Sitting in the Season

Sprinkled Notes published in the Albert Lea Tribune and the Courier Sentinel the week of November 28, 2018

Sitting in the Season
© Julie Seedorf 2018

IMG_1017As I write this, it is the Monday after Thanksgiving, and I realize I haven’t been out of the house since the Wednesday before Thanksgiving except to take my granddog outside on his leash. How does that happen that the days pass by and I veg in my home?

We had food, plenty of leftovers and it was cold outside, which made the perfect “I don’t want to go anywhere” scenario. I am not a cold weather person.

So what do you do when you stay in? Some people get bored, but I find there are many activities or non-activities to keep me busy.

I cooked and I cooked some more. First, the Thanksgiving meal and then full meals for my husband and I. Winter makes me feel like trying the “Becky Home-eckie” thing, as my husband calls it.

I found some good books to read, and, of course, I did a little writing. I also took a few naps, but I found one of my main activities while crocheting was watching Christmas movies. I really wanted to settle in with the Hallmark Christmas movies; however, we are now streaming and none of the venues I subscribe to have the Hallmark channel. For a short time, I considered adding another service so I could watch the Hallmark movies, but the entire purpose of streaming was to save money so I stopped my twitch of hooking up another channel and settled on the Christmas movies through Hulu.

After three or four movies, I had to switch to a game show. Although I loved the movies, it was almost too much happiness. They all seemed to have the same themes, which I already knew. There was laughter, love and looking for a simpler, more peaceful life and love theme. People reunited with loved ones they had been estranged from, kids and people found homes and the movies made me want to believe in humanity once again. There was no gun violence or swearing. There were no explosions or SWAT teams. There was no one insulting each other in the fun as we see all the time on TV shows. It was more like the old “The Adventures of Ozzy and Harriet” and “Father Knows Best” shows — the same shows we decry did not show us real life.

Yet, here we are in the year 2018, binging out on Lifetime Christmas shows and Hallmark Christmas shows. I assume, and you know what they say about assuming, that more women than men watch these shows. What does that say about women in America? It may say that women really do want a kinder, more caring world where they are treated with respect by the men or women they love. In many of these shows, the women are independent women, striving for a career that makes them happy with a spouse or partner who supports that independence or even being a single in the world. High-powered careers may be valued, but being content and making the point that whatever you do — from candy maker to executive — is fine if your priorities are in order, which is family, friendship, kindness and caring.

Christmas music is played earlier every year. Houses are decked out in Christmas baubles before Thanksgiving. And stores start even earlier to hook us into that good feeling we must be looking for. It says something about us as people. We are looking for a “feel good” pick-me-up, and for many, Christmas does that because it has that legacy. I haven’t even begun to mention the reason Christians celebrate Christmas: the birth of the Christ Child.

In polling my readers, there are some who do not celebrate Christmas or can’t stand these holiday movies because they don’t depict real life. Yet, for many of us, that is the very reason we watch them. It’s kind of like the Calgon ditty, “Calgon take me away.” So Hallmark movies, “take me away.”

It is hard to find that simple peace within ourselves. It is hard to slow down and take the time to internalize what we are really looking for. I have a hard time being lazy when I am home. There is always something to do and reading a book, watching Hallmark movies during the day and simply taking a nap or sitting in silence is hard for me to do without feeling very guilty about slacking off. I don’t know about men, but I think women have a problem with simply being in the moment.

I actually had to force myself to sit in a chair or lie on my bed and read for an extended period of time. It was because I knew there were things that needed to be done, even though they weren’t urgent and could wait another day. It was hard to not pick up my cell phone and check the news or send a message and keep on reading. It was a book that I didn’t want to put down, but the niggling guilt that I should be doing something productive was simmering underneath as the words imprinted themselves on my brain.

I did succumb to doing something while I was watching the movies, but it was crocheting, which also soothes my soul. I forced myself to not check my cell phone every few minutes.

I don’t have many Christmas decorations up yet. That itch was there, along with thinking I needed to figure out Christmas cards, plan a Red Hat meeting and of course shop all the red-hot deals that were being sent to my phone. What was I missing?

What are we really looking for with the holiday season? Is it something we are missing in our lives the rest of the year? If it is, what do we need to do to simply be in the season we need in our lives all year long?

Feeling stressed? Try not to multitask

my mindMy column in the Albert Lea Tribune and the Courier Sentinel the week of November 8, 2018

I am a multitasker. It is a habit I need to break, but it comes so naturally. I do not know I am doing it. Multitasking got me in trouble the other night.

I told my friend Jane I would pick her up for a church event. Later in the afternoon, she and I, and another friend, Julie, were texting about the evening. At the same time, I was texting in another thread with an author friend, and I was also texting with my son. No, I didn’t mix up the texts between threads; I mixed up the texts between people on the same thread.

I thought Jane told me she would meet me at the event. But it was Julie who was driving herself. I saw the J and went with that in my haste of switching between threads not noticing it was Julie, not Jane. I thought it was strange but didn’t take the time to question it.

I arrived at the event, met my other friends and was waiting for Jane. She wasn’t there. Soon my cell phone rang, and it was Jane asking me when I was going to pick her up. I felt horrible that in my multitasking of texting I got the message wrong. Jane, being the nice person she is, forgave me — or at least I think she did.

As I was trying to fall asleep that night, I thought of all the other things I get mixed up or wrong because of my bad habit of doing too many things at one time or hurrying to get something done. It never turns out well, and it is exhausting.

I can’t watch television without doing two things at once. I usually crochet, read or play a few games on my cell phone while watching the telly. My husband is wonderful that he washes his own clothes, (it could have something to do with his “I want it folded this way” fetish), and when he is washing his clothes it is his only task. It is the same with all he does — one task at a time. He doesn’t understand when I tell him he can do more than one thing at a time.

My switcharoo tasking started when my kids were small. All mothers need to have two eyes in front, two eyes in the back and multiple arms, hands, and legs but we don’t, so we do as much as we can in the time allotted to get things done. We pretend we have more appendages because we use them so quickly. The problem is that when we get older such as retirement age, we can’t always stop. Somehow that need is drilled into us, and it takes time after we retire to find that sweet spot of being lazy without feeling as if we are lazy because doing only one thing seems to be the epitome of lying down on the job even when we don’t have one anymore.

And then, it has been drilled into us that we need to be hard workers and have a purpose in life and that, too, is hard to let go of when you get to be my age. Perhaps our purpose has been fulfilled and the only goal we need to have is to enjoy life and let each day take its own course while we meander along the way, living our lives without being on the proverbial multitasking spinning wheel.

There are those who are young and old that enjoy the multitasking busy life. Many older adults will tell you it keeps them young. Many will tell you it puts you into an early grave. I don’t know which is right, I only know the older I become, the harder it is to multitask without committing some real doozies of error.

Relaxing is hard when you see dishes still needing to be done, floors needing to be swept and scrubbed, knowing the next meal is right around the corner. Relaxing is also hard when you have a pile of books to read, magazines piling up, crafts stuck in every corner that you started or were going to do. Who knew fun and hobbies could be so stressful? And then don’t forget all the social events, the requests for volunteer help and visiting children, which also make us a multitasking genius.

The holidays are coming up. We have to multitask right now between turkeys and Santa. Do we grab Christmas as we are grabbing for Thanksgiving when we are in the stores?

I will opt for thankfulness as we settle in for the coming month before we usher in the Christmas hoopla. Maybe if the one task I commit to each day is sitting in silence and being thankful for what I have, what I can do, and ponder why I feel the need to multitask, my stress will settle down.

“Remember that stress doesn’t come from what’s going on in your life. It comes from your thoughts about what’s going on in your life.” — Andrew J. Bernstein

Wells resident Julie Seedorf’s column appears every Thursday.

Are You A Bully?

Sprinkled Notes by Julie Seedorf

printed in the Albert Lea Tribune and the Courier Sentinel the week of October 25, 2018

IMG_0941I feel old this week, not in terms of years but in terms of muddling through the social landscape. I do not recognize the country I grew up in. Incidents personally and in the news keep me shaking my head in lack of understanding, and I am feeling rage. Rage is not an emotion I have felt very often in my life.

A few events in the past year weigh heavily on my mind and my heart.

Three football players in the area savagely beat and injure one of their teammates who is left with lifelong brain injuries. The incident was filmed on their cellphone. This week it was in the news that the school board hired an investigator to determine whether the district’s actions in the aftermath were in compliance with the Minnesota State High School League. They were found in compliance. Case closed. The boys received minimal sentences for their part in the assault. Meanwhile, the victim and his family had to move out of state because of the friction of opinion in a small community. If you believe the news reports, the parents of the boys committing the assault felt the sentencing was too harsh and the words bandied about, at least in the papers, were “boys will be boys.”

Another scenario played out in another small Minnesota community nearby — a break-in at a home, an assault on a woman and a rape. The perpetrator was caught immediately, but then, of course, he was released on bail and the friends of this person threatened the lives of the victim so much they, too, had to move out of the community for their safety. It was yet another slap on the wrist, even though the intimidation continued.

Another close friend had this experience: The 15-year-old son was bullied, harassed and physically assaulted in their school to the point of injury because of their sexual orientation. They had to leave school to be safe and attend an online school.

And just last week a ninth-grade student commits suicide because of bullying. This young boy is gone, but the people who chose to make life miserable for another will live on to bully another day.

This past year I also did a series on domestic abuse. My friend CeeCee James described her life of abuse as a child in an abusive family. Neighbors knew teachers knew and other family members knew; however, no one spoke out — the silence of their inaction in my mind is deafening.

I see the bullying rhetoric online from adults when they don’t like something: They attack. I can’t help but wonder if these individuals were bullied growing up and haven’t escaped the cycle. Are they providing this environment for their children, which in turn leads to bullying in school because they know no different, and, when confronted, the parents don’t want to admit to it because they haven’t learned how to let go of their fear and anger?

I recently had a conversation with someone who is trying to confront their way of communicating instead of lashing out and calling names and being abusive; they are confronting their past. The person grew up with an abusive father and in looking at the children in the family, the legacy lived on in the way they communicate with others, including those they love. This person feels it is time to break the cycle, but they can’t do it without first taking responsibility for their actions.

In all of these cases, it is the victims who will live with this their entire lives. They have been sentenced; they had to leave their homes, communities, and schools, or they took their life to get away from the pain. And that fills me with rage. And it should fill you with rage, too.

We love our children, but we need to recognize they are not perfect; they will make mistakes, but to grow into an adult they also need to suffer the consequences of their actions so they can grow. We need to teach them bullying toward another is not accepted by anyone. There will be consequences.

You can’t also tell me, teachers, friends, and relatives do not know and recognize who these bullies are. Does it make a difference which side of the tracks you live on? Who you are in the communities and who you know that makes a difference in the belief and the punishment? Are we afraid to speak up because we might lose our jobs defending a student who needs defending? Or do we fear for our well-being if we say something? Ask yourself those questions.

I think a perfect sentence for bullies would not be jail, but years of service in homeless shelters where they would have to live and be under supervision, or mental health facilities, where they must confront those who have been hurt and help them. Not days, but months and years.

And maybe I will get a little political. As both Democrats and Republicans, we need to stand up in our parties and say, “This rhetoric of calling names, demeaning women, lying and being dishonest has to stop. That is not what our party is about, that is not how we want to raise our children, and we are not going to support you if you do this. There are others in our party who do live up to honesty and integrity, and we are going to elect them.”

Responsibility starts at the top and filters down to us as parents and grandparents to stop the pain, to stop the victim from being the one with the sentence. And if you don’t feel rage that all this is happening, then I don’t understand this country anymore.