When You Care Enough


Hallmark’s famous slogan “When You Care Enough to Send the Very Best” was aimed at our heartstrings to increase our card buying habits, and it spurred an uptick in acknowledging special holidays. So many holidays in fact that it can feel burdensome to keep up with them all, and pre-packaging our sentiments can result in a lack of sincerity. While greeting cards are still around, they have definitely taken a backseat to e-cards, Facebook posts, and snappy animated video greetings as modes of acknowledging milestones. Quick electronic versions keep us from missing the occasion, but I’m not thinking this is what Hallmark had in mind. “The very best”? The slogan that’s more appropriate in the 21st century is “It’s the thought that counts”.

But, when you care enough….

It can mean you when care enough about yourself, about your need to connect, congratulate, celebrate and acknowledge the big and small events in your hub of the universe. It can mean that other people matter to you, and those friendships remain active and strong only when you put time into them. Relatives remain close to you when you stay in touch (so pick carefully!) Your connection to neighbors and co-workers increases when you reach out, even just with a “happy thanksgiving” note or a Halloween treat bag. Yes, by all means, have fun doing it. (You knew I was going to get to the play part sooner or later!) Use the opportunity to be creative, whether with words or photos, color or sound, with scissors or the computer.

It’s actually not about sending the very best. It’s about sending a little piece of yourself. Giving yourself time to find that piece of yourself. Maybe it is a JibJab photo card, or maybe it’s a Skype-delivered song. Or maybe it is a card.

This is the month of Valentine’s Day. So I am playing by making valentines. Not amazing, floral, hand-cut or watercolored mini-masterpieces. I wish. I’m not going for that very best.


I’m taking advantage of the “need” for valentines and giving myself permission to spend 30-60 minutes mucking about with paper and glue. And I am not doing it with my kids this year. I’ll leave the materials out for them later, but this is about me…and maybe a little of that kid within me. I have great memories of being 10 and cutting out hearts and gluing doilies.

My supplies are stolen from my kids’ craft drawer: construction paper, heart stickers, glitter glue, and crayons. I will date myself here but long ago, in the days of the big purple dinosaur, I made my kids a Barney Box (our own version of the bottomless Barney Bag). I threw in miscellaneous items like straws, paper clips, pipe cleaners, rubber bands, tongue depressors, magazines to cut up, toilet paper tubes, and crumpled wrapping paper. On rainy days, my kids would rummage through it and make structures with cereal boxes or milk jugs; they started adding their own items to the Barney Box, like an odd button or cool plastic packaging insert. Their creative eye grew.  It’s been around for almost 20 years. Today, I took a shoebox and started my own Barney Box. (I will have to come up with a more sophisticated name!!) I’m starting with actual art supplies – my own crayons! – and will let it grow from here.

I can’t wait for a rainy day!


Making the Most of Winter

Making the Most of Winter

A new twist to Cocktail Hour

I live in the North, but with Climate Change, that makes little difference. There is the possibility of snow everywhere, right? The natural challenges may make you feel limited to only inside options for playtime, but if winter is to go on for months and months, embracing the outdoors is best. Take charge of the situation.

I highly suggest a little planning ahead. That is, make the work of snow removal serve double duty. Shovel your driveway into a central area and use the snow to make fort walls. If a plow has pushed snow into a huge pile, make that the base of your SnowDragon. Shovel your steps each day onto the same pile and in a few days, you will have a lovely snow column to carve. While you clear the snow, daydream about what it could become. Once I scuplted a small sea turtle on the hood of my car, which froze in place and then melted and “swam” away on the highway a few days later.

Kids certainly help with the labor, but adults are pretty savvy when left to their own devices. We invited a few neighbors over to enjoy drinks on the Satuday evening after we created the low fort shown. Our guests were full of compliments, and added some flourishes and accoutrements of their own including glass holders dug into the walls..

With a good dumping, you can create all kinds of shapes, structures, creatures, and whimsy.

Making it, faking it

One very important precept in my view about play is that you don’t first have to be in the mood to play. This is where we as grown-ups meet our downfall. Kids will play anytime, because hey, they want to play anytime. As we mature and take on responsibilities and concerns, we feel that carefree attitude slip away. Playing is extra or superfluous or besides the point. We just don’t want to be playful.

“Not now, kids.”
“No, I can’t really go out tonight.”
“I’m too tired. Maybe another time.”

The truth is that once engaged, being playful actually offers us a boost. It gives us more energy than it takes away, if we let it. Like going to the gym. If we just get off our duff, we feel better for it.

A therapist once told me, when you are feeling anxious or uncomfortable in a situation that you have to get through, try smiling and acting like you are really confident. Fake it. Put on a public face, but then, more often than I may have wanted to admit, I discovered it works.  I truly  started to feel comfortable and self-confident, in certain situations. My first days as a classroom teacher definitely required this technique. I played the role of the young, perky teacher, hiding my self-doubt and introverted personality, and lo and behold, the kids loved me and the role took hold. I became an upbeat, vocal person.

So, it’s totally fair to start out faking it, pretending that you are playful if you have to. Push into the vibe and you’ll start feeling the groove. I dare you to listen to this song and not rock a bit!

“Happy” song, by Pharrell Williams, popularized in the movie Despicable Me 2