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The Most Hideous Gift of 2013

As you probably know by now, my guy is an artist.

It was one of the things that drew me to him.

Creative expression is something I value.

And someone who can paint the way James does?

YES please!

I love art and beauty. In every delightful, sensual form.

And I’m fortunate enough to be with a man who indulges my cravings on a regular basis. Not always in big, grand ways, but with unique, thoughtful gestures. So when Christmas rolls around, I sort of expect something special from my art-loving man. But last year? Nothing at all under the tree. Oh, don’t get me wrong. He got me some great gifts. Just no art. And then, three months later, in casual conversation, he admits that he actually DID buy me something—a sculpture that was still wrapped up in the trunk of his car. Seems he got nervous at the last minute and decided I may not like it. Crazy, right? I told him to bring it into the house immediately. And this is what he came back with.

Yup. A blue, "cookie-monster-thing" made from clay. WHAT??

"It's more expensive than it looks," he said, seeing the shock on my face. "The artist charges $900.00 a piece" And this, dear reader, is what popped out of my mouth next:

"NINE HUNDRED dollars! It looks like a five year old made it!"

Because, really.

(Quick note: it actually takes a lot of skill to sculpt something that's hollow in the middle and freestanding on two feet. A five year old couldn't have made it.)

But while I value things that are not mass-produced or made by machine, this didn't change the fact that I hated it. It was clumsy and stupid looking and . . . BLUE. And so the sculpture was banished to the basement, never to be seen again. . . . until I needed something from the cold room. Which was once or twice a week. I’d go down to get a bottle of wine and I’d see him standing there—alone on the shelf, his white googley eyes staring down at nothing. I considered taking him upstairs. Putting him in the bathroom as a joke so James and I could have a laugh. And that’s how it started. One day I carried him up and placed him on the back of the toilet. And then discovered I liked him there. His weird dot-nipples and uneven arms were just so . . . ridiculous. And that made me strangely happy. I started taking pictures of him and sending them to James at work. I’d set up little scenarios—the monster joining me for breakfast or taking a dip in my bath or helping me water the flowers outside.

It became my little thing. I took him on walks so I could take pictures of him in the park. I stopped referring to him as “the ugly blue sculpture” and began calling him Gee. (The G is hard like the French pronunciation of Guy) I created a special place in my office so he could be near me while I wrote. I no longer cared that he wasn’t “tasteful” or that he didn’t fit in with the color scheme. The truth is, I was having FUN. And after reading the book “Play” by Dr. Stuart Brown, I know how important fun is. Who’s Stuart Brown? He’s the medical doctor/psychiatrist who founded the National Institute for Play. Yes, there really is such a thing, and let me tell you why. In 1966, a student named Charles Whitman climbed the tower at the University of Texas and started shooting people—killing fifteen and wounding thirty-one before finally being gunned down himself. A committee was formed to find out why such a horrible thing had happened and how it could be prevented from ever happening again. Brown was one of the experts on that committee and after digging deep into the killer’s entire life, guess what they found out.

The mass murderer wasn’t a deranged maniac like everyone had assumed.

He was an extreme example of parental control without any allowance for fun. A lifelong LACK OF PLAY had been an important factor in his homicidal breakdown.

This is when Dr. Brown started his scientific study of play.

And now, after almost 50 years of clinical observation, here's what he knows for sure.

The opposite of play is not work. The opposite of play is depression.

It’s time to step off the treadmill, folks! The old definition of “hard work” is killing us.

It’s causing us to disconnect from our families. It’s causing us to numb out with food and alcohol. It’s draining us of our vitality and humor. It’s making us sick and eroding our souls. We’ve got to lighten up. Play was meant to be a partner to work! It’s an essential part of the creative process. It keeps us in balance, but more than that, it keeps our brains healthy. (Brown says that play is like fertilizer for brain growth!) You want to come up with creative solutions to life’s hard problems? START DOING MORE OF THE THINGS YOU LOVE! Don’t worry. You won’t lose your mind and abandon all of your responsibilities, banging on your drum all day. You’re not stupid. Just mix in a bit of humor and fun with your serious responsibilities and watch what happens. A little light-heartedness will actually grease those grinding wheels of life. You’ll find things running a little more smoothly as the people around you lighten up as well. You don’t have to be serious to be successful.

It’s okay to let go and have a little fun.

That's why I'm sending you this photo of Gee. As a constant reminder.

He's really just an invitation to be playful and silly. I didn’t see that at first. All I saw was an ugly piece of blue clay. And I almost missed out on the gift. I hope you don't do the same.

Sending you so much love,

P.S. To see more pictures of Gee, go to my Facebook Page and click on photos. He has his own album.


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