"The future belongs to those who believe in the beauty of their dreams." Eleanor Roosevelt

Friday, December 25, 2009


It is Christmas Day. Not my personal best ever, but certainly not the worst. Now in the late evening, I find myself reflective, and I want to focus on some positive things, and end the holiday in a meaningful way.

Part of my starting this blog was a gift to myself - a gift of therapeutic writing, something that seems enhanced by having an audience. (O.K., so I don't have any followers yet, but eventually, someone will read this.) Being “seen” is important to most people. Hopefully, my blog will be as entertaining as I find life to be, at times. Laughter is the best therapy, and I especially love it when I can make myself laugh (this is particularly important if I am my only audience.)

I also want my blog to be a genuine - real - authentic expression of myself. Think of it as non-fiction with an occasional exaggeration or slight change of details to protect the innocent. Blending authenticity with humor will be a challenge with the written word; pulling that combination off seems to come more easily to me in person. My friend KN, who is a psychotherapist/photographer (and an adopted older brother) asked a good question recently, something along the lines of: "What if being authentic in a particular moment means being inauthentic, silly?" What if being a goofball is what is real for me right now?

Picture of KN this November, when we were playing hooky together from a conference in Florida.

So, authentic entertainment with the self-disclosures of a psychotherapist. Why self-disclosure? Because it would be unethical for me to write about my clients in anyway more than the most general. Because it is my belief that one of the best ways to connect with others is by sharing something of oneself – something personal. Because self-disclosure can be both humbling and empowering. And because I have to get it out, baby. I have to give birth to these stories, ideas, jokes in some fashion in order to clear space to take care of those I care about.

Who do I care about? Well, it will become obvious that my children top the list. There are friends and family, my pets, and my clients. Good self-care means I have more to give everyone. Catharting in my blog may also mean others in my life are a little less burned-out by my need to express my thoughts to them!

Back to gifts, wherein lies the meaning of Christmas. Jesus was a gift from God to the world. Visitors brought gifts to the newborn in a manger. Today, and over the course of the holidays, many of us gave and received gifts. I took plates of cookies (including the delicious rum thumbprints) to my neighbors. By the way, I did this between 2:30 and 3:30 p.m. and found EVERY single one of my neighbors still in pajamas. I LOVE IT! Should have taken pictures for the blog. My neighbors have given so richly to me lately in numerous ways, the cookies were a small token. Below is a photo looking out my side door to my neighbor’s house this morning:

Gifts from my neighbors – sending their kids to play with mine and watching mine at their homes. A few days ago, some neighbors took mine, and their teenage sitter to sled while I worked. When I got snowed-in, in the city, and could not get home, another neighbor plowed a giant path to my door and fed my pet cats and rats (yes, rats) for three days. When I got home a stranger out for a walk helped me unload my car, pulling wagon-loads through the 30” of snow, and another neighbor let me park in their drive and brought cookies over. The next morning, I found someone had shoveled enough space in my drive to park my car. There are too many suspects to identify the culprit. These examples are only a sample. THANK YOU ALL!

Here is a gift for anyone interested. The rum thumbprint recipe:

2/3 cups butter, softened
½ cup granulated sugar
1/8 tsp. ground nutmeg
2 egg yolks
1 tsp vanilla
1 ½ cups all purpose flour
2 slightly beaten egg whites
1 cup finely chopped walnuts
¼ cup butter
1 cup sifted powdered sugar
1 tsp rum or ¼ tsp rum extract
1-2 teaspoons milk
Ground nutmeg

1. Beat the 2/3 cups of butter in a mixing bowl on medium to high speed for 30 secs. Add gran. Sugar and the 1/8 tsp. nutmeg, beat until combined. Beat in egg yolks and vanilla. Beat in as much flour as you can. Stir in any remaining flour with a wooden spoon. If necessary, cover and chill dough at least 1 hr.
2. Shape into 1” balls. Roll balls in egg whites and then in chopped walnuts. Place 1” apart on lightly greased cookie sheets. Press centers with your thumb and bake in 376 degree oven 10-12 minutes or until lightly browned. Cool on wire racks.
3. For filling beat the ¼ cup butter until softened and add powdered sugar and beat until fluffy. Beat in rum and enough milk to make of spreading consistency. Spoon or pipe about ½ tsp filling into center of each cookie and sprinkle with nutmeg.
You can bake ahead but don’t fill, and place in an airtight or freezer container in a single layer covering with waxed or parchment paper. Repeat layers. Freezeup to 1 month. Thaw and add filling and sprinkle with nutmeg.

A book recommendation for therapists: Irvin Yalom’s The Gift of Therapy.

Click here for more book info.

This year I took my four (EG) and nine year old (MG) daughters to see a Santa in the mall. MG’s belief is starting to wane, though she sincerely wants to believe. (EG just doesn't want Santa watching her all the time; see post of 12/24/09.) So, MG comments that the mall Santa is not the real thing. He is clearly only a helper. I asked how she could tell. “He is not jolly enough.” It was true. When he asked her what she wanted, she said, “Nothing, you can give what you would give to me to other children who need more.” I was proud and disappointed. Nostalgic for her less mature days. (Ask me about this another time, and you will get another answer; she is not always so mature.) A few days ago, I saw her playing with something at a store, and that is what Santa brought this morning. Her belief, and mine, were renewed, at least somewhat; she hadn’t even asked for it. This morning (at 6:30) she told me she thought she’d heard something on the roof in the middle of the night.

EG asked Santa for skates. When she opened them today, her face fell - on the verge of tears. She said "I meant two skates." One skate was concealed in the packaging. When I showed her the other was there, all was well.

Their childhoods are such a gift.

Here is a (true) story from my childhood. When I was nine years old:

Even though I started at WH elementary at the beginning of the school year and stayed the whole year, to the kids who had been together for three or four years straight, I was still the new kid. I was teased about getting my work done quickly by a snooty girl who had her hair frosted with a silver streak to look like her mother’s. If I tried to play on certain play equipment, a particular bully would take off his shoe and stick his dirty toes in my face, making fun of the holes in my tennies. I was teased for wearing dresses every day. I had three, and we washed them by hand so that they were clean. I would have liked to wear pants, but I was not allowed. But for the first time, I believe, I was not the only new kid. I quickly made my first friend at that school with Liza, a Mexican girl who came in at the start of the migrant work season. And there was Lamont. Lamont joined our class even later than Liza. His mother had died and he and his father had moved from Alaska. Based on my memory, Lamont was probably part African-American and part white, but everyone called him “Eskimo”. Lamont was teased worse than I had ever been. His shoes were worn-out more than mine had ever been. Liza and I tried to talk to Lamont, but he thought we were only trying to bait him, and he would stare back in silence or snort some sarcastic remark.

Near Christmas of that year, Mom took us to the shoe store to pick out an early gift. My shoes were so worn out, she was afraid I would get frostbite the first time I had to walk to school in the snow. I was very excited and looked all over the store, comparing all the types, though I knew I had to choose tennis-shoes that were warm, and would work for P.E.. I happened to be in the boy’s shoes when Lamont came into my mind. I told my mother I could not buy shoes for myself when Lamont’s shoes were so much worse. I stood my ground, refused, and she acquiesced. It took a daring plan, but the next school day I did bait Lamont and commented, with a milder tease than what he usually suffered: “Lamont, your feet are so huge, I bet they are a size 12!”. “Shut-up, they are not, they are only an 8”, he snarled. Mom took me back to the shoe-store and we found a pair of size 8 ½, brown Wolverines. It was the last day of school before the Christmas holiday. We had a party in our classroom and then school dismissed. I grabbed the bag I had carried to school that morning and stowed under my desk and ran out, following Lamont. I caught him outside the school as he waited for his ride. I handed the bag to him. He flinched and backed away. I pleaded “Just take it, it’s a Christmas gift”. He took it. I walked home. He did not return to WH Elementary after the Christmas break.

Me, RWG and my younger sister, RWH at ages nine and six. Don’t laugh at the hair cuts. I heard enough laughter about that back then. Yes, my momma cut my hair.

Now I must get my little darlings to bed. Thankful that we all have good shoes, and that I have gifts to give. Merry Christmas to all, and to all a good-night.


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