A Year of gifts
SOMETIMES THE ROADBLOCKS, SETBACKS, AND HEARTBREAKS OF LIFE TURN OUT TO BE THE GREATEST GIFTS OF ALL . . .
When was the last time you purposefully scared yourself? I’m not talking about the fear you feel when you take a chance, try something new, maybe push beyond your comfort zone (even though that is a common theme of many of my blog posts). Nor am I talking about the fear and horror you might feel when you see yet another atrocity on the news. Today I’m talking about that delicious, pulse-pounding fear we feel when we put ourselves into a scary situation for fun!
After sitting down to brainstorm about today’s post, sketching out some notes, and doing a little online research, I’ve come to realize my answer to the question posed above is “far too long.” I need to do something scary and get my blood pumping. Life can get awfully darn serious if we don’t interject some fun.
A few weeks ago, I wrote about the intrigue of suspense. Two weeks ago, I penned a short Halloween story for you. Perhaps it’s the dreary, damp weather we’ve been experiencing that has my mind focused on things that go bump in the night. If you prefer light-hearted and uplifting topics, don’t worry, the holidays are right around the corner, and I’ll be writing all about gratitude, tradition, and new beginnings very soon. But for now, I’m going to take you back to a time in my younger years, before I forgot how much fun scaring ourselves silly can be.
There are places we can visit to find thrills and chills. Have you ever walked through an abandoned prison? It’s been nearly thirty years since I took a self-directed walking tour through the notorious Alcatraz prison outside of San Francisco. I'll never forget the feeling of isolation and despair as I walked through the labyrinth of hallways, rooms, and cells, listening to a prerecorded tour guide share the sordid history of the place from the MP3 player they handed out as you entered. Real evil had lived there, and it still lingered.
Or what about sleepovers. As grade school kids, we thought it was fun to scare the snot out of each other. It has been decades since I’ve thought about the chant we’d utter as one girl would lie prone on the floor, and the rest of this would circle her, murmuring “Light as a Feather, Stiff as a Board” in unison, and attempt to make our friend levitate into the air with only our fingers under her. Or how we’d go into the bathroom, turn off the lights, say “Bloody Mary, Bloody Mary” many times and flip on the light, sure that we would face Mary in the mirror, glaring back at us. Why we even thought to try these things escapes me now, but it was a blast at the time. I drew the line at the Ouija board though. If that came out, I kept my distance. No sense asking for trouble!
My stint with reading horror books began in earnest during my junior high years. I’m convinced there is nothing as scary as our own imaginations, spurred on by the words of a gifted author. I still shiver at the thought of vampire children floating outside my bedroom window, scratching on the glass. I think I have Steven King and his iconic Salem’s Lot to thank for that nugget of horror that has never entirely left my memory banks. I lost sleep over books like Pet Sematary (yes, this is how it was spelled, another one by King) and Flowers in the Attic by V.C. Andrews.
I had many favorites, but there are two that feel iconic. I’m not sure if I’ve ever again been as frightened as I was when I read The Amityville Horror (author Jay Anson). Maybe it was because the story was rooted in actual events. But regardless, I can still hear the flies buzzing against windows that wouldn’t open and feel the terror of that poor family.
Can you guess what my all-time favorite horror story is? I even mentioned it in my own second novel…
If you guessed The Shining (again by Stephen King), you would be right! It’s a story set in a grand, deserted hotel on an isolated mountaintop in the dead of winter which provides the perfect backdrop for a small cast of seemingly “everyday” characters (although you quickly suspect something is a little off) that spirals into Jack’s descent into madness. You won't be able to put it down. And, in my opinion, this is one example where the movie was every bit if not better than the book. There are so many memorable scenes in that movie, I can’t begin to describe them all, so I won’t even try. Whether you’ve watched it before or never had the privilege, you may want to check it out. I plan to. Hopefully it’ll be every bit as good as I remember. But be warned: it may even be enough to make you believe in ghosts.
Of course, there are many other movies also guaranteed to scare the heck out of you. For some reason, “The Ring” was one of those movies for me. Perhaps it might seem silly by today’s standards, but when I watched it some fifteen years ago, it haunted me for weeks.
With Halloween right around the corner, now is the perfect time to find something scary to do, to watch or to read, if you are so inclined. I’d love if you shared some of your all-time favorites in the comments below. It would be fun to have a movie marathon or stay up all night reading a story guaranteed to make me want to sleep with the light on. It’s been a while!
If scary stuff isn’t your thing, find something else fun to do today. Make it a “non-serious Sunday”! And enjoy a mini-Snickers bar or bag of M&Ms. One of the best parts of Halloween is sneaking a few candy bars out of the trick-or-treat bowl. The kids will get plenty. Kim
Let me start by saying I have been wanting to write about the gift of family for months but I’ve been hesitant. “Family” means something different to every single person reading this post. Some of you truly feel your family is the greatest blessing in your life. Count me in that group. But others have a different view of family. For some, thinking about their family can be extremely painful. What constitutes a family will also be different for everyone. The people each of us might consider to be our family members often extend beyond blood relations.
I’ve decided to keep this as simple and straightforward as I can, despite the fact family dynamics are anything but simple. In a subject full of minefields, I’ll limit my comments to why I personally feel my family is my greatest blessing and I’ll share some of the things I try to do to protect and maintain the sanctity of this group.
I was lucky to grow up in a home where my parents were loving role models and they maintained reasonably high expectations for the three of us. I was the oldest with two younger brothers and we grew up doing many of the same things some of you might have spent your childhood doing. There were games, fights, lots of laughter and a few skinned knees. Much of that time is a blur but some things remain crystal clear. What could be more fun than a mean game of Anti-I-Over? We’d split into teams, send each team to opposite sides of the large, free-standing garage Dad built, and throw a ball over to each other. If you caught it, you were supposed to run around the building and try to tag someone on the other team. You could go either direction and the other team wouldn’t know you caught it until you came whipping around the corner. The thrill was in the anticipation, despite the occasional crashes.
For us, summer vacations always revolved around visiting more family. Long road trips, two weeks away, swimming pools and hot, humid summer days stand out in my mind. Holidays have remained pretty much the same since we were kids. Traditions run strong in our family and the predictability provides stability and close ties.
As I’ve grown older, I’ve come to understand how family dynamics constantly evolve. Ties with extended family can begin to stretch thin when life gets hectic but those special bonds seldom snap.
If we eventually become parents, we keep busy raising our own kids and the years fly by. All too soon, our kids reach young adulthood and branch out into their own lives, requiring less of our time. As our children have been growing up, our parents have been growing older. Many of us pass from one season of raising kids straight into another season of assisting our parents as they age. Where once we needed our parents to grow and thrive, now they may come to depend on us to do the same.
The blessings come from the memories we build and the years we have together. Sometimes the years are too short. We lose people too soon. (So… if you have a family member that drives you a little batty, just let it go. Focus on the positive and tune out the negative.)
Strong families can provide a solid foundation for everything else in life. I’ve always tried to keep family a top priority in our home and in my life. It isn’t always perfect and I often slip up but I never stop trying. I watched my parents put family first and I know we owe much to them for the example they set. We were always watching them, just as our kids are always watching us. They watch not because they are judging our actions but because they need help to figure out this crazy world we live in. They’ll emulate what we do. I think one of the best things you can do for your children and younger generations is to strive to live a life you are proud of and that you wouldn’t be afraid to have them copy. Set good examples and resist making poor choices you’ll come to regret, especially knowing they may follow in your footsteps.
Does it help you to know someone is always watching? As I’ve matured, I’ve come to realize two things about this. First, I try not to waste too much time or energy worrying about what others think of me. Second, instead of viewing it as a negative, I try to think of it as an opportunity. I push myself harder to chase my dreams and live every day in a positive way because my kids never stop watching the example I set by how I live my life. Never perfect but always trying.
I’ve never stopped watching how my parents deal with life’s struggles either. I have watched them work hard through the years. They purposefully chose careers that wouldn’t detract from our family life even if they weren’t the most lucrative or flashy of jobs. They did things that helped everyday people improve their own lives. And when our mother faced a life-threatening illness, we all watched how this amazingly strong woman, who had spent her life helping kids, would face her own mortality. How would Dad handle it? Could he fulfill those marriage vows he’d made some fifty odd years earlier to love and honor her “in sickness and in health”?
As had been the case in all the years leading up to this extremely difficult time in our lives, our parents modeled grace under pressure. I miss Mom every single day, and I know that will never change, but I cherish the memories of our times together and am eternally grateful to her for showing me what is important in life. Dad did an amazing job helping her. Now he is finding his way through days that look so different than they did only a few short years ago. And we are still watching and learning.
Raising kids isn’t easy. It never has been. Whether you are a parent, an aunt or uncle, a grandparent, or a close family friend, we all play a role in helping to raise the next generation. And I don’t think we are ever “done”. We set examples by how we live our lives until we leave this earth.
Families are complicated, sometimes incredibly frustrating, and one of our greatest blessings. When you are part of a strong family unit, and you do your part to help maintain that family, you’ll always be part of a team that has your back. It doesn’t get any better than that!
Whether your family consists of you and one other person, a huge group of individuals related by both blood and friendship, or some combination in-between, treat your family as the blessing they are and feel gratitude every single day for sharing this precious thing called life with them. If today you don’t feel like you are part of a family, start working to create one. It’s never too late. Maybe it looks different from what you used to think “family” meant but find that team. Don’t go it alone.
The gift of family is one of the beauties of life. Cherish it. I know I do. Kim
Hello everyone and welcome to my blog! My name is Kimberly Diede and I'm a self-published fiction author and family girl. When time permits, I am happiest with a great cup of coffee in one hand and a book in the other. I love to alternate between reading and writing. Winters here can be long, dark and cold. Summers are unpredictable, lovely and always too short. Every season of the year, as in every season of life, is a gift. Let's celebrate it together!