These are but trifles, to be sure; but scattered along life's pathway, the good they do is inconceivable.
I will give a great big ol' AMEN to that sentiment. Under two consecutive days of rare appearances by recently reticent blue skies and sunshine, the world around me has taken a turn for the brighter. People are laughing more easily and often, pride in productivity is through the roof, and there is a spirit of cohesiveness streaming happily through my life.
I must say, I am quite fond of the effects of the effects of the sun after a long winter's ordeal. And even though there is - conceivably! - snow in our forecast for next week, the next two days promise temps in the 60s and (could it be?!) 70s, and I will hang my hat on that promise. Should the days of gorgeous respite actually become a reality before fading back into winter, I will gratefully hang my hat on the memory of them until Spring moves in with certitude. After what we've endured 'til now, that will be enough, I think, to hold me.
It will be enough to restore my faith in the infallibility of the changing of the seasons.
Main Kwong, Woodford Reserve, and Holl's chocolates from my Valentine. He loves me. #100DaysOfHappy
It's such a slippery element, time. (Saturday)
The arts and crafts half of my studio. I spent most of the long weekend merrily ensconced in this life affirming space. #100DaysOfHappy
Especially when you have a three day weekend with nothing planned beyond immersing yourself in your happy place and reveling in the creative.
(No picture Sunday. I was busy!)
There was lots of happy making going on. So much so, a coupon-laden Michael's replenishment run was required. (Monday)
Michael's run for supplies. And a few extras. There were coupons! #100DaysOfHappy
But the long, lovely weekend is over now and real life beckons once again. Fortunately, most of my real life these days is every bit as colorful, interest pique-ing, and happy making as anything I could dream up. (Tuesday)
The West Virginia's State Capitol Building - the most gorgeous in the nation. #100DaysOfHappy
A good hunk of today was spent strolling the halls of the Capitol with purple clad co-workers and partners, advocating on behalf of families navigating the often treacherous Alzheimer's journey, under blue skies and a dome of gold.
Then we had Honey Baked Ham sandwiches for lunch.
It was a very good day.
And would you look at that now! I'm all caught up with myself again!
1. Despite assurrances from the various meteorologists in town, our forecasts calling for 0" to 2" of snowfall have evolved into a reality of 6" and counting. Vast swatches of interstates are shut down and the snow plows can't get ahead of the still falling precipitation. I love it. All of it. Everything is white and lovely, the weekend looms, nesting instincts have kicked into high gear, and peace reigns supreme.
2. Were I writing a letter to my 12 year old self - she who was perpetually obsessed with growing up as quickly as possible - I might point out to her that the loss of honest-to-goodness snow days would be a thing to mourn once adulthood was finally achieved. And that she would end up with regrets about wishing away the carefree days of having no obligations more pressing than building a fort, packing a snack, grabbing a flashlight, and burrowing in for a day of reading, napping, and daydreaming.
3. Although even as things stand, adulthood and all, I can't complain. I live an easy, flat two miles from work. The view from my desk permits me to keep a constant eye on the world outside, and as I type this over my lunch of tomato soup and peanut butter & jelly, snow is drifting in great mounds and cars are creeping ever so carefully, picking their way through predecessor's tire tracks, trusting said predecessors actually got where they intended to go, sans incident. The quiet effect of the weather has extended to our phone lines, and so I am spending the day catching up, tying up, brainstorming, and the like. It's a good day.
4. Last night, our Supper Club gang of six went to a local Italian joint and decided to take on the challenge of the Family Feast for the table. There was an ungodly amount of food served up. There was a slightly godlier - though not by much - amount of food consumed. The six of us waddled out of there with some variant of the thought, "I will never be hungry again" running through our brains. It was sooooo good. It was soooooo decadent. I was sooooooo full.
5. But guess what? It's another day. Fortunately for folks who love to eat, we get to do it every day. Three times. EVERY. DAY. So...dinner tonight is still a thing. Is that great OR WHAT? It is great. Especially so since tonight I am cooking up a large pot full of chicken and dumplings. Hearty, heart-warming comfort food, perfectly suited for marking the winding down of a wintry day like today.
6. I am reading a new-to-me Elinor Lipman book that I discovered at the library. Have you ever read her work? If the answer is no, please do yourself the favor of grabbing a title - any one of her novels will do - and digging in. The woman is genius. She has a brilliant wit, evident even in this touching, lovely essay called Sweetest at the End she wrote for the NYT's 'Modern Love' column in the months after her husband's death from a cruel, unpredictable disease. I adore her and find myself quite literally hanging on her every written word.
7. I'm on a run of good books lately, which makes me less embarrassed to confess that I found Raymond Carver's collection of short stories - for which he won world wide acclaim - wanting. I actively disliked 'Will You Please Be Quiet, Please?' Actively. Loathed.
8. More often than not, I find myself at odds with the critical experts of all things literary. I used to worry this was simply evidence of my lack of education - or of my miseducation, perhaps. But lately, I've come to believe it's nothing of the sort. I just know what I like. And, as it happens, often have better - certainly more honest - taste. The end. :-p
9. We have a three day weekend coming up, thanks to George and Abe. My studio and tea drawer are both fully stocked, Spotify and Pinterest are locked and loaded on the tablet I keep up there just for these purposes, and there are two new varieties of my favorite candle waiting to be burned. It is my - now stated - intention to spend three days in a haze of creativity. Long overdue, long anticipated.
10. (I think the snow has stopped. Or maybe it's just taking a breather. Who can know?)
11. Isn't it funny how social events tend to appear in bunches, with a flurry of activity occurring in a condensed amount of time while long weeks pass with nothing doing? My dance card is already full for the first week of March. FULL. From meetings to movie premiers, from dinners to the ballet...every night but Wednesday of that week is booked solid. The third week is jammin', too, what with the East End Pub Crawl (2014 version) kicking things off and the first Art Walk of the season sending a signal that spring will soon be busting out all over. March has got real potential, I tell you what.
12. These Olympic Games have not held the same thrill for me as others in years past. I can't quite put my finger on why, though. The fear of a horrific attack of some sort sent me into the event with a sense of dread rather than one of eager anticipation. And is it just me, or has a general lethargic attitude been prevalent in everything from the crowds to the human interest athlete profiles aired to date? There is typically - for me - a slow but steady build of drama and interest that takes place over the course of the Games, keeping me immersed and interested and full of wistful woe when the closing ceremonies approach. But not this year. This year, it all feels rather ... meh.
13. We were too late booking our Valentine's date at the "club," and so, to the best of my knowledge, have no specific plans for celebrating the Hallmark Day of Love. You know what this means, right? It means the possibilities are endless. Order in some Chinese food and watch a movie? Actually go to a movie in a real live theater and gorge ourselves on buttered popcorn? Take a long, snowy walk with Jake, followed by spiked hot chocolate and a little Olympic competition? Anything could happen, ladies and gents. The romance is in the mystery. It doesn't get much better than that, in my book.
*I surely do miss Roger Ebert, whose quote titles today's post.
View from the gallery of the WV House chamber. #100DaysOfHappy
I had the opportunity to sit in the gallery during the West Virginia legislative session today as part of the two day Women's Day at the Legislature event hosted by the WV Women's Commission. Despite living three blocks from the People's House, I haven't taken the occasion to sit in either gallery during a live session since a grade school field trip when I was 10 years old, give or take.
I was really looking forward to it, for a whole host of reasons...the pull of the romanticism of the democratic process not least among them.
The West Virginia House of Delegates was called to order a few minutes after 11:00 a.m. Pomp and circumstance for twenty minutes or so. Acknowledgements and introductions and meaningless shout outs from various delegates to their constituents scattered about the gallery took another 10 or 15 minutes. A roll call of committee meeting schedules took less than five. And adjournment, with a call to reconvene at 2:00 p.m, took a quick rap of the gavel.
Over and out.
I was there a little more than an hour and a half with not unreasonable hopes of watching this esteemed body pass House Bill 4283 and move it on over to the Senate.
The bill (which is a little soft and cowardly in its ask of raising the minimum wage to $8.00 an hour for 2015, up to $8.75 in 2016, but still was better than nothing) did indeed pass. Alas the big event evidently occurred during a brief flurry of actual business conducted during some unknown window at some unknown point this afternoon between the hours of 2:00 and 4:30 p.m.
The People's Business does not get tended within the chamber walls. It happens in the hallways, in the committee rooms, in the stair wells, across cafeteria tables, during walk-and-talks.
The People's Dog and Pony Show is what happens in the fancy chamber halls, resplendent with their massive glass chandeliers, plush carpet, fully wired desks, and formality. Did I mention how quaint it was that there was a nice Golden Delicious apple perched upon each delegate's desk? Or how charming it was to sing 'O, Those West Virginia Hills' accompanied by the Marshall University Fife & Drum Corp?
Sixty days a year, we're thusly served.
Oh, democracy. You inefficient beast.
I have no idea how this country manages to function as well as it does.
*Title quote thought by millions, but first uttered into the public record by Hunter S. Thompson.
With renewed vigor and inspired motivation, in spite of a million and one preceding failures, I am making a new run at good health.
The all over kind. The inside-out kind. The everything in moderation kind. The mind-body-spirit connectivity kind. The "holy hell, I'm getting older and suddenly realized that maybe - MAYBE - I might decide I want to live forever" kind.
I've made these proclamations before; loud, bold, strident, sure. But words are easy here. We all know that. I could write a million words a day relaying all I know to be true about the road to fitness, the value of nutrition to a well-tended mind, the horrid effects of fast food, fake food, food for food's sake.
It's the meaning it business that is difficult. The follow through. The actions that give the words their real power and oomph.
"I will exercise today" yields vastly different results from "I exercised today."
So. I am here, again, with words, again, promising to take care of myself, again. But I am also here with a slightly different approach. Two years after quitting smoking, the last grand gesture made in expressing any sort of ... love, really ... for myself and for sustaining this life I do so very much love to live, it's time for another.
This time, the grand gesture is going to be comprised of many small ones.
One small commitment toward better health every day.
One reasonable, do-able, achievable action.
One step, every day, on a journey of well-being.
Is that incredibly corny?
Yes. Yes, it is.
Do I give a flying flip?
No. No, I don't.
Here's how it's working: on Sunday evening, I look at my calendar. Working within the constraints of the schedule, avoiding conflicts I know will afford excuses for failure, I note one small healthy action to be completed on each day of the week ahead.
Yesterday, I took an orange to eat during the 3:00 slump and stayed away from the bottomless office candy dish. Today, I carved out 45 minutes and went to the gym to walk on the treadmill.
It may be as basic as planning healthy dinners to prepare in the coming days. It may be as thought provoking as reading a book. It may be as potentially painful beneficial as discussing a long-term program with a personal trainer.
The kind folks at the 'Chicken Soup for the Soul' franchise partnered with my employer to do a title specific to Alzheimer's with part of the proceeds coming back to the organization as a donation. An email went out to all of the Chapters, nationwide, looking for submissions from constituents, staffers, partners, volunteers...anyone with a relevant story to share.
I pulled up this old post from 2006, made a few modifications, copied and pasted it into the submission form, and hit send. A couple of months later, in early January, I received an email stating, basically, that I'd been shortlisted. Fill out this permission slip, they requested. Sign this agreement, they urged. Send it all back at your earliest convenience, they advised.
And a month after that, sometime on Friday of last week, the email above showed up in my in-box.
All the sudden, I'm a published author.
Not me, that's for sure!
Being published has not ever been a goal or dream of mine, really. It's certainly not anything I have pursued with passion and vigor. But I have to admit...it feels kind of nice to have a completely objective voice offer you a wisp of validation.
Which gives me an idea...wonder if my favorite local Indie bookstore will host a signing and give part of the proceeds from the sales of any books back to my team? Hmm? Worth a phone call at least, right?
*Title quote borrowed from Tom Robbins, tweaked a tad.
We made it home. Picked up the pup and some KFC. 'Bout to snuggle down in my comfy chair for an evening of Olympic games and Raymond Carver. Life is pretty swell these days. #100DaysOfHappy
It was such a lovely weekend, spent surrounded by family in celebration of the youngest among us, and it went by much too fast. A blink of the eye, and we were home again, home again, jiggity jig.
Being the complete (and unapologetic) sap that I am, what with tears springing to my eyes in a flash whenever my heartstrings are tugged, I cried upon leaving. And again about halfway home when a vision of Henley saying, "Don't go!" as we loaded up the vehicle popped into my head, unbidden.
It is so hard to leave.
And I always - inevitably - cry.
I don't view that as a bad thing, or a tragic thing, or even an embarrassing thing, necessarily. It's just...an expressive thing. An expression of how deeply you are loved. An expression of my sorrow at leaving your company because of the joy I took being in it.
But as I was saying, the weekend was lovely.
Jessi put so much thought and effort into the planning of the party itself, and has that special knack of being so calm, cool, and collected during. Everyone had a wonderful time and it all came off as effortless in the eyes of those in attendance. Everything was perfect, and if it wasn't perfect, it wasn't a problem. It was just part of the hustle and flow of the joy of the day, and at the end of it, everyone left with big smiles on their faces.
With the small exception of a couple of little ones who had so much fun, they didn't want to leave, and let their parents know it to the best of their ability.
But even that was a sign of success.
Henley Dean Higgs celebrated her second birthday in the company of dozens, with pizza and games, cupcakes and chocolate chip cookies (four! she had four! more than she's had in her whole life to date COMBINED!), mustaches and presents. Afterward, she retired to her chambers for an epic nap, waking non-plussed and no worse for the wear.
Except for the part about wanting cookies for dinner. (Oops!)
One good thing about leaving? Grandma doesn't have to tell her, "No." Grandma has a hard time pulling that one off just yet. (Ha!)
That might be the only thing good about leaving.
Right now, my heart is weepy and I'm feeling wistful and misty eyed. I miss them. All three of them. And Ginger the Cat, too. My heart has selfish pangs, too. I am envious of the other Grandma, who pops in whenever she likes, stealing Henley kisses, dropping off a pot of homemade something or other for dinner, making plans for babysitting dates, and so on. But mostly, my heart is full and bursty. I am so proud of Jon and Jessi, the life they are building, the work they put in, the care they take, the amazing way they parent and love their girl.
She is brilliant. Near-genius, to be sure. She can count to twenty. She can identify all of her letters. She is thoughtful and sweet. She speaks volumes, literally. She is beautiful. She is funny. She is stylish. She is curious. She engages. She is sweet. She is busy, busy, busy.
She is life itself.
And I miss her.
Here come those tears again...
*Title quote from George Bernard Shaw's 'Pygmalion.' Used here either ironically or sardonically. I can't decide.
Mama mia, thatsa lotta mustachios! #100DaysOfHappy
My favorite little girl in the whole entire world is turning two. Very soon, in fact! Jessi has planned a Pizzeria Party extravaganza that is going to be enormous fun for invitees of all ages.
And I - Gammaw - have been charged with mustache duty.
It's a job I take very seriously, you should know.
I have purchased big, fluffy 'staches for the bigger "kids," and small plastic 'staches for the little kids, who are sure to get the giggles over watching each other wear them. I had two large boards made - one, a sign, welcoming party goers to the pizza making station. A second, designed as a too clever riff on pin the tale on the donkey called Pin the Mustache on the Pizza Man. (I'm cutting out the individual, to-be-pinned mustaches, too.) And finally, I made forty chocolate mustache lollipops and a few dozen corresponding cupcake toppers.
We - the mustaches and I - are ready.
All that's left is the traveling safely.
And keeping Gampaw's paws out of the chocolate 'stache stash!
*Title quote from a source I never imagined I'd use: Paris Hilton. That's right. You go, girl.
1. Thursday Thirteen during #100DaysOfHappy? It's two! Two! Two memes in one! Heh. Plus which, I'm all caught up with myself and am posting this happy on the appropriate day. This state of currency likely won't last long, but I will enjoy it while it does.
2. Last night, we went to a local Greek sports bar to eat, listen to a local band called The Carpenter Ants, and watch a bit of the Mountaineer basketball game, simultaneously. Good fun, that. Live music is just the best, whether it's arena rock or an intimate local bar venue, whether it's megawatt stars or small town undiscovered talent, whether it's symphony musicians in tuxedos or a piano man with a tip jar - it doesn't matter to me. The music's the thing. It's all good. It's mostly all good. I mean, come on. Who are we kidding? Some music is utter crap. But mostly. Mostly, it's all good.
3. I reopened comments. Temporarily. We'll see. I have such a love (feedback, friendship)/hate (looking at the big '0', spam) relationship with comments. See also: I need to do a better job leaving them for others. Blogging sure ain't what it used to be. So many have come and gone, so many are career launching ad revenue generating machines. But it's always nice to see the familiar "faces" of fellow bloggers who share a like purpose and have stayed true to their initial reasons for blogging in the first place.
4. Not for nothin', but Quaker has a new apples and cranberry instant oatmeal. God help me, in the name of everything processed and bad for a body, it's a lovely warm way to start a day.
5. I am struggling to believe the Olympics start TODAY. And I really wish I could dispel this terrible feeling in my gut about something horrific and completely preventable going down during the two weeks or so in Sochi. I can't even really muster up any enthusiasm to watch the games this year. The whole shebang just feels icky and gross.
6. I use Goodreads a lot to find appropriate and applicable quotes to title my posts. Every single subject area I search, there is one guy who has five, ten, dozens of quotes listed, right alongside the heavy hitters of the literary world like Hemingway, Huxley, Hugo, and Hornby. His name is Jarod Kintz. Someone please tell me: who the hell is this guy?
7. This bit in his self-penned bio explains a lot: "I have written many “books,” and I use the term books loosely. Mostly they are just compilations of my random thoughts and one-liners." Okay, fine. But seriously. Does every thought he has ever had have to show up in every quote search a person conducts?
8. Did I mention that 80% of my co-workers are currently in New Orleans at a national Leadership Summit? Yep. In my office, there are two of us. The Left Behind. It's deathly quiet in here, which is conducive to getting a lot done. But it's also a little sad to be the one holding down the fort while everyone else is eating beignets, drinking chickory-laced coffee, enjoying some legit sunshine and warmth, and getting pumped up with enthusiasm and fueled up with knowledge and insight. What's that? Bitter? ME? Are you kidding?! No way. I'm not bitter. Really! Ha! (Really. I'm not. At all. Sincerely. In fact, had I been asked to go, I would have been busy begging not to go, because we are leaving tomorrow for Henley's second birthday weekend. And NOTHING - not even a trip to NOLA - can top that!)
10. The co-worker who stayed behind with me...well. Bless his heart. He's our only boy at the moment. He is painfully insecure and constantly in need of stroking or reassurance. I mention this only because he is right now on his second long-winded phone call, made solely for the purposes of humble-bragging on his performance yesterday afternoon at a presentation he gave, in search of the "good boy!" he so craves and needs. And this after he spent 30 minutes sharing the same tale with me, regaling me with how rapt his audience was and how they kept him an hour long because they were so enthralled with his charisma. This happens almost daily. Several times a week. It would not be unfair to say that a full 1/4 of his work life is spent engaging in this behavior. If a constituent pays him a compliment, he will spend two hours of the workday making sure the rest of us hear about it - and that's not an exaggeration. I mean, bless his heart. I know the genesis of his timorousness, and I am glad he's coming out of it, but the guy is 32 years old. He needs to snap out of it already. It's nuts. And I can't CRANK MY SPOTIFY UP LOUD ENOUGH to drown him out. *sad face*
11. Did you know we're still having water issues here in the heart of West by God Virginia? How this story is not front and center of every newscast, newspaper, news magazine coming and going is beyond me. It's a huge story. A scary story. My fondest hope is that it makes its way to enough of an meaningful ending (alternate water supplies, more effective regulation, public education) to serve as a cautionary tale one day. I still will not drink or cook with the water, and may never again. The vast majority of the 300,000 folks impacted by this crisis (of consequence and confidence) say the same.
12. It's Forget Fast Food February here in the ol' workplace. This follows the highly successful No Candy November experiment. In addition to kick-starting our internal wellness campaign, these little challenges keep life interesting. And we get stickers for every day we succeed in the task. So far this week, I've got two smiley faces, a Cinderella, and a Transformer. Motivation, you know? The currency of life, it is.
13. I'm going on a cleaning/organizing rampage in the office this afternoon while everyone is gone. Long overdue. I can't wait! If you need me, that's where I'll be. Just whistle. Holla? Write? Text? Call? Or maybe just comment. That'd do. ;-)
Everything about them. Their feel, their smell. I love cracking the spine on a brand new hardback and turning the page on a well told tale. I love buying them. Shopping for them. Reading them. Reading about them. Meeting the people who write them. Listening to lectures by people who study them. Collecting them. Hoarding them. Weeding them. Sharing them.
I love books.
(And yes, I do take one everywhere I go. EVERYWHERE.)
I made a promise a few months ago that I would not buy any new books until I'd made solid progress reading through the too many books I already owned but had not yet got around to reading. And I have been making progress.
Not enough to warrant an full on day of wandering the local bookstore with a warm credit card in my pocket.
But enough to warrant a trip to the local library where I could visit the 'Used Books for Sale' shelf on the first floor and browse the stacks, judging books by their covers until one or three jumped out and begged to go home with me. On borrowed time, of course.
And so it happened that I came home with a new stack of new-to-me titles, waiting to be read, for the price of $6.50, a library card, and a promise to get the borrowed ones home by curfew.
I'm very much looking forward to digging into the Raymond Carver collection, based on the title alone. Carver is often credited for the renaissance of the short story, and I am especially fond of this literary form. Will You Please Be Quiet, Please? is his first published collection. The one that launched a literary star, if you will. This one has to go back to the library at the end of the month.
This one? $1.50 and it's now part of my permanent collection. Ka-ching.
The title that intrigues me most, though, is Mrs. Bridge. Only because it's the one I know least about, and has the words '50th Anniversary of the Classic American Novel' splayed across the paperback's front cover. Is it? Really? A classic American novel?
I've never heard of it, really. I mean...I remember Paul Newman and Joanne Woodward starring in a movie called Mr. and Mrs. Bridge. But how did I not know this Evan S. Connell fellow was a "consummate storyteller" who has written a book "hailed by readers and critics alike as one of the greatest novels in American literature?" I mean...HOW does a person who loves to read said American literature go the same 50 years since the book's publication without knowing a) about it, or b) that it's a classic?
It bothers me, I can't lie.
Mr. Connell may write with "a surgeon's skill," but I will be reading this particular book with an admittedly Judgy McJudgerson's eye.
And will probably fall in love with it in the process, but hey.
It's a book.
And you may not know this about me, but...
I love books.
*Title quote from Lemony Snicket. I really need to read those books some day.
Valentine packages for my One Book at a Time fellas. #100DaysOfHappy
I've been sending books to Tyler in Hawaii once a month for going on two years now. He loves the 'Wimpy Kids' books and he's almost got the entire collection now. I alternate them with other titles to stretch him a little - he's starting to love the '39 Clues' series, and Nate the Great was a big hit. Tyler writes me great letters. He answers every question I ask him and tells me about his friends and his dog and his school work. Recently, he sent me a fantastic picture of himself holding a couple of the books I'd sent him. The big smile on his face stole my heart.
In September of this year, I was lucky enough to get Xavier's name, too. It was important to me to try and partner with a child from Appalachia. I wanted the chance to plant a love of reading in a young mind blooming in my own back yard, and Family to Family was wonderful in helping me make this happen. Xavier is a student at the Red Bird Mission in Kentucky, which is a place near and dear to me already. He is six years old and likes basketball, trucks, and Dr. Seuss books. I've started off by sending him a couple of classics - Where the Wild Things Are and Polar Express - and am looking forward to hearing more from him about what he wants to read.
There are approximately 8 gazillion mentions in this space mentioning my love and adoration of all things Family-to-Family, but their One Book at a Time program is worth yet another shout out. I cannot describe to you how wonderful it feels to share the gift of books and a love of reading with these guys. I hope they carry those things with them for years to come and maybe even choose to pass them on to the next group of youngsters to follow.
Modge podge on my fingers makes me smile. Crafting with words makes me downright giddy. #100DaysOfHappy
Pinterest + 20 years' worth of accumulated materials = hours of good clean fun.
I had Henley in mind when I started making these, but I'm not sure her mother will deem them worthy of actual hanging in her actual playroom. Maybe when they are finished, I'll change my mind. Maybe not, but who cares, really? It's the making of them that matters for the purposes of this post. Not the actual, you know, prospective usefulness of them.
Maya's right, you know. Creating - anything - is like riding a bike. You never really forget how. But sometimes you just have to get back on and remind yourself how to make the thing go. I've been playing with creating stuff in my play room studio again after too long away, and it feels so right.
This week, we had Super Bowl Sunday School. It was too much fun. #100DaysOfHappy
I love being a Sunday school teacher.
Everything about it, really.
It feeds my soul in a million ways.
When I was little, if you asked me, "What do you want to be when you grow up?" the answer you'd most likely get was, "I want to be a teacher."
I played school like it was my job.
My students were stuffed animals, mostly. It was a rare happy day when I could negotiate a trade with my baby brother wherein he would be required to sit studiously before me as I regaled him with lessons and school work, book reports, and, yes, even the occasional pop quiz - and in return? He often got shafted. Because I was (am) the big sister, that's why. SorryNotSorry.
I made meticulous lesson plans. I created worksheets and craft activities. I planned gym time and insisted on an orderly walk to the school library. I had a chalkboard. I owned a couple of textbooks of my very own - I distinctly remember a spelling book with a bright green cover and teacher's answers in the back. I treasured that thing. TREASURED.
It's the mid-nineties through the early-aughts(naughts?) 2000s. I'm a (little) bit older, the mother of two - one in college and one in high school - and decidedly NOT a teacher. But I am a student, a perpetual one to this day, truth be known. And part of what I am drawn to study is my own spirituality. I take small, timid steps on a faith journey that began when I was very young, but was given up somewhere along the way. I encountered countless forks in the road and a multitude of new stops and starts as I went. Yet even so, even when I wasn't convinced that I was still on the path, the journey continued.
When we moved back to West Virginia, we bought a house two blocks from the church I grew up going to every Sunday of my youth. Our first Sunday in the new house, I had the urge to walk to church. So I did. And when I arrived, the doors opened, revealing faces I remembered and memories I'd forgotten.
I knew I was home.
And then keep right on fast forwarding, until we arrive at this very day...
I am still on the trek for understanding and the search for knowledge, but my journey is undertaken with clear eyes and a full heart. I am wide awake to the experiences, I am open to the questions, I am learning - structural things, basic things, integral things, inspired things - about my religion, my faith, myself.
I am no theologian. In fact, I learn as much as my 4th and 5th grade kids do about the Bible and the stories it tells week to week. The teacher gets schooled on a regular basis, and that's definitely a good thing.
Prepping for class, developing lesson plans that build on each other, telling the stories, and introducing God into the lives of these kids in a way that makes Him accessible to them - well, let's put it this way: am I doing this for the kids or for me?
Sometimes, I'm not so sure.
But there is one thing I have never been more certain of...
When peace like a river, attendeth my way, When sorrows like sea billows roll; Whatever my lot, Thou hast taught me to know, It is well, it is well, with my soul.
Forever and ever.
(And for the record? I still insist on orderly lines when walking places. It's a teacher thing.)
*Title quote from Ellen DeGeneres.
(Ed. Confession: Also written on 2/4, backdated to 2/2. Again: because.)
Seventh in line at the car wash on a beautiful Saturday with temps in the sixties. Thrilled to wait in line for the chance to wash that horrible January right off of my car! #100DaysOfHappy
For all the times I ridicule them in the quiet of my own mind, whispering snarky comments about lemmings and whatnot to myself, I do love a good meme.
I can't help myself.
Exhibit A: the enduring Thursday Thirteen posts that keep showing up here, quite often the only sign of life in a near dormant, certainly stagnant blog.
And let's face it. I'm also a sucker for anything promoting happiness as a state of mind.
So...all of that said...I have committed to being part of the #100DaysOfHappy project. I opted to participate via Instagram (where I promptly forgot to hashtag my daily images and then, once I remembered, hashtagged them incorrectly, but I digress) and chose February 1, 2014, as my start date.
Then I got to thinkin'. "Self," I said to myself. "Self. This is a fine idea just as it is. But us being us, let's jack it up a notch, attach a little more pressure to the project, and use it as a motivation to blog more. Better. Mo' better. Whaddya say, Self?"
And my Self, being myself, said, "Sure. Why the hell not?"
Thus it came to pass that I composed this long-winded one-sided dialogue to explain why you may start to see random photos appear here everyday. Some days there may only be a photo and a hashtag. Other days, there may be a brief description of why the subject of the day's photo made me happy. And on still other days, one might find an actual post or journal entry, right under the photo, quite possibly completely unrelated to same.
The latter being the goal, of course. That the act of posting a photo of something that made me happy that day would be enough to inspire a girl to spend five or ten minutes emptying the contents of her head into the webospheres. See how that works? Open 'compose post' box. Upload photo. Feel fingers begin to twitch and get the itch to do that thing they like do, tickling the keyboard, releasing a thought, or two, or four.
You just never know.
Because I just never know.
'Tis a dangerous game, this.
But it's afoot.
Let's see where it leads, shall we?
*Title quote attributed to Abraham Lincoln.
(Ed. Confession: Written on 2/4, backdated to 2/1 - because I wanted to. The end.)
1. Are you tired of me piling on January? Revealing its evil core and exposing it for the miscreant it is? This has, without question, been the single most despairing, despicable month I can ever recall living through; from start to finish, from day one until its bitter, bitter end (in 38.5 hours or so, but who's counting?), January 2014 will be remembered by me as calamitous and ... well, frankly, just gross.
2. If I sound a tad melodramatic, it may have something to do with the fact that we had to put sweet Maggie the Cat down yesterday. The results of her biopsy showed that the mass under her tongue that prevented her from eating or drinking properly was an aggressive form of cancer. Bless her heart. She was drooling incessantly, a rancid, cancerous drool. And being a cat of meticulous nature, she couldn't stop attempting to clean herself, not understanding that all she was accomplishing was coating her fur with the odorous stuff. I bought some special kitty wipes to help clean her up, and contrary to her typical nature, she accepted my ministrations with gratitude. That was a red flag on its own. By the time the call came yesterday, she had gone nearly five days with no nutrition to speak of beyond the occasional lapping up of some watered down mushy canned food, and we all knew it was time.
3. No matter how prepared you think you are, or how humane an act you're convinced you are performing, it's so incredibly hard. I stayed with her to the end, stroking her, talking to her, telling her to be on the look out for Kitty and Molly, Duke and Socks, Charlie and Ollie - all beloved pets who'd gone before her, paving the way. Which, of course, sent me into convulsive sobs of the ugly cry variety, while our lovely vet looked on with such great sorrow, I thought her heart would break.
4. I love our vet. I've known her since we were kids together at church, where we grew up playing basketball and attending youth group and all of that. When we got Jake the Dog from the shelter nearly four years ago, it was a happy surprise to discover that the vet they suggested to us turned out to be an old friend. She is golden with my four-footed babies and we're blessed to have her on our side.
5. So, yeah. January can blow me.
6. In the spirit of "better days are coming," I'm rallying 'round the February flag with everything I am. The month already promises a great deal of joyful noise - Henley's 2nd birthday party, Valentine's Day, a long holiday weekend, Women's Day at the Legislature, progress on the kitchen remodel - and I intend to celebrate every last thing with gusto and gratitude.
7. Lemme see. What else can I share from this past week that doesn't involve gloom, doom, and bleakness? I guess the fact that at the halfway point of season one, I'm completely addicted to 'Breaking Bad' might not qualify, on the one hand, given the storyline of the drama is largely committed to doom and bleakness. Even so, on the other hand, I think I'll chalk it up as a positive, personally speaking. The contextual complexity of the show is as fantastic as the masses claimed, from the writing to the acting to the cinematography. I'm hooked.
8. Henley is turning two in nine days. I'll spare you the clichés ... oh, who am I kidding. I will spare you nothing... WHERE DOES THE TIME GO?!?!? How is she TWO? She is growing up so fast. I love the little person she is becoming, full of personality and curiosity and intelligence. Her birthday celebration is going to be a Pizza Party - from the invitation to the 'Pin the Mustache on the Pizza Man' game, Jessi has outdone herself, yet again. It's going to be an incredible affair, and THE social event of the season.
9. Love couldn't keep them together. My whole 8-track tape fueled adolescence was a big fat lie. But seriously? Who divorces in their seventies? After 39 years together? When one of them is sick? WHO DOES THAT?
10. We are in the midst of my town's first ever Restaurant Week! It's been a huge hit, water crisis be damned. Most establishments in the Valley have made it a point to use bottled water for cooking and serving - those who don't are losing too much business and won't be able to survive in the long term. So Restaurant Week promotion is drawing enormous crowds for the eight participating restaurants, each of whom are offering a price fixe menu of three courses (with a couple of options within each course) for $30.
11. Of the eight, there were two I'd never tried before, so I made reservations - very early on, thank goodness! - at both of them for our little three couple supper club group. Tuesday night, we ate at South Hills Market & Cafe and the entire experience - soup to nuts - was impeccable and delish. Tonight, the six of us are headed to Noah's Eclectic Bistro. I've heard amazing things about this quirky little joint, and Chef Noah himself was named Grand Champion at the Cast Iron Cook-Off just last week. The lot of us are really looking forward to this.
12. I went to the library yesterday evening to poke around. As usual, I found an armful of books on the "Used Books for Sale" shelf that I had to have. I mean...they were $1.00 and $2.00 apiece. How can you justify NOT taking home titles like Mrs. Bridge, Remarkable Creatures, and authors like Raymond Carver and Elinor Lipman? You can't. Especially not when $6.50 and a library card is your passport to going home with five new books for your permanent collection and two on loan from their stacks. One simply does not let such a deal pass by. One must not.
13. Anticipation can heal a ravaged soul, I find. And in that vein, I am delighted to have an early April trip with my husband on the books. We're going to Houston, Texas, which is surely not a place on my "gee, can't wait to visit *there* again" list after multiple trips dealing with Dad's medical traumas. That said, it's a trip he's taking for work and he invited me to tag along and so I said, "Why, yes. I would love to, very much." I've been researching and planning and signing up for special activities coordinated for "spouses" and generally getting excited about five days in warm weather engaging in new, unique experiences with the one I love.
Something to look forward to.
It's the way to *this* girl's heart, I tell you what.
I am a day late compiling this week's edition of the Thursday Thirteen, but nobody cares. I mean, where's the law that says a girl can't post thirteen things intended for Thursday on a Friday instead if she were so inclined? Nowhere. It doesn't exist. We'd all manage to deal with the trauma somehow, I feel sure.
But, what can I say. It would bend me all out of sorts six ways to Sunday. So I'm not gonna risk it, after all.
Besides, there's only one thing on my mind at the moment.
Maggie the Cat, the pretty lady staring at you from the photo above, is not well. She hasn't been able to eat properly for a couple of weeks, and while she has largely been acting her normal self, there have been some oddities of late. I took her to the vet last night, and we discovered there is a mass under her tongue that is clearly causing her a lot of pain and discomfort. It is also causing an abundance of nasty, rancid, foul smelling drool that she then attempts to wash herself with, creating a matted, slimy coat that leaves a small stain wherever she chooses to park herself.
She has lost four pounds since her last visit to the vet six weeks ago. She is currently sedated while they explore the mass and take a biopsy sample. The good news is, she tested negative for feline leukemia. The bad news is, the results of today's procedure will likely yeild either awful results (an abscessed mass with infection) or devastating results (cancer).
I feel pretty much like a shit for not realizing something serious was going on with her earlier. I've been complaining about how nasty she'd become for days now. I even gave her a wee bit of a "bath" the other night in an attempt to reduce the nasty quotient, but it never - not once - occurred to me that we could be in the midst of a kitty health crisis.
Until I watched her try to eat the other night. Then it was undeniable.
So this cat, who came to live with us after Kitty's sad departure and moved with us from North Carolina to West Virginia, who banished herself to the son's third floor living quarters upon the arrival of Jake the Dog, who subsequently re-integrated herself into the family when the son moved out, who rules the front porch in the summertime, who has managed to tame Jake the Dog to the point he is scared enough of her for her satisfaction...this cat, damn her, might be on the verge of cracking my heart.
Why are cats such fragile creatures? Their steely, surly outward attitudes certainly seem to belie a physical fraility. At least in my broad experience as the keeper of two of them. My first suffered horribly at the end from the ill effects of diabetes, despite the fact that I injected her twice daily with her dosage of insulin - a thing, it might be noted - that I probably wouldn't do for most humans I know.
And now this, with Maggie. Sniper, lover, stalker, prowler, scratcher, and cuddler, all in one.
Keep a thought for her today, if you can spare one.
Water, water everywhere and not a drop to drink. I can't even articulate my feelings about the fiasco slash tragedy slash horror show that is the recent chemical spill into our water supply. Reading other people's impassioned treastises does strange things to my mooditude. I vacillate between crazy rage and tearful self-pity, with dashes of hysteria tossed in for good measure. Perspective is necessary, of course. On the scale of human suffering endured on our planet, our tap water issues scarcely even rate. But in the first world, our real world, with sophisticated systems and a literal wealth of cash greasing the skids, how does a thing like this happen?
There has been a severing of public trust that may never heal. Maybe this is a good thing. I don't know.
It has been a rough couple of weeks. My entire being feels overwhelmed and chaotic. Settling down and sorting myself out is proving more difficult than you might imagine. I'm...fuzzy and discombobulated. I'm angry. I'm PISSED OFF. I'm emotional and out of synch.
I cannot dim the supernovae exploding inside my brain.
When big, huge events that are completely outside my control invade my life, I get stuck. It's like I am wearing cement shoes while my hands are tied behind my back. I just shut down, constrained by unseen forces. Nothing is routine or normal. Everything presents a challenge, and I plod along, lethargic and ineffective.
2014 is on the verge of defeating me, and it's only just begun.
This isn't the way I planned it. It's certainly not the way I vision boarded it. But it is what it is, and there's no way to sugar coat it: 2014, as a year, on the whole, has fundamentally and irrevocably...
So, here's what I'm going to do.
I'm going to pretend it was all a horribly timed and poorly executed prank.
I'm going to call a mulligan.
I'm hitting re-set on this Year of the Horse.
Tonight, I'm going to auld lang syne and drink heavily and countdown the final ten seconds 'til midnight. And when midnight comes, I'm going to kiss the one I love, offer a heartfelt toast to the New Year, re-imagine previously posted resolutions, and call it a day. Then, when I finally decide to get out of bed on Saturday morning - preferably with a slight but real hangover - I will reflect on the year that was, plan and organize for the year that shall be, harness the anger for good, and maybe even simmer up a big ol' pot of corned beef with cabbage.
1. So, hey! I'm posting this on a random January Thursday night (slash Friday morning) in the year 2014 that also just so happens to be the day a local company's industrial waste poisoned the air I'm breathing and the water I'm no longer allowed to drink. Or bathe in. Or use in any way except to flush the toilet. Literally. That is the only acceptable use of my rather sizable city's public water supply at the present moment. Flushing toilets.
2. The photograph above depicts the river that was violated by the leaking chemicals. It was shot as we walked along a lovely trail in Coonskin Park with Jake the dog. It's just a sliver of the river, really. But now that very body of water is full of some chemical that nobody seems to know much about. We are left with no time-line back to normalcy, no real information on toxicity or potential dangers from inhaling the odorous air that blanketed much of the valley all day Thursday or risks from the water ingested prior to the "No Use" order being issued.
3. We know nothing, really. Except that we are part of nine county, 300,00 person area directly affected by this nightmare and there is no end in sight.
4. I'm "working" from home today, given the water situation. I haven't had a shower since yesterday morning. The kitchen is a wreck of dirty dishes - compounded by the fact that our kitchen sink has been clogged for three days now waiting on a plumber who can break away from the plethora of frozen pipes that occurred around the valley earlier in the week. We have some bottled water for the animals, for brushing teeth, for washing up (sort of), and for the animals. It's funny - I had no real idea how many things I do each day that require the use of water in some way. Not having access to it leaves me feeling constricted and restrained. It's nuts.
5. And while the relentlessly self-righteous and high-handed folks are right - for most of us this whole thing is more of an inconvenience than a crisis - there's no denying that there is an undulating ripple of worry and concern underneath the petty airing of "ugh, no water!" grievances.
6. But in the Life Goes On department, I have a meeting here at the house in a few minutes to discuss parts of my new volunteer role with the West Virginia Healthy Kids & Families Coalition. I have been charged with a wish list of activities and tasks, most of which primarily relate to website updates, electronic outreach, and social media management. I'm learning the back end of a new site today and it will be a nice distraction from the current chaos.
7. It's funny. This year - these first ten days of January - have been filled with chaos and bumpy roads. From a distal colitis diagnosis to a polar vortex, from a miserable head & chest cold to this water garbage - it's been a year of weird tests. I'm ready to ace these suckers and graduate already.
8. Let's see. What else can I bore you regale you with this afternoon? Oh! Here's something! While the Cracked Black Pepper Triscuit won my heart as THE cracker of 2013, a 2014 front runner as already established itself. Have you tried the Town House Pita crackers? So good. But don't stop there. Because the Mediterranean Herb flavored ones are flat out TO DIE FOR.
9. The husband and I went to our first ballroom dancing lesson. It was a blast! We both suck, but we are also both game, and by the end of the hour, we were really feelin' our safe, simple little foxtrot. We've got two more weeks of foxtrot education ahead of us, and then we roll into three weeks of merengue training. !!! Merengue! Me?! SAY WHAT?!? :-o
10. I have been watching a ton of daytime television today, in between news conferences. It's horrible stuff. Horrible, horrible stuff. Who is this Bethenny chick on my TV right now? She's as interesting as a piece of cardboard. What the hell is 'The Chew' and why are so many of my favorite personalities demeaning themselves by being part of it? OMG - 'General Hospital' - WHAT? This show used to have my number. Has it always been this tragically bad? I would rather watch fourteen episodes of Shaun the Sheep with my eyes sewn open than sit through another day of this drivel on my telly.
11. I have a new sense of urgency and a renewed sense of commitment to helping organizations like The Water Project and Charity : Water with my advocacy and my money. Walking an eighth of a mile - or even less - in someone else's bare feet is a potent spark.
12. The associate pastor of my church asked for volunteers, so I raised my hand and, as a result, spent a rather lively 45 minutes or so touching base with every single one of the folks on our "shut ins" list. These people are the gems of our world, and I got more out of a three minute conversation with Frank, who assured me he not only has adequate water but also sufficient beer, than I did out of just about any other chat I've had this week. :-)
13. Okay, y'all. We're blowin' this joint. My mama bear called and said, "C'mon down." And so we are. We are escaping to the luxurious confines of the Great Bluegrass State of Kentucky, where the water - and the bourbon! - runs free. I wish I could take you all with me. But I will be bringing back a trunk full of H2O. Hang in there, peoples!
Part Two Of The 24 Hours That I Thought Would Take Forever, But Didn't
The procedure is behind me.
All that build up? All that fear? All those preconceived notions of horror?
We woke up about 6 a.m. Took a quick shower, threw on some comfy clothes and my trusty snow boots. Then, we trekked out into the POLAR VORTEX and made our way to the hospital. Checked in at 7, prepped and ready by 8, knocked out and blissfully unaware from 8:10 to 8:42 - give or take, and headed home by 9:30.
By 10 o'clock this morning, I was eating a Subway egg, bacon and cheese breakfast flatbread sandwich and sipping a cup of coffee. By 10:30, I was in bed, where I promptly nodded off to the droning voices of the endless cycle of ESPN talking heads.
As easy as that.
Isn't that always the way?
It is for me, more often than not.
I am way too often terrified of the unknown, all too often to my own detriment.
It's especially frustrating because there is demonstrative proof that when I find the wherewithal - whether internally driven or externally coerced - to power through the fear, the end result is usually amazing.
But fear, man. It's a powerful thing.
It's over. Solvable problem identified. On to new fears to conquer.
Colonoscopy this morning. Ballroom dancing tonight.
It will all be over - God willing - twenty-four hours from now. I will have survived the prep and the procedure and should be tucked comfortably in my own bed, enjoying the last effects of the sedation. But until then, I am hovering over my own life in a state of dread. So, "Self," I said to no one there. "Self, let's document these 24 hours for perpetuity, whaddya say?" And Myself, being a rather accommodating sort, responded, "Sure. Why the hell not?"
I didn't teach Sunday school today. Not because of the colonoscopy, but because of this horrid cold/sore throat/cough combination yuck junk I've got going on. Our class is blessed with fantastic shepherds (assistants), and I met one of them today in the hallway with the day's lesson plan.
Which means, of course, that I had to put some real clothes on. Which was fortunate, seeing as my brother, sister-in-law, and oldest niece decided to pay us an unannounced visit shortly after I returned home.
I was removing the last of the tree ornaments when they knocked at the door.
House = wrecked. Me = unshowered and gross. Jake = excited. Chaos = typical. I was glad to see them actually, since we hadn't been in the same room since before Christmas and their gifts were still perched under the lit, but newly de-ornamented, tree.
They opened their gifts. We had a nice chat. The subject turned quickly to food. Naturally. Of course. I mean, we always talk about food. Why would it be any different just because I haven't had anything to eat all day and won't yet for a very long time to come?
I am always hungry. Operating under strict orders of clear liquid intake only makes me hungrier still. Bitter? A little.
Speaking of not eating, I was very proud of myself for remembering to step on the scale this morning when I woke up. No, I am not going to share the resulting number with you. But I will share with you the grand total tonnage lost (surely, right?) come same time tomorrow.
All the sudden, it's time to start the process. Get this party started, as it were.
First step: completed. I hate Gatorade on its best day. This day is not doing it any favors.
Sipped a lovely cup of organic chicken broth, accompanied by a tasty ginger ale of fine vintage. Unsatisfied. Of course.
Time to amp up the distraction quotient. Good thing I prepared the Jar of Tedious Tasks to keep me busy today and take my mind off other things. Like tacos. And steak sandwiches. And noodles. And grilled chicken salads.
It is unbelievable how quickly 50 minutes goes by between 8 oz. glasses of this spiked Gatorade nastiness while the hour of the actual day remains stuck in molasses and cannot seem to move past itself.
Epiphianic revelation: Time is a freak of nature.
On a note related to absolutely nothing at all? Old Spice frequently walks the line between genius and fail. The new body spray commercials with the perverse and obsessive mothers leaves no line uncrossed. It falls - with a thud - squarely on the side of FAIL.
Thus far this afternoon, 95% of the evidence Christmas was here has been successfully removed from the scene. Also, my Sunday school lessons for the next month are sorted, planned, notated, and filed. Next, the junk cabinet under the chalkboard in the kitchen is about to bear the brunt of my merciless purging talent.
Distraction plan producing some effective results, however must be judged a failure at this juncture, as time still stands still. Still.
Why is it that the ones you love are the best equipped to make you crazy? I was forced to hide my BFF's Facebook page from my newsfeed several months ago. There is an enormous disconnect between speaking to her in person and reading her self-righteous sanctimony in daily judgment-laced missives written to make it seem as if she is schooling the masses on the ways and meanings of life.
I love a good, "This is what happened to me and this is what I learned from it." I even appreciate, "Boy, did I ever mess up and here's how I plan to keep that from happening next time." And I can respect, "I am full of joy and in a very happy place and this is how it is informing my life." But I actively loathe being instructed on how I should be comporting myself and living my life according to ... someone else's self-identified plan. Fix yourself. I'll be over here mindin' my business and expeciting the same courtesy in return.
I can't take it. But, she is my best friend. And so periodically, I click over to scan for lighter, airier fare on her page that I can 'like' or comment cutely on without incident.
I did just that today. Clicked right on over. And BOOM.
A status update that seemed tailor-made to school me on whining about feeling poorly and suffering some ill health. And while I am fairly certain it wasn't written to/at/about me specifically, its timing and wording sure felt that way.
I left a lengthy, spiteful comment in return.
I deleted said spiteful comment.
I went back, hovered over the text box, escaped sans comment.
I went back, and typed, "I love you. But this post makes me want to give you a wedgie."
And then I deleted that one, too.
My goodness, girl. I *do* love you. I ADORE you. But quit instructing me. Don't walk behind me, I may not lead. Don't walk in front of me, I may not follow. Walk beside me, living your life in a way that works for you, while I live my life the way that works for me, and let's just accept each other's idiosyncrasies for the beautiful differences they are. Deal?
Or, I could just come down there and give you a wedgie.
Note: Facebook, while often a losing proposition, is clearly a winning distraction. And? It's almost 5:30 p.m. Which means I'm only 5 1/2 hours in, but which also means bedtime is less than 5 hours away. Counting this as progress.
Well, my goodness. Where *did* the evening go?
This whole thing hasn't been nearly as bad as I envisioned. "Prep day" was built up in my head to be a horror show of epic proportion, but the reality was much more stoic than all of that.
I got a lot done today, actually.
In fact, I'm going to say that the worst of it has been not eating under DOCTOR'S ORDERS. I would never disobey such dictums from on high, and so the only things that have entered my body today are coffee, tea, one mug of chicken broth, two small cups of applesauce, and 64 oz. of Gatorade spiked with Miralax. I don't feel ... hungry, per se. I mean, my belly is so full of liquid, it desires nothing else (at the moment.) But my body knows it hasn't had anything of substance and it feels a tad wobbly. And my mind knows it hasn't had anything of substance and it feels a tad... raging bitch-ish.
The rest? Well, it was nothing to write home about. It was not something I'd like to repeat again anytime soon, but it wasn't an egregious, scarred for life, curled in a tight ball in the corner whimpering terrible. It was do-able. I managed. I lived.
And now, all that stands between me and a nice meal is a good night's sleep.
And a little procedure doohickey thingamajob.
If only I could sleep through that, too. But since I can't, here's hoping I don't say anything untoward under the influence of sedation and that the entire process is over swiftly and ends with a clean bill of health.
The second installment of this riveting tale tomorrow - assuming I can make sense again at some point. Or maybe even if not! The suspense! It's killin' me!
*Title quote by Marty Rubin. Title illustration borrowed from Salvador Dalí.
What is it about me and January? We cannot seem to reach a meeting of the minds with regard to the health of my body, my temple. I am - quite literally - ailing from head to toe. Horrible head cold. Sore throat. Chesty cough. Gastro issues. Inconsolably restless legs. And, thanks to the full weight of Jake the Dog, a toenail that is in a slow death spiral.
It gets better. Well. Not really. It gets crappier. Again, quite literally. Why? Because I apparently "bought myself" a colonoscopy (my doctor's charming phraseology) and will be enjoying said procedure come Monday morning, early. Preceded, of course, by the wonderful, joyous day of prep that everyone knows is legalized medical torture. I've never endured it, but I know things. It's hellish. It's inhumane. It's...I really do not want to discuss it any further.
Except to say...being the me we all know me to be...if there is a positive to spin out of the next couple of days, let it be this: I will be entering the 2014 dietary/body image resolution period with a clean-as-a-whistle slate.
I didn't even mean to say that. It just appeared there, all hideously punny and everything, and I didn't have the heart to delete it. So it stays.
Made me laugh.
My blog, my rules.
Anyway. Knowing I have all this to look forward to is not making my horrible cold any better whatsoever. I woke up feeling like I'd been run over by a riding mower. Head banging. Nose running. Throat scratching. Chest heaving. So I did what any full grown 5o year old woman should do: I acted like a sick man. I spent all morning rolling around in my bed, twisting up the sheets, whining at will, binge watching DVR'd shows, and issuing plaintive demands requests to my spouse for cups of coffee, Advil, steak sandwiches (mad craving), iced ginger ale, etc.
Eventually, I started to bore even myself, so I pulled myself up, grabbed a hot shower, and by the time I put some real clothes on, I felt quasi-human again. Good enough to run to the mall to secure aforementioned steak sandwich (the craving, man - it had to be respected) and to place our final order for the new kitchen appliances (squee!). Then we ran by the pharmacy to secure all of tomorrow's preparatory needs. I came home, firmed up my Sunday school lesson plan, cleaned the kitchen, and then plopped down in this here chair.
I may never get up again.
I am EXHAUSTED.
Hopefully I can muster the energy to drag myself up the stairs, yank some clean flannels out of the closet, and twist myself back into the good graces of my bedsheets.
Being sick sucks.
Big, hairy balls of old chewed gum collected from the undersides of grade school desks and library tables.
I'm going back to bed.
Maybe I'll wake up and find out this has all been a nightmare.
Hey. A girl can dream, right?
*Title quote from the repertoire of comedy legend Spike Milligan.
1. I am going to miss the holiday season for lots and lots and lots of reasons, but I'd be lying if I didn't admit that the on again/off again work schedule was right up there in the top three. I'd also be lying if I said I'd rather stay at home than work as a general rule. Happy mediums, right? Thank goodness for happy mediums.
2. On New Year's Eve afternoon, my husband called me from the office and said, "There's a big appliance sale. Let's go." So go we did. And now it appears I am - at long last - getting the new kitchen I have dreamed about since we bought this house five years ago, give or take. I don't know how this happened, or what spurred the decision to move forward in my husband's mind. But mine is not to wonder why, mine is just to buy, buy, buy! Ha! Okay, so we are doing this entire project in pieces, utilizing every cost saving technique known to man, but still. If you could see my kitchen now, you'd understand that any improvement is a huge improvement. I am beyond excited.
3. After we shopped for a new suite of kitchen appliances, we went to an early dinner and followed that up by participating in the city's GoodNight event. It was wonderful! There were several venues across the city - mostly churches - and each hosted a performance at 6, 7, 8, and 9 p.m. We looked at the schedule, drew up our itinerary, and headed out. WomanSong, the Appalachian Celtic Consort, the MLK, Jr. Male Chorus, and one Ryan Hardiman - local musical theater leading man - giving his unique violin-backed interpretation of the David Bowie songbook. It was all a little magical and we enjoyed every single stop. Such a perfect way to say adieu to a year!
4. BREAKING: I even managed to stay up for the ball drop. It's been a little minute since that happened. Last year, I spent my New Year's Eve having my gall bladder exorcised and lounging appreciatively in a drug-induced fog in the comfort of my bed. This year, I sipped some tea with bourbon to help soothe a scratchy throat, but I was awake, alert, and eager to greet 2014 when the appropriate time came.
5. I am feeling a little crappy, with the head cold and the sore throat and the achy achy. It's January. It's what happens. Especially when you work in a smallish office where we share everything - from laughs to germs. Blergh. I'm not a fan of feeling crappy. That said, I refuse to let it define this first week of the new year! Do what you need to do, gods of winter ailments! You shall not defeat me!
6. We decided to dump all of our premium movie channels (along with a few others I didn't even know we had) from our satellite package and sign up for Netflix instead. I realize we are late to this particular party, but this simple move will save us a net $45 a month and I am already vastly happier with the offerings. I spent a few minutes (LIE: I got time sucked for an untold number of minutes, but let's pretend) lining up my favorites, my "been wanting to watch" lists, my "well, *that* looks interesting" queue. There are whole series I never watched that I now plan to. 'Breaking Bad,' by way of example. 'Lost,' by way of just maybe.
7. There is a cold front moving in, stirring headlines like 'Bone. Chilling. Cold.' and its ilk. It doesn't look to me like there is much in the way of snow headed my direction, but nothing would make me happier than to get buried in the stuff and have a great excuse to hibernate for a day or two. Guess what I'd do while rolled up all snug as a bug? Binge watch some great TV, duh!
8. Most of the Christmas decor has been taken down and packed away. All that is left is the tree. That won't come down until Sunday. Because I said so. It's rather amusing that we strip all cheer and light from our environment as we head into the dreary heart of winter. We should leave a little sparkle and flicker out through the end of March, at least. If just for the joy of an occasional twinkle in our eyes.
9. I gifted myself with a subscription to Plan to Eat when they dropped the price in half for Black Friday weekend. I had been intrigued by the idea of it for several months. The reality of it knocks my socks off. After spending some time importing recipes, building my "staples" list, and getting familiar with its various settings, I'm in my second complete week of utilizing it to its fullest. And I am so in love. It feeds my OCD organizational tendencies. It feeds my need to plan, generally, and my desire to plan my food for my health, specifically. It produces a grocery list based on my meal plans for the week that I can tweak at will. It's everything I had hoped it would be, and more.
10. As a bonus, it has increased my love of cooking. I think it has something to do with knowing exactly what I'm fixing, well in advance, and knowing all the ingredients are on hand, ready to go. While I always enjoy cooking, oftentimes my lack of preparation can turn it into a churlish chore. Not anymore. Tonight, for example, I am cooking a Jerk Pork Tenderloin with Blueberry Salsa, served with egg noodles and fresh green beans. And I can't hardly wait to get home and into my kitchen!
11. This evening, I am starting a "new" book, which has been "shopped" from my existing shelf inventory. I am committed to continuing to shop my existing books for "new" reading material until every last title has been read by me or given up to a good home with more loving eyes than mine. If I get reallyreally antsy about a new read that I don't have access to within the walls of my own house, I will be making a visit to the local library. I am determined: no more money on books (for myself) until I've consumed those I've already paid for. In the interest of full honesty, this may be as difficult a habit to break as the cigarettes were 26 months ago. Or so. (Who's counting?)
12. I have decided to make a concerted, intentional effort to live The Golden Rule this year, across as many facets of my life as is possible. I mean, for the most part, I try to practice the "ethic of reciprocity" defined by the simple words, "In everything do to others as you would have them do to you," and their message, which can be found in most major religions of the world. But the truth is, the reality is, it's not always as simple as it seems. Nothing worthwhile ever really is, right? Can you imagine the transformative power of living your life by a guiding principle to be kind? It could change everything. Everything. Unequivocally.
13. So simple. Be kind. Words to live by the wide world over. Next time you wonder what the meaning of life is, or why you are here...read this list and know.
I'm a little sorry to see you go. You were a very good year.
You were filled with milestones: Henley's first birthday, and my fiftieth. Jessi and Jon's anniversary trek to Paris - their first European adventure. Scott's first time seeing his beloved Dallas Cowboy in person, and they secured a victory over the Redskins, in the enemy's house, as a bonus. Our thirty-first anniversary. West Virginia's sesquicentennial celebration. Our inaugural vacation to Duck, North Carolina. Our final visit to see the kids in DC, and our first Christmas spent in their new Virginia home. Two years smoke free. A delightful first ever mother-daughter trip, with big plans for future ones to come. A long overdue (nearly) empty nest - a couple more loads moved and we'll call it complete.
Of course, there was also the little milestone of "achieving" the worst WVU football season in recent memory, and the first year with no bowl to get excited about since I don't know when!
We always enjoy the arts in various forms, but this year had more of a humanities focus than most. From viewing highly acclaimed independent films to attending scintillating historical lectures, from book festivals to art openings, from symphony performances to the Doobie Brothers, from Evita to Fiddler on the Roof, from the Library of Congress to the comedy stylings of Jerry Seinfeld - we saturated ourselves in arts and letters and loved every second of it.
There were many small trips and Jennyventures. There were lovely date nights and dinners out and spontaneous thrills. There were home improvement projects finished, and the year ended with big steps toward a new one - a significant, long anticipated one - taken.
There was a huge shift at work toward something grand, and positive, and the team assembled now is just a remarkable bunch, carrying an enormous amount of passion and momentum into the coming year.
There was a smaller shift inside myself, toward a sense of purpose and fulfillment.
You were a good year, 2013. I relish all of the celebrations, all the time with family and friends, all the simple, quiet moments that add up to a life well-lived. But you had your time, and I am okay with letting you go.
Because this new year we just ushered in promises more of the same, and then some.
Clear eyes. Full heart.
Let's get busy, shall we?
*Title food for thought offered by Ralph Waldo Emerson.
I am sitting in my living room, tucked into my favorite chair, contemplating the reality that Monday morning looms large and work beckons yet again.
Nine days removed from your routine reality will do things to you. For you. It lightens the spirit and lessens the load. It adds the space required to view the world through a truer perspective, not the commonplace everyday myopic one wherein the emails scream, the calendar pokes, and the to do list glares. It gives room to breathe. To be. To remember our intentions and re-imagine our methods.
In short, it's good. Breaks are good.
Especially those spent in a constant state of rejuvenation.
There is a particular blessing in the way this particular break is coming to a close, in that it is easing into the ending bits. One full work day, followed by one half work day, followed by yet another perfectly situated in the middle of the work week full day off. And then, of course, two more full days back, but those are the P.H. D. days - Post Hump Day days - consisting of Thursday and Friday, and - let's just be honest - these are the two best days of the work week as they comprise the downward slope on which we glide right into the weekend.
It's all in one's outlook, I suppose.
Bringing us back again, full circle, to the fact at hand: breaks. They are good.
Here's an advantage of hitting 50 and deciding hard-charging career ambition is no longer a top priority: you take all the breaks you are offered, sans guilt or hesitation, and are a better, happier person for it. Plus, there's a bonus! When said breaks are over, you return to your work recharged, refreshed, and ready to change the world. For the better, even.
It's a brilliantly designed master plan. Not by me, of course. I really had little to do with the design of it all. I guess I did have something to do with walking through the doors as they opened, inasmuch as I made the choice to walk through them. But the plan's grand design? There was a higher power involved in that.
Break is over.
The time for easing into 2014 is at hand.
More than that...the time for FILLING UP MY BLANK, CLEAN SLATE 2014 DAYTIMER CALENDAR PAGES is at hand!!! It is my hereby publicly stated intention to cram them full of all the color-coded brass ring of life grabbing/soul fueling/mind expanding/heart overflowing they can hold, baby.
I have a few things I'd like to accomplish in the coming months. Not resolutions quite so much as ... well, I don't know. Things I'd like to get done. Should get done. Have no excuse for not getting done.
Finishing off the easy/almost-finished home decor projects. Like the husband's office-slash-extra bedroom. Like the third floor Staycation Cave. Like changing out all of the fixtures in the main bathroom. Like finding someone to lay the leftover carpet in the laundry room. Like hanging the last three curtain panels in our bedroom. Silly things. Easy things. WHAT ARE WE WAITING FOR?! things.
Sending a card or letter to a different person from my address book every week. I've got a stash of note cards and stationery that would make a small paperie jealous. I'm going to open my address book and select someone at random every Sunday evening, and send them a piece of snail mail come Monday morning. Just because.
Limiting the time I spend online in the evenings. Because it's just ridiculous, honestly. It might be different if the multitude of hours that slip through my fingers as I poke around mindlessly resulted in some ... Outcome of Import. Alas, it does not. It's just idle mindedness. I would like to be more in tune with the myriad of ways I could be spending those hours. I could be filling them with learning or with doing. I could be filling them cultivating healthy habits. I could be filling them with conversation or meditation. The possibilities are endless. It's time to quit wasting time.
Nurturing relationships. This one seems to get repeated year after year. I am never quite satisfied with my performance in achieving this one. I want to give my husband cause to fall in love with me all over again. I want to give my mother and brother and daughter and son the attention and kindness and acceptance they deserve. I want to grow my friendships, old and new. I want to see the people in my life for the treasures that they are, and treat them - every one of them - accordingly.
Creating. I've missed this part of me for the past few years. I want to rediscover it. I want to dream up ideas and make them come to life. On paper. On canvas. With yarn. With glass. No excuses.
And there it is. My heart map for the year ahead.
It would be reckless and irresponsible of me to not include a few healthy options among the things I'd like to achieve in the coming year. Mainly because it would be incredibly difficult to accomplish any of the previously stated desired outcomes without my health. I mean, that's common sense, right? Right. Of course. So...without further ado, I'd like to believe I love myself enough to:
Move more. Walk the dog. Ride my bike to church, to the office, downtown for coffee. Utilize our gym membership that we already pay for and that gives me access to three different facilities - two within walking distance of my front door! Quit talking about it. Quit making excuses. Quit whining. Just DO IT ALREADY.
Eat well. This shouldn't even need to be said. I love to eat. I love to cook. It's time to do the math and make it work to my advantage. There is no reason I cannot arm my kitchen with an arsenal of healthy snacks. There is no reason I should not make myself a good breakfast and a hearty, home cooked lunch every day of the week. There is no reason to bring candy and cookies and junk food into the house. There is no reason I shouldn't take extreme pleasure and joy from preparing delicious evening meals that will do our bodies good in the process. Again with the just do it mantra. It doesn't even have to be difficult. I'm not even going to attach numbers to it - no goal weight, no calorie limitations, no measurements. Truth is, if I take care of managing the content of what goes in, the rest will sort itself out.
Develop a yoga practice. Yoga brings me so much peace and joy. And yet sometimes, I use my own lack of physical fitness as a justification for failing to practice. What a disservice I do to myself when I allow this sort of internal conversation to not only take place, but to succeed in undermining my own best interests. No more. I want this to stop. I want to study, learn, and practice yoga at least four times per week, both on my own and in a studio class setting. It's the right thing to do for both the well-being of my body and the peace of my mind.
And there it is. My body map for the year ahead.
It is also my hope that 2014 will be the year of finding my way toward leaving this world a little better place than I found it. Understanding that I can't fix everything or everyone, but that I can make a real difference in my own backyard, the markers along this path will read:
Building bridges of books with Tyler in Hawaii and Xavier in Kentucky through Family-to-Family's One Book at a Time program.
Feeding my own soul by serving hot meals and homemade desserts to those in need on the third Wednesday of every month via Breaking Bread.
Teaching meaningful and memorable lessons to my 4th/5th grade Sunday School class.
Working to establish a Congregant Respite program - using this one as the gold standard model - at my church to the benefit of individuals and families dealing with the everyday stresses of being a caregiver.
Donating blood as often as allowable.
Being present, proactive, cooperative, and effective at my job, doing everything I can to help achieve the vision of a world without Alzheimer's.
The key, I believe, is consistency. For the first time, I have a defined range of ways to be involved in causes and initiatives of my community that matter to me. Having this definition eliminates the urge to spread myself too thin by taking on more than I can legitimately do. It also goes a long way toward preventing me from scattering myself in a million and one places in a "busy does not equal effective" sort of way.
I like my list. It feels solid and reasonable. It can result in real change. It gives my desire to help focus. It draws upon an arsenal of existing knowledge and talents; I haven't committed to doing anything that fills me with self-doubt - and while this may seem a no-brainer to many, the importance of this in my own planning cannot be overstated.
And there it is. My soul map for the year ahead.
Suddenly 2014 is shaping up to be an incredible journey, wherever it may lead! In honor of the time honored New Year's tradition, I resolve to relish it, every step of the way.
1. What a perfectly lovely Christmas, in every way. We are home again, after spending four wonderful days at our daughter's new home celebrating the season. It's hard to imagine the holiday being any better; in fact, the only thing that springs to mind that might have made it so is if my mother had agreed to make the trip.
2. Jessi and Jon have done a fantastic job of turning their house into a warm and inviting home. Considering they went from approximately 600 square feet to an entire four bedroom house, I'm rather amazed at how they've managed to furnish each room to the point of cozy, tasteful, eclectic functionality in such a short time. Henley's playroom is a magical place and the family room, with its mismatched rugs and thrift store treasures, looks straight out of a magazine. There is a lot of potential for happy within those four walls, and that makes me smile way deep down inside.
3. Henley didn't really have a clue about the whole Christmas/Santa Claus thing - I think that realization will happen for real next year. But when she came downstairs on Christmas morning and saw her brand new kitchen sitting by the tree, the look on her face was priceless. Her eyes got wide and she got busy. She was completely infatuated. The rest of the presents were mostly superfluous, although her little red coupe from Grandma Wanda was a huge hit, too.
4. In other Santa news, my husband gifted me with ballroom dancing lessons.
5. I am still in a state of blissed out shock over his ability to utterly blow my mind with surprise. Never in a bajillion years would I have dared to imagine a scenario wherein my Christmas gift from my husband - the man I've been married to for thirty-one years - would involve him being willing to learn to spin elegantly as a couple around a dance floor. MIND. BLOWN. Happily so.
6. We took the long way home today, as we have come to do with more frequency much to my delight. We passed through some beautiful farm country and crossed over three immense mountains in the heart of the Appalachians. We stopped to stretch our legs within view of Seneca Rocks and snapped a few pics of Jake the Dog admiring the view. I relish these random, unplanned moments that give us the chance to stop and take in the world around us.
7. Jake the Dog did very well on the trip, all told. Henley is a little unsure of him and uses extreme caution whenever she has to navigate her way around his lounging self. If we'd stayed another day, he might have started to believe his name is "Nojake." That's what Henley said to him at every opportunity, whether he was dead asleep or whether he dared walk into the room she was in at the time. He, on the other hand, is very protective of her and a gentle giant in her presence. I predict that within a year or two, they will be the best of friends.
8. I went to the gym when we got home. There should have been a choir of angels preceding this tidbit, seeing as it's damn near miraculous that it occurred. But you know? Fat is fat, and real is real. I feel ugh, I look ugh, and I am (lather yet again, rinse, repeat) sick of it. In fact, I selected today's title quote because it is so true in my own life's weight loss "journey" again and again and again. If I'd kept promises to myself made this time last year, six months ago, in September, I'd be well on my way already. So I'm not waiting for New Year's. I'm just...doin' it.
9. I have been working on some New Year's resolutions, however. I'm trying to be creative, pragmatic, and inspired in these new commitments for 2014. I'm not interested in creating a list of unattainable mandates by which to judge myself harshly upon failure to achieve. I'm interested in small changes for big impact.
10. For instance: I am determined to eliminate the word "amazing" from its overuse in my vocabulary. I am interested in finishing up some home decorating projects. I am excited to send "just because" mail to unsuspecting family members and friends every week. These are the things I resolve: to make life sweeter, days lighter, love deeper.
11. One of my very best friends from high school is in town for the weekend, visiting her parents. She lives in Kennebunk, Maine, nowadays, a thing I didn't know the last two times we traveled to New England. We've only recently reconnected - vive le Facebook! - and it has been so nice. We're going to get together for an evening out while she's in town. It's up to me to plan it, so of course I am suddenly drawing a blank on anything worth doing in this city! OF COURSE! Never fear, however. I shall snap out of it just in the nick of time, and we'll have a fantastic get together.
12. Are you ready for all the year end "best of" lists? I'm not quite sure I am. I never really am, although I find myself bookmarking them endlessly...50 best apps for Android, 40 best books you've never heard of, 10 best movies you haven't seen...and so on and so on. In fact, next Thursday I'll probably do a best of list of my own, consisting of a month-by-month year in review. I do these for my own amusement. It's a lovely little personal reflection good-bye stroll through the year that was and it helps set the stage for the year to come. I highly recommend the exercise to anyone and everyone.
13. My holiday is not over yet. I took the whole week off, meaning I still have a three day weekend ahead of me. And that, my friends, is a true gift that I plan to embrace as if my very life depended on it!
There is such a sense of calm within me right now. I'd be a little worried if I hadn't carefully cultivated it by rejecting chaos as the order of the day and taking baby steps - intentional steps, but baby steps - toward living the Advent Conspiracy. It's easy to count your blessings when you are among the privileged who have enough food to eat, a warm place to rest your head, and ample resources to bestow gifts galore upon those you love in celebration of the season. And I do count my blessings, every day. But this Christmas, I am striving for a little more. This year, I am paying particular attention to how blessed I am to be empowered to be a blessing to others.
I can't decide if there has been more need this Christmas than in years past, or if I am just more tuned in to it. We adopted two Secret Santa kids at the office, and my husband adopted one of his own. We bought a crock pot and a George Foreman grill for two local organizations via the Shining Star tree at my church. We purchased hats, gloves, and scarves for the Breaking Bread tree, so those who came for a hot meal on Wednesday nights in December could take what they needed to help them stay warm.
And speaking of Breaking Bread, this past Wednesday night, a lady who comes to eat nearly every week approached me with tears in her eyes and told me that she has six grandchildren, ages 4-13. I know two of the kids, because they often come to Breaking Bread with their dad and grandma. "I can't even afford to buy them something from the Dollar Store," she said. So on Thursday, I went shopping. I got each child a new sweater and a fun gift - a WVU blanket for the oldest boy, a Tinkerbelle doll and book for the youngest girl, and so on. I packaged them all up and dropped them in the church office so she could come by to pick it all up on Friday. I just couldn't bear the thought of a fellow grandma feeling ashamed or brokenhearted because she was unable to give her grand-babies a small gift at Christmas.
Here's the thing about this kind of giving: it makes you feel good to know you've helped someone in need. It makes you feel good that you are *able* to help someone in need. But then you start to think about the many, many more people out there who are also in need - of food, of kindness, of warmth, of hope - and you realize what a tiny drop in the bucket you and your good deeds amount to. It's overwhelming, the need in the world. And when you start wondering why...Why so much desperation? Why, on a planet with so much do so many live with so little? Why not me?...well, that's overwhelming, too. All you can do is thank God for his grace in your own life and use the gift to offer what grace you can to someone else's life.
You can't help everyone. You can't fix everything. No matter how much you want to. No matter how much this reality sucks. But you also cannot wallow in the impossible when you should, instead, dwell in the art of the possible. You do what you can, when you can, the best you can. And then you get up the next day, and you do it again.
There's another thing you can do, too. You can set your troubles aside, even if just for a moment, and gather those you love close. Smile and laugh. Reminisce about old memories while making new ones. Be present. Listen harder and hug more.
Say 'thank you' and 'I love you' every single chance you get.
My wish for all of you this year and always...have yourselves a merry little Christmas, and let your hearts be light.
A slight reworking of parts of yesterday's post into a single stream of thought. It felt warranted. <3
1. I am a day late composing my Thursday Thirteen, but we are five days away from Christmastime in the morning, so I'm cutting myself some slack, thankyouverymuch.
2. There is such a sense of calm within me right now. I'd be worried if I hadn't carefully cultivated it by rejecting chaos as the order of the day and taking baby steps - intentional steps, but baby steps - toward living the Advent Conspiracy. It's easy to count your blessings when you are among the privileged who have enough food to eat, a warm place to rest your head, and ample resources to bestow gifts galore upon those you love in celebration of the season. And I do count my blessings, every day. But this Christmas, I am striving for a little more. This year, I am paying particular attention to how blessed I am to be empowered to be a blessing to others.
3. Mom and I had a wonderful time on our Greenbrier getaway. I will remember those three days with her for the rest of my life. We didn't do anything too extraordinary - we shopped, we ate, we laughed - but we had so much fun just being together in such glorious surroundings. It was a special, special weekend spent creating and capturing treasured memories.
4. Then there was the Cookie Exchange - holy cow! How much fun was *that*? It was fantastic. Nine women showed up (four cancelled the day of, which - boo) with goodies to share. There were four distinct groups of friends and the eclectic mix was just fun to watch. We had a hot chocolate bar, cranberry mimosas, noshes, a packaging station, prizes, and great conversation. And in the end, everyone went home with an array of holiday treats, a gingerbread ornament, and a little recipe book featuring the recipes for the cookies folks brought to the table. The best part? Many of the ladies are still telling me how much fun they had. The worst part? I didn't take a single picture! NOT ONE! Anyway...I can't wait to do it again next year. A new tradition has been born!
5. Speaking of traditions, I secured the Christmas crackers for Christmas Eve dinner. I bought some on a whim a few years ago and they've been a fun little addition to the family holiday table ever since. My absolute favorite was this concerto set - complete with a conductor's baton and sheet music! We laughed so hard, we could barely eat. :-)
6. Today is my last day of work before the holidays. I will spend tomorrow doing laundry, packing, wrapping up the last of the gifts, getting my hair did, taking Jake the Dog to get his Christmas bath, and other sundry preparatory activities. Then, I will wake up Sunday morning, teach my class, attend the 11 o'clock service, pack up the vehicle, put out a few days worth of food for Maggie the Cat, give my love a pre-travel squeeze, and off we'll be for Christmas in Virginia!
7. I am getting so excited to spend the week at my daughter's house, where my primary "job" will be to hang out with Henley, reading, playing, talking, and even napping (score!). She's going to be so much fun this year! I'm sure she still doesn't really 'get it,' but watching her watch it all unfold is going to be my favorite present of Christmas 2013.
8. Speaking of favorite presents, I'm pretty sure we have a clear winner in the category of "Best Gift We're Giving - 2013 Edition." After walking by it a million times, a particular painting hanging on the wall in my office happened to catch my attention all for real like a couple of months ago. It had been painted by one of our Memories in the Making participants several years ago and I'd seen it, but not really ever noticed it, every day for the two years I've worked here. One this particular day, I finally realized what I was seeing: it was a memory painted by my husband's beloved aunt during the early days of her Alzheimer's journey when she was a resident in a local assisted living facility. She told the artist teaching the class that day about her husband and their travels. It is a lovely rendition of three evergreen trees in a forest setting. The artist's note on the back of the painting reads:
Pauline is a retiree from Union Carbide. Pauline has many interests that mostly involve the outdoors. She and her husband spent a lot of time at the ocean on their boat. On a pretty day, you will catch Pauline and her friends outside in the sunshine. Pauline recalls a time when she and her husband were enjoying the woods in the snow.
As soon as I realized what I'd stumbled upon, I knew that our niece had to have it. Pauline was loved by all of us, and every one of her four great-nieces and nephews adored her. But Brittany and Pauline had a special relationship. She is going to treasure this gift, and I am so thrilled that we were able to make it happen to get it to her.
9. I can't decide if there has been more need this Christmas than in years past, or if I am just more tuned in to it. We adopted two Secret Santa kids at the office, and my husband adopted one of his own. We bought a crock pot and a George Foreman grill for two local organizations via the Shining Star tree at my church. We purchased hats, gloves, and scarves for the Breaking Bread tree, so those who came for a hot meal on Wednesday nights in December could take what they needed to help them stay warm.
10. And speaking of Breaking Bread, this past Wednesday night a lady named Cindy, who comes to eat nearly every week, approached me with tears in her eyes and told me that she has six grandchildren, ages 4-13. I know two of the kids, because they often come to Breaking Bread with their dad and grandma. "I can't even afford to buy them something from the Dollar Store," she said. So yesterday, I went shopping. I got each child a new sweater and a fun gift - a WVU blanket for the oldest boy, a Tinkerbelle doll and book for the youngest girl. I packaged them all up and dropped them in the church office late last night, asking our admin to call Cindy and let her know she could come by to pick it all up today. I just couldn't bear the thought of a fellow grandma feeling ashamed or broken hearted because she was unable to give her grand-babies a small gift at Christmas.
11. Here's the thing about this kind of giving: it makes you feel good to know you've helped someone in need. It makes you feel good that you are *able* to help someone in need. But then you start to think about the many, many more people out there who are also in need - of food, of kindness, of warmth, or hope - and you realize what a tiny drop in the bucket you and your good deeds amount to. It's overwhelming, the need in the world. And when you start wondering why...Why so much desperation? Why, on a planet with so much do so many live with so little? Why not me?...well, that's overwhelming, too. All you can do is thank God for his grace in your own life and use the gift to offer what grace you can to someone else's life.
12. You can't help everyone. You can't fix everything. No matter how much you want to. No matter how much this reality sucks. But you also cannot wallow in the impossible when you should, instead, dwell in the possible. You do what you can, when you can, the best you can. And then you get up the next day, and you do it again.
13. There's another thing you can do, too. You can set your troubles aside, even if just for a moment, and gather those you love close. Smile and laugh. Reminisce about old memories while making new ones. Be present. Listen harder and hug more.
Say 'thank you' and 'I love you' every chance you get.
My wish for all of you this year and always... have yourselves a Merry little Christmas, let your hearts be light.
1. Isn't it funny how certain words or thoughts or sights or sounds will show themselves to you over and over again in quick succession until you are obliged to pay them heed, to figure out what it is they are trying to say to you, or show you, or make you chew on in your thoughts? Today's title quote is one of those for me. I've seen it no fewer than five times over the course of the past week. It's made me think. Or wonder, at least.
2. This time tomorrow, Mom and I will be en route to The Greenbrier for a weekend of wonderful. I am so excited. It's going to be a bit like finding an oasis in the midst of a desert storm, where the desert storm is seasonal chaos and the oasis is an embarrassment of luxuriousness. I'm not taking my laptop or my tablet. I am taking my camera and my phone. The former because, hello? The latter because I will not be able to stop myself from Instagramming our every move for three days. It's just how I've come to be wired. But no random web surfing! No meaningless Facebook lurking! Just photos. Lots and lots of them. That's some sort of concession filled balanced negotiation between good manners and being in the moment, right? Let me have this, okay?
3. It feels a bit like a Monday on this Thursday that is my Friday. Chalkin' it up to having tomorrow off and the "pre-vacation syndrome" that never fails to attack when tying up loose office ends.
4. The UPS man just delivered my final package, and I am ready for you, Christmas 2014! One week from Sunday, I'll be cuddling my favorite (only) grandchild and I plan on doing my level best to see the holidays through her eyes this year and share in the sheer delight. This is the advantage of a) being the faraway Grandma, and b) letting go enough to celebrate while my daughter plays hostess of the festivities.
5. I am a little sad about not spending Christmas in our gingerbread abode. But the daughter and son-in-law are fully within their rights to play the kid card. I perfected that bit back in the day. "We'll travel to all fifteen billion of you on every other holiday. But if you want to see my kids on Christmas, you'll come to us. The End." It worked. For a whoooooole lotta years. Still working in its own way, isn't it? Kid card tradition, once removed. Heh.
6. Jake the Dog is making the trip with us. Which is as it should be. I mean, he is my youngest child, after all. (I can feel my daughter's eyes rolling all the way from Virginia! LOL) I am thrilled that the invitation was extended to include him. I hate the thought of him in a lonely kennel over Christmas. But at the same time, I have that nagging "they're just being nice and you're taking advantage" feeling. Many assurances have been offered, however, and knowing what a chill dog he is, I believe it is all going to be fine. I just hope my son-in-law doesn't use this against me for the next 43 years, give or take. HA.
7. Jake the Dog is all lined up for a Christmas bath and grooming for the big trip, but his mama (me) has yet to make a weeks overdue cut and color appointment for her ownself. The things we sacrifice for our kids, I tell ya what. LOL
LATER THAT SAME DAY...
8. Mom arrived mid-afternoon. She popped in the office and any pretense of functional work on my part dissolved within seconds. So, why fight it? I left early. 'Tis the season!
9. My mother is the best. For Christmas, she has selected a special way to honor each person she is "gifting." For my niece and nephew, she selected angel tree recipients who are their same age and purchased all of the wish list items. For my brother, she made a donation to the Marfan's Foundation, the genetic syndrome he inherited from our father and shares with his own children. For another niece and nephew, she is purchasing chicks, ducks, and goslings via Heifer International to help give hope to families around the world. She put real thought into finding the perfect match for each person, and I love this whole idea more than I can say. My mother has gifted me with a lifetime example of what it means to live life as a good and decent human bean. She can make me crazy, it's true. But boy, do I love her so.
10. The 15 year old angel tree girl Mom selected asked for 'arts and crafts.' I mean...way to be specific, right? That could mean ANYTHING. Mom was flummoxed and overwhelmed at trying to figure out how to fulfill this particular wish. So, we went to Michael's where we found a set of colored pencils in 36 colors, various charcoal pencils, watercolor markers, a sketch book, and a the most amazing grown up coloring book I've ever seen. Don't know how the intended recipient will react to these gifts, but I would be over the moon!
11. I'm taking two books with me for the weekend. Wonder Boys by Michael Chabon is a title suggested via the tweet of a fellow writerly book lover several months ago. Someone by Alice McDermott was recently a National Book Award fiction shortlist honoree. I know virtually nothing about either of them and am looking forward to immersing myself in the discovery.
12. When I get back from our weekend adventure, cookie exchange party planning goes into high energy mode. What did I ever do before Pinterest? I have gotten so many incredibly great ideas. There's no way I can pull them all off in a single gathering, but I will be co-opting the hot chocolate bar, the packaging station, and the COY (cookie of the year) awards ceremony. There are fourteen women of all ages from various facets of my world committed to attending, and it's going to be so much fun! I am as excited as a kid in a cookie store.
13. I'm sitting her trying to think of a 13th thing to say, staring at our beautiful tree, and the only thing that comes immediately to mind is ... peace be with you.
The alarm on my phone went off at 8 o'clock Sunday morning, doing its sworn duty to rouse me out of bed and into my day. I teach Sunday School and I typically like to arrive a good 30 minutes or so before the kids do in order to prepare the classroom, make any copies I need, and generally get myself ready. But on this morning, when the alarm went off, I picked up my phone and noticed the blinking 'you've got mail!' light.
"Good morning to the Christ Church Community -
All services are cancelled for this morning. Roads are very bad and an ice storm is expected mid morning. Please worship the Lord from the safety of your home."
Now, this took me by surprise for a couple of reasons. First and foremost: I had no idea we were expecting snow of the sort that might close down the city. Second: I cannot ever remember church services being canceled due to weather!
But, it all worked out to the good. I stayed in bed with a nice cup of coffee and caught up on episodes of 'Parenthood.' Whipped up a spinach-bacon-cheddar-tomato crustless quiche for breakfast. Finished two loads of laundry. Got out more Christmas decorations and made good progress in the adornment of the abode. Started a lovely beef stew to slow cooking in the oven for the evening meal. Read five chapters of 'The Art of Racing in the Rain' while the Blizzard Bowl being played in Philadelphia between the Lions and the Eagles provided a little white noise in the background.
And I accomplished all of this without ever getting out of the flannels.
That is an unqualified success of a day in my book.
It was been a day of forced quiet in the midst of the brewing holiday chaos, and I am doing my best to appreciate it as the gift it truly is.
It's actually been the perfect ending to a weekend that was jam packed with activity. From the mother-in-law's multi-day birthday celebration to Seinfeld, from a drive to see the city's Christmas lights to an unforgettable evening with the West Virginia Symphony, it feels as though we've been in non-stop motion since...well, I'm going to say since Monday of last week, frankly. Because it's true.
Run run run do do do be be be make make make work work work run run run.
On the seventh day, we rested. (Sort of.) (Relatively speaking.)
This past Wednesday, the husband and I attended the second of four Advent Conspiracy classes at church. I have been so looking forward to this as an opportunity to give sway to my increasing frustration concerning the holidays and what they have become as opposed to what they are meant to be. Were it up to me, my family and I would all draw names - you get one person and several months to figure out the "perfect" gift for them. Or - proposal #2 - we would pull together our "gifting" resources as a family and do something meaningful for others. Or - proposal #3 - we would get creative, i.e. a homemade Christmas.
(Henley aside, of course. The little ones are different. Of course.)
I don't know why it is so difficult to propose such things within the family dynamic. Someone always seems to take offense, or find a "fatal" flaw in the plan, or be generally dismissive. Someone (who shall remain nameless) went so far as to accuse me of trying to "regulate everyone else's holiday." Which blew me back, I must say, seeing as it is the furthest thing from my intent imaginable.
My intent...what I mean in my heart when I express a desire for a simpler holiday, a more meaningful Christmas, was defined to perfection in this week's class and discussion.
Spend less.Give more.
These are not contradictory statements. Far from it.
In today's world - or in today's America, at least - we've all bought into some version of bigger is better, he who dies with the most toys wins. We've turned our consumerism into a virtual religion, where we worship at the altar of the latest Messianic object/gadget/toy/vehicle/insert-item-du-jour-here that promises, over and over again via commercial mantra, to make our lives better/richer/purer/happier. Lather. Rinse. Repeat. Year after year after year.
The untenable twist in the tale is that the high holiest day of our material worship happens to fall on the day meant to be reserved for celebrating the birth of Jesus.
You know. That guy. God's only son. Savior of mankind. Christ the King.
I'm not calling for an end to gift giving or mall going or shopping traditions or any of that. I'm too deep in all of it myself. But is it too much to ask that a little thoughtfulness be part of it?
Spend less. Give more.
One of the three pastors who started the AC movement made a few very interesting observations that he shared via the first week's Worship Fully study. He compared the act of shopping and buying, bigger and better, year after year after year to a worship event. He told the story of a father who died after being shot fighting with another customer over a video game system he wanted to buy his son. The man died in pursuit of committing an act of love via buying an object his son coveted. The pastor looked into the camera and challenged us. He said that father's action was a form of worship - an odd form, but worship, nonetheless.
He went on to admit to being flummoxed by people who get outraged or upset with retail stores who instruct their employees to say 'Happy Holidays,' and not 'Merry Christmas.' As he put it, why is this upsetting to us? "Is this really their story to tell?" he asks. Have we drifted so far from our core that we are prepared to outsource the telling of the story of Christ's birth to ... the mall?
He's right, you know. All of that superfluous stuff is superfluous stuff. It's not the Reason for the Season. It's a man-made worship event and we all bow at its altar this time of year. Religious, non-religious, very few of us are disaffected by it. Fewer still have the wherewithal to rise above it.
And some of that is fine. I mean, I am as deep in it as the next person, buying into the chaos and the hassle and the debt and the search for the perfect gift that the recipient will likely forget by January. There is nothing wrong with gift giving and celebrating the fun and joy of the Christmas season. But there's no denying we've taken that half of the equation and given it more importance than it warrants.
I don't know about anybody else, but I'm not satisfied with that anymore. I'm not satisfied with the post-holiday letdown. With feeling like..."is that it?"
No. That's not it.
It's not about presents.
It's about presence.
It's about sharing - time, gifts, talents - in meaningful ways.
It's about selflessness.
It's about love.
And this is what I really want to celebrate.
This is what I want to keep front of mind and tucked in my heart.
1. Well, didn't quite make it all the way to the end of November, posting every day per the NaBloPoMo initiative, did I? But I did post a whole lot more than has been typical lately, and if not for the week long Thanksgiving holiday festivities, I probably would have made it. Truth is, though? The external distractions were worth more to me, and I wouldn't trade a minute of them for another blog post.
2. The week played out perfectly, really. Jessi and Henley arrived the Friday before Thanksgiving, meaning we had several days of their company all to ourselves. Local family were in and out; the New Orleans contingent stayed elsewhere, coming and going themselves as they liked. Mom was here from Tuesday to Friday, and my best friend and her husband arrived Thanksgiving morning and stayed through Saturday. Jessi and Henley headed home after the Big Meal to spend the rest of the week with the son-in-law's family. So with all the ebb and flow, the overlaps were just right, and the guest of honor spot was able to be rotated among many along the way.
3. Henley is getting so grown up. Her communication skills are pretty amazing, she knows several books well enough to "read" them to me already, and she never ceased to bring the house down with her rousing rendition of Counting to 10. The child is not even two yet. CLEARLY, she's genius material. CLEARLY. Besides which, she is beautiful. Game. Set. Match.
4. We had so much food. SO. MUCH. FOOD. It's was delicious, though. Every last bite. Yesterday morning, I put a package of 15 bean mix in the crock pot with the very last of the ham, which was also the very last of the Thanksgiving bounty leftovers. My fridge is no longer bulging at the seams, but rather seems to be heaving great sighs of relief that its burden has been so lightened in such a relatively short period of time.
5. I love Thanksgiving.
6. But now we transition into the Christmas holiday and I have many thoughts on the matter this year. More than most years, actually. This feels a transitional time in my life in many ways, although it is really strange that typing those words just now is the first outward acknowledgement of an inner rumbling that has been brewing for weeks. Fascinating. THIS is why I keep coming back here. Set your fingers free upon the keyboard and you never know what you may discover about yourself.
7. The ambiguity above will have to sort itself out later. That kind of exploration is not suited especially well to a nonsensical listicle of randomnimity. Another day, and then, another dollar. Or something.
8. One week from day, I'll be all packed for a three day weekend at The Greenbrier with Mom. We are both looking forward to it with great enthusiasm for a whole host of reasons between us. This place is very special to my mother. It's where she and Dad spent their wedding night, and subsequently became one of their favorite places to visit anywhere. My mother, brother, and I made a special trip up there shortly after my father died to place his ashes in strategically meaningful spots around the property - the Old White TPC golf course, for a start. The resort's front gardens and the yard of one of the Spring Row Cottages, for a couple more. So, it's special. And I hope the mother-daughter weekend provides our memory banks with even more goodness to reflect upon in the years to come.
9. We booked this weekend to take advantage of an incredible $99 Bed & Breakfast package the resort is offering. Funny story: I bought two new outfits, got a mani/pedi, and have a hair cut & color appointment on Tuesday. So I've officially already spent more getting to the Greenbrier than I will be spending on my room and morning meals. Go figure. Ha!
10. I have always wanted to host a cookie exchange party with a bunch of funny, talented, awesome lady friends, but never had the guts or the ... I dunno ... gumption? ... to actually pull it off. That changes this year (fingers crossed). Last night, I sent out an invitation to a couple dozen of my favorite mix and match women for a gathering on the 17th. Now, I will be holding my breath and wringing my hands as I hopehopehope at least a few of them will say, "Why, yes! I'd love to come!" It's nerve wracking stuff, I tell ya. If I get a nice turnout, this is going to be one fun evening. I've got big ideas and grand plans! Wanna come? You're invited!
11. Tonight is the first party of the season. I get to play corporate wife for this one, which is kind of cool as these days I am not required to play that role very often. Once upon a time I approached such evenings with great dread. Not so much anymore. Age? Maturity? Whateveritis?
12. In fact, starting with tonight's soiree, the next three days will be full-up-to-here with holiday cheer. Tomorrow is my mother-in-law's birthday and we're taking her to see Jerry Seinfeld, which should be big fun. And then on Saturday, we will continue our tradition of celebrating her birthday with a tree decorating/early dinner eating affair at our home, followed by a perfectly lovely evening - and new three year old tradition for the husband and I - spent with the WV Symphony at the annual Home for the Holidays concert. I can't tell you how much I look forward to this event every single year now that we've made it a habit. It's a fabulous kickstart to the Christmas season. I leave the theater skipping to the beat of a happy, cheerful heart.
13. One day during the Thanksgiving holiday, I received an anonymous note in the mail, with a little orange felt flower enclosed. The sentiment on the note made my day; it was a simple, straightforward message filled with kindness, and I was so incredibly moved. It's hard to explain. It meant so much to me that I immediately took it up to my studio and tacked it in a place of honor above my writing/thinking table in my studio. I had no idea who sent the envelope, sans return address or signature. But I kept them - and their selfless act - in my heart with the deep intention of passing the thoughtfulness forward and onward in their honor.
A couple of days ago, the sender came forward.
And her story? Well. It was amazing.
Read it for yourself. And after you do, I hope you'll take a few minutes out of your busy life to let kindness reign. It's one of those rare gifts that is even more valuable in the giving than in the receiving.
Merry Christmas season to each and every one.
*Title quote borrowed from the mind of David Sedaris.
I *swore* there would be no succumbing to the Holiday Stress this year, after finally acknowledging that 99.9% of it is self-induced.
But who among us can defeat a Monday at the start of a long holiday week that is determined to unleash its minions of chaos on your disposition?
Alas, not I. I am not strong enough to fend off the anticipatory worry that follows wondering how/when the 3,256 items on the to-do list are going to manage to get themselves done between now and Wednesday evening and over-thinking the melodramatic calamity that may ... MAY ... ensue if they don't, in fact, get done.
There are people out there who can whip up a grand ol' holiday while crushing their day job without ever breaking a sweat. I know this, because I read about them on the internet. Granted, they may be completely fronting against a reality they refuse to be in touch with, but still, they are there, in black & white & living technicolor, with garnish, and flourish, and those little special touches thrown in for good measure.
Meanwhile, there isn't a surface in my house that isn't covered with detritus of various origin (pet, baby, work, fun, junk, younameit), the prep and cooking schedule for Thursday's meal is collapsing around me, there is a 600 piece mailing to be stuffed, sealed, sorted, and transported to the post office, family members are arriving at my house in staggered formation - animals in tow, because it is assumed that I don't mind. And I don't, sometimes. But I do. Sometimes, I just do. I would never take Jake the Dog to your house without asking. To be honest, I probably wouldn't even ask.
Jen won't care! Fourteen people, a baby, a dog and a cat? What's another dog or two? Nobody will even notice their attempts to get to the turkey and mashed potatoes before the humans consume it all, amiright?
Dear Gussie, whoever you are and wherever you may be.
When did I get to be such a ranty no-fun hostess with the mostest chips on her shoulder?!
In the physical world, I do a pretty decent job keeping clear of clutter for clutter's sake. I set aside a little time every week to get rid of "things" that have no usefulness or purpose. I recycle faithfully, and while I can't control my husband's tendency to hoard great piles of paperwork, I can certainly control my own - and do. I cannot claim to be a "minimalist" by any stretch of the imagination - but I can say, with a note of pride in my voice, that I can put my finger on anything and everything I own without having to organize a search party.
A place for everything. Everything in its place.
I'm a fan.
But lately, it's become clear that I am being buried in an internet avalanche. The reason? Well, small confession: I am an information hoarder, and it's getting to be a problem.
So I spent a few hours, spanned over a couple of days, to weed the debris out of my online life and organize my virtual world in a meaningful fashion that has a little rhyme and reason to it. And in the process, I came across a few links that made me laugh, but ultimately had to go into the junk pile. And a few links with fantastic information that I'd completely forgotten about. And a few links that were saved for no good purpose that my excavation skills were able to uncover.
I deleted Evernote. I am working on deleting my GoMighty account (sad face). I deleted Pandora. I unsubscribed to approximately 4,325 membership sites and their associated inbox "preferences." I uploaded all my photo files to Flickr, jumpdrived a backup copy of same, and removed them all from my hard drive. My Gmail inbox has 23 emails in it. The rest are dealt with, sorted in to folders that make sense, and/or trashed. Those same folders were cleaned out and streamlined before any new emails were added to them. I merged all my book-related websites into one cleaned up Goodreads account. I deleted superfluous Pinterest boards and created new ones, specifically as a repository for the web destinations I want to hold onto.
Here is an example of a link I once viewed as important enough to take time out of my lifetime to "bookmark."
You know how sometimes when you get your hair cut, you walk out of the salon feeling 30 pounds lighter?
That is exactly how I felt at the end of my internet "cleanse" when I was finally finished. Like my psyche had been liberated from the chains of information overload.
Although "finished" is a misleading word. Because as with de-cluttering your office or home, it's a constant effort. Garbage in, garbage out. Beware the creep of "I'll just bookmark this one temporarily right over here and forget about it for a few ... years."
No more of that.
Fastidious will become my (virtual) middle name.
And me and my imaginary virtual friends will live happily ever after.
1. I've never read the book from which today's title quote was lifted. There are more than a few people in my universe who might renounce all knowledge of me forever if they knew this.
2. I missed another two days in the NaBloPoMo initiative, bringing my total absentee days to three. So far. I just couldn't force myself to blergh for blerghing's sake, when the blerghing was an arrow to the heart of my pride. Practice making perfect and do it every day to get back in th flow will only carry a person and her keyboard so far, I'm afraid. My brain was dead empty of words for this place, two days running. And that's just how it goes sometimes. :-(
3. Jessi and Henley are coming a day earlier than anticipated and will arrive in Charleston at about the same time I'm getting off work tomorrow. I am so looking forward to this week with my girls!
4. My husband and I attended the first of four Advent Conspiracy classes at church last night. I have very much to say on the subject and will do so in a future post. For now, I'll share only that my spirit is higher and my heart is lighter for being on this journey. This course is affirmation of the messages my own soul has been trying to share with me for a few years now, and maybe for that reason if nothing else, it's resonating deeply.
5. My menu and grocery list for Thanksgiving are complete; now all that's left is the execution of same. I'm pretty chill about it all, really. If you break it down, the turkey day meal itself is a fairly straightforward, simple one. I think it's the volume that intimidates us. I mean, I'm feeding 14 people, give or take, and preparing 13 dishes plus a fancy beverage. That's...voluminous.
6. Jessi and I are going to see West Side Story on Sunday night. I've never seen it, believe it or not. Neither the film, nor the play. It's one of those stories that is in my consciousness by pop culture osmosis. I know just enough about it to be dangerous, as they say - the Sharks, the Jets, a doomed Romeo & Juliet-style romance. America, Tonight, Marie, I Feel Pretty, Somewhere. And also: Natalie Wood. But that's it. So I'm quite excited to be seeing this production - especially with my daughter.
7. We finally made it to the theater to see the film Gravity in 3D. All I can think of to say of the experience is ... WOW. I know I am incredibly late to this particular party, but kudos to all concerned. And if there is anyone left in the universe who has not yet seen this movie, I hope you manage to do so while it is still in theaters. It would lose so much of it's great power to awe if only viewed on a television screen.
8. If you *have* seen the film, you'll remember the scene where Sandra Bullock's character places a distress call and finds herself communicating with a gentleman somewhere on earth, with barking dogs and a baby. The son of Gravity's director has created a seven minute companion piece film telling this gentleman's side of the story. I found that kind of cool. The short film is called Aningaaq and you can watch it here.
9. Tomorrow is the 50th anniversary of JFK's assassination, as you surely know unless you've been living under a rock. You may not know that CBS is making available the "live" as-it-transpired news broadcasts from that day as it unfolded across four full days. Yes, I am planning to watch it. I was just shy of four months old when the events unfolded and have no personal memory of the day. I've seen the clips, read the books, and all of that. But the opportunity to watch Walter Cronkite practice his craft under such debilitating circumstances is one I intend to embrace.
10. We lived in Oxon Hill, MD, at the time, in November, 1963. My father worked for the Indian Head Naval Ordnance Station there (now the Naval Surface Warfare Center), where he and another gentleman engineered an extensive and widely adapted project scheduling system based on the Critical Path Method. My parents were devastated by the news of JFK's death. My father stood in line for countless hours in the freezing cold, with thousands and thousands of others, in order to pay his respects at the Capitol, where JFK's casket lay in state. I've always loved knowing this about my dad.
11. Speaking of my dad...there is a gentleman in town who is currently converting the multitude of microcassette recordings I have of my dad telling his many stories - in his own voice - onto a jump drive for me. The next step is to have a lovely lady I know transcribe the safely converted tapes into a Word document. And from there? Well, let's just say I have big plans and a nice winter-long project to keep me occupied on snow days.
12. I am making two batches of cranberry sauce and deviling a dozen eggs for a traditional pre-Thanksgiving dinner being served by a church in my neighborhood this coming Sunday. They have 38 people cooking turkeys to feed an anticipated crowd of 500 people. A friend attends this church and she recruited a bunch of us via Facebook; since we walk past this place a dozen times a week, it felt right. Besides, their Trinity's Table free meal on Sundays is a sister of our Breaking Bread free meal on Wednesdays, both of which are designed to be open to anyone who wants or needs a hot, nutritious meal. Our churches are about six blocks apart, so it's all a labor of love in service to the same folks. Share and share alike.
13. The photo for this post is of the Thanks-Giving Tree in my Sunday School classroom. Unlike your standard issue autumn tree that loses its leaves, this one gains leaves representing things we are thankful for in the weeks leading up to Thanksgiving. The first leaves on the tree, seen here, represent the kids in my class, because I am thankful for each and every one of them for enriching my life with their attendance week after week. I think it's a pretty cool tree. It's definitely a nice visual reminder of how blessed we all are.
*Title quote from Douglas Adams, as written in 'The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy.'
It's Sunday, and it's been a midly productive, if scattered, weekend. I managed to get almost as many things done as I managed to leave undone, and ya know? Who cares? It'll all still be there for the doing tomorrow.
One of the favorite things I managed to complete today also happens to be one of the more mundane. I guess? Maybe not. Planning my menus for the week ahead always seems a centering activity. Menus planned, built upon each other, workday breakfasts and lunches factored in, taking on-hand ingredients and coupons into account to compose The Grocery List, groceries shopped, chopped/diced/washed/wrapped, put away: all systems GO!...it's just so satisfying. Not in a "housewifey" way. But in an "organized to within an inch of my life/foundation setting for the week ahead" way.
Unlike this post, which is among the least satisfying I've ever composed. Which will no doubt go down as one of the most lame, most boring, and most near-desperate I've ever hit "publish" on.
So as I was saying, after all of the above were successfully navigated and completed this afternoon, here's how it's going down around our dinner table this week, starting with tonight's feast, AKA tomorrow's brown bag lunch, and so on.
Dinner Out You Deserve a Break Today Jessi & Henley Are Coming! Jessi & Henley Are Coming!
And that's the plan. Throw in some refrigerator oatmeal, hard boiled eggs, and peanut butter-banana toast options for breakfast, a few clementines, apples, and sugar-free Jell-0 cups as bag lunch o' leftovers go-withs, and there you have the week in food.
The capper? All this planning and list making and coupon matching netted me a cool $38+ in savings, even with Kroger's new-ish "no doubling of coupons ever under any circumstance" customer unfriendly policy in place.
I don't really have a decent way to close this non-post post, but I'm inclined to leave you with the words that sprang to mind as I was trying to think of one. It's a little prayer that my parents heard somewhere and adapted as a tradition for big extended family gatherings around the dinner table, be it Thanksgiving or Christmas or just a weekend we all managed to be in the same place at the same time. It goes like this:
We give thanks to You for the food before us, the friends beside us, and the love between us.
Waking up at 8:30 this morning was not my intention.
It's Saturday. It's raining. I have nowhere to be, no commitment to uphold. Ergo, my intention had been to sleep as late as my little heart desired.
The landscaping crew across the street had different plans.
So, here I am - awake (bah humbug), sipping my first cup of coffee, and trying to get my head around making a plan for the day. As you can see, since I've landed here, I'm not making a great deal of progress.
Speaking of coffee, we broke down and bought a Keurig a couple of months ago. I've used one for years in various places - including every office I've worked in for the last ten years - but never really had a burning desire to own one. And my husband, who gets up early every day including weekends, really enjoys buying beans, grinding beans, and brewing fresh, delicious coffee on Saturday and Sunday mornings.
Still, we found ourselves staring at a Keurig in a store somewhere and the prospect of brewing a cup at a time combined with the trendy factor...well, it was just too much to overcome. And now, we own a Keurig all our very own.
The thing is very handy, I admit. And while the K-cups are ridiculously expensive when you break it down per cup of coffee, there's about 100% less waste involved. Still, I can't help but think the coffee "brewed" by this device is the farthest thing from "fresh" there could possibly be. These K-cups are sold everywhere - from department stores to high end gourmet shops. How "fresh" do you think they are? I would bet money that the Pumpkin Spice flavored Green Mountain K-cups I bought on sale at Kohl's on a whim were brought out of storage from last year's leftovers.
I've tried probably 50 different varieties of K-cups, on the hunt for The One. No success, as yet, although Newman's Own and (shockingly) Eight O'Clock are my favorites to date.
My husband wonders why I won't use it to make my tea. "They make all kinds of tea K-cups," he advises. "Wouldn't it be a lot more convenient?"
Yeah, no. Tea is not meant to be "convenient." Drinking tea is as much about the process of making the tea as it is about the sitting and sipping and delighting in the tea.
So, no. No K-cupped tea for me.
And I think I was just inspired with a plan for the day.
I'm going to make things! In my newly rescued studio! With music playing and tea brewing and rain falling and happy making!
See? It always helps to write/think things out. I almost forgot about having my own space back. I was leaning toward laundry and fridge cleaning and junk tossing. But nooooooooooooo. Because my best laid plans were squashed and I woke up earlier than anticipated, I came here to bang the keyboard and look what happened.
There is a numeric meme running rampant over on Facebook, and today, I succumbed. I don't do a lot of memes (weekly devotion to the Thursday Thirteen notwithstanding), but I had fun with it. I was given the number 7. My mission: to reveal that many previously "unknown" things about myself.
Hello. Have you met me? I live my life on the internet.
There are no secrets here. That's why this place is called "open book," duh.
But...anyway. I gave it a go. And now I'm reprising it here.
Yeah, you're welcome.
SEVEN SHOCKING REVELATIONS
1. There is a (sort of short) list of things that sound like amazing and crazy and incredible experiences that I will never, ever, not ever do, because of fear. Not just skittishness. Full on, panic inducing, I think my heart might explode, raw, animal fear. Whitewater rafting is one example. Did you know there is crying in whitewater rafting? Even pre-boarding of the bus, without even seeing the river up close? There is. Ask Drew. Or Jessi. They'll be happy to fill you in, I'm sure. (Edited to add: I already told you about it myself, actually.) (And for the record, I've made peace with my inner coward. We're pals. It's all good.)
2. I started teaching Sunday School last year and it has quickly become one of the highlights of my existence. I am pretty confident that I am not yet an excellent teacher, but I am adequate and getting better and doing it from a place of love that brings me joy. See also: it feeds the lifelong "I always wanted to be a teacher" jones-ing quite nicely.
3. I count quitting smoking among my life's greatest accomplishments. I am thrilled to be rid of the nasty habit, but we all know that, I think. What you might not know is that if it ever comes to pass that we have advance warning of the world's imminent, definite demise, I will buy a pack of cigarettes. And smoke them. One right after the other. Good-bye, cruel world!
4. I write something, somewhere every single day and, with brief occasional gaps, I have maintained some sort of journal since early childhood. Reading and writing are the two great non-human or pet loves of my life. I have no desire to do either of them for pay.
5. I am, at my core, a lazy sloth. When I grow up, I would like to be a human cat, with my days comprised of long naps, sneakiness, and food provided for me at regular intervals like clockwork, without fail. To compensate for this reality, I often (always) take on more than I possibly have time to accomplish, and then accomplish it anyway. It works for me. What can I say.
6. I feel a great deal of pressure to be a worthy caretaker of my family's history and memories (photos, videos, family tree, etc.). This pressure is entirely of the self-imposed variety, but it is very real, all the same.
7. I am a horribly awkward social introvert, to a seriously painful degree. If you are inclined to argue this one with me, please know that I consider my fooling you all this time to be a major life victory. So, thank you for that.
1. Do you suppose Margaret Mead was being intentionally funny with today's title quote? In my mind's eye, she's far too studious and serious for that. But perhaps she was gifted with a dry, wry wit. In that case, my girl crush on her will have to expand accordingly.
2. This week has been spent tying up loose Walk to End Alzheimer's ends and re-setting the "normal" routine. In the past two weeks, we have issued thousands of thank you letters to people who donated to walkers, teams, or Walk events themselves in 10 cities around the state of West Virginia. And we're not quite done yet. I anticipate one last large batch of letters to go out before the final Walk thank you is given. This is remarkable, really. In so many ways. If you had any idea how much manual activity is required for these letters to appear in people's mailboxes - including my boss's handwritten signature and often a side note of appreciation on every single one - well...I like to think you'd be impressed. I know I am, and I don't mind saying so, even if I am part of the process.
3. My husband, at a conference, texted me a fuzzy photo of President George W. Bush, sitting in an easy chair on stage across from an interviewer, in "conversation." I really, really, really wish I had been there to see/hear it for myself. Post-event text: "He was awesome." I'm sure he was in his element. And by "he," I mean both my husband and the ex-President.
4. Speaking of ... Maggie the Cat probably owes her life to the husband being away at a conference. I can promise you he would not have been as forgiving and accommodating as I was this morning had he entered the bathroom first and discovered that she had pissed all over the rug. In fact, I'm pretty confident she would've found her cute little kitty ass out in the street, 13 degree temps or not. As it stands, she's lucky I'm still speaking to her. In case you are not aware, there is nothing worse in the world than the smell of cat pee. NOTHING. This cat owes me. SHE OWES ME.
5. I went to the mall this evening after work. Because the husband is away, and the house is lonely, and yes, we've already established, I tend to be a glutton for punishment. I was anticipating feeling (and acting) very Grinchy, because guess what? SANTA FREAKIN' CLAUS arrived at our local mall last night complete with fanfare and Rudolph and Hermey and Bumble and all the gimmicks money can buy. Speaking of which, said local mall reportedly spent some insane amount of money - like half a million dollars - on this year's new Christmas - excuse me, holiday decor in "celebration" of the facility's 30th anniversary. It's not even Thanksgiving. So, yeah. GRINCHY.
6. Alas. Best laid plans, yadda yadda. The mall was beautiful. And given my mission of finishing up my Secret Santa shopping, I couldn't help but give into the spirit of the whole ... beautiful mess. First stop: the bookstore, where I secured the December books for my two One Book at a Time boys, Tyler and Xavier. Xavier is only five, and he's my new one, so I bought him a gorgeous new edition of The Polar Express. For Tyler, my Hawaii boy who has written me the most fantastic letters for two years, I got the first volume of The 39 Clues series, along with one of the card pack thingies that go along with it.
7. And for the 9 year old girl we've "adopted" for Christmas? Well, she asked for "bath and body stuff." Little girl is getting what she asked for and then some: lip smackers, bubble bath, nail polish, peppermint lotions, marshmallow body wash, scrubby scrunches, etc. and so on and so on. I filled up a stocking with the stuff of girly girl dreams. Or at least, the stuff I imagine to be the stuff of girly girl dreams, as I can't really claim to have ever actually *been* a girly girl. Aaannnnd....scene.
8. I grabbed some Qdoba to go for dinner. As I was leaving, I ran into a couple of older men who were trying to decide what exactly a 'Qdoba' is and whether or not they should brave it over Five Guys. I paused long enough to give them my favorite Qdoba tip: if you order the nachos - and you totally should, as they are fully customizable and delicious - always, always, always order them 'to go,' no matter where you plan to actually eat them. Why? Well, I'll tell you. Because they put all the lovely cheesy salsa-y avocado-y goodness in a bowl, and then fill a bag with your chips. On the side. Not at the bottom of the bowl of topping goodness, where they would be, growing soggier by the second, if you ordered them to eat IN. Chips stay crunchy. Bowl o' toppings stay delicious. It's a win-win-win-win-win. Trust me.
9. Saw a Glee commercial. Googled 'Adam Lambert on Glee.' Watched three Adam Lambert videos. Can't ever get enough Adam Lambert, forgive me. Had sudden thought: whatever happened to Curtis Stigers? Does anyone even remember Curtis Stigers? What the hell does Curtis Stigers have to do with Adam Lambert? No idea. Well, yeah. I do. At the core of it, it's the voices. And damn. Curtis has still got it.
10. Many moons ago, when my children were babies, we lived in our first house on Oakdale Avenue, and my husband traveled most of the week, I would put the kids to bed, grab a cold beer and my cigarettes, sit at the dining room table, and spend hours - HOURS - on the phone with my BFF (who lived in Texas at the time), while Curtis Stigers, Lenny Kravitz, Madonna, Fleetwood Mac, Journey, Jesus Jones (!!!), and Howard Jones (no relation) provided the soundtrack to our conversations. Those were the days, ya know? I mean, it all sounds a little sad and sorry now, but then? When in the moment, I thought my life was defined in forever form, etched in stone, boom. So yeah. Even then it was a little sad and sorry. LOL But was it, really? I don't think so. I think it was...the road to somewhere that ended up being here. With me typing to my virtual BFFs while Curtis Stigers provides the soundtrack to our conversation.
11. HA! The more things change, the more they never, ever will. And I'm not even drinking beer tonight. OR smoking cigarettes!!!!
12. My Mom is on her way home from Baton Rouge. She and a friend drove 13 hours down there on Monday to help out another friend for a couple of days, and are now about 11 hours into the return trip. She should pull into her driveway sometime before midnight. I just got off the phone with her and she sounds a little road weary. And possibly a little Thelma & Louise weary. Hard to say. She wasn't as forthcoming with her travel buddy in the seat next to her as she likely will be tomorrow. LOL
13. Alright. I'm getting a little punch drunk and running out of even the most tedious of things to tell you about. So I'll leave it with this. I think I have convinced myself that I need this shirt that I saw at the (rather desperate) J.C. Penney tonight. Vote. Don't vote. Unless you stop me, dear remaining three visitors to this tiny corner of the web, there's a very real possiblity I will be seen walking down Capitol Street donning my gnome apparel in the near to immediate future. It's all on you.
One full of best laid plans gone awry, through no fault of my own. One of people's choices - with zero real bearing on my own life - annoying the royal piss out of me. One of "poor planning on your part does not constitute an emergency on mine," except that it does, sort of.
Frustration is my overlord this morning, and I loathe him with a passion normally reserved for ... well, I don't know exactly. Passionate loathing is not in my standard emotional repertoire, unless we're talking politics, and we alllllll know I don't do that here.
I AM FRUSTRATED.
For a start, the husband is leaving today for a conference in Pittsburgh. He woke up late, and got into the shower late, which tricked me into thinking I had all kinds of time that I didn't have. When I finally realized what was happening, I hit the ground running and didn't stop until I made a Kramer-esque entrance at the office...with 39 seconds to spare.
And you know how it is when you get to the office later than usual. Your entire morning office routine gets wonky and delayed or out of sync with the norm, and that lays the "always playing catch up" foundation for the rest of the work day.
Do you know what can exacerbate that "always playing catch up" nagging feeling in your gut?
Having two volunteers scheduled to undertake a massively tedious but indubitably important bulk mailing...who both call off, leaving the work for you to do yourself. No matter that you'd already scheduled your day full of other things that need doing. No matter that those other things will still need doing tomorrow and you'll be the one to do them and the things on tomorrow's schedule will be pushed back another day and so on and so on and so on.
The ice trays in the office freezer were empty this morning. Someone - six women, one man, plus me - used the last of the ice and put the empty trays back in the freezer. Without a second thought. WHAT? We've talked about this, people.
Please get off the phone and quit your redundant circle jerking. I can't bear to listen to it one.more.time. Do something about it. A little less daily hour of venting, a little more action. You'll thank me. I'll thank me.
You are leaving me home alone with a sick show pony dog? For three days? While he and the cat are working through their co-habitation issues at long last? Fanfreakintastic. 'Preciate it. Okay, really the animals and I will be fine. I'll just miss you, that's all.
Correct me if I'm wrong, but you've "moved out," right? THEN WHY IS HALF YOUR SH*T STILL AT MY HOUSE?! I've asked nicely. I've done most of the work for you. I need you to get your stuff out, or box up - hell, just identify - the stuff you want us to store, take the 40 or so loads of trash out to the alley, remove the futon from its upright, does-not-belong position in your dad's office. I NEED you to do this stuff. Like, yesterday. If not before.
I ripped into the delivery of my new Day Timer pages, only to discover you'd mailed me the wrong ones. The wrong YEAR. Excuse me? HOW DOES THAT HAPPEN? So now, I get to make a trip to the wonderful world of the post office to ship a return, wait for you to receive it, and then wait some more to get my new, correctly dated pages while I suffer alone with my delayed gratification bitterness. FINE.
Okay. Well, that helped a little.
I feel better now.
And let's be real.
A little perspective.
Today, I am spending the morning drinking coffee and listening to classical music, while addressing and stuffing an enormous pile of literally hundreds of thank you letters written to people who donated to and participated in one of our Walks to End Alzheimer's -- and getting paid for it.
This is why I call myself the Director of Gratitude here.
I love my job.
Maybe I should take a deep breath and get back to it, ya think?
I have driven by this tree a couple of times a day for nearly a year and a half. Over the past months, I've watched it transform from a perfectly shaped green goddess into a vibrant, fiery orange diva. Of all the trees along my Boulevard by the river route to work, this is the one my eyes seek out, morning and night.
There is just something about it. About her. She's stunning and majestic and proud, standing firm as she watches over the neighborhood; moving easily as she dances in the wind. She's captivating.
A week or so ago, I noticed her leaves beginning to fall and drift away. It's been a slow tease of a process; she's in no hurry to bare all. But even topless, she's a regal beauty.
Truth be told, I am not horribly agitated by skipping the opportunity to post yesterday, thus ensuring my failure to achieve the "blog every day in November" gold star.
Truth be told, I can't believe I made it nine days in a row. It's been ... gosh ... years, maybe? ... since I was that consistent here. It felt good. I'm going to try to keep it going. There are few things that can clear my head like emptying the thoughts therein onto a blank page. So, I missed a Sunday. It's not like you're going to dock my generous blogger's pay for it, amiright?
Our weekend in Morgantown was wonderful. Granted, it would have been even more so had we held on and sent the Texas Longhorns home with a loss, but it was a pretty good game, in a great atmosphere, and I can't speak for anyone else, but I enjoyed every minute of it (with the exception of the 7 seconds or so it took Texas to score that last TD to seal our fate.)
A rather sizable contingent of Texas fans made the trip. We hosted more than a few at our tailgate. It's pretty impressive to see Big 12 fans brave the travel over our mountains to sit in Milan Puskar Stadium and cheer on their teams. Especially after so much of a fuss was made about the "ordeal" of getting to Morgantown and what a hindrance it would be for schools to travel so far and roundabout. Hogwash. It's really not that hard to get there from anywhere, unless you are one of those people who whines about everything like it's your job.
Just ask the couple in the smallish SUV with Texas plates who loaded up their vehicle Sunday morning for the long haul home, their two Great Danes perched in the backseat.
That, my friends, is commitment.
On the drive home yesterday, thoughts of The Holidays Doth Approach kept tickling the back of my neck, and I confess, my stomach flipped a flop or two before I reigned in the pre-preparation panic of 2013.
I'm not doing that this year.
This year, I'm throwing all my pre-designed, pages of Martha Stewart Living-influenced expectations out the windeow in favor of giving and receiving the gifts of peace and love and togetherness for the treasures that they are, as they come. I'm going to give of myself from my heart, not from my "see how much I do for you, to make your holidays perfect?" defective bits.
I just want to enjoy my family, warts and all, and bask in the glory of being one of them.
I want to make memories. Real, messy, "remember that time?" memories that will get passed down through the ages.
You can't do that if you're too busy worrying about minute-by-minute "perfection" - which, by its own definition, cannot exist in the first place.
This year, I want to celebrate figuring that out by embracing the imperfections with joy, and reveling in the madness.
It's the most wonderful time of the year - for that, most especially!
In fact, I'd say it's almost...perfect.
*Title quote by Salvador Dali.
**Photo of the Imperfect But Fabulous Texas Game Stadium Stripe at WVU's Milan Puskar Stadium by me, 11/9/13.
We're in Morgantown for the Texas game. It's going to be played under the lights, on a cold November night, and the stadium will be striped in blue and gold. Given the way the season has gone, this one lacks the pulse racing excitement we've become used to in recent years. But if you think that will diminish our general enthusiasm, you don't know we Mountaineers well enough yet.
It's the Longhorns' first visit to our place. During the extended tailgate, I'm sure we'll host our share of burnt orange clad fans, offering a bit or a beverage or a sportsmanlike handshake.
We'll be raucous. We'll fill the seats. We'll be loud. And come what may, even through our frustrations, we'll be proud.
It's a little hard for me to believe it's been that long, but it has. I spent more than thirty years throwing away my money, my health, my time, and who knows what else catering to a nasty habit that held me tight like a jealous lover, and even still tries to weaken my defenses when I least expect it.
Health issues aside, I also did the math. Using conservative estimates, I spent nearly $75,000 on cigarettes during my smoking career. By quitting, I've saved nearly $8,00 over the past 24 months.
That's a trip to Italy for two, in high style.
I wish I'd never picked up the habit in the first place. And I wish I'd cared enough about myself to try a little harder the dozen or so other times I made half-assed attempts to quit. But none of that matters. What counts is that here, and now, I can call myself a non-smoker.
Breaking up with Phillip Morris was one of the best decisions I've ever made. And to be honest, I feel a little badass for successfully kicking him to the curb.
In honor of this auspicious ocassion, I want to speak directly to anyone out there who might be listening and who might be struggling with their own addiction to nicotine. Kicking the habit is not the easiest thing in the world, but there are so many tools out there to help and so many people willing to support you.
1. Thursdays are where my blog meets my sweet spot. I am a listophile. I can knock out thirteen things in the blink of an eye, because it's how my brain is organized, and - ergo - how my life is organized. In lists. I love lists. But then, I suppose most people do, if the proliferation of listicles that continue to appear online under the guise of journotainment every day is any indication.
2. Potential book in the making: Listicles and the People Who Love Them. Free idea. It's all yours for the taking. Go forth and list prosper.
3. My husband persevered in a battle of the wills with the Ticketmaster website yesterday and managed to snag tickets to see Jerry Seinfeld in December. He's coming to town on the mother-in-law's birthday, so we invited her to come along. Much to my surprise and delight, she accepted! I think I will be as entertained by watching her watch the show as by the comedian himself.
4. We saw him live in Raleigh several years ago, a couple of years after he got married and became a dad. I have to confess: we were completely disappointed. He was not the same Seinfeld we'd invited into our living room for so many years. He was making boring married with children jokes! What the hell?! Of course, we know now that was our issue, not his. He was still funny. It was just that he'd moved on with his life without asking our permission first. Go figure!
5. We also scored tickets to the WV Symphony's annual Home for the Holidays concert. This has become a bit of a tradition for the husband and I since we moved home. It really serves to kick off the Christmas season for me in the most buoyant, uplifting way. The MIL is attending this with us, as well, for the first time.
6. A few years ago, it came to my attention that the MIL had never seen The Nutrcracker - in any form. She is not the greatest fan of the ballet, I knew, but being oblivious to The Nutcracker felt flat out inexcusable to me - especially in light of the fact that she had managed to live 82 years without it! Thinking, "This will NEVER do," I purchased tickets to a Moscow Ballet performance of the classic and we gave them to her for her December birthday. I talked it up as much as possible, excitedly pointing out plot points and famous, easily recognized pieces of music, until finally, FINALLY, the fateful day arrived. We sat through the entire performance without saying a word. And granted, it was not exactly a slick production. But on our way out of the theater, my mother-in-law turned to me, completely guileless, and asked, "Well, was it everything you hoped it would be?" and that's when I knew. She hated it. Every last second of it. Sometimes the road less traveled is indeed less traveled for a reason.
7. The husband is attending a conference next week that will feature former President George W. Bush as the luncheon keynote speaker. I've begged him to take me with him, but he refuses**. The nerve. I mean, it's not like I have nefarious plans to throw a shoe at him or something. I am genuinely interested in the opportunity to hear a former President speak. It's history and politics and the energy industry - it's wheelhouse sort of stuff. I am not one of Those People who believe in being "at war" with any ideology that does not mimic my own. I won't necessarily vote for them, but the day I claim I am going "to war" against them is the day you have my permission to take away my right altogether.
8. Apropos of nothing, my keyboard is disgustingly filthy. Yuck.
9. WVU plays Texas on Saturday night in Morgantown, and we'll be there to help stripe the stadium again, only this time it will be under the lights and we'll be wearing blue instead of gold. It's going to be a fun, fun weekend. I'm exploring new ideas for something to bring to WOW the tailgate gang. There are a gazillion possibilities. It's hard to decide! Walking tacos? Pulled pork BBQ sliders? Hot roast beef sandwiches (modified from this recipe)? Fancy pigs in a blanket?
10. I ordered my DayTimer refill pages the other day and just received notice that my items have shipped. I AM SO EXCITED! I mentioned this on Facebook and received a chorus of comments expressing surprise. "People still use DayTimers?" Well, THIS people does. I would be lost without mine. I've had the same binder for more than 20 years and this thing holds my life in its pages. While I am quite technically savvy and do utilize a variety of digitized and/or virtual tools for organization, nothing compares to paper. Do you hear me, beloved planner in the beat up maroon vinyl binder? NOTHING COMPARES 2 U.
11. I had McDonald's for lunch today and I hate myself for it. Why do I keep going back to the well o' loathing with such voluntary frequency? I often imagine going to therapy and being cured of all my ridiculousness. But then I think, there is no therapist alive equipped to excavate that much dietrus from one human brain. So I don't. Which, of course, is ridiculousness in and of itself. The truth is: I know what to do. The reality is: I have clearly made the choices not to do what I know I should. I don't think any amount "therapy" can cure that which is more an issue of intestinal fortitude and self-respect. Ugh. I will always be the first to give myself proper credit when credit is due, mind you. But in these regards, I am an idiot par excellence. Fifty years of evidence to back me up. Unvarnished truth.
12. It's been ten days since I had a Henley hug. And there are still 16 days to go until the next one. You know what I just realized? When she is old enough to have a cell phone and/or a social media presence of her own, I am going to be the epitome of the stereotypical stalker grandma, who texts her in front of her friends and "likes" everything while making embarrassing, unintentionally inappropriate comments on her statuses and/or photos. Bless her heart. Of course, her life has been online since before she was actually born, so maybe by the time she gets old enough to be embarrassed by her stalker grandma, the social media mavens will have figured out a way for her to filter me out without hurting my feelings. What grandma doesn't know won't hurt her, I suppose, as long as she gets an "I love you!" every day or two.
13. And that's about all I got. Except to say, I am ready, ready, ready for the weekend to be here already, aren't you? So I leave you with this little gift, via The Oatmeal. Never fear; the rooster *always* finds away. And oh by the way? You're welcome.
*Today's title quote comes courtesy of Jerry Seinfeld.
** The event is in Pittsburgh, mid-work week, so I can't really go anyway. But still. I totally want to.
***Photo of a lonely, lovely Vermont road, by me. Circa 2009.
There is a little defensiveness in my title selection for today's post, because this exercise of posting *something* every single day may be helping to rehab my writing muscle in the long term, but it sure is producing some drivel for the near. On behalf of the three people who still stop by here, I feel a little sorry/not sorry about that.
Sorry, because it's painful to read. Not sorry, because it's very nearly just as painful to hit the 'publish' button. Sorry, because I am an over-apologizer by nature. Not sorry, because I am enjoying tip toeing back into the habit of keeping a journal.
I've missed it. I've missed the opportunity for introspection and reflection. I've missed the daily release valve. I've missed the chance to think things through in long hand form, and the wisdom, courage, openness, consideration, and insight that often invites. I've missed the whole depth of process that is required to compose one's thoughts in paragraph and essay form, as opposed to in status updates or 140-character outbursts.
So sorry for being not sorry.
But I'm not.
Dear Diary -
Today was an interesting, fruitful day in which I bounced (rather nimbly, if I do say so myself) back and forth between my personal life and work life, depending on the hour. It was the sort of day that can either leave me feeling frazzled or energized, depending on external factors like caffeine consumption, weather, other people's attitudes, etc.
Today, I emerged feeling...copacetic. It was a good, balanced day, where things were started, finished, proposed, debated, and decided as they came, no rankling, no fuss, no hair pulling.
It was a good day.
I met my new doctor. He's the one I finally signed on with after losing faith in the practice that served as my primary care provider during the whole gall bladder fiasco. He's young-ish, and an excellent communicator. I got the feeling that he would have sat with me for two hours if that's what it took to answer my questions. And did I mention he was ON TIME for my appointment? I didn't even have time to fill out all my new patient paperwork before he knocked on the door and introduced himself. I felt ... respected. And I liked it.
I spent an inordinate amount of time prepping a Sunday school lesson for the lovely lady who will be subbing for me this weekend. It can be a challenge to keep a class full of 4th and 5th graders focused and on point - even for just an hour. So I did what I usually do and erred on the side of over-preparing rather than risk her getting through a lesson and finding herself with 20 minutes to kill. And if she doesn't need everything I worked up for her, then my lesson planning for the next Sunday's class is that much farther ahead of the game.
I came home to a clean, lovely smelling home, courtesy of the fabulous Mrs. Flowers. The icing on this particular cake is that things have worked out for her to be here on the Tuesday before Thanksgiving, otherwise known as The Day Before the Holiday Houseguest Onslaught, and for this, I am as excited as a kid at Christmas and miles beyond grateful.
All in all, it was a good day, Dear Diary.
A little mundane. A little "standard issue." A little small town.
But there's not one damn thing wrong with that, every now and again.
After all, it's the mundanities of life that enable the memorable excellent moments.
That sounds exactly like something I imagine Maggie the Cat would instruct Jake the Dog if her native tongue was Human.
Maggie the Cat is demanding, and astute, and quite opinionated.
Maggie the Cat made the journey with us to West Virginia from Raleigh, North Carolina, where we saved her from a life on the street - at the time, her best of few options. When we rescued her, she in turn rescued us from the sadness of losing her predecessor, Kitty the Cat, to diabetes. Where Kitty had been content to be queen of the indoor jungle, Maggie had other ideas. She would not be denied the ability to roam the out of doors at will, patrolling her yard and her deck with authority - and a little viciousness, too, it must be said. She was - and is - a stalwart protector of her territory, birds, moles, and other daring but not-so-smart trespassers beware.
So Maggie the Cat was the first animal to hold sway in our new West Virginia home and she reigned as the Supreme Queen for a little more than a year before The Great Disturbance.
On that fateful day, Jake the Dog came to live with us. He was a scrawny, adorable fluff of a 3 month old puppy with paws bigger than his head, and he'd captured our hearts from behind the bars of his cage at the shelter. He loped into our house, all nose and feet and curiosity, and life has never been the same for any of its denizens.
This was especially true for Maggie the Cat.
Far from maintaining her mighty position as the mistress of her domestic domain, her survival skills - the fight or flight response - kicked into high gear. And next thing we knew, she had packed her little kitty bags and moved herself up to the third floor, litter box and all, where she took up permanent residence with Scott, claiming him as her new server human.
Maggie the Cat and Jake the Dog have had limited communication in the intervening years. Jake is no longer a 30 pound puppy; he's a 140 pound adolescent. Maggie is a little older, a little less high strung, but no less predatory in nature. Their interactions are typically brief and consist of a moment of nose to nose bravado, followed by a hiss, a yelp, and the sound of eight paws scampering off in different directions.
Until this week, that is.
Because this week, there has been another Great Disturbance in the life of Maggie the Cat as her human Scott packed up all his belongings and moved out of the house.
And as it happens, Maggie the Cat's arrogant lioness ways belie a deep and abiding need for, love of, and addiction to ... human contact. She's been forced to confront the reality that she must endure The Canine in order to get it.
Which is how it happened that over the past few days, Maggie the Cat has made it clear she intends to re-assimilate into the general flow of the household at large, and while she hasn't quite elevated her game enough to reclaim her position as mistress of her domestic domain, it's coming.
Of course, it's coming.
She's Maggie the Cat.
At present, she is perched regally on the kitchen table, doing a rather respectable job of plotting to make sure Jake knows she is the boss of him.
Meanwhile Jake the Dog, for his part, is sprawled on the living room floor, snoring, oblivious.
Let the games begin.
*Title quote by Fran Lebowitz. Illustration of Jake & Maggie by my husband, an aspiring chalk artist.
Earlier this year, I had the opportunity to join a group called Awake Exec, founded and led by one of Charleston's own, author/career coach/mindfulness guru extraordinaire Emily Bennington. It's a fascinating and engaging group of strong, independent, intelligent women who are ready to dive deep into life - all facets of it.
The monthly "training calls" have covered a wide array of subjects, ranging from 'Releasing Your Inner Critic,' to 'Miracle Working,' and while they are excellent tools in and of themselves, the month-long conversations they engender are fantastic. Via social media - namely Facebook - this group takes the topic of the moment to new levels by examining related, often real-time experiences, by asking questions, offering support, and posing possibilities. It's a little bit like having a standing daily lunch date with a table full of inspiring mentors.
November's call happened yesterday and the topic was 'Choosing Gratitude.' Timely, right? And topical, if the number of my Facebook friends who are doing the daily gratitude check for the duration of Thanksgiving month is any indication.
The idea of taking note of our gratitude in order that we might reflect on it with meaning and insight is in no way a new concept. But that doesn't make it any less potent.
My favorite part of today's training call was the post-call enthusiasm that cropped up on the group's page. Every couple of minutes, a new post would appear with yet another person expressing gratitude, or sharing their self-designed ideas for capturing the small moments of goodness for later reflection. And so I shared mine, too.
The picture above has appeared here before on this blog, as a random item in a list of thirteen things this past August with the following explanation:
Last year, on my 49th birthday, I started this jar full of good things. The idea being to note one for every day leading up to my 50th, and then read them all on my birthday to remind myself how very blessed I am. A sort of gratitude journal in a jar, if you will.
Pretty sure I've just established a new tradition, seeing as I've already started filling the jar anew with an eye toward my fifty-first next year. This is one idea I would recommend everybody try at home.
You'll be glad you did, I promise.
Sharing its story again today with the Awake Exec group brought me joy all over again. It's so easy to get mired in the mundane, to grind away at life, taking for granted the absolute glorious wonder that surrounds us every moment of the day. Making a point of taking note of a piece of goodness from your day for the express purpose of holding it in your hand again during another moment, sometime down the line, to let its light reflect in your life again is one way to safeguard against those lapses of mindfulness.
The longer you do it, with consistency, the easier it becomes to recognize and acknowledge the things - large and small - that made your heart smile. In fact, sometimes, the most difficult part of the exercise is picking just one good thing to note at the end of the day.
And if you think about it, that's a problem to be grateful for.
adoxography : beautiful writing on a subject of little or no importance.
Remember, remember, this is now, and now, and now. Live it, feel it, cling to it. I want to become acutely aware of all I’ve taken for granted.
~ Sylvia Plath
Don't say you don't have enough time. You have exactly the same number of hours per day that were given to Helen Keller, Pasteur, Michaelangelo, Mother Teresa, Leonardo da Vinci, Thomas Jefferson, and Albert Einstein.
~ H. Jackson Brown, Jr.
If the world were merely seductive, that would be easy. If it were merely challenging, that would be no problem. But I arise in the morning torn between a desire to improve the world and a desire to enjoy the world. This makes it hard to plan the day.
~ E.B. White
"The man is always something new. Batman and Beetlejuice are very different from one another. That's a passage from darkness to light. Beetlejuice is dark, man. That's some dark shit. And it's funny. But Michael brought gravitas to it, and then to Batman, which was a lot different from what I had in mind. And so on. There's hilarity and menace in the guy.
"He's just a very cool dude.
A Manifesto for Understanding in a Time of Great Thirst, Emma Fisher, Charleston Because it’s too heartbreaking. To love a place and a people so much. To love a place so much that you never feel at ease unless you’re able to rest your eyes on that terrain. To love a place so much and to feel so absolutely powerless to protect that place and to uplift the people who live in it and, perhaps most importantly, to protect and uplift yourself in it. To know that the problems are too great, too pervasive, steeped in too much time.
Elemental | Cultural Slagheap But something about this confluence, the way I had to bring potable water to my family from two hours north, the strange look of the landscape wreathed in rain and mist, the stench of a chemical that was housed directly upstream from the water company—something about all of that made me absolutely buoyant in my rage. This was not the rational anger one encounters in response to a specific wrong, nor even the righteous anger that comes from an articulate reaction to years of systematic mistreatment. This was blind animal rage, and it filled my body to the limits of my skin.
higgy+waggs Want grand-baby updates? All the Henley, all the time. My favorite blog in the universe. :-)