Category: Holiday

Kick It To The Curb

Aaahhhh…. It’s that time of year  – The new year. Fresh starts, new leafs, clean slates. For so many, it brings celebrations complete with fireworks, champagne, and general overindulgence. For others, it is feasts of black-eyed peas and other lucky foods, and time spent with family. All different kinds of traditions all over the world. But for me, the new year means one thing…

REORGANIZING!

I love sorting things and getting them all settled into an orderly fashion. I like little drawers and buckets and boxes and new coat hangers. And i LOVE getting to throw away things that do nothing but clutter my space. To my way of thinking, it is best not to bring last year’s garbage into the new year. The coming year will have plenty trash of its own.

Yes, yes… I know that if i were a better woman, i’d have thrown all the crap away as it appeared and not waited til the day i hung the new calendar. But i’m not. And i didn’t.

No one has ever accused me of being Nellie the Neat Freak.

So this time, every year, i go thru the house with bags to hold the garbage and bags to go to charity. I clear everything out that needs to go. Expired medicines and makeup. Clothing i hate or haven’t worn in a year. Accumulated magazines. Any Tupperware without a lid. And the bags of reuse/recycle items that i had craft ideas for that never panned out. And then i go back through and sort everything into new and better containers. Pretty baskets, decorator boxes, expandable shelves… You get the idea. By the second week of January, i am Martha Stewart’s rightful heir.

Come next season, it’s all right back to Clutter Central.

Throughout the year i will go back through and do a smaller version of the purge, but nothing like the High Baptism of the New Year’s Shedding of the Past Year’s Shit.

Seriously – This New Year’s ritual is my own personal day of rebirth.

For the record, i make no resolutions other than the one i always do – To be a bit better this coming year than the last. And each year, the cleansing of my house and head last a a bit longer than the one before. (Nothing like a resolution that you can keep!) It’s unlikely i’ll live long enough for the organization to last all year. I’ll keep doing my best and falling short, and the Grim Reaper will be tripping over stacks of books and craft supplies the day he comes to find me.

Unless the Hindus and Buddhists are right, in which case, i will die on December 31st of the year i finally keep my closet in order for a full 12 months.

At my current rate of improvement, that should put me somewhere around 200 years old when i finally leave this Earth.

This year’s purge is a little more complex, as i am starting to double down and really work on the house as a structure. I have lots of big plans for my little beach cottage in the woods… And the funding to complete about a third of it in the coming year. Not ideal, but it’s a start. And because i have all these plans that might actually come to fruition, i’ve had to cull even more than usual. Because trying to rehab a house that’s full of excess crap is like decorating a Christmas tree with green bows… Unhelpful and unnoticeable.

Anyway, the point of all this housecleaning is that it becomes symbolic – As my house is, so is my head. By clearing all the cobwebs, dustbunnies, and unused hand lotion samples; i am clearing my head of the same. Unused hand lotion samples become any leftover grudges and head smacks as they hit the trash bin. Dustbunnies become those things that i beat myself for daily, even tho they’ve been under the couch so long that everyone has forgotten them but me. And the cobwebs become… Well, truthfully, they’re just cobwebs. And the older i get, the more of a pain in the ass they are in both my house and my brain.

So here’s to those of us who shun parties in favor of self-improvement. While it’s true that we may not get to keep our OCD award for more than a month or two, we are setting ourselves up to start the year with a literal clean slate. Well, if we have a slate. I don’t. I’ll be starting with a clean closet. But i don’t think there’s a euphemism about closets that applies in this situation. Although i suppose it could to someone else. If they cleaned their closet and then came out of it. I think. Maybe. But being in the closet when there’s already so much clutter in there… I can’t imagine.

And there i go, weaving another cobweb.

No matter how you celebrate the new year, i hope it starts you off right: With Love, Light, and Laughter, and faith in a year that is better than the last. I wish you all the sweet things that life has to offer… And just enough salt to remember how sweet the good stuff is. And i wish you a rebirth and the chance to make yourself all you can be… Even if you fall short and there are still dustbunnies under the couch, your effort is not in vain. Any bag of garbage that makes it to the curb is a good thing, both literally and figuratively.

Let the purge begin.

 

Turkey and Gratitude

I realize that Thanksgiving descends from a terrible and evil time in our history. The beginning of an effort to eradicate an entire race by choosing to ignore the fact that they are people. (Oh, how history repeats itself over and over again…) And tho i certainly don’t condone what has happened to our native peoples, i choose to celebrate the mythical intent of the season. Just like there was no jolly fat man riding on a sleigh at the birth of Jesus, our Autumn holiday has evolved into something more generic. But to its credit, it has not become a holiday of extravagant gifts. It has become a holiday of simple gratitude.

That’s part of why it is my favorite.

The commercialization that has befallen some other holidays hasn’t disrupted Thanksgiving. It remains about sharing and communion with friends and family. Being thankful for all that we have, all the blessings that the Universe has bestowed on us. And food. Oh. My. The food.

Roasted bird. Squash coated in nuts and marshmallows. Potatoes loaded with butter and cream. And heavenly desserts whose scents have become synonymous with the glory of autumn.

I have been through some desperately lean times in my life, but we always managed to have a good meal on Thanksgiving.  A good meal and laughter. So much laughter.

From the year my then brother-in-law kept topping off my drink when i wasn’t looking (And i still somehow managed to win the Euchre tournament), to the year when i nearly tossed a full water pitcher across the dining room by accident (My weedlings still joke when i am carrying drinks that the table looks a little dry…) Oh, and we can’t forget the year when someone brought a Trivial Pursuit game and i drew the question, “What mates with a peacock?”

In the interest of common decency, i’ll refrain from telling you my answer.

This year, a lot of the laughter revolved around a Bill Pullman-a-thon. Independence Day followed by SpaceBalls. For much of both movies, there was a lot of line recitation and bad acting. We all knew both movies by heart. Listening to a group of people quote a movie in unison is always fun. And, come on, SpaceBalls. You can’t NOT laugh. Plus the usual barrage of funny stories and comically roasting each other. That kind of evening can’t be beaten.

Yes, I am thankful. For so many things. For the good food and laughter, yes. But also for my weedlings and the people they have become. For the rest of my family and friends and all the love they have given me. For the life that i’ve been blessed with – My own home, my travels, a job that i love. For the joys of life – The beauty of nature, of music, of art. For those things that make life just a bit sweeter –  Pets, Star Trek, perfectly made flan. For things that i vaguely remember but hope i might see again – Mornings without aches, uninterrupted sleep, sex with someone other than myself.

Hey, a girl can dream.

The point is, tho life is far from perfect, it has afforded me so many things that are greater than i ever imagined. To quote Steve Harvey, “God has given me a life far beyond anything I ever dreamed about. God IS, man. God is something else, man.” God, Goddess, Universe…. Same same. To me, at least. And i am grateful for all that It has given me. Loaned me. Allowed me to experience. Whatever the correct interpretation is. I’m thankful.

I know that your life isn’t perfect either. You have illness and bills and tragedy and a dog who gets terrible gas. I get it. Believe me, i do. Those things suck. But if we dwell on those things, we miss the goodness all around them. So enjoy the good things. Turn the garbage into compost. And be thankful.

A Quiet Mother’s Day

It’s Mothers’ Day. I’m on the porch with my usual weekend repast of small-batch cheese, sweet baby peppers, and crackers. Beside my plate is a lovely glass of rosé from a bottle my oldest dropped off this morning. It is steamy today, but there is a light breeze that brings in the smell of honeysuckle on occasion. I adore the scent of honeysuckle! I am watching Siridog chase ants and skinks. And directly in the center of my vision is a bird’s nest with four exquisite and shiny blue eggs. I know there are women that like big gatherings, but this is my idea of celebration.

I do wish the weedlings were here. But my youngest is at work, my middle is away at college, and my oldest is a florist (You learn very quickly that the weeks of Mother’s Day and Valentine’s Day, she will be working around the clock. No exaggeration.) All three of them try to show appreciation throughout the year, so this one day a year isn’t something i have to wait for. I am lucky. Rare is the time that i feel unappreciated by my weedlings.

Momma bird just swooped in. She stood on a branch for a while, looking around, as if to make sure she hadn’t been followed, and then hopped into the nest. Not to body shame the poor thing, but she looked like she was about to drop another couple of eggs. I will have to look later.

My own Ma has been gone a long time. But i like to think that she is here with me now, chilling on the porch. If not now, definitely later, when i bring my easel out here. We would talk about things we found beautiful, places we found interesting, and probably plan out our next trip to Atlanta: Ikea, the international market, the flower garden…. We would paint. Hers would be so much better than mine, but she would tell me it was beautiful anyway. We’d try to make tea from the herbs in my garden. We might not succeed, but we would enjoy the effort. What i wouldn’t give for an afternoon like that.

Two squirrels just ran in the yard, obviously playing a game of mating season tag. Siridog is going nuts because they are just out of reach and she wants to chase them so badly! Or maybe she wants to eat them. It’s hard to tell the difference sometimes.

I wonder about the momma bird, and the other mothers in the animal kingdom. Once their babies are grown, i know some of those children will come to visit their mom. I’m pretty sure orangutans do. Not sure about any others. But regardless, i wonder what they talk about. What is the orangutan equivalent of, “Can i do laundry?” or “Do you want to do brunch?” Does young adult orangutan show up at his ma’s nest and say, “It has been a crappy day. I need a banana. Do we have any bananas?” I wonder.

There is a bee in the yard that must have a broken wing.It is walking up and down the clover. Siridog keeps taking nips at it. I am certain she could catch it easily. But instead she pokes it with her nose, and then backs off like she got stung… Except that her tail is wagging. I think she is playing with it. How odd. Now she is barking at it. Back low to the ground, tail going back and forth so hard, i can’t imagine how she isn’t falling over. She appears to catch it in her teeth and then fling it. As soon as it starts moving where it lands, she goes over and starts the whole process again. She thinks it’s a toy! Poor Mr. Bumblebee. I’m sure he never figured it would end this way.

I wonder, when my weeds start having weedlings of their own, how many of my parenting choices will make their way into how my kids do it. I expect there are a lot of things they will NOT choose to do with their own kids. But i wonder what things they will. Will they ever sit back and think, “What would Ma have done?” And then actually do it? Will they ask advice of me? Or will they want to blaze their own path? I suppose we won’t know til the time comes.

Well, for now at least, “The time has come, ” The walrus said. Momma bird is off again. The squirrels are still playing and reminding me of that scene in The Sword and the Stone. And i’m pretty sure Mr Bumblebee is in Siridog’s belly. I hope you all had a wonderful day.

Now, i am off to paint with my Ma.

 

It’s Just Another New Year’s Day

It’s a new year. Bright and shiny and bursting with possibility. I should be making my list of what i’m going to do, what i’m going to accomplish this year. I missed one big one last year (I still haven’t learned to play bass guitar), but on the whole, it was a good year. Got better at my job. Developed a love for a specific part of it. Got a little done on the cottage, tho not as much as i had hoped. Had some spinal surgery, but came out well and was otherwise healthy for the year. The weedlings had a great year, good grades, raises, and some fun travel. Siridog put on a couple of pounds, but she is still my bestest pooch. All in all, i can’t complain about the year.  And i’ve got some good things coming up this year.

The part of the job that i developed a love for is now about to become my new job. How cool is that? No more money or anything (at least for now), but i am looking forward to more learning, more growing, and making a niche for myself that i can really own.

Starting in 2 weeks, i take my first tap dancing lesson. I know it sounds strange, but i’ve taken lessons in nearly every other style of dance known to man, but somehow missed this one. My closest buds know that it is common for me to spend an evening looking up old performances of Sammy Davis Jr, Ginger Rogers, Gregory Hines, Eleanor Powell, Savion Glover…. I love them all. And this is a way to keep my brain active (By learning something new) and my body in shape (I’ve never had an ass, except for a man i was once married to, so here is my chance…)… All while having fun.

I’ve made a list of things i want to get done around the house. It’s a reasonable list, and i have already set aside funds and sent out estimate requests on the first one. I may have to forfeit a long weekend away, but i think i can mostly manage the budget for the list without tightening the belt too much. And i’ve decided that, tho i will listen to the opinions of my weedlings, i am going with the changes that I like.

I have decided i’m going to laugh more. Have you guys seen the show The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel ? It only has one season out, on Amazon, and i’m rewatching it today because it’s genius. It’s about a Jewish woman in the 1950s who finds herself divorced and thrown into the world of stand-up. You know i love strong female characters. You know i love comedy. ANd no one does comedy like the Jewish people. This is the start of me laughing more.

I also plan on creating more. To set  a good precedent, i spent New Year’s Eve painting a picture that i’d had in my head for about a week. I will never be a Great Master. And that’s ok. Maybe i’ll get better with practice. Maybe i won’t, but maybe it will help keep me sane. Or maybe it won’t do anything but leave me with a heap of hotel grade paintings. Still not a bad deal if it keeps me out of trouble on a stray Friday night.

There are other things on the list, but to you, i’m sure they’d be about as exciting as your average shopping list. A boring one. Without alcohol or condoms or chocolate or anything. No worries. We’re not supposed to be all that enthused about the ins and outs of each others’ everyday. I only shared some of mine to show that we’re all in the same boat. Some big ideas, some small ones. No matter how high on the totem pole you are or how low you feel after stepping on the scale tomorrow… No matter your nationality, religion, or level of assholiness… We’re all the same down deep. We all just want to be a bit better than we were last year. Nicer, smarter, more creative… Learn more, travel more, maybe get laid a bit more. Nothing fancy. Nothing extravagant. Just the basic human quest to improve oneself.

Because we are human, we will miss some things on the list. Some of us will not get around to traveling, or starting the new class, or finding love. But if you get to any of them, you are doing good. So don’t despair. Life isn’t like the game of Life. You don’t have to be the first to get to the end. You don’t even have to get to the end. You just have to give it your best shot.

And if you get the chance, learn to tap dance.

Row, Row, Row Your (Holiday) Boat

For those of us who face depression, the holidays can be a real bitch. Lost loved ones seem especially far away. Our bodily systems fighting the drop in sunlight hours (Take your Vitamin D, my brothers and sisters!!!), weight gain from all these social gatherings that we dread (Because, you know, too many people), and the commercialization of the holiday leaving us anxious, frantic, and financially strapped. Makes you want to double your medication and hide out til Spring.

I don’t have a cure. Truthfully, i’m as beaten as you are. The sadness inside masked by the chatter of holiday greetings and special sparkly lip gloss. Oh the power of a good lip gloss! Anyway, most of the time, the holidays feel to me like that scene in Star Wars where they are getting squashed in the nasty trash compactor. Everything is closing in; the stench of stress coming off you like yesterday’s fish sticks; and the inescapable thought of, “Maybe if i close my eyes, it will go away.” (Yes, my non-ICD-10’d friends, this is part of why we sleep so much.)

Now, as my sister reminds me on occasion, decades of therapy merely make me a profitable therapy patient, not a therapist. So i don’t have an actual solution to the problem. I am not even sure if there is one. But i DO know that we can arm ourselves with the occasional bit of pain relief. And it can be found in some unlikely places.

There are some things in life that are just so good, fulfilling, enjoyable that they can make the worst of times seem a thing of the past, even if only a moment. Some of them are obvious: The laugh of a baby, for example. Some are a little more obscure: Seeing that the schmuck who cut you off 2 miles back is now actually stuck at the same light you are. (Was it worth the karma, dude?) These things don’t cure depression. But they can offer a bit of a reprieve, and sometimes, that’s all we need to make it thru another day.

So if you find yourself getting dark when you want yourself to be light, set your heart and thoughts on life’s helium balloons… Those moments that feel really good… And lighten the load for a bit:

Those mornings when you don’t have to set an alarm and can wake to your body clock.

A beautiful holiday song – Close your eyes and listen.

A piece of really good chocolate – Sometimes there is no better way to spend a couple dollars than on a handmade truffle.

A really good poo – I mean, there really is no better feeling. 

When someone sends you the perfect meme at the perfect time.

A scalding hot shower on a cold morning, or a hot bath before bed.

Taking your bra off after a long day. (Sorry, guys, there really is no male equivalent.)

Seeing a baby deer walking off the side of a road. 

A beautiful sunset or sunrise.

A full moon – And if you see someone fly past it on a broomstick, wave to me 😉

Climbing into a bed with freshly washed sheets.

When you finally get to fart after holding it in forever – Extra points if it is crazy loud!

Homemade mashed potatoes.

Getting the best parking spot, just by happenstance.

The sound of wind rustling thru the trees.

The smell of fresh bread – Worth a visit to a bakery. Usually the smells are free.

When something costs less than you expect.

Hearing from an old friend.

Getting a compliment from your kid – Rarer than a golden goose egg, but also far more valuable.

Hideously gaudy, Griswald-style Christmas lights.

Fresh, hot latkes with applesauce and full-fat sour cream.

A handsome man or beautiful woman in a goofy winter hat.

Hot chocolate with extra marshmallows and stirred with a candy cane. (Make it for yourself. You are worth it.)

A moment of true peace and quiet.

 

Try remembering these, my friends. I hope they help. It is also worth noting that, while you don’t have to do it all, don’t avoid it all either. Pick one or two things to commit to, and let the rest be up to your mood. Baby steps. Take it one event at a time. Take it just one moment at a time if you have to. And if it isn’t enough, up your game by talking with someone. Find your local crisis center, meet your preacher for coffee, find a support group, message people… You’ll be surprised at how many of us are in the same boat…

And since we are all in the same boat, you don’t have to take it all on yourself… We can take turns rowing. And then we will all get there. Together. Just don’t give up.

You got this. We got this.

 

Rafiki and Einstein

One of my besties has a good friend who is in the midst of dying. At our age, though not a common thing yet, we will see it more and more. But like so much of getting older, there is no book that tells us how to deal with it.

Family is gathered close around her friend, as well they should be, keeping outsiders, germs, and stresses away from their cherished member as she makes the transition. But my bestie is one of those who absorbs people into her soul more than most. She wants – needs – to touch. It’s visceral for her, a primal need since watching her own mother take the journey when we were in our adolescence. She doesn’t want to intrude. Doesn’t even have to actually see her. Just wants her to know that there are hands and hearts along the bridge who will give her strength when she needs it. On one level, it is a gesture of love and friendship. On another, it is a grasp at a connection with the ones who are already on the other side.

We aren’t kids anymore. We understand that life as we know it comes to an end. We realize death is part of life. We’ve seen The Lion King. But it is hard to remember that life is a circle when your friend is on the exact opposite side of it.

Even if you were standing next to them, you know you can’t pull them back. It’s their time. God/Goddess/Universe’s choice, not ours, and we are in no position to disagree. We aren’t reaching out to pull them back into the circle permanently… We just want one more minute. One more chance to feel what we felt with them. Love. Friendship. Humanity. And to remind us that we are not permanent. A jumpstart, if you will, to our resolution for living each day to the fullest.

Perhaps that last is the most important.

My Ma died a long time ago. I think of her often, of course, and for many reasons. But more often than not, i am thinking of her because i want to tell her about something. Something i am planning, or doing, or have done, that is benchmark.

Benchmark = Proof that i am really living. 

With the holidays approaching, memories of lost loved ones are, for many of us, closer than any other time of the year. It’s easy for us to get caught up in sadness, loneliness and longing for times and people since passed. To get out of it, i sometimes talk to those memories. Like, “He Ma, do you see your namesake in there cooking up a storm? Is she amazing, or what?” Or, “Gram, someone just brought in homemade raisin bread to work. Lets toast some and spread it with cream cheese just like you always liked…”

Yes, i talk to dead people. What of it? If Einstein was right (And i dare you to say he wasn’t..) nothing new is ever created. All the energy that ever was is still here – Just in a different form. Who is to say that the energy, the soul plasma, that was our loved ones isn’t all around us all the time? Or that i won’t still be around my loved ones after this pasty, wrinkled, old broad of a body is long since gone? I choose to believe that the best part of us lingers, like a faint whiff of Shalimar after the theater closes, for anyone who chooses to breathe it in and remember.

Yes, i talk to dead people and i am a hopeless, romantic dork. So sue me.

Regardless, as the insanity of the holidays approaches, and the memories come flooding in… Or if you are someone who must face a loved one becoming a memory amidst all the merriment… Breathe them in. Talk with them. Talk about them to others. Bring them into moments where you are truly living. Keep it all alive so that they may continue being relevent. In a way, become legend. Don’t let the laws of biology stop it. Our physical time on this Earth is fleeting, but our soul can go on forever. Just ask my friend, Albert. He is an expert on energy. And really, isn’t that all we humans are?

We Are Sprung Again

All over the world, all manner of people, all walks of life, once Spring has finally sprung, there are festivals celebrating the season of rebirth. For most of us in the U.S., that means Easter. And while the religious notions of Easter are certainly important to all my Christian friends, i’m not remotely subject-educated enough to speak on it. The universal notion of rebirth, tho…  I have lots of experience with that.

As a child, i was a churchgoer.  Regardless of the beauty and popularity of Christmas songs, i always felt that the hymns of Easter were the most beautiful. I still do.  And the services over the holiest of weekends always made me cry (In a good way.) All the evil of the world falling and failing in the path of a New Hope. Secularly, my Ma made Easter baskets for us, we salivated over New England Boiled Dinner (A melt-in-your-mouth yumminess of epic sodium proportions), the vivid color and fragrances of flowers blooming everywhere, and i remember more than one sheep shaped cake, covered in coconut and dressed with jellybeans on visits to my Dad’s side of the family. All wrapped up together, if was a heartwarming celebration of Spring. A celebration of rebirth and revival. Sweeter than any sugar-coated Peep.

As an adult, tho i become increasingly pantheist by the year, i still hold a special place in my heart for Easter. For anyone who struggles with the disease of self-hatred, the concept that God/Goddess/Universe will give us, even encourage us, a do-over is a gift greater than any other. And as we become more enlightened, those renaissances become less of a drugstore makeover and more of a true reincarnation. Spring becomes a reminder that we should change and grow regularly, just like the Earth itself. (Mostly secular) Easter is the festival i’m most familiar with from my youth, but each culture and religion has a version of the same notion…

From the Christian realm, at Easter we take on John 15:13 and learn to sacrifice for our fellow humans. From our Jewish family, at Passover we learn to break free of shackles and bondage (both literal and figurative.) From our Pagan friends, at Beltane we learn to reconnect with our youthful vitality and wonder. From our Hindu friends, at Holi we learn to forgive, forget, mend, and move onward and upward. I’m sure there are many more Spring festivals out there that i haven’t gotten to learn about yet, and dollars-to-donuts, they offer a positive lesson for self-improvement.

Given that i still have a lot of improving to do, i’ll gladly celebrate them all.

So here’s to rebirth! Here’s to becoming the person we want to be! Here’s to nourishing the spirit and helping it grow!  Here’s to breaking ground like the first daffodil of the season! And just because it makes the heart happy, here’s to joyful celebrations, love and laughter, and chocolate bunnies!

May God/Goddess/Universe bless you all with rebirth.