The Free Motion Quilting Project: Why Snow Globes Make Me Sad

Sunday, December 7, 2014

Why Snow Globes Make Me Sad

Yep, it's that snow globe time of the year when every mantle has a snow-filled wonderland of glass and water. For years I've avoided snow globes, ignored them when I saw them in stores, looked the other way when I spotted one at a friend's house, or feigned nonchalance when someone handed me one to shake and enjoy.

Snow globes make me sad because of a particularly painful childhood memory that I'd like to share today. This is a shameful memory where I behaved badly, probably my worst, and paid the price in more than one way.

So I understand if you don't want your holiday spirit diminished and would rather read about designs or check out the latest posts to our new Facebook group.

Ultimately, I do have a positive spin on this memory, but first I have to reveal something very ugly about myself - I have a terrible temper.

When I get angry, I lose it, and not in a pretty way. My ears ring and my hands shake and my big mouth opens and all sorts of ugly things fly out of it and I have absolutely no control over what I say. It's shameful to admit, but my temper has lost me more than one friendship, and ruined many otherwise fun experiences.

The one redeeming feature is I very rarely lose my temper. I'm not a rage-aholic and I hate to fight, though I'm not afraid of confrontation. I'm not a super angry person who picks fights. I live very peacefully and happily, but when my buttons are pushed beyond limit - watch out!

My most over the top example of my temper in action - I flew back from Denver to Charlotte after shooting two Craftsy classes back to back. I'd been gone nine days, which to me is an eternity. I just wanted to get home, get back to my family, and rest. I was utterly exhausted.

But my truck was parked in long term lot 4 which was rarely used by the airport and no buses were signaling they were taking people to that lot. There wasn't an attendant on duty and no one to ask what to do. I began asking the bus drivers as they stopped and they kept telling me different things - lot 2 buses were also doing 4. No, Lot 1 buses were also going to 4. And so on. This went on for more than 30 minutes and I was beginning to wonder if ANYONE would EVER take me to my truck!

I should add that my largest, heaviest suitcase had broken so I couldn't move without banging my legs on the suitcase or knocking into the second suitcase or laptop case. It was a nightmare of unmanageably and frustration.

Finally, a bus picked me up. Finally, I got to the lot. I could SEE my truck! I was so close! I stepped off the bus and tripped over my broken suitcase. The bus pulled away and I tripped again as my laptop case swung and threw me off balance and I crashed into my other suitcase.

I felt like I smashed every bone in my body and that was IT! I'd had ENOUGH! I SCREAMED many terrible, very, very bad words right in the middle of the lot. I pounded my fists on the bag and just lost it in a tantrum that would have looked perfectly normal... if I were three years old.

It would have been so nice to have been all alone for that moment, it wouldn't have mattered that I screamed a string of profanity that would make my grandma faint. No such luck. Two middle aged guys in a big truck had been on the bus too and gotten off a stop ahead of me and watched as I flew into an almighty rage. As they pulled out around me, they just stared and stared. Yep, there's the crazy girl loosing her shit all over long term lot 4.

So that's how I lose it. Completely. Absolutely. No-holds-barred crazy.

Now you know how completely I can mutate from a normal blonde to the Incredible Hulk, this story might make more sense. We have a bit of perspective.

Now for why snow globes make me sad:

I was around ten years old when my mom bought a snow globe. It was Rudolph the reindeer and probably played that song too, I don't remember. I do remember absolutely, positively loving this thing.

I'd seen snow globes before in movies, but I'd never seen one in a store and certainly never dreamed of owning one. They were so amazing! A little world trapped in a glass ball that played music and snowed. What's not to love?

I adored this snow globe. I remember hopping off the bus and running inside to give it a shake and wind the music box. I remember staring at it forever just watching the snow fall. I wasn't really into Rudolph or Santa, but I loved that globe and found watching the snow very relaxing.

I'm a sucker for special Christmas ornaments. Growing up we had a cool metal lantern that would spin quickly if you lit four candles. I loved to put it together and watch it move. My great aunt had an even bigger version made of wood, but she never lit the candles while I visited. I loved the magical nature of these ornaments and decorations, and because they only came out once a year, that made them all the more special.

Side note - I've actually kept electric, moving Christmas ornaments since 4th grade and this was the first year I figured out how to get them to work with newer light strands! To celebrate, I found another on Ebay and have decided to start collecting them - one per year from here on out.

Yes, I know the holidays are more than pretty decorations and ornaments, but to me, these things make this time very special. There is a magic of wonder and beauty that I find in moving ornaments, and it helps me tap into my childhood feelings of excitement and gratitude.

Of course, there's a bad side to this story. You can't love an object as much as I loved that snow globe and not risk your heart (and your terrible temper) every time someone touches it. The downside to snow globes - they are very breakable.

Rudolph only survived a few weeks in our house. My mom's friend, let's call her Diana, came over with her two daughters, Ashley and Jessica (also false names), who were probably eight and six at the time. We often played together while our mothers binge-drank cheap boxes of wine and complained on long evenings together.

Looking back, I think Diana was a large source of my mother's alcoholism, and I blame her for stirring up much of my mother's anger and resentment. Even at ten, I knew my mother wasn't the same person after a day or evening hanging out with Diana.

So Mom and Diana decided to leave four kids in the house, my older sister who was twelve, me, Ashley and Jessica. They took off and left us alone for more than four hours. To this day I don't know where they went or what they were doing. What I do know - leaving four children (and yes, I consider even a twelve year old still a CHILD) is an extremely irresponsible, stupid thing to do.

To make a long story short - Ashley was holding the Rudolph snow globe and dropped it against a table. The glass shattered and water and snow bits went everywhere. The mess was nothing to my smashed heart. My absolute favorite decoration, full of wonder and beauty was now in a million pieces.

I think I could probably have held myself together if Ashley hadn't laughed. She let out a giggle - seriously a GIGGLE - that just... undid me.

Looking back, I don't think she meant to laugh, and I don't think she meant to smash our family snow globe. I think the laugh was some weird reflex of nervousness or her way of trying to make light of the situation. My ten year old mind didn't have any of that experience - I heard a laugh and I interpreted that she thought it was funny and cute to have smashed our snow globe.

You already know how I can lose it. This day, however, made my screaming tantrum in long term lot 4 look like a sonar ping in comparison. This was the worst, ugliest and destructive demonstration of my temper I can recall. 

But this time I didn't scream or yell or cry. I didn't learn how to show my anger in more healthy ways until much later. Instead I tore that little girl apart with words, verbally flayed her piece by piece. I explained to Ashley in exacting detail how much I absolutely hated her and wished her extreme pain. With no adults to referee the situation I had nowhere to go and no experience to guide me.

My anger stayed constant all day. I lashed out continually with passive aggressive comments designed to make Ashley feel small, ugly, and unwanted. Eventually she gave up trying to make it up to me and ran to hide in her mother's car and cried. For hours.

I can remember feeling bad about this even as it was happening. I can remember being sad that Ashley was crying, but feeling so gripped by anger that I couldn't control. A pit of shame and guilt was already blooming in my chest, but I couldn't turn it off. It was like I had no control over my mouth after hearing Ashley's giggle.

So this is the storm my mom and Diana returned to. Mom was instantly on my case - How DARE you treat Ashley like that?! Diana doesn't NEED this right now!

Diana took it in a totally different way. She collected her daughters and left, but returned later that evening with a new snow globe, including the receipt, and left it on our back porch because we weren't home. I remember pulling it out of the bag and feeling that deep, black pit of shame and guilt grow deeper and deeper.

I was called out repeatedly, wrote a letter of apology to Ashley, and shamed beyond belief for my display of temper. For the entire rest of the season I was repeatedly reminded that I'd behaved terribly and that Diana didn't have the money for that replacement snow globe.

My parents paid her back, but they wouldn't drop it. Even years later my mom would bring it up and remind me again how terrible I was. It didn't matter how many times I tried to explain or apologize, my actions that day were never to be forgiven or forgotten.

In short - this experience ruined my Christmas that year, and every time I've ever laid eyes on a snow globe, I feel again that wave of guilt and shame. I can't look at the swirling snow without remembering how badly I lost my temper, the mean things I said, and the little girl I hurt.

Of course, I have a very different perspective on this whole situation as an adult. At thirty-one, I have two decades more experience with my temper, my mother, and women in general. I also have a lot more perspective on the whole ordeal, and that makes the greatest difference in the world.

I know that I would never leave four children alone like that, not for any length of time. I think my mother and Diana were incredibly irresponsible, and I now question what they were doing and why they were gone so long - two questions I didn't think to ask as a child.

My best guess is they went to lunch and drank and complained together for four hours. This holds with their usual pattern of behavior and would explain why mom came home and immediately jumped down my throat - she felt guilty for her behavior and needed someone to blame.

Had there been adults home, the whole situation would have been different. Heck, the snow globe might not have even broken if an intelligent adult had realized it wasn't a good item to have out with smaller children in the house.

Even if it had been smashed, if a responsible adult had been home, I would have asked to play alone and been able to get away from Ashley and calm down without hurting her. Without any authority present, I felt like I had to keep a show of playing with the two other children, even though I really just wanted to escape the situation and cry.

Finally, when my son misbehaves, I punish him, but when it's over I remind him that I love him and he's an inherently good boy. I do not rehash all the ways he's disappointed or embarrassed me. I don't remind him of how bad he was or how terribly he acted. Shame and guilt are disgusting weapons to use on a child.

Really this whole post has been about James. James and I were at Lowes last week and he caught sight of a snow globe for the first time. The wonder and majesty of it caught him at seven just like it bewitched me at ten. I saw him light up completely and remembered how that felt too.

So this year I'm releasing this story, all the guilt and shame of it, and finally forgiving myself for what happened. Really, that's all that's left now. The only reason I can't enjoy a snow globe as an adult is I haven't let myself let it go.

Yes, I regret how I acted, but it's time to stop regretting and feeling guilty. This happened twenty-one years ago! I need to let this go and forgive myself.

Thankfully my sweet little boy is helping me. James earned some money helping with yard work and yesterday we went back to Lowes and looked at all the holiday decorations. We looked at lights and ornaments, wreathes and stuffed animals, and finally ran across the snow globes again. He picked one out and we brought it home.

Our new snow globe is a simple car with a Christmas tree on top and it plays Oh Christmas Tree when the music box is wound. It's sweet and small and fits into my seven year old's hands just perfectly.

Seeing James love this snow globe is so helpful to me. I see his joy and I'm reminded how that felt and slowly I'm allowing myself to tap back into it. What I'm trying to undo is my mother's deep-coded message in my psyche that I don't deserve another snow globe, that I should never, ever enjoy that again because of how I acted that one day so long ago.

When I hold this new snow globe and give it a shake, I remind myself again that mistakes happen and it's okay to hold this beautiful ornament and enjoy playing with it. This snow globe might get smashed to bits, but I know for sure I will handle it far better now.

Everyone deserves beautiful, special things. It's okay to have a temper and be imperfect. It's okay. It's okay to forgive the darkest, most shameful experiences because no one else can do it for you. We all deserve forgiveness, especially from ourselves.

Release and forgiveness can happen whenever you choose, and I think our culture lacks rituals for releasing guilt and shame. So what if I combine my desire for forgiveness and my love for beautiful, magical snow globes?

From now on when I see a snow globe and give it a shake, I'm going to close my eyes and think about something I've been holding on to - some memory that I hold regret - and I'm going to whisper "I forgive you" and open my eyes and watch the snow swirl around.

I think we need more rituals like this worked into every day life that encourage forgiveness and release. I wonder - if I whisper this every day for an entire year, what kind of change will I create in my life?

Give yourself a hug today, forgiveness is a blessing.

Leah Day


  1. Dear Leah, I read your story with tears in my eyes, and my thought was that you have to forgive yourself. You were 10 years old, and kind of alone, and I think most 10 year old children would do the same. You are absolutely right about the fact that we must learn to forgive, forget and releasing our self from our childhood. I absolutely hope for you that you can enjoy the snow globe with your son in the years to come. I really enjoy all of your posts, and I love the new ones where you share a bit of your everyday life. Take care and have a merry christmas! Love from Tine/Denmark

    1. I'm so sorry to make you cry today Tine, but it was so nice to write this and get it off my chest. Yes, we are loving the new globe and I think it's even more magical now to use it as a reminder for forgiveness.

  2. Very touching story Leah, I know it must have difficult to put out there in writing for all to see. I appreciate your honesty. This also reminded me that I, like you, tend to punish myself over and over for mistakes made years ago that, most likely no one but me remembers.
    Thank you for reminding me that we can become our own worst enemy and we must forgive ourselves for those things in the past and leave them there where they belong.

    1. Actually I'd say it's far easier to write it all out than store this story and the shame for the last 21 years! It's actually a relief! I think having a daily forgiveness ritual is something my family will build from this holiday going forward. Forgive one another, forgive ourselves, let it go and be happier for it!

  3. Oh my goodness! There are tears running down my face! I have read your blog for a while now. I love looking at all the detail you put into your quilting. I have yet to quilt anything, but I love looking at quilts.

    And now today you touched a deep part of my soul that I didn't realize was still hurting down there. My mother also had a Diana. I'm thankful that there wasn't the added ingredient of alcohol in their relationship, but they spent hours together, bitching about everything. And after the bitchfest, it took a while to get over being that bitchy about everyone and everything. I have always felt a little adrift, having known no one else whose mother was like that. g

    I dare say this is one reason I don't have a close friend I share everything with. Because I am imprinted with close friends are dangerous as they make you bitchy.

    I hope you enjoy that snowglobe with your son to the fullest!

    1. Oh I so understand Funky Kim! Perpetual unhappiness is a dangerous state to be in and it's catching. These days I'm really careful to be around women who tend to catch a case of the bitchiness. Who wants to listen to all that crap? I'd much rather turn on some loud music and sing out my frustration (rather badly I admit) than stirring it up with someone else. Sorry to make you cry today!

  4. What an incredible story that you have shared - so true and honest. Your anguish comes through in your words. We all have those memories that are hard to look in the face. You are so courageous in telling yours with honesty.
    Christmas is a wonderful holiday, but not all our memories of it are happy ones. This was a very profound memory and insight. Thank you.

  5. This is so real to me! I also feel a bit down when I see a snow globe. For me it isn't a childhood memory but an ex husband memory instead. I love it that you shared this. It made me think I really should try snowglobes again!

  6. Wow, I cried. But in a good way. Thank you for sharing and showing us how to forgive ourselves. Very apt for this time of year. Hugs to James for showing you a way out of the darkness.

  7. OH my - poor little girl back then. Isn't it AWfuL when you cannot just STOP thinking about some sin or error or moment of bad behavior. You were a little girl. The replacement globe is wonderful!!!!! I wouldn't mind having that one myself! I knew a gal who at the end of the year, wrote out her sins on pieces of paper, then put them in a fancy cut-glass bowl and burned them. The smoke going up meant that those issues were no more! I liked that idea.

    Happy quilting

  8. Oh Leah, I could give you a hug right now. I think so many of us in our age group have memories of being disciplined the same way. I'm so glad things have changed and we are not repeating what we learned as children. We could all use a bit of shaking snow globes and forgiveness.

  9. It takes a lot to make me tear up, but tear up I did reading your story.
    It is a sad story in what was a dysfunctional situation.
    Whether we are a child or not we all have a breaking point. Society tells us that anger is bad, but is only how it is expressed.
    I'm with you on the loud music singing with an equally bad voice!
    Love to you and your family over the Christmas period

  10. Leah, this is so very very familiar to me, I've inherited my Dad's anger and frustration, but I have this internal fear that I will end up like my mother, the usual source of his anger and frustration. She died from her alcoholism when I wasn't much older than you in the snow globe incident. I won't say too much more but there were many irresposible moments in our lives together, including a DUI conviction whilst my younger sister and I were in the car (Diana in this story worries me from that angle I must say).

    I somehow manage to keep my raging tantrums reasonably private but got close to losing it at my sewing guild about 18 months ago which was scary for me. Only my husband really knows the extremity of my anger and it always, always ends in tears too. I'm pretty sure all of our ugly moments stem from childhood so it's so great that you're turning it into a positive for you and James so the anger doesn't perpetuate.

  11. I liked this post. I like when you share other aspects of your life. It really all goes in the quilts we make. At least it does for me. And as a fellow temper tantrum thrower (at least as a kid), I'll add my perspective: I was never given the tools to get over my tantrums. My parents just told me to get over it, so get over it I did, by learning to hold it in, which didn't help any more than the shaming you were put through. Holding it in wasn't good either-as an adult I found it very hard to express myself, and that part took years to fix. My step son also had issues when he was a kid, but we taught him a couple of things: that its not wrong to feel upset; to feel free to tell others you are having a bad day and why (so you don't take it out on them); and gave him other ways to deal with the emotion swings (exercising regularly, eating better and pets (pets are awesome for the unconditional love part)).

    I look back to my kiddo times and wish someone had given me any tools to deal with those rages I went through. I wasn't even allowed to consider that I might be right to feel that way (my siblings would set me off on purpose just to watch).

    I'm glad you found a way to forgive yourself too. Because that happening in your past helped shaped who you are today. And I rather like who you are today.

  12. Thank you for sharing. The peace you have helped me find in sharing your personal stories is so big, I am grateful beyond belief. I am 54 with similar experiences and I am still making progress today. I am learning to allow myself not to attend events or be with people who will spring the trigger like a mouse trap. Sometimes I feel I can't avoid it or I kid myself that I can handle it, wrong! That is where forgiveness for being incapable of handling aspects of what my world can dish out, is so miraculous. Without your open honesty I would still feel like I am the only person this happens to. Thank you Leah!

  13. Thank you for sharing this! You are so right, it is time that you forgave yourself. You were ten - if it were anyone else, you would never have held a grudge for 20 plus years. And you were mean only one day, whereas the snow globe broke for forever. It must have felt terrible!

    Enjoy your new snow globes and treat your childish behaviour with understanding!

  14. Forgiveness is such a wonderful gift, and that 10 year old little girl deserves it. I'm so happy you are working to do just that, and I am sending that sweet little girl who didn't know how to channel her emotions a giant hug and a kiss on the forehead that says it's okay.

  15. God bless you for learning the lesson of forgiveness for it is not just for others, but for ourselves as well. May you and your family have a blessed Christmas!

  16. I'm yet another reader who had to wipe the tears away when I read your story. You are right to finally forgive yourself and rediscover the wonder of snow globes with your little boy.
    Our mother's unkind comments(and behaviour) can leave a lasting impression on us - way after childhood.
    Both my parents drank to excess and to this day I cannot abide seeing people out of control and slurry with drinking. Ooops, don't really want to start getting negative especially at this time of year.
    I enjoy reading your blog, Leah, and all that you share with us. Sending you and your family Christmas Wishes from New Zealand.

  17. I bet you don't even realize how many people you touch with your posts. You are so brave to share so many personal things with us. You are amazing - and you are a great inspiration. Thank you again - for sharing.....

  18. Bless you, Leah, for sharing this. You are one awesome, inspiring, talented, insightful, big-hearted lady. I've just begun to forgive my mom over the last few years, and I'm 62, so can fully appreciate what a journey this is and how very far you've come in such a short time. Amazing.


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