So here I am, eighteen faithful blog-followers o' mine, on a cold, sleety Monday night with Madigan-drool on my favorite socks thinking about Valentine's Day.
I really love Valentine's Day. It gets a bad rap being the "made-up, commercial holiday" that it is. And yeah, I agree, we shouldn't wait until Feb. 14th to pull out the violins and roses and big romantic gestures. Really, we should be saying, I love you, to EVERYONE we love as often as possible, every day. February 14th should roll around and our friends and family and partners should be able to say, "Ugh, enough with the LOVE already! We've had it up to HERE with you loving everyone!!"
Still and all, Valentine's Day is a unique opportunity for all of us - married, single, dating, engaged, celibate, and/or otherwise occupied. I mean, here we have this ready-made holiday, this whole DAY devoted to the idea of love (a holiday to love people? WOW!). I wish we could abandon the notion that Valentine's Day (the day that supposedly celebrates LOVE, the most amazing four-letter-word that ever was) meant spending money or that it only applies to couples.
I have my own plans for Valentine's Day -romantic and otherwise - but this post is not about me. If I'm allowed to challenge you, as you all continue to challenge me, then I challenge you, fair and lovely reader, to find someone to love this Valentine's Day. Take a moment, take an hour, take the whole day...and say "I love you" with not just your words or your money or those delicious pink and red striped Hershey's Hugs that I really, REALLY like (cough, cough, Kyle Wellman). Say it with your actions.
Here are some cool ways to say "I love you" to a friend, a neighbor, or a stranger you might not ever meet:
- Check out V-Day, an organization that works to end violence against women and girls. Every year around Valentine's Day, hundreds of productions of The Vagina Monologues are staged, as well as countless fundraisers and events. 90% of proceeds go to help local rape crisis centers, etc. This year, 10% of the money raised will go to help women in Haiti in V-Day's Spotlight Campaign! Most of us are blessed enough to live in safety without the daily/constant threat of sexual assault/violence. To find out where the play is being staged near you or to donate to a fundraiser or other event, click the link below!
And check out the short Spotlight campaign video from last year's V-Day. This video talks about the hundreds of thousands of women and children who are systematically raped as a war tactic in the Democratic Republic of Congo RIGHT NOW and how things are changing because women are gathering together and speaking out. V-Day contributors are able to donate to City of Joy, a safe haven for survivors of rape and brutal violence. WARNING: This video is sad and disturbing, I know, but I hope you will take the time to watch it, if you can because it's also EMPOWERING and EXCITING!
- Donate blood! You don't have to find a blood drive - find a donation center near you and stop in when you can! I just read that only 3 in 100 Americans give blood...
- Celebrate Random Acts of Kindness Week, February 12-18.
Check out their website for tons of ideas!
- Buy beautiful Valentine's Day gifts through Fair Trade which helps make sure that the people who produce the beautiful things you wear, eat and love are receiving fair pay for their work. Many local coffee shops and bookstores sell Fair Trade chocolate and other products but if you can't find what you're looking for, be sure to visit their website for lots of tempting goodies that you can feel good about giving!
THE best chocolate I have ever had...
"I have found the paradox," Mother Teresa said, "That if you love until it hurts, there can be no more hurt, only more love." And we all know how that woman loved!!
So, Valentines (for you are ALL my Valentines), I urge you to love bigger than you thought possible in ways closer to home than you ever imagined...
I hope you'll find some way to spread love this February and that you'll comment and tell me about it! Thank you, thank you, thank you for being the people that make me want to love a little bit more.
Thursday, January 13, 2011
First, I'm sorry to my small group of readers/followers. Not only did I get hit with the regular holiday busy-ness but I have since started one of the more intense periods of grad school (the traditional pull-your-hair-out-and-howl-at-the-moon phase, aka: thesis writing). But this is a post I've been thinking about for awhile and I thought I would share here.
Winston Churchill tells us that criticism is necessary, that "it calls attention to an unhealthy state of things." All the same, I don't know anyone who truly enjoys receiving criticism. We might put on a brave, smiling face in its onslaught, all the time seething inwardly and hating ourselves for being less than perfection. Or maybe that's just me. Abraham Lincoln says, "He has a right to criticize who has a heart to help." I don't know about any of you, but I've experienced plenty of criticism that didn't feel much like help. It mostly just felt like "ouch."
So put yourself in the defensive crouch that I work myself into at the start of every day as I wait for someone to inform me of what I am already, constantly, painfully aware: I am not perfect(I'm sure this comes as a quite a shock to all of you). It's the day after Christmas and post-presents, roast beast, and merriment, we're at home in our little apartment. Without rehashing the entire evening, I'll explain that my brother was elaborating on a video game that he really loves and I, in a bad mood for reasons that don't really matter, brushed off his conversation with something like, "Yeah, yeah, whatever." This went on for a few minutes during which I grew ruder and ruder until Kyle, the love of my life, my best friend IN the universe, says from over the breakfast bar, "Elizabeth...don't be a butthead."
Of course, my first reaction was to be angry, defensive, hurt even. I am a scolded child. I mean, I think, he's a butthead ALL THE TIME and I never say ANYTHING! I give my husband a dirty look from across the room. I slam the door. I don't speak to him for half an hour. And I ponder, was I a butthead? Of course, I was. I had been selfish and rude and unkind and generally focused on myself instead of my baby brother whom I see rarely. In short...a butthead. I am already sorry, of course, but I don't want to admit it. I don't want to say those horrible little words, "I was wrong." I stew. I pout. I frown. And then I suck it up and tell Kyle he was right.
And this, you guys, is a HUGE moment. Not because I'm so mature for admitting I was wrong or because my brother and I overcame some huge conflict or even because I recognize my buttheaded-ness (it's a word) but because I have a husband with "a heart to help" and I haven't ever seen it this clearly before...
So here are some things I've learned from Kyle in the time that I have been privileged to know him so far. The list grows every day but here's a few:
1. Always say 'I love you' when you have the chance. You don't know how many more opportunities you will get before they're gone. (Kyle lost his brother, Orion, at the age of 29.)
2. Don't be so afraid of getting hurt, being uncomfortable, or breaking your heart (or arms, legs, and toes) that you miss out on all the scary things worth doing (falling in love, moving across the country, skateboarding off a roof).
3. There is power in laughter. If you have a sense of humor about yourself, no one can use laughter against you. If your fight isn't about life, death, or taxes, it's okay to laugh (it's probably okay to laugh, anyway).
4. God is not afraid of our pain or our toughest questions.
5. Confidence is not an ethereal quality that is given to some and not to others. It demands practice. (This is what Kyle tries to explain every time I complain that I get lost when I drive by myself or tell him I'm not strong enough to do something.)
6. Beauty is not in the perfect notes or shapes or words or colors. It's in the mistakes and space and silences that come as we strive to find it. (punk music at our wedding ceremony, Sharpie doodles on utility bills and take-out containers, and the nose crooked from being broken so many times).
7. Popcorn is better with soy sauce. (I didn't believe this until I tried it).
So to anyone reading this, I'm thinking good New Year's thoughts for you. If you can't laugh at yourself, you can at least laugh at me!