Wednesday, June 30, 2010

A Little Pick-Me-Up

Today I was reminded of something a dear older lady once said to me. Allow me to set the scene:

I was working as a waitress in a nice restaurant that was owned by a good friend of mine. Her mother was a frequent patron and you could just tell she had been the quintessential "50's lady" back in the day. I think she came from money, but that wasn't what made her classy... she just was. Anyway, at this particular time I was dealing with a bout of depression (as I have from time to time over the course of my life) and apparently it SHOWED. After we had closed for the day, Ms. Betty approached me to see why I wasn't my usual self and though I can't remember our conversation verbatim, I think she got the gist of what what going on. I will never forget what she said next though: "Well dear, why don't you just go and put you a little lipstick on?!" Seriously, Ms. Betty? LIPSTICK?!!

Sure, because God knows a little Maybelline is just what the doctor ordered. Go ahead and give Ms. Betty a Nobel Prize, y'all.... she's just discovered a cure for depression! I wasn't sure there was enough lipstick in the world to make me feel better. Hmphh. LIPSTICK. Don't get me wrong, I was kind and respectful. She had no idea how absurd I thought her comment was. I've thought about that conversation many times over the years and I almost always laugh out loud when I do.

Years later, I started selling Mary Kay and one of the things I learned was that even in a terrible economy... even during the Depression... women will (and DID) spend money on cosmetics. Lipsticks and the like are a small investment that yield a tremendous result: looking better on some level makes us feel better. Perhaps Ms. Betty knew this all along.

I'm not trivializing depression. Depression is a disease that my family and I are all to familiar with and I know without a shadow of doubt that make-up cures NOTHING, except for maybe ugliness, but you know what I mean. Last night, however, I was reminded of Ms. Betty and her little antidote when Jamie Ruth wanted me to paint her fingernails. I usually don't keep my fingernails painted because I'm too hard on my hands: cleaning without gloves, crafting something, painting, etc. I admire other people who keep their nails well manicured, but it never seems practical enough for me to do it. But last night JR just insisted that we paint our nails the same color and have a "gowns only, red fingernails" club (seriously... I couldn't make this stuff up). So I relented thinking first thing this morning I would get the fingernail polish remover out and get back to my bare nails ASAP. Only I haven't....

It sounds crazy, but every time I look down and my flaming red nails, it makes me smile a little. I like the way they look even though I know they probably won't last through the day without getting a chip or a ding. But who cares, right? I feel a little fancy having my nails painted, and though it may seem impractical for my lifestyle, so what?! Nothing last forever, not even the impromptu manicure with your six year old. What's the worst that could happen? Having to repaint them at the second meeting of the "gowns only, red fingernails" club?

I like my nails so much that I'm thinking about getting my toes done. And after that, who knows? I might just take a cue from Ms. Betty and get the lipstick out. I'm not insinuating these little steps to better personal grooming are going to cure all that ails us emotionally, but if you're like me, it just might perk you up and bring a little smile to your day. And who could argue with that?

Anyhoo, I feel I must apologize to Ms. Betty. I know in her own way, she was trying to be helpful and if I hadn't been so obstinate, I might have seen that. I might have also realized earlier that sometimes little things can make a big difference in how we feel about ourselves. She's in heaven now. But I'm sure she's looking down on me and smiling... and you can bet she's wearing her lipstick.

Monday, June 28, 2010

"How are you?"

How do you answer a question like that? I think most people ask this question just to be polite. For whatever reason, society has coined the phrase to represent a greeting instead of an actual question for the concern of another. It's silly, if you think about it. Most times you could care LESS how the person you are talking to actually is. Heaven forbid they try to even TELL you about it. But what's even sillier is how we knowingly answer the question we know no one wants the answer to: "Fine!" And then perhaps we'll continue with our little exchange with a half-hearted, "And you?"

I believe we have lost a considerable amount of our social graces and I think that's a shame. Perhaps it's one of those things that we no longer have time for in this fast paced world we live in. I remember a time when neighbors visited with each other, and it was not the least bit inconvenient. It was welcomed. People would just "drop in" or "drop by" and I bet when they were asked, "How are you?" the someone doing the asking really wanted to know.

Nobody wants a Gloomy Gus around, that's a given. And we ALL have troubles, right? That's the main reason I fake it (like you do too) and quickly quip "fine" or "great." Sometimes I steal a favorite line from my step-dad and reply that "I'm hanging in like an old rusty fish hook." I suppose that answer is a little more acurate, though laden with humor to help muddle through the awkward exchange of pleasantries without commiting to an all-out conversation.

The bible tells us , however, that we should bear one another's burdens (Galatians 6:2) thus fulfilling the law of Christ. As the body of Christ we are not supposed to operate individually. We need each other for guidance, counsel, encouragement, and at times reproof. Do you have that friend or family member to "bounce off" of? When is the last time you were that person for THEM? When is the last time you really listened to what your husband or your children were saying? Are you keeping yourself to the confines of your home, and ultimately your mind, not reaching out to ask for the help that you need?

An aquaintance asked me yesterday how I was. I was going to brush her question off with my usual answer until she said I looked like I needed to talk and perhaps "unload" a bit. She told me to call her anytime, then told me she loved me. This wasn't my best friend, or my mom... it was someone who I don't even consider a close friend. But she took the time to see something I didn't even know I was projecting and really wanted to know about it. And that floored me. Just another example that God will use whatever and whomever necessary to reach us. He sees us in our pain and suffering and brings people in our midst to help us carry the load. Not everyone that asks you how you are is going to want to do that. But the next time you ask someone how THEY are, maybe you will think of this and be a burden bearer for them. I know I will.

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Why Six Year Olds Shouldn't Watch Sponge Bob

Let me set the mood:
I walk into the living room last night and find Jamie Ruth on the couch watching Sponge Bob Squarepants. I DETEST that show. It's stupid, irreverent, and downright annoying. Taking a deep breath, I conjure up my best "firm-yet-compassionate" parental tone and begin to voice my displeasure:

Me: "I don't LIKE Sponge Bob, Jamie."

JR: "Why? Because it's suck-ish?"

Me: "Did you just say 'suck-ish?'"

JR: "Yeah."

Me: "Where did you hear that word?!"

JR: "Sponge Bob."

By this time, Chuck had come in on the last of our conversation and gave me a look that said, "Was that matter-of-fact enough for you?!" while trying his best to keep a straight face. I knew the next 30 seconds were going to be crucial in making or breaking the point I was trying to hit home. With as much composure as I could muster, I pressed on:

Me: "And that's EXACTLY why I don't like it, Jamie Ruth."

Chuck: "Yeah, you probably shouldn't say that anymore."

Me: "It's not very nice."

JR: "Do you also not like it because it says 'stupid,' selfish,' and 'idiot'?"

Me: "Right. Those aren't nice things to say either. So, we're not going to say things like that, okay?"

JR: "Okay."

Chuck and I make it to the kitchen, put our hands over our mouths and try not to pee in our pants. Not necessarily a parenting moment for the record books. Especially since we didn't even make her turn the channel... right away. :) There are no books out there that prepare you for times like this. My hope is that she'll make it to tween-dom without irreparable damage... from Sponge Bob or the one million other innocence stealers out there in cheeky television land. "Suck-ish." Thanks, Sponge Bob...