Just Another New Year's Eve Post

Tonight we say goodbye to 2009.

I know I’m getting old because I find myself thinking things like, “I can’t believe the year is over already! Where did the time go?”

I don’t feel old though. At least not physically. And my maturity level certainly hasn’t caught up with my years either. Last night I was in Kohl’s, posing in gangster hats while my son took pictures on his cell phone. Mark was perfecting his grumpy old man persona.



I think it’s just on the emotional level that I feel kind of old.

No… Scratch that… It’s not even that I feel emotionally old. I just feel like I’m constantly lost, trying to figure out exactly where I should be and what I should be doing. I still feel like I’m constantly questioning whether or not I’m on the right path. Is that normal for someone who has reached forty-three years of age? I don’t know. I feel like I should be more certain, more confident about my lot in life.

I don’t know. Maybe some of us never get past the need to question “what if”? “What if I had… finished college, been a stronger parent, pursued my goals more seriously?”

I wish I were the kind of person who could just take each day and accept it for what it is instead of constantly second guessing myself. I wish I were more confident in my decisions and direction. Life sure would be easier. But maybe this constant questioning is my catalyst for improvement.

I was going to accomplish so much in 2009. And yet here we are on the doorstep of 2010 and so many goals have once again gone unattained. I was thinking yesterday that it was about this time a few years ago that I started blogging. When I went to check the old blog, sure enough, there it was. My first blog post ever was written on December 30, 2006. As I read through that first post, I realized that as much as some things have changed since that day, so much also stays the same.

In reading through the many blogs I read this week, a common theme was, of course, New Year’s resolutions. Now I will tell anyone who will listen that I don’t make resolutions. In my experience, making New Year’s resolutions is simply a recipe for failure. But then I read a post about resolutions that really struck a chord with me. Bud’s Blog always has something thought-provoking to read, but his post, Resolutions? Me? really hit home for me. I began to think that not making resolutions was really the easy way out. Sure, if I don’t set goals, I can’t fail. But at the end of a year’s time, have I achieved anything at all? Probably not. I wonder if the lack of certainty and confidence I feel in myself has more to do with becoming complacent and failing to give myself something for which to strive. I thought back to one accomplishment that felt really good to me – becoming a runner. I resolved myself to do it. I put it in writing, on my blog, for all to see. Knowing I had told others about my goal was a strong motivator toward refusing to let myself fail.

2010 is almost here. And I don’t want to reach the end of another year, only to look back and say that nothing much has changed. So… I am making some New Year’s resolutions and I am posting them here. And hopefully, in a year’s time, I can look back and say that I pushed myself, that I learned something new, that I grew and that I loved better. So…

2010 is another chance to wipe the slate clean and do it better. I will strive to:

  • Improve my spirituality, whether that means going to church more regularly or just setting aside time to pray and reflect
  • Get my writing books back out and try to get serious about writing
  • Make lists to stay organized
  • Go to the gym at least three times a week
  • Work at my photography
  • And (I’m stealing this one from Bud) stay in contact with friends and family members more regularly, especially by sending fewer emails and making it a point to talk on the phone or visit in person.

2010? I’m ready! Bring it on.

And to all of you who stop by here from time to time, thank you. Your friendship means more to me than you know. May 2010 be filled with love, happiness and many, many good things! Happy New Year!

Post Holiday Funkiness

The post-holiday blues have hit me. Damn it. Why do I have such a tendency to fall into a dark state of mind, especially this time of year? I hate it.

It’s probably due in part to the fact that we had such a great weekend. The days after Christmas were nice. The house was full with the kids. Brad’s girlfriend, Heather and her dog, Dacotah were here. There was laughter and chatter and everyone was in a good mood.  (Except when they were nit-picking at each other, which they have a habit of doing frequently!) :-) We enjoyed guilt-free laziness. We visited with friends and I took Jake and Kacey bowling – a couple of times. Jake has a new bowling ball he needed to test out! You know I loved being able to help him out with that! There is just something about the days surrounding Christmas. We’re all able to take a break from the rat race. I can get completely immersed in those days.

The weekend ended and it was time to get back to reality. Things were slower than molasses at work yesterday, due in part to the holidays.  I have plenty of PTO time left in my account, and the office looked to be well staffed today so I took the day off work, which is nice…

Except…

Kacey left this morning to go shopping at the Mall of America with a friend. Jake went to work. Heather and Dacotah left to go home at noon today. Brad went to run some errands. As soon as they were gone, the house seemed so much quieter and lonely. A sad feeling came over me.

Like a million times before, the realization hit me that these kids are growing up and preparing to leave home for a life of their own. More frequently than ever, I find myself all alone for stretches of time. And it’s not that I wish the kids would never leave home. My job is to raise them to be independent adults and if that’s the direction they are headed, then I guess I’m doing okay at this parenting thing. It’s just that I’m not sure what to do with myself now. What do I do to fill the spaces of time that used to be all consumed with mothering and caring for my family?

Don’t get me wrong. I am fully capable of enjoying some solitude and independence of my own. In fact, I need a healthy dose of each on a regular basis. It’s just that it is so much more enjoyable when at the end of such a period, there is the prospect of being needed again.

I think part of the problem is that I haven’t quite reached the point where the kids are fully independent.  They still need me to be available. Yet, I often find that in making myself available, everyone else has gone off to explore the world while I wait at home, just in case. I assume that when the kids are grown and have all moved out on their own, I’ll find more hobbies to fill my time and will make a greater effort to schedule activities with friends. But in the meantime, I’m stuck in this in-between place.

The past week brought the return of a full house and happy chaos and I was all too ready to settle back into it, forgetting it was only a temporary situation.

I think I need a more positive perspective on this situation. Instead of feeling sad, maybe I should stock up on books to read, go find things to photograph or write more.

Maybe I should get a dog… :-)

A Perfectly Imperfect Christmas

Even Kacey said, “Christmas came too fast this year!”

She’s growing up. She’s learned to appreciate the spirit of the season, the joy in the days leading up to Christmas. She has learned that Christmas is more than that one perfect gift waiting under the tree on Christmas morning.

It was a wonderful Christmas. And that had to do with more than just putting together a perfect holiday. Because it was definitely far from perfect. But…

In spite of daily doubts as to how long I might remain employed, I am still employed. The outlook for my company is slowly beginning to move in a positive direction again. There are many children who don’t find their heart’s desire under the tree on Christmas day. I am grateful to be able to make some of my kids’ wishes come true for another Christmas.  I know that I am one of the fortunate ones. The homeless man I see in the skyway during my walk to the office each morning is a constant reminder of just how fortunate I am.

I was surrounded by my children on Christmas. And my sister is back in the state after several years in another and we were able to share Christmas again for the first time in six years.  I miss having my parents here, but they are in a warm climate, which is best for their health and well-being. I’m glad they have the resources to enjoy a winter home that benefits their health. Again, I know that I am fortunate. My uncle who spent his Christmas in the  hospital battling cancer, and the coworker of Brad’s who spent his in the hospital having surgery on a brain tumor were reminders of how blessed I am to have my family all safe and sound.

No, the holiday was not without its share of stress. I am not proud to say that I wasn’t always on my best behavior. At times, I let little things get to me and allowed pettiness and bitterness to seep into my mood. There were moments that I allowed the poison of my attitude to be reflected in my words and passed on to those around me.  There were episodes of the inevitable family dysfunction on Christmas day that threatened to make me swear off from any and all family functions in the future. But then I think of  the little nieces and nephews and the way they nearly exploded with excitement and anticipation. I think of an unexpected smile that was sent my way and a prior grudge that seemed to melt away on Christmas day. I can still feel the warmth of my children’s spontaneous hugs; big, loving bear hugs from my now grown boys and my beautiful teenage girl. I think especially of the wordless lingering hug from Jake. He does not give hugs easily or often but this one was heartfelt and sincere. I think of  Brad’s girlfriend, traveling through a major winter storm to get here on Christmas Eve, and the way she fits right in and accepts all of our craziness. I think of the Christmas cards that filled our mailbox this year, bringing with them love and cheer from family and true friends.

I am happy to say that by the time my guests started showing up on Christmas Eve, I tossed all the stress right out the window. I stopped worrying about whether the meal was perfect or whether there was enough room to fit all those people into this modest house. I stopped caring about all of the snow melting on the clean floor in the foyer. The house was loud and crowded and happy. We ate. We drank. And we were merry. And I truly felt it.

There may never be that perfect, utterly peaceful and flawless Christmas that manages to go off without a hitch. But the ones I’ve been given? I’ll take ‘em. They are just fine with me.

A Chrismouse Meme

The Twelve days of Christmas have been celebrated since medieval times ~ traditionally beginning the day after Christmas Day (now known as Boxing Day) and ending on the Twelfth Night.  And since the festive season is upon us ~ I thought it might be fun to do a Christmas meme!

I found this one over at Gary’s World.

The Rules:

  1. Copy the delightful Chrismouse picture to your post
  2. Copy these rules and the explanation of the meme (above).
  3. Link the person who tagged you.
  4. List 12 things: either about a Christmas present or memories of Christmas past (or a mixture of both).
  5. Tag as many or as few people as you like.

If you are reading this, then you are hereby tagged!

1.  I remember going to visit Santa Claus once when I was very little. I may have been about four years old. In direct contrast to my sister, I was a complete and total tomboy at that age and also, very, very shy. When it came time to talk to the big guy, I was so tongue-tied, I couldn’t think what to ask for for Christmas. It may have been that Santa Claus suggested it after waiting endlessly for my voice to remember how to work, but for some reason, I asked for a Barbie doll even though I didn’t have the least bit of interest in playing with a Barbie doll, or any doll for that matter. My mom knew it too. When she asked me what it was I had asked of Santa and I told her, she responded incredulously, “A Barbie doll? Really?” I don’t think Santa brought me a Barbie doll that Christmas, but I honestly don’t remember.

2. Growing up, our family always spent Christmas Eve at my paternal grandparents’ home with our extended family. We kids were always so excited to get there and see our cousins and open presents that we nearly crawled out of our skin. Ironically, Christmas Eve always caused my mom some sort of mental defect. It never failed. We’d all get into the station wagon, ready to head to the grandparents’ house, and mom would suddenly realize that she had forgotten her purse in the house. The woman never went anywhere without her purse. Ever. Her lipstick was in there, for crying out loud and mom did not leave the house without her lipstick. Yet every year we had to wait in the car with ants in our pants while mom went back to retrieve the wayward purse, and it always took her forever to find it. Not to worry, though. The purse was always found eventually and we never missed a Christmas at Grandma and Grandpa’s place. When the evening festivities were over and we returned home, Santa had always already made a visit to our house and presents would be waiting for us under the tree. Funny how mom never ran into Santa in there while she was searching for that darned purse.

VillaWare® Electric Pizzelle Iron3. Even though my mom is full-blooded German and my dad is full-blooded Polish, our favorite holiday cookies included the Italian Pizelle cookies that my mom never failed to include in her holiday baking.  She was also very talented in the peanut brittle department. Ironically, I am too lazy to bother making either of these confections today.

4. When I was young, Christmas Day was the day we spent with my maternal grandparents. They didn’t have much money, but they had an abundance of love for their grandchildren. Their gifts to us often included the hand-made items my grandma created. There were crocheted afghans, winter hats, scarves, mittens and stockings to keep our feet warm inside our winter boots. Grandma could be quite adventurous with her color combinations, especially as she grew older, but we loved every item she ever made, simply because it was made by her. Being a product of the Depression era, my grandma was extremely resourceful, even when it came to gift wrapping. Our gifts were often wrapped up inside empty oatmeal containers and cereal boxes. We kids grew quite accustomed to this and never really worried that Grandma had given us a box of Grape Nuts for Christmas.

5. My siblings and I all had the same Kindergarten teacher. Every year in December, Mrs. Sweesey’s Kindergarten class made German Christmas spiders out of Styrofoam balls and pipe cleaners.  These were simple, child’s decorations, but my mom kept them year after year and we put them in the Christmas tree. I’ll bet she’s still got them in her boxes of Christmas ornaments.

6. I once bought each of my young teenage brothers a butterfly knife for Christmas. I don’t remember my parents disapproving and thankfully, no one was ever maimed or injured with those knives.

7. My mom used to ask us kids to make home-made gift tags with paper and crayons. We had such fun creating tags with Christmas pictures on them and my mom used them proudly on all of the gifts she wrapped.

8. Some of my most memorable gifts over the years include a Mr. Potato Head toy, a red snorkel parka and a pair of Nike tennis shoes.

9. My sister and I never missed the 1972 Christmas special, The House Without a Christmas Tree. A few years ago, I found the movie on VHS and bought it for her. We couldn’t wait to watch it again! Movies have come a long, long way since this one was made, but we still loved it after all those years.

10. The soundtrack from A Charlie Brown Christmas is still some of my favorite Christmas music!

11. My kids expect to find  Terry’s Dark Chocolate Oranges in their Christmas stockings every year.

12. My daughter made it known (via Facebook) that she really wanted a zebra print Snuggie. One of her volleyball team mates took note of this fact after she drew Kacey’s name in the Secret Santa gift exchange drawing and went to great lengths to find said Snuggie. Unfortunately, Zebra print Snuggies must be all the rage, and are not to be found this holiday season. However, after the gift exchange this week, Kacey is still happy as a clam with her new Cheetah print Snuggie! She tested it out by chasing the cat around, then announced, “It works! I just chased the cat in my Snuggie!”

The Magic of the Season

Every year, I complain about how much I hate the winter, but I have to be honest. I don’t entirely hate it, (at least not through the month of December). It’s the one season of the year that is often described as magical. And it really can feel magical. The weather can be extreme, and when I’m not fretting about driving in it, a white blanket of snow can be breathtaking. But it’s more than the weather. I love this time of year. This time right now. Christmas time. I don’t want it to go too fast, but it always does.

Christmas is almost here, but I don’t want it to get here just yet. Do you know what I mean? These days before Christmas are filled with such wonder and excitement. People, for the most part, are cheerful and generous, kind and happy. Smiles and laughter come easily. Hearts are lighter. People are more tolerant. I myself am happier than I am most of the time, and I’m filled with a sense of peace and contentment. I have a strong feeling of nostalgia and the happy memories of the Christmases of my childhood. I love to weave the traditions of holidays past into our lives now in the hopes that my kids will one day look back on these days with the same sort of wonderful memories. These are the days when I realize the importance of family and friendship and the abundance of blessings in my life.

Do you see what I mean about the magic?

But then Christmas arrives and the day is always a blur of activity. We rush from one family gathering to the next. We try to squeeze it all in and end up exhausted by day’s end. By the time it’s over it always feels to me as if all of this magic just fades away while we return to the same old routines.

I’m trying to really enjoy these last few days before Christmas. I’m trying to latch on to the spirit of the season so that I might hang on to it and carry a bit of it with me throughout the coming year. So while I’m tempted to wish away the next few days in anticipation of the holiday and a nice long weekend, I’ll also try to remind myself to just live in and appreciate each moment during this magical time of year.

May your days be merry and bright…

Life is Good – December 18, 2009

It’s Friday once again! And this is not just any Friday. It’s the Friday that my Brad comes home from school for Christmas break! I’ll get to enjoy the company of my oldest son for the next few weeks.

This is also the last Friday of the year on which I have to work! So I am happy, happy, happy this week and looking forward to the next two weeks of eight-hour days, and four-day weekends.

Christmas is on its way, and I’m ready. (Sort of.) The shopping is done, and the wrapping too. Kacey begged me to let her do some gift wrapping. Little did she know that begging was not necessary. I was more than happy to let her take care of every gift except for those meant for her and the boys. And she did a spectacular job of playing Santa’s little elf. After the wrapping was done, she arranged all of the packages carefully under the tree and it is looking very festive!

I’m looking forward to Christmas but as I hinted earlier, I’m not quite ready. On Christmas Eve I’ll be hosting the family festivities with my siblings and their families. I need to make a grocery list and get out to buy all the food. And there are cookies to be baked and other goodies to make. It’s really the cookie baking that’s making me nervous. I’m not sure where I’ll squeeze in the time to do this, but I’ll bet my little elf will gladly lend a hand again.

So things are pretty busy around here, but when I can find a spare moment, I’m enjoying a special new book which just arrived this week from Amazon. Do you know what’s so special about this book? In God We Trust, All Others Pay Cash was the basis for my favorite Christmas movie, A Christmas Story.

With all that’s going on in these days before the holidays, it’s nice to have a good book in which to seek refuge now and then. It helps me keep my sanity!

And what about you? What made your life good this week?

They think my hat is funny

And Kacey thought I might be embarrassed with photographic evidence. But I’m not embarrassed. This is a vintage 1970s hat, hand-knitted by Aunt Shirley (or crocheted by Aunt Shirley. I don’t really know the difference.) And I have not actually worn it since the 1970s.  I’m actually not sure why it’s still in my possession. I brought it out this evening because Kacey thought she had a cool winter hat. I wanted to show her my cool winter hat. But she didn’t think it was so cool. Whatever. I kind of like it. I think I’ll wear it the next time she has all her friends over to the house!

Mall Slippers

I did something really dumb. I went to the mall on Friday, with plans for at least a few hours of shopping, wearing these:

Nickels Women's Flight Boot

And it wasn’t just any mall that I went to. It was the Mall of America, with multiple levels and over 400 stores to peruse. And it wasn’t just any day of shopping. It was a special day, as I was meeting my way-back-in-high-school friend, Kendra and we had a lot of catching up to do.

I met Kendra in the parking ramp at 10:00 a.m. and we started our day. We both had a ton of shopping to do for Christmas so we just worked our way around each level. Along the way, Kendra would point out many lovely (read “hideous”) articles of clothing she thought I should try on. These included an orange paisley print dress, under which she recommended I wear a purple turtleneck. There was also a leopard print blouse with ruffly sleeves and matching leggings. I think my favorite was the black lace, sparkly bra top with coordinating mini-skirt, reminiscent of the Madonna years. I thanked her for her suggestions but passed on all of them, citing my need to spend my money on gifts for others, not myself. (Kendra’s sense of humor hasn’t changed a bit since we were in high school!)

As we collected our Christmas purchases, we made a few trips back to the parking ramp to deposit the bags in our cars, then would return in search of more gifts for those on our lists. Several hours passed quickly and I noticed my feet were starting to ache. Actually, I think they were beyond “starting to ache.” They were well into the “killing me” stage.

And it seems I wasn’t the only stupid one that day. Kendra had worn a very similar pair of boots and the realization that my feet were killing me came with her announcement that her feet were killing her. So we came up with a plan of action. We took a break for lunch and a much-needed foot rest.

It was difficult getting back on our feet after lunch, but we had a mission. We left the restaurant and headed straight for DSW Shoe Warehouse.  We browsed all over DSW, where Kendra was quick to point out a pair of tall rubber boots in a lovely giraffe print to go with my orange paisley dress and purple turtleneck. I am in need of something to wear for Christmas. I may have to go back and snatch up these lovely items!

Our visit to DSW though, was not about giraffe-print rain boots. It was about finding comfortable (and cheap) footwear to get us through the remainder of our shopping without causing blisters and bunions. We strolled through the flats and the athletic footwear. We browsed through practical shoes and fingered the flip-flops. And then, the perfect footwear appeared, ensconced in a halo of golden light like a gift from heaven above!

Smartdogs Women's Faith Hoodback SlippersYes, it was a pair of slippers and I swear I heard a choir of angels singing as I slipped my tortured foot into its fleecy softness.  It was a pair of SmartDog slippers, to be more precise, with a soft, thickly padded lining and built-in arch support with a patented, air-cushioned, honeycomb foot bed and full shock absorption that moves naturally with your stride. These slippers are a foot’s best friend.  And with a DSW coupon, they were only $16.95, a small price to pay for some major relief.

Kendra and I each bought a pair and proudly wore them through the mall for the remainder of our shopping excursion, which turned out to be a grand total of NINE HOURS and a highly successful mission. My Christmas shopping is almost done! And my feet? They are happy!

Life is Good – December 11, 2009

picture of Adelie Penguins Paulet Island Antarctica Image Brrrr! It’s cold here! Look what I found in my back yard after all the snow and dropping temperatures this week! (Okay, okay, you got me. I’m kidding.) There have been some sub-zero temperatures overnight and in the early mornings, but as far as I know, no penguins have migrated this way.

We had our first winter storm on Tuesday and Wednesday, ensuring a white Christmas. It’s really put me in the holiday spirit, but I wouldn’t complain if it would warm up just a bit!

Kacey had her first behind-the-wheel driving lesson right in the midst of the storm. Lucky for her, she’s had her driver’s permit for over a year now. She’s not been in a hurry to get her license, and that’s just fine with me. But she decided it might be time to start getting serious, so she scheduled her first lesson a few weeks ago. Wouldn’t you know, it fell on the evening of the big storm. It was a great lesson for her to have to venture out in the snow and learn how to handle a car in this kind of weather. Word is, she avoided being t-boned by a school bus that was unable to stop at a red light. WHEW! She returned home two hours later, smiling, (a good sign) and holding the instructor’s report. I read through it and it was filled with “excellents.” She was so proud of herself and so was her mom!

I am in the midst of enjoying a four-day weekend. Remember Kendra? My best friend from high school with whom I recently reconnected? (Thank you, Facebook.) She had asked me several weeks ago if I could be free today to meet her for lunch as she had a dentist appointment very near my house this morning. I took the day off and told her I’d love to meet her for lunch. As it turns out, the dentist appointment isn’t until Monday. (So Kendra is enjoying a four-day weekend too!) “Lunch” has turned into “shopping and lunch.” I’m going to meet up with her at the Mall of America and we’re going to make a day of it. I still have a long ways to go in my Christmas shopping, so I’ll get to kill two birds with one stone today.

I’m looking forward to Saturday night as well. That’s the night that I was supposed to get together with my sister and girl cousins to see the boy cousins’ band play. I don’t get to see the cousins nearly as often as I like, so this has been something I’ve been looking forward to with anticipation all week long. The event has now turned into a get together with the girl cousins and some of the boy cousins, as well as the eighty-year-old aunt (!) to see the boy cousins’ band play. (The terms “girl cousins” and “boy cousins” should be taken with a grain of salt as we are all well into our adult years by now.)

What things made your life good this week?

*Photo courtesy of  Alaska-in-Pictures.com