I remember a handful of childhood things, memories I feel fairly confident are actual memories, rather than recollections of anecdotes shared by a family member. One of the things I remember is my Granny’s ‘button drawer’ in her sewing room. It was nothing more (or less) than the bottom drawer of her sewing machine table. It was nothing more (or less) than entirely filled with all manner of buttons. When clothing wore out and was cut up for rags, baby or doll clothes, quilting squares or strips for braided rugs, all the buttons were removed and put in the button drawer. There was no order or organization to it. It was a deep, vast, plentiful and chaotic assortment of all manner of buttons, some very old (having come from her grandmothers clothes), and some buttons were so new they were still stitched to cards in groups of 4, 6, or 8, waiting for just the right project.


Playtime at Granny’s house.

On visits, particularly rainy days, when Granny was at her sewing machine, I had the entire button drawer for my play set, my toys, my treasure. I strung buttons into long garlands of sparkly buttons, and bracelets of colorful bead buttons. I sorted and organized the buttons again and again, endlessly fascinated by their variety and materials. I could bury my hands deep in the drawer of buttons and feel the larger, heavy buttons that had slowly settled toward the bottom of the drawer. Pulling some strange, previously unseen button from those mysterious depths was exciting.

Building blocks were available for play, too, and I enjoyed them.  I have in mind a morning at play, old-fashioned square blocks, Linkin Logs, and some odds and ends – and a lot of frustration that the pieces, seemingly very ‘regular’ and organized, didn’t work together the way I wanted them to. Unlike the buttons, the clear purpose of each block was both obvious, and limiting, at least for me. I have a recollection of frustrated little girl tears, and a male figure exclaiming with similar frustration “How can  you not like this? They’re building blocks!!”   It wasn’t at all that I ‘didn’t like them’ – but they sure weren’t buttons of endless variety, with sparkles, carved shapes, colorful forms and limitless purpose in my imagination; they were just blocks. Motionless. Massive. Firmly and clearly geometric. Built with a specific purpose. Designed for a singular sort of play. Not buttons.

Although I was already a ‘chatterbox’, I couldn’t express my emotional needs, or articulate my emotions with clarity. I’m still easily frustrated by difficulty communicating emotions clearly.  Metaphorically, I’m still turning building blocks over in my head, and trying to figure out how to make something of them that really sparkles. lol  These ‘building blocks’ are different; values, ideas, principles, boundaries, standards… the decision-making of my life has become the ‘building blocks’ of my future experience.  I’ve got my blocks… now to build something with them.

My building blocks are simple enough, and so far they seem quite sound. My ‘Big 5’ relationship values are my ‘gold standard’ for a thriving healthy relationship composed of thriving healthy individuals. They work for me, and give me room to grow (and demand that I do, because it’s always about practicing). My Big 5 are: Respect, Reciprocity, Consideration, Compassion, and Openness.  Experience tells me that any relationship [of mine] grounded in these values will thrive, and I will thrive, myself.  As an individual human, with my own issues and baggage, and wading through considerable chaos and damage as a trauma survivor, I’ve got a couple ‘building blocks’ that are ‘all about me’, too – how do I guide my own experience? What principles can I rely on to keep me on the path to becoming the best of the woman I have the potential to be? I find that, for now, three very simple ideas are all I need there: mindfulness, perspective, and sufficiency do the job nicely.

8 words, and time and practice to build those basics into a content and satisfied life; it isn’t a destination, it is a journey.  My Big 5 and my basic principles are less a map, or a goal line, and more like… a backpack, base layers, and good preparation, before heading into the wilderness.  Good preparation matters for any project.  Planning supports any endeavor, even when events later stray from the plan.  Good fundamentals result in improved game play.  I could throw metaphors at this all day. I doubt that makes the point any clearer.

Here’s where it gets complicated, for me.  I’ve got my Big 5.  I’ve got my partners.  What have they got? I mean, other than me, practicing my Big 5? We’re all in this sandbox together, and everyone brings their own toys… compatible sets of blocks are helpful, if we’re all going to have a good time.  What happens in that sandbox if I’ve got buttons, and my playmate has blocks? What if someone comes along with an Erector set? Or Fischer-Technics? Playtime just got more complicated; our play sets are not easily going to work well together.  That’s a jigsaw puzzle for another day.

No blocks? How about a wheel barrow?

No blocks? How about a wheel barrow?

Today is a good day to build something wonderful. Today is a good day for kindness. Today is a good day to smile and acknowledge that we’re all in this together. Today is a good day to change the world.