetry wants to you get in, get done, and get out. Wheelbarrow, rainwater, chickensDONE. Heavens, mother, blackred rosesOUT.

Today is World Poetry Day, and I’m guessing about 50% of you just threw up a little bit. Because you’re imagining poetry of the “OH thee, OHHHH thou” type, or you’re having flashbacks to videos of people screeching into microphones about how their mothers never loved them, or you’re feeling vaguely traumatized by daffodils and can’t really place why that is (hint: you’re thinking of “I Wandered Lonely as a Cloud“, and I’m right there with you. Ugh.).

But fear not, we’re not here for Poetry 101. There are people significantly better qualified than I am to teach that course, and you’ve probably already had it anyway.

Instead we’re going to think about poetry as a way to live your life. Your entire life. (The other 50% of you just threw up. Sorry ’bout that. Stick with me–I promise I’m coming to a point here.)

The world has spent a lot of time in the last day or so talking about a Person Whose Name I’m Tired of Seeing Now, who passed away late Tuesday evening. You know the one I’m talking about. Big garish signs. Hate speech. Church in Topeka. That guy. I wrote an open letter to him here the other day, thanking him for the lessons I learned from watching him, but I’ve realized that I left one off: He’s a great–er, effective, ’cause I’m not comfortable saying anything about him was “great”–example of picking your passion and running with it. Sprinting. Tearing across the plains like you’re being chased by wild dogs. And while I do not agree with even one word of the things he was shouting as he sprinted, I kinda have to admire–actually, nope, we’re not using that word either, so let’s go with “acknowledge”–the focus behind his delivery.

This was not a person whose brand (as they say in marketing) was at all muddy. He was crystal-clear: you knew what he believed, what he stood for, what he thought, and what his opinions were about pretty much everything, whether or not those opinions seemed to have much sense. Or morality. Or sanity. I digress.

That’s exactly what I’m talking about when I say to “live your life like a poem”. Poetry (a much pleasanter topic than that other guy) demands the same sort of laser sight. Yes, there are myriad forms and variations to the structure of the stuff–you probably got to spend all sorts of time talking about sonnets and free verse and rhyming patterns and “metric feet” (which, yes, sounds like someone is very confused about how measurement systems work)–but generally speaking, for a thing to be poetry it needs to have a directness. You don’t get the 65,000 words of the average novel; for that wheelbarrow poem I mentioned earlier you get 16. That’s “sixteen”. Words. Total.

So you can go about your life pulling yourself in 64,000 directions, trying to be everything to everyone and do it all with style and grace and impeccable mascara, or you can take the time to sort out what it is that matters most to you and spend your days living that message at 100%.

Yes, it is ok to have more than one Thing That Matters Most; and yes, it is ok to wear many different hats. But I think it’s a good exercise, if nothing else, to pause occasionally and think about yourself as though you were about to be immortalized in verse: if your biographer had, say, the 14 lines of a sonnet to sum you up, would they have any idea where to start? Is there a message that shines through you every day of your life? Is it clear, once a person has gotten past the getting-to-know-you small talk, what it is that you’re about?

This isn’t a pass-fail thing, gang. It’s ok to say “Nope” to those questions, and it’s ok to say “Yes, but my Most Important Thing may change tomorrow”. It’s ok to have different key messages at different times of your life. It’s ok to evolve.

It’s ok to revise your poem, over and over, as you go. It’s ok to scrap your first few drafts altogether and write new ones, or to have different verses for the different phases of your life. Heck, if you’re doing particularly interesting things that each warrant their own section, go ahead and live like you’re starring in an epic by Homer (he’s the guy who wrote the Iliad and the Odyssey). But take the time to winnow out the proverbial chaff. Shake off the things that are unimportant to you. Decide who you are and what you stand for, and place that front and center.

Cut the extra words, and live like a poem. ‘Cause a poem ain’t got time for your b.s.

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Writing Your Epitaph

Today I learned something that I found fascinating: apparently, every day the Sisters of Mother Teresa’s Missionaries of Charity decorate her grave with flower petals. The decorations are just lovely, and frequently take the form of a bit of Scripture or an inspirational thought.

tumblr_lhivi55YSs1qf1pjko1_500

 

I found this absolutely beautiful, and spent the better part of an hour looking at pictures online…and then because I’ve got a bit of an obsession with cemetery statuary, I spent some highly enjoyable time looking at other graves from around the world, and the whole thing got me to thinking about how we remember our dead.

More precisely, it got me to thinking about how the choices we make every day directly impact the way we will ourselves be remembered. True, we don’t really have a lot of say over what our loved ones will carve on our gravestones when we die–or what they say at our funeral/memorial service/homegoing celebration, if you’ve opted not to be buried; I personally would like to be cremated, but wouldn’t mind if someone got, say, a park bench or something in my memory somewhere–and while I suppose you could technically pre-order your gravestone in advance, that’s a level of control freak-itude I don’t really know how to deal with.

So sooner or later, it’s going to fall to someone else to sum you up in a few words. Maybe a quote, or a short poem, or just a series of nouns (“Wife. Mother. Friend.”).

So here’s your ponderable for today, ‘Tracters: What sort of epitaph are you writing for yourself?

What sort of legacy are you leaving? What memories will the people around you have, when the time comes to decide how to describe you in as many characters as they can afford to have inscribed? What stories will they be able to tell during your eulogy?

Because to be very frank, your entire life–every choice you make, every day–will eventually be reduced to a few lines. Sure, maybe you’ll be one of the few folks who gets biographies written about them, but the odds aren’t really in your favor there. More likely, you’ll join the rest of us in the land of microbiographies, the people whose stories will be compressed to a quick glimpse and a few stories and in-jokes passed among loved ones.

So what will your epitaph be?

IMG_2101

Look, we’re not all going to be Mother Teresa. Odds are exceedingly good that nobody is going to be creating fresh flower displays on my grave every day for years and years after I die. But I can choose, each and every day, to live in a way that makes people at least consider that option. I can do everything I can to make the world a better place, knowing (in the selfish part of my brain) that while yes, I am doing these things because it’s the right/good/just/decent thing to do, it also wouldn’t break my heart if people said beautiful things about me when I die.

I can rock Dr Seuss’s advice (always a good idea), and make every day count.

drseuss-remembered

 

I can be mindful of what I say, and how I make people feel. I can look for the best in other people and extend that same grace to myself. I can believe in the potential for greatness in everyone I meet, including me.

I can be the sort of person who might just inspire folks to leave beautiful sayings about love on my grave in flower petals.

Because really, the other option holds no appeal for me whatsoever. Why settle for “Here lies Mama BW–She could’ve been far worse”? Or “In Memory of Mama BW, Who Didn’t Do Nearly As Much Harm As She Probably Could Have Done”?

Or heaven help me, why risk ending up like John Laird McCaffery, photographs of whose gravestone I will not include here because pottymouth, but whose epitaph clearly spells out how he was perceived?

I don’t want to be known as Mama BW–She Could Have Been So Much More If Only She’d Had More Free Cash. Nor do I want to be Mama BW–She Died With The Most Toys So She Wins.

I don’t want to be Mama BW–Boy Howdy Did She Do A Lot of Complaining.

I don’t want to be Mama BW–Really Kind of a Giant Pain in Everyone’s Tuckus.

I want there to be a park bench somewhere with my name on it, and maybe a lovely quote or line from a poem or song, and I want it to be the sort of place where there is always a flower or two, and I want to have earned that with my life.

I want to live every day with the knowledge that I am, even as we speak, writing my own epitaph…

I’m just not choosing the words.

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Filed under General Musings and Meanderings, Play Nicely

Please Help. Thank You.

Nobody panic: the title of today’s post is not actually a request. It’s a script, and one I would do well to memorize. One I think a lot of us would do well to memorize. Here’s why.

About a week ago, a dear friend of ours returned from a four-month trip around the world. She’d originally planned to be gone for a year, but the fun ran out and she came home a little early. Exactly zero people were sad to see her back so soon, and everybody fell all over themselves in an attempt to make her re-entry as easy as possible: people drove her to pick up her car, people brought her coats and crocheted her a beautiful scarf because it’s cold right now, people took her out to dinner. People literally debated who would get to have her come stay with them for that first few days. It was adorable and lovely, and made my heart smile.

But then the First Week Re-Entry Period wore off, and she started looking for longer-term options. I mean, you can couch-surf for a little while, but sooner or later you want a bedroom with a door. So she came over, sat down, and said “I’m given to understand that you have a guest bedroom. Do you think I could live here for a while?”

We said yes (because duh), and now we have a housemate. Hiya, roomie!

Now, here’s the reason I’m telling you that story: I’ve realized, as I’ve thought about it, that if I had been the person needing a place to stay, my dialogue would have been ZOMG so insanely long. I would have said something like “Hi! I brought you these cookies. I hear you have a guest bedroom, and I am currently looking for a long-term place to stay, and I know it’s probably terribly inconvenient and I will absolutely understand if you’ve got other plans for that room–like family coming to town or occasionally using it for overnight guests or storage or something–and that’s really totally ok, and I won’t be offended at all if you say no, but do you think I could maybe possibly sleep here just for an incredibly short amount of time while I frantically try to find anyplace at all to live? I promise I will cook and clean and grovel and shovel the driveway with a teaspoon and give you footrubs and make exactly zero noise and I am willing to give you every single dollar I ever encounter in exchange for rent while I live here, and OMG please no don’t feel like you have to feed me because I will live off melted snow and whatever acorns I can steal from the neighborhood squirrels”.

Because that’s how I roll, yo. That’s how I’ve always rolled. The idea of coming right out and asking for something I need–especially if there is any chance whatsoever that it will inconvenience someone else–makes my head explode. I get into a guilt spiral like you cannot believe, and I tend to avoid these sorts of conversations at all cost.

My friend, on the other hand, had a need, identified the need, and came right out and asked for help.

/blink, blink

Mind = blown.

Which is why we’re talking about this today. How many times have you needed something from someone, and approached the request in that slinking, tail-between-the-legs, hat-in-hand, sheepish, oblique way? How many times have you started the conversation with “I’m so, so sorry to ask for this”? How many times have you built an “out” into the request–things like “I understand if you can’t, and that’s totally fine, because I know you probably have plans on that day, but if you happen to be free…”?

But hang onto your socks, kids, ’cause I’m about to drop a cosmic bomb on your head: What if you started thinking of requesting help less as this Big Horrible Thing That Will Inconvenience Everyone You Love, and started thinking of it as a gift to the person you’re asking?

What if you took a second to revise your role in your own head, and decided that you were no longer the tragic supplicant but were instead the Bringer of Opportunity–in this case, the opportunity for someone you love to build up a little extra karma, or repay you for a kindness you’ve already done for them?

What if you chose not to slink into the room, but to stride in, knowing that you were offering the chance to be an agent through which the Universe could work its magic?

Ecstatic Motion

 

Sure, asking for help can seem really scary and overwhelming–what if the person says “No”? What if it really is a huge inconvenience? What if it turns out that nobody actually loves you enough to show up when you need them the most? These are all legitimate, valid fears, and it’s totally ok to take two or three or a hundred bracing breaths before you make the request. It’s also totally ok to have a Plan B, Plan C, and Plan OMG in case the request-ee really isn’t able to provide the help you need.

But it’s also ok to make that leap of faith and trust that the Universe has put the safety net in place. It’s ok to approach this as your way of letting your friend pay you back for that time you helped him haul 40 boxes of books into his new third-floor walkup apartment. It’s ok to think of this as an opportunity for the request-ee to build some preemptive karma, so that when they need a new kidney, they know who to call first.

It’s ok to need other people, and it’s ok to let them help you out. It’s ok to be the Universe in ecstatic motion, and trust that the Universe knows who needs to build some karma and who needs a chance to learn some things about themselves and who needs a chance to grow, and it’s ok to be the person who provides those opportunities.

It’s ok to call in a favor.

At the risk of showing the depth and breadth of my geekitude, it’s ok to help us help you help us all.

And you can do it with four simple words: “Please help. Thank you”. That’s it–no apologies, no excuses, no circuitous language. The world won’t end. The friendship won’t be utterly destroyed.

You can do it.

I have faith in you.

Help prove me right on this one. Please. And thank you.

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Filed under General Musings and Meanderings, Play Nicely, Share the Toys

Buffalo Tantrum: The “P” Word

Ok, look.

Some of you have probably seen this image floating around recently:

jennifer lawrence

 

If you’re reading that and wanting to give Jennifer Lawrence a high-five or a hug or a pony, let me note for the record that I’m right there with ya. I love Jennifer Lawrence. I loved her when she tripped at the Oscars, I love her when she makes slip-ups and goofy faces in interviews, and I love her when she is utterly flawed and utterly human and leaves the house anyway despite knowing that everything she does is going to be on the tabloid covers tomorrow.

And if you followed the link by clicking on that picture, let me note that I love Upworthy, their compulsion to put popups on every page notwithstanding. They have some great stuff there (some schlock, too, but that’s forgivable), and I spend more time than I care to admit sniffling over their videos and fist-pumping about their commentary on the World These Days.

But because I’m me, and because words are really important to me, I have to take a minute and have a minor tantrum about something that really stuck out to me in that Jennifer Lawrence quote–specifically, the part where she says that “we see this airbrushed perfect model”.

I know, I know, some of you are going to accuse me of splitting hairs in 3…2…1…but it seems to me that referring to the airbrushed version as “perfect” undermines her message just a touch. And lest you think I’m going after Ms. Lawrence here, please let me assure you that I’m not–I’m actually aiming this tantrum at society at large.

Here’s what happens: we tell ourselves, our kids, and each other that we should accept ourselves for how we are, regardless of how we look. We say that people should love themselves in whatever body they have. We say that people are a soul in a body, not a body with a soul. And then–without meaning any harm by it–we turn around and, sometimes in the same breath, refer to these art projects (what else would you call a sculpture, like a doll, or a painting done onscreen with airbrushes?) as “perfect”.

In other words, we say “no, no, sweetie, you’re fine. That over there is perfect, but you…you’ll do. I mean, I love you, and that’s what really matters”.

The last part of that sentiment is great, sure, but could we maybe try not accidentally drawing the unattainable parallel as we go?

This horrifies me in ways I can't put words to.

This horrifies me in ways I can’t put words to.

I think this is what’s screwing us up, folks. We’re spending all our time going ’round and ’round in circles, trying to convince ourselves and each other that we’re all good enough, pretty enough, etc, while simultaneously holding up artwork as the ideal. But here’s the thing: art is art. People are people. They periodically have some things in common, but it’s certainly not frequent enough to make art a reasonable aspiration for your appearance on a random Tuesday.

And for that matter, why do The Powers That Be get to pick the artwork we want to resemble? Just because their voice is the loudest? Because they bought the most airtime? If I decided to live my entire life by the rule that He Who Advertises To Me Most Aggressively Wins, then I’d fall to pieces almost immediately just because I’d never be able to decide whether Coke or Pepsi was the best. I’d be like that thought experiment where you strap a piece of buttered-side-up toast to the back of a cat and drop it, since in theory neither side will ever hit the ground (note: do not do this, bananahead).

So to heck with them, I say. This is my life and my body and my sense of aesthetics shall rule the day. They don’t get to tell me that blonde hair is more “perfect” than brown, they don’t get to tell me that French manicures are more “perfect” than the natural unpolished look that I’m rockin’, and they don’t get to tell me that the artwork on the front of magazines is more “perfect” than the artwork I resemble.

220px-Willendorf-Venus-1468

This one, thankyouverymuch. And I think she’s perfect.

And from here on out, I’m going to pay close attention to my language. I will try with all my might to avoid using the “p” word unless it’s in a clearly indicated statement of opinion (“Personally, I think this cheesecake is perfect”) or in reference to an objectively, scientifically measurable phenomenon (“That photograph is centered perfectly above the sofa”).

Human beings are not perfect, y’all. That’s all I’m saying. And the sooner we can strike that word from our vocabulary and decide collectively that the advertisers don’t get to buy our sense of aesthetics anymore, the sooner we can maybe start making some progress away from fat-shaming and skinny-slamming and people having surgery on their eyelids.

Now if you’ll pardon me, I’m going to go look at some more pictures of Jennifer Lawrence. That gal is not perfect, but she’s certainly aesthetically pleasing to my eye, and besides, she’s a hoot.

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Filed under Don't Make Me Come Down There, General Musings and Meanderings

Un- “Just” -ified

I want you to take a look at something.

Fancypants Holiday Office Shindig 2013

That’s the picture from yesterday’s Fancypants Office Holiday Shindig Recap, and I want you to take a good long look at it. Really examine it. Feel free to click to embiggen, or print it out life-size (I’m about 5’7″ barefoot, probably 5’9″ in those heels) and stare at it for a bit. Now, go through and circle all the things in that picture that can realistically be described as “small”, “little”, “wee”, or other synonyms I’m too lazy to list right now. Go ahead. I’ll wait.

/files nails

/checks email

Are we all back now? Yes? Ok. Now, if you’re like me, you’ve probably circled some things on the tree, plus the clutch handbag (side note: I totally scored that clutch for, like, $5. Thrift store FTW!). There’s a chance that you circled the shoes, and if so, that means they’re doing their job: they have this bizarre space-folding ability to make my pontoon boat feet look dainty. I actually wear a size 11 shoe. Snowshoes? None for me, thanks, I’m good.

But–let’s be honest–you probably haven’t circled much else on the side of the picture where I’m standing, because–let’s be honest–there’s not much about me that’s small. I’m a large lady. I wear large clothes. I have big hands, a broad face, and longish hair. I wear only drop or hoop earrings–no posts for me, thanks. My regularly scheduled purse is a diaper bag, fer cryin’ out loud, and I’ve got a voice that can carry to 24 school-aged kids at a crowded swimming pool during a summertime field trip. I have laughed loudly enough that I could feel the sound waves hitting a table that my hand was resting on at the time. I am not, and I apologize if this comes as a surprise to you, a teensy li’l thang.

My blog posts are long, my sentences are complex and occasionally rambling, my vocabulary is large, my words are polysyllabic. I’m big all over. I mean, c’mon, what did you expect from a gal who goes by “Mama BuffaloWmn”?

So why, dearlordinheaven, why do I feel the compulsion to diminish the words that I write?!?

…I should give you some context.

Yesterday I fought a pretty bloody fight against my internal demons and programming, and posted about how I was a total rock star this past weekend. Arguably, I’m a total rock star more frequently than that, but that was the most recent obvious example. (Fighting…urge…to…add…qualifiers…and…apologetic…statements….) Since I work from home, I was simultaneously sending and/or replying to assorted emails, and since a startling percentage of my social life is conducted online (we live in the future), I was also sending and/or replying to personal correspondence via various sites and media.

And you know what I noticed? An astonishing amount of my correspondence included the word “just”: “Just wanted to see if 3 PM EST works for you”; “I was just wondering if you’d prefer to move the meeting to Friday”; “I was just unsure whether you’d be home tomorrow”; “I’d just like to add my two cents here”; etc, etc, etc.

So on the one hand, I was all singin’ my own praises out in front of god and everybody, and on the other hand, I was starting, like, every single message with an apology for the simple act of communicating with people–which is doubly hilarious, because a lot of those messages were replies. People were expecting to hear from me, and I still found myself compulsively apologizing for the intrusion in their day.

/blink blink

It’s an act of self-diminishment, is what it is, and I’m here to tell ya, it’s gotta stop. It’s no different than the need many of us feel to apologize for every little thing whether it actually merits an apology or not (there’s an amusing anecdote about that in this post about the Overuse of “I’m Sorry”–look for the bit about the bears); it serves no purpose other than to make us seem smaller, less intrusive, less imposing…and for a person like me, where every other facet of my existence is large, bold, and infinitely noticeable, it’s perhaps a touch on the ludicrous side for me to try to be the dainty, shrinking violet. Especially with my words, of all things.

So that’s my mission, ‘Tracters: I’m going to make a concerted effort to reduce my use of the word “just”. Ditto for “simply”, “merely”, and so forth. I mean, they’ll still be allowed when they’re being used in a non-self-abasing way–how else am I supposed to say “No, thanks, just the coffee for me” without sounding overblown? Somehow “No, thanks, the coffee will suffice for my needs though I appreciate your dedication to thorough service and your offer to bring me additional beverages or treats” doesn’t have the same casual feel I shoot for in restaurants.

But I don’t get to use them as a way of excusing the fact of my existence. I don’t get to use them as an attempt to slip my way unnoticed into a conversation–especially when it’s one where I was explicitly invited to participate. I don’t get to use them to diminish my voice, my thoughts, my opinion, or my messages to the world.

I’ve been told that my words are my greatest gift; seems to me like it’s plain rude to try to play them down.

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Filed under General Musings and Meanderings, Play Nicely

I Kinda Rule: Holiday Edition

I have been working on this post since Sunday afternoon.

So far what has tended to happen is that I think for a few minutes about what I want to say and how I want to say it, then I stride purposefully toward my office so that I can sit down and start writing, and somewhere around the 10-steps-from-the-office-door mark 35 years of training leap up and bash me over the head with a giant mallet labeled “HUMILITY”. If that doesn’t slow my roll, it breaks out “SHAME”, and if all else fails, it falls back on “SELF-ABASEMENT” which, as trump cards go, is pretty much always effective.

Which is how I’ve come to spend three days not writing this post. In the meantime, I’ve done some laundry, cooked some food, had I don’t even know how many frivolous conversations with people, wrapped some presents, and watched some television. Heck, yesterday afternoon I took about a 20-minute nap. That is how hard I’ve been avoiding writing this post.

And that’s why it’s extra-important that I write it: because it’s about how I was actually kind of a rock star this weekend. And if anyone else I care about had been a rock star, I’d be all about bragging on ’em. I’d post about ’em on Facebook. I’d write blogs in their honor. I’d take and post pictures, and talk about them on the phone with my mother. But when I’m the one who broke out a little extra awesomeness? Somehow that’s taboo, and my internal filters clamp down like I’m about to share some state secret I don’t even have the clearance to know–let alone to share with the world.

And that’s not ok, when it comes right down to it. “Humility”, they say (where “they” = C. S. Lewis), “is not thinking less of yourself, but thinking of yourself less”…and I agree with that, but I’d hasten to point out that nowhere in there does it say anything about refusing to think of yourself at all. We are permitted to brag on anyone who does something awesome–and that includes ourselves. I am permitted to brag on anyone who does something awesome–and that includes myself.

I’ve written 363 words now and I’m still elbow-deep in caveat. To heck with this; I’m goin’ in.

This weekend was Moon Man’s Fancypants Holiday Office Shindig. and I looked like this:

Fancypants Holiday Office Shindig 2013

Some of you may recall the saga of The Dress from last week, when I came to grips with the idea that my nieces and nephews deserve to grow up with an Auntie BW who is confident enough to post a picture of the nice model wearing the dress she herself is planning to wear, even knowing full well that she and the model will look different in it.

And y’know what? I rocked that dress. Yes, the model and I looked different, which is probably just as well because it would be very confusing if everyone on earth looked alike. No, I did not have a team of hair- or makeup stylists. And yes, I totally had backup flats in my purse, because my Mama didn’t raise no fool. But it deserves to be said: I looked cute. I wore the heck outta that dress, and I will probably wear it again for future shindigs (there’s a charity dinner we attended for the first time last year, and I betcha we go again this year, and the dress would be perfectly appropriate for that event). Shee-yoot, I might wear that dress to the grocery store. I felt great, very confident, very stylish, very with-it, and it showed.

And–and and and–I got all the way through the fancypants shindig without throwing, dropping, or catapulting any food! I did not belch or sneeze on anyone, I used my napkin like a grownup lady, I picked the right fork on the first try, and I meandered graciously with a glass of wine and didn’t spill a single drop. I am a total rock star, kids, and don’t you (or I) forget it.

The face of a total rock star.

The face of a total rock star.

And then the next morning we came home and did the final preparations for the Buffalo Stampede Adopt-a-Family 2013 holiday party. We started this last year, this business of adopting a family through a local children’s charity and having everyone in our group (the “Buffalo Stampede”) either select one family member to buy for or just bring cash to donate to the grocery store gift card we commit to including. Then we pick a date and throw a party, and everyone brings their gifts to show off and wrap together while enjoying warm beverages and snacks and good, festive company.

It all sounds pretty straightforward, reduced to a few sentences like that, but the reality is that there’s a not-insignificant amount of coordination and work involved. For context, I started working on this in October. We had roughly 20 families participate in this year’s Stampede; so for the last 60 days or so, I’ve done Facebook postings, shopping, replied to emails/text messages/instant messages/Facebook messages/calls, fielded last-minute questions about sizes and/or color preferences and/or ages and/or preferred stores, and made sure each person in our assigned family had at least one designated Primary Shopper. I’ve counted cash. I’ve filed gift receipts. I’ve selected and gathered coordinating gift wrap, tissue paper, and gift tags, and picked up garment boxes and gift card holders.

And then there’s the party itself, which needed coordinating plates, bowls, and napkins (I may have gotten slightly OCD with it all). I made sure the snack spread included an actual entree (in this case, a big pot of chili) in case people needed a meal option. I had an entire table of arts’n’crafts supplies for the kiddos, including–wait for it–a planned project (superhero snow globes).

See? Snowglobes.

See? Snowglobes.

Hilariously, all the families with kiddos had to bow out of the party because of illness or other crises, so we grownups made the snow globes ourselves, and had a blast. Heck, I even made personalized party favors–and wrapped them individually in gift bags with (you had to know this was coming) coordinated gift bags, tissue paper, and a charming candy cane.

I made a  bunting, people. With inspirational quotes about generosity and taking care of your fellow humans.

See? Bunting. Pay no attention to the cat.

See? Bunting. Pay no attention to the cat.

And it paid off like mad–the turnout was pretty good at the party, the insane flu bug running rampant through our friends group notwithstanding. Our goal was to have at least one present per person in our 6-person adopted family and $75 to put toward a grocery store gift card, and at last count, the total haul was somewhere around 50-55 presents and $160 for the grocery card. Which, and let me be very clear on this point, is an awesome and amazing testament to how generous and loving the Stampede folks can be. I’m deeply honored to know these folks, and deeply proud to be counted among their friends.

The gifts for the family. That's pretty much the exact opposite of an empty stocking on Christmas morning.

The gifts for the family. That’s pretty much the exact opposite of an empty stocking on Christmas morning.

So y’know what, 35 years of training with your mallets and your inner demons? Out you go. If asked, I would say that What I Most Want to Accomplish With My Life is “make a positive difference in people’s lives”, and my unofficial answer is “…and look cute doing it”.

And that, objectively and honestly speaking, is exactly what I did this last weekend.

In other words, I kinda rule. And I deserve to celebrate that fact.

So this one’s for me. Congratulations, Self, on being a total rock star and an all-around swell gal, and double congratulations for doing so in a photogenic way. High-fives all ’round and a nice shot of victory whiskey for me. Attagirl. Et cetera.

Maybe I should make myself a medal.

P.S.–To everyone who participated in this year’s Stampede, Thank you. Without y’all, I’d just be a madwoman with a Facebook account and insufficient supervision. You are generous and incredible people, and … and I’m about to get sniffly again, so I’m stopping here. Love you hooligans.

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Filed under Don't Make Me Come Down There, General Musings and Meanderings, Play Nicely, Share the Toys

Happy Allthedays

This morning my friend, Bunny Gesserit, posted a few thoughts on her personal Facebook page about Playing Nicely during the holidays–specifically, how for her the phrase “happy holidays” is meant to have emphasis on the “happy” part, because she’s wishing joy to you no matter what it is that you’re celebrating. In half-joking reply, I commented “happy allthedays”; and the longer I’ve sat with that, the more I begin to think that that may actually need to become my Official Holiday Season Greeting.

Here’s the thing: I worked in childcare for a while, and then I worked at a call center for the dat gum gubmint for a while. Now I work for an organization that works with attorneys from all over the country. And aside from the need to cultivate an ability to calm a frustrated person, the thing these positions all had in common is that I have the opportunity to talk with a lot of people from a lot–lot–of different backgrounds, faiths, traditions, religious practices, non-religious practices, and belief systems.

You know what I’ve learned as a result of all of that? People get so, so touchy around this time of year, particularly when you try to wish them a “happy _____”. 

hanukkah-kwanzaa-happy-holidays-christmas-season-ecards-someecards

Look, I get it that people are very, very invested in their beliefs. I get it that this time of year holds profound significance for a lot of folks, and that this is a deeply symbolic season for a lot of faiths and traditions. I get it that some religions include proselytizing as one of their key tenets, and I get it that some folks have been so beaten down that they’re reluctant to say anything at all about their beliefs. I get it that some of you have “good news” that you want to share with me, and I get it that some of you are having a kneejerk negative reaction to the phrase “good news”–and I get it that the phrase “good news” is not, in fact, specific to a single given faith. Neither is “miracle”, nor “light”.

So here’s what we’re going to do here at Buffalo Tracts: We are going to remind everyone that this is a safe space. Here on the blog, as in our home, it doesn’t matter what you celebrate (or don’t celebrate. I’m not going to break into your house and put up tinsel). Here you can be assured that whatever you may choose to say or not say, or do or not do, as your way of celebrating (or not celebrating) this time of year, it will be held in the same respectful regard as what anyone else is doing/saying/celebrating.  (Ok, that’s not strictly accurate. There are some things, involving cruelty and hatefulness, that will never be ok regardless of what you say you’re celebrating. Sorry, but Mama BW gotsta draw a line somewhere.) So if you want to come wish me a “happy ____”, by all means, go for it, and I’ll wish you something joyful in return, and it is really, really ok if our “happy ____”s don’t match. We don’t all have to be the same. That’s the fun of the thing.

And since I’ve executively declared that the Safe Space Bubble is movable, that Safe Space protection extends in a sphere around me as far as my voice can travel, and goes with me wherever I go. In other words, if you’re being a doodyhead within shoutin’ distance of a riled-up Buffalo, prepare to be gored. Conversely, if you happen to see me out and about, please know that you can always come take refuge by my shaggy, shaggy side, and as long as you’re there, you’re free to be whoever you truly are and I will gleefully and lovingly trample anyone who tries to give you grief for it.

The moral of the story here is that here at BuffaloTracts, and wherever this here Buffalo might roam, we celebrate everything. To me this season is all about taking a month or so each year to be as amazing to each other as we possibly can; in an ideal world we’d take all the months for that, but I’ll settle for starting with just December. It’s about Using Your words to say nice things to each other, and Playing Nicely by finding little ways to make each other smile, and Sharing the Toys whenever we see an opportunity. It’s about taking care of each other. It’s about snuggling under literal or metaphorical blankets. It’s about loving each other so fiercely that the cold and the dark don’t stand a chance against us all.

It’s about celebrating all the days we have together, one day at a time.

So with that in mind, I wish you a very Happy Allthedays. Be as fabulous as you can possibly manage, and do try not to get hung up on semantics or details if someone wishes you a happy something-other-than-what-you-personally-celebrate. It’s all about the love, at the end of the day, and I’ll take that wherever I can find it.

How cool is this?!? I don't know this blogger (yet), but I do know I like his aesthetics. ;)

How cool is this?!? I don’t know this blogger (yet), but I do know I like his aesthetics. 😉

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Filed under Don't Make Me Come Down There, General Musings and Meanderings, Play Nicely, Share the Toys