The Giving Tree

There is a book that was published in 1964 by  Shel Silverstein titled The Giving tree. It is a well known children’s book and one of my favorites. another one of my favorite Giving trees is the Christmas Tree. I think of a Christmas Tree as a giving tree because it is where we place the presents that we are going to give. Plus, if you have a live tree, that tree gives itself to us for the purpose of being a Christmas tree (which is the subject of another children’s book.

The Christmas tree is up and the house is decorated. And this year there is so much to celebrate and to give. This is the happiest of holidays in many years. And the house looks as festive as I feel.

It has been a long time coming, indeed. I haven’t been this happy or excited about Christmas for at least 6 years. And now my heart if full and even overflows. I am happy.

Yes there are still moments of sadness and loss, or where I get discouraged, but this year is so much better than the last. This year, even with all of it’s challenges, has shown me that starting over can be the best and most beautiful thing you can do in life.

Life is short. Put up the tree, celebrate the holidays, and lvoe as much as you can.

The Thanks of Giving

This year Thanksgiving looked very different for many families across the country. And yet, many people are still happy and healthy and smiling. It has been quite a year, and we all all ready for some celebrations. My household is not different.

It was a small gathering, with a ridiculous amount of food. And we ate until we were about to pop. We drank wine and scotch as we were rushing around cooking dinner, prepping the last bit of things. There was alughter and smiles and so. Much. Food.

And then a prayer before eating, praying for loves one near and far, giving thanks for the food and house and love. And then more laughter and eating, and more giving thanks. This year, for everything. For my wonderful house, great friends and neighbors, a career that I love and am blessed to have. For moving and finding my home.

There has been much for my loved ones, friends and I to celebrate. There has been no shortage of good news and things to celebrate. There have been new moves, job changes, proposals, a wedding, pregnancies, driveway gatherings, making new friends, new discoveries, making a hone, gardens with vegetables…but most of all love. And so I give thanks for that love most of all, and the life it has built so far.

Because in life, you can focus in on what you have, or what you don’t. No life is perfect, and mine certainly isn’t. But it is the life that I have right now, in this moment. So I will love this life with my whole heart, and I will be happy where I am and will be excited about where life is going. Because most of the time, it is about the journey, so don’t wait until you reach the destination to appreciate what you have. Do that now.

There have been some rough patches this year, and those spots make me acutely aware of what I have in front of me now. And who.

Life is short. Remember that when you give thanks

The Thanks of Giving

It is the holidays once more. And it seems that more people are putting up Christmas decorations early, including me, as the country comes together in celebrating what gives us joy. My ThanksChristmas tree is up but not decorated yet. It’s a little tall for the cieiling, which only adds to the amusement. We will decorate it after turkey.

Large gathering are being discouraged this year, so it will be a small celebration. Even though it has been a hard year for many, there are still things for which to be thankful.

I love my house, I love where I live. Love me awesome neighbors and lvoe this new life that I have carved out. It is a blessing to be here. It is a blessing to have the people who are in my life. It is a blessing to have had a new beginning, in this place, at this time.

Soon I will be able to visit family and friends in Georgia, but for now I will nest and celebrate here, where I am. This past weekend worked it’s magic, and the magic continues. Along with the traditions. Thanksgiving Taco Tuesday, friends, decorations, laughter wine and making memories.

Life is short. And when times are strange, as they are now, the focus must be on what we have now. In front of us. We cannot change how the world is at this moment, but we can do everything we can to make our world, our little universe, and those in it, feel wanted and loved. And for that we should all be thankful.

The Anniversary

They would have been married 53 years this Saturday. They were married in 1967 after being friends for 5 years. Their’s was such a love story. And I am so proud that my parents loved each other so much. They taught me what a healthy, loving relationship looked like.

I remember many years ago when my sister and I watched them walking in the yard, holding hands, smiling, laughing and obviously still very much in love. It was beautiful to see. They still argued every now and then and they still made compromises. They were both the first to say that it took work, but that the work was worth it.

And as much as I miss them both, there is Peace in knowing that they are together, celebrating this anniversary of theirs. And I know that they will be with me this weekend as I celebrate as well.

Life is short. Celebrate love every day.

Six Weeks a Lifetime

What a strange year this week has been.

This year has been a one for the history books in may ways. We have all learned that anything is possible. Murder hornets, 19+ hurricanes, pandemics, isolation, quarantine, Australian bushfires, protests for everything, strange elections, west coast fires. The loss of family members and even Alex Trebeck. I hope Betty White is safe, because we need her. And now everyone is putting up Christmas decorations before Thanksgiving – including me. It is now called the ThanksChristmas Tree. And it is hard when you cannot see friends and family.

I think we have all been left shaking our heads trying to figure out what just happened all year. The holidays are coming, and no one knows what to expect. Are we going to wake up to snow in the South, a heat wave up north and rain in the dessert? At this point no one would even bat a an. Just give the steak knives to who ever had that on their 202 Bingo Card.

So maybe this is the wrong year to stop sniffing glue. Or anything really. Our vices have helped us survive this year. Usually I think about what I want for the new year, but that is a bit hard when this year has been so…2020. But this is what I want:

To see my family and friends. It isn’t so much about travel as it is about seeing and hugging and being in the presence of those I love. To travel again. To laugh with my friends in a bar, or movie, or to explore the wonderful city where I live.

I do believe that we must concentrate on what we do have, and not what we don’t. There is much that is out of our control right now, but we can focus and what we can control. That gives a sense of nomality.

I can control how much I talk to my friends and family. I can still love them endlessly, laugh and cry with them. Share with them. I can cook wonderful meals, spend time talking to neighbors that those who live close. There are Christmas lights to see and gifts to buy and wrap. There are trips to plan for soon, when borders are back open. And there are still smiled to be seen, kisses, glasses of wine, great conversations and the ability to connect on a human level. Those are all things that we can control. Our mindset, our hearts, our willingness to still be there and share with others.

Life is short. And even in these times, we can do what we can to make the last 6 months of this crazy year the best that it has ever been. Because let’s face it, we are not alone. It has been crazy for everyone. So let’s have a big virtual party and gives ourselves a pat on the back. We’ve made it this far, and we are doing OK. So 2020, bring it. Because 2021 is going to be the year we all want, full of joy and happiness and hope. We just have to make it another 6 weeks in this lifetime of a year.

Need and the Human Condition

To need and to be needed is one of the most beautiful things we can experience in this lifetime as human beings. Not only does it ensure survival of the species, it is also a joyful feeling, or should be. We are human. We NEED each other:

Years ago, anthropologist Margaret Mead was asked by a student what she considered to be the first sign of civilization in a culture. The student expected Mead to talk about fishhooks or clay pots or grinding stones.

But no. Mead said that the first sign of civilization in an ancient culture was a femur (thighbone) that had been broken and then healed. Mead explained that in the animal kingdom, if you break your leg, you die. You cannot run from danger, get to the river for a drink or hunt for food. You are meat for prowling beasts. No animal survives a broken leg long enough for the bone to heal.

A broken femur that has healed is evidence that someone has taken time to stay with the one who fell, has bound up the wound, has carried the person to safety and has tended the person through recovery. Helping someone else through difficulty is where civilization starts, Mead said.”

To need and to be needed is a beautiful fact of The Human Condition. To deny that you need, is to deny that Joy of being needed, as well as the joy of someone needing you. That mutual need is one of the basic building blocks of not only human connection. but of love and relationships as well.

But somewhere along the way, some ascertained that needing, or having any attachment to anyone is negative and unhealthy. When in fact, it is not needing and not being attached that shows an unhealthy life. How do we know this? Because our need and attachment to others ensures the survival of the species. Mothers must be attached to their children and the children must need their parents in order to survive. A 10 year old child cannot survive without their mother. And their mother must be attached enough to nurture them.

Families must be attached enough and need each other in order to stay together to survive. Before children, a couple must be attached enough to each other to have and raise a child together. And yet, so many adults in the world fear both and see it as a sign of weakness.

In the old days. there had to be love, though love seems to be virtually obsolete in this day and age, for anything. But maybe that is why so many are so lost in this world. Maybe it is because we are being told by so many – Don’t get attached. Don’t need anyone. Don’t need anything. Let it all go. Being attached to anything, a person, an outcome, anything, is unhealthy.

Sorry, I call bullocks on the whole thing. To love and be loved is a beautiful thing. To need and be needed is a beautiful thing. And to run from any of those is to run from the very things that not only are part of the human condition. It is also to deny the joy of so many beautiful things in this life.

To me it is incredibly simple – God loves us, and we love each other. The love I have for God originates from the same place as my love for others. And you cannot truly honor God and his commandments to us, without love, need and attachment. So it is written.

Life is short. Be attached, yet love freely. Don’t fear needing or being needed. Fear being a shriveled up bitter person who refuses to need anyone. No man is an island, and no heart that is open will every be truly alone.

The Last Matriarch

She was 96 and quite spirited. She led the Burch family as the senior elder, and all the other elder’s respected her position in this hugely Southern family. You knew of her approval, or not, with a quick and quiet expression. But she had no problem voicing her thoughts either.

She was my Aunt Nelma. And after a long illness, she passed away today to touch the Face of God and be reunited with her husband.

We will miss her.

Happy and Wild

A friend recently sent this to me saying that there had never been anything that described me more perfectly. I laughed agreed. But to understand this, you must first understand the definition of Wild. Or at least my definition. Most think that wild describes someone who parties, or drinks and does questionable things that they probably should not be doing in the first place. No, that is not wild, that is the definition of stupid.

To me, wild in this sense is living life on your own terms and not being concerned about what others think of you. God gave me of conscience, and therefor, if I have faith in Him, I have faith in the abilities he gave me and my sense of discernment. People who are confident in themselves do not seek the approval of others but instead obtain autonomy in their handling of life.

And I come by this attitude naturally, as both of my parents were quite revolutionary in their own way. My father was an electrical engineer and a rocket scientist. He designed ballistic missiles and their control systems, among other things. You can see many of the projects he worked on, such as Nike-Zeus, the Mercury Project, and Atlas, at the Smithsonian Space and Science Museum.

My father loved my mother and he loved children. But that is not what made him wild. What made him wild is that he helped raise children who where not his own. His first wife cheated and gifted him with three children by other men. When they divorced, even though he was Catholic, he refused to get the marriage annulled because he did not want to illegitimize those children. When he and my mother married, they had to do so in a different denomination because he protected those kids. And he paid child support for them, double the amount due sometimes, because he believed so much in adults and parents doing what is right for the child above everything else. And to the day he died, he never spoke ill of their mother to those kids. That is pretty wild even by today’s standards.

He lived by his word and if he shook on it, you could take it to the bank. His career and reputation were impeccable, for which he worked very hard and was extremely proud. He could make or break another engineer’s career by his word alone, something he took seriously. He felt the weight of that responsibility, respected it and never abused it.

My mother left her small Tennessee town, joined the Air Force and headed for Washington DC. She worked in the Pentagon as a Cryptologist, had the highest security clearance, and worked with the Joint Chiefs of Staff. She told me how terrified she was the first time she stepped into that room – a room women were not allowed to enter at the time, because this was in the early 60s. She talked about how when she sat down her knees were shaking under the table and she was glad that no one could see. She was the only woman in the room, with all of these extremely powerful men. She was there during the Bay of Pigs and the Cuban Missile Crisis, as well as other events. She worked with the likes of Lieutenant General Thomas K. McGehee, General Curtis Emerson LeMay, and General Isaac D. White. (If you don’t know who they are, look them up. They are impressive people in American History.) Again, completely wild.

My mother beat stage 4+ ovarian cancer. One time the doctors had determined that she was going to die, and put in her in the hospital to keep her comfortable. Four days later she told the doctors they could release her or she could walk out with out signing a single thing. Either way, she had had enough and was going home, very much alive. She told the doctors that God would determine when she would die, not them. She always fought for the underdog, and heaven help you if you hurt one of her kids. She argued like a lawyer with an exceptional knowledge of the law, and had a command of politics and American and World history like few I have ever seen. Yes, she was a wild Women.

And my parents together, took in 63 foster children. They worked with the worst of the worst when it came to the abuse. They were so good with the children that we were deemed a “Therapeutic Foster Home,” one of the only ones in the state at the time. And my mother helped change the laws concerning the treatment of foster children as well. My Dad never knew what, who, how how many children he might come home to after work. Or they could come in the middle of the night.

Growing up, sometimes the abusive parents would discover the location of their children and come after them. Sometimes the parents would chase us, shooting, while we children huddled down in the floor of the car. Many times we were followed and several times there were “hits” taken out on Mom, who was the one who would drive the children to and from court.

Once a parent found out where we lived and came for their child, which was rather scary. I remember Mom telling me about how once she and a social worker had to “kidnap” an 18 month-old out of a hospital because she had been sexually assaulted so badly that she nearly died. The court order had not come through, but they could not let her go back to the father who raped her. It took a few hours for that court order to come, but they kept that baby safe until it did. Again, very wild, even by the loose standards in todays world.

They were champions of children. They were fearless in their beliefs. They took risks and laughed at the odds. They moved mountain others couldn’t even climb. And I am their daughter.

I have my set of values and will fiercely follow them. I live under no one ‘s control, going by my God-given conscience, having faith in the mind He gave me. I will not bend to a demand I deem unworthy, nor waiver in my defense of those most at risk, but instead stand tall for that in which I believe. I answer to myself and God, everyone else can kiss my ass. I have taken many risks in my life, and they have all worked out in my favor. For this I am thankful.

Being wild in this sense keeps you living a life with few regrets. You learn not to compromise on your beliefs and you learn to have the courage of your convictions. Both concepts are wild and rare in this day and age of more is better, money is king and bigger is best. To those people; I say take a seat and let the wild ones show you how it’s is done.

Life is short. Be wild.

Humble and Happy

Several years ago I met the Dalai Lama and it was truly a wonderful experience. He was delightful and lighthearted. And he giggled. Actually giggled, and it was contagious. I thought he would be a little stiff or serious, but he wasn’t at all. He smiled and joked and giggled, with an almost child like quality. But he talked about many serious things, and I was captivated by his delivery.

I have been in Television, radio and theater. I have met many celebrities and those who would be called “super stars,” and I have never been star struck. But the Dalai Lama was quite different. To me he was the embodiment of Love. I know it sounds weird, but he was so delightful in his conveyance and articulation.

That day he was speaking on Medical and Professional ethics and I took pages of notes that were later hard to read because I did not want to take my eyes off of him as he spoke. I was struck by how he spoke of the importance of being humble, among other things. A humble and compassionate spirit is needed in order to understand true ethics in this day and age. And also to live a successful life.

And the Dalai Lama is right, of course. The best example I can think of is my ex boyfriend, the one who was a financial executive. When we met, he was Vice president of Finance at the 7th nationally ranked children’s hospital in the country with the #1 ranked best NICU in the country. He was making about $450,000 per year and working with his long time friend and CFO next to him. He was tapped to be the next CFO when his friend left, which would put him at over $750,000 per year and on track with his professional goals.

I remember one of our first fights. He told me that I was stupid, that I was ‘just a writer” who wrote about finances. However, he, HE, was a wealthy high powered financial executive who would soon be CFO of that hospital, that he did his job better than anyone else and that he was absolutely irreplaceable because no one could do his job better including his then boss and friend.

I was completely shocked at what I as hearing him say and told him that he needed to humble himself, immediately. Everyone is replaceable and the reason why he was successful was a combination of him working hard and people taking a chance on him. That there were thousands of people out there just as educated and talented as he, but that in every job interview, someone had faith in him and chose him over the others. THAT is why he was where he was. He quickly told me that he alone made his career happen, with no ones help at all, and that was why I was a dumb writer and he was an executive that I was lucky was even speaking to me. I told him then that his attitude was going to destroy his career.

He was fired from that VP of Finance job – well, given the choice to be fired or to step down and become a “consultant,” which was extremely generous. And yet he never thanked his boss or gave any credit to his boss for NOT firing him when there was plenty of grounds to do so. And because of his drinking and poor life choices, he ruined his friendship with is CFO boss with whom had worked for over 10 years, (his bosses wife would look after his children most nights and saw the neglect of his kids).

But instead of taking responsibility for the mistakes that led to the demotion, my ex blamed his boss, saying his boss had been out to get him. My ex was then fired from his lucrative consultant job after that CFO left. Now he is at a tiny hospital that was over $20 million in the red and had to be bought out or go under. The hospital had 45 employees before it was bailed out. That is all he could get, but at least he got that. Now he has a chance to start over fresh and be humble. Because even after all of that mess, someone was willing to take a chance on him after his many mistakes that got him fired from both positions in DC.

Now I make more money than he does. The difference between us? I fully recognize that I am replaceable. I recognize that while I work my ass off and am incredibly talented, there is always someone better, smarter, and more talented than I. I know, beyond a shadow of a doubt, how fortunate I am that those who have hired me, did so because they believed in me more than the others they interviewed. And I am deeply grateful for their trust and faith in my talents. And I work every single day not to let them down.

I know, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that I am successful not just because of my own talents, but because I have stood on the shoulders of giants – People who believed in me, took a chance on me, mentored me, taught me, advised me and trusted me. That is a trust that I hold sacred. If I am a good leader, it is because I had good leaders teaching me. No man is an island, and no one reaches success alone. There are many, many who have and who continue to help and lead, and teach and mentor me.

The other difference? I am happy. Being humble and acknowledging others along your path to success adds to happiness. You know that you are not alone, not matter what the circumstance. There are no demons in my closet or under the bed or in my soul. They have been dealt with minimized. There is nothing that keeps me awake at night, as a clear conscience makes for a comfortable pillow. I rest safe in the knowledge, and am forever grateful, that I have a network of people who believe in me.

Life is short. Be humble. Be thankful. Know your worth but also know that there is always, and will always be, someone who is smarter, better, richer, prettier, …and just More, than you. When someone chooses you for a job, or relationship, or a friendship, or anything, they could have chosen many others, but they didn’t. Out of everyone else they could have chosen, they picked you. It makes you smile, doesn’t it?

Writer’s Note: I highly recommend this book, written my the Dalai Lama and Archbishop Desmond Tutu, both men I have had the immeasurable pleasure of meeting.