Break, Bend, Accept…kind of

Lord have mercy! More draconian shutdowns just in time for the holiday season. Whilst those governing from their power towers order us to stay home, they are dining out at $750-a-plate dinners or hopping on private jets to vacay in Cabo or some such place. Personally, I absolutely do not begrudge fun times for anyone, the well-heeled included, but imposing what is not okay for me but fine for thee…well, it’s such hypocrisy. Hey, that kinda rhymed!

Still, could 2020 get any worse? Ah yes it can!

I say this as not one but both cars are in the shop today, one needing major repairs.

2020 keeps on giving.

So yes, I’ll admit that these days I’m finding it increasingly difficult to find five degrees of bliss, let alone ten. I know I am not alone in this. All over the world, no one has made it through 2020 unscathed, unless of course they were living in an ice-cave, in say the Antarctic. Many folks have experienced profound loss in one form or another this year. One friend, for example, will spend her first holiday without her husband by her side. Another friend of some thirty five years is undergoing, literally as I write, an extremely complicated thirteen-hour surgery (yes, mind-boggling, you read that correctly) for a rare form of cancer.

I am waiting to exhale on good news.

Yes, I should feel a bit peppier, after all, as I have said a hundred times, I’ve a nice roof over my head and plenty of food in the pantry. But, I am—as I have also said a hundred times—only human. I acknowledge it’s all through a lens of perspective (others have suffered, sadly, far more than I) but while I am trying not to view 2020 as the worst year ever, it certainly has been the most challenging in a while. The past eight or so months have been, and continue to be, a roller-coaster ride and not the thrilling kind. From shingles to an unplanned dental implant to the stress of not being able to visit a loved one languishing in a memory care facility. Add to that a multitude of unplanned expenses that certainly didn’t produce one iota of bliss as well as an angry flare-up in both knees.

Ah yes…I’m back to scouring the internet for total knee replacement details (as if I didn’t know enough already) in the form of blogs and YouTube videos, which only (shockingly) serves to depress me further. I had managed to sail through spring, all of summer and even some of autumn with barely a twinge in these deteriorating joints. In fact, a bicycle vacation was on the books for early autumn though of course we know COVID squashed that. Fortunately, walking outdoors in the fresh air everyday between five and seven miles through these COVID months has been my salvation from all the madness going on in the world, and at home. Rain or shine, I’ve so enjoyed time on the trails with my “old man” Poodle-love (who turned twelve last month) and then, once leading him back to the comforts of his bed, continuing on, back down into the woods around the lake or around other trails that wind through peaceful, lovely neighborhoods.

Since we were in an election year I made use of time spent walking trying to make sense of political events and the insanity going on in various parts of the country, though I’m not certain I’m any smarter–or healthier–for it! Nearly every day I took to listening to various political podcasts, eschewing main stream media (I’m sure I need not explain). I venture to say this constant streaming of politics and attempting to digest alternative facts and viewpoints–sifting fact from fiction– daily for months on end hasn’t been altogether healthy for my headspace, nor has the stress of an ongoing family crisis–our 2020 life-quake– (which I acerbically refer to as our 2020 shit-storm). And, the plot just thickened with potential life changes in the year ahead. Holy-Molly! Suffice it to say, I’m been mighty upside-down these past few months.

Fear not. In time, I’ll bounce back…to a new normal. We all will…right? Tree decorating helps…along with wine, chocolate and Hallmark Christmas movies. Just saying.

I think of a passage I read recently from The Book of Awakening by Mark Nepo:

We are all made delicate. The hard things break. The soft things bend. The stubborn ones batter themselves against all that is immovable. The flexible adapt to what is before them. Of course, we are all hard and soft, stubborn and flexible…and so we all break until we learn to bend and are battered until we accept what is before us.

Mark Nepo

So, I am back to listening to music now and thankfully lots of Christmas tunes are keeping my spirit light and hopeful. I danced jigs around the Christmas tree while decorating, managing to send The Poodle nearly running in the opposite direction. I still muster up enough energy to sit on my meditation pillow for about fifteen minutes a day although it must not be nearly enough as I can turn into a head-exploding purple minion on a dime when trying to get my adult son to wake up from his twenty-year stupor and face the music. And trust me kind readers…I’m pleading inside, like you must be too, for a far better year ahead (dare I dream, a mask-less and COVID-free one) and I’m praying for the peace, happiness and health of friends and loved ones, near and far.

God does not give us more than we can handle….so the saying goes. Break, bend, accept what is before us… (to which I add kind-of because I’m stubborn that way.)

It is my hope that my own spirits continue to lift despite our continuing life-quake and even as I believe our country is headed in the wrong direction. The fact that some 75 million folks feel somewhat like-minded is oddly reassuring, although frankly, I’m not sure there is much bliss in all of that either. But more than anything, it is my sincere hope that spirits lift for all who are experiencing a certain bending and breaking; may we all make it through to the other–brighter–side of things with grace, humility and hearts full of kindness, love and hope.

And yes, Virginia… there is heart-warming bliss in those bear hugs I still receive from my nephew (even though he’s shy of being a teenager), in the pretty pink poinsettias adorning my hearth, in the warmth of rocket-man’s embrace, from my poodle-love curled up by my side, and yes… in the glow of tree lights on a cold December evening.

Kissing Christmas 2019 Goodbye

Kissing Christmas Goodbye: “At least we’re together in the box.”

Kind reader, I feel compelled to correct a sentiment from my previous post. There, if memory serves, I lamented about how it took hours to put up Christmas decorations on, for example, the foyer staircase but only two minutes (if) to take it all down.  I was dragging my feet, if you recall over even getting started on packing away Christmas for another eleven months.  My family will attest that I usually have everything down and put away with lightning speed on January 1st!  But this time around was different.  Chalk it up to this whole aging thing I suppose.  I simply was not ready to stop my nightly ritual over the past month of sitting in the near darkness of my living room to admire the lights and decorations on the Christmas tree and fireplace mantle.  I wanted to keep all the Christmas memories alive from years past, swirling in my head and heart..yes, even the not so good memories.    I did not want to forget the stories of some of my most treasured tree ornaments: The ornament from our week in Hawaii or our long weekend in Alaska… or the two that represent baby’s first Christmas, nor the ornament purchased years ago in a German Christmas market on a frigidly cold day in December….

…so many ornaments (simple and inexpensive, I might add) and with each, a recollection dear.

So, when I took the tree down on January 6th, I managed to spend as much time (if not more!) with its “undressing” as I did in its adornment.  I didn’t plan it that way but after five minutes into the process, it evolved quite naturally and I think it may become my new post holiday ritual.  It came, however not without caloric implications.  Sigh. 

Indeed, I do believe I actually gained a pound in my effort to slow the process of putting away Christmas (which is not quite how I wanted to start my New Year’s fitness resolution).    How did I accomplish such a feat you may wonder?  My strategy was genius–so it seemed at the time–and took the better part of the day.  So, if slowing things down is on your list of things to try, say for next holiday season, here is what you must do:

  1. Take one or two (max) ornaments down from the tree and take special care to wrap them just so and place them thoughtfully, mindfully, in the appropriate storage container…
  2. Then take a break.  This step is paramount.  Step one was, after all, emotionally taxing…
  3. Fix yourself a cup of coffee and grab a holiday cookie.  In my case, I had a large holiday cookie tin filled with homemade Pizzelles.
  4. Sit down and savor the cookie whilst admiring the tree. Then, of course, you’ll need to spend time cleaning up the powdered sugar that has fallen everywhere.
  5. Return to step one to begin the process again.
Until next Christmas Mr. Nutcracker

So, I have packed it all away, save for the outdoor lights which is not in my job description (hint, hint Rocket-man!) and am officially kissing Christmas 2019 goodbye. Now begins, in earnest a scaling back on all things coated with powdered sugar and the like.

I’m okay with that. Christmas 2020 is 351 days away. Besides, patience is a virtue, right?

There is bliss in that.

It’s a wrap…well, without the bows.

‘Tis The Season…Once Again

‘Tis the season.

Yes. It’s that time of year….the season meant to be about peace, love, joy, and good tidings, among other things.

It’s starting earlier than ever, or so it seems. Before we know it, it’ll start before Labor Day….which, as we all know, happens to be in September people I’ve got a boatload of catalogs beginning to pile up in the recycling bin. Everyday for weeks now the mailbox is crammed full of catalogs. Catalogs from companies I have never ordered from…and from companies I have never even heard of. Annoying too is the fact that it’s often difficult to throw away catalogs without succumbing to a quick peek through them.  If said catalogs could express themselves I’m sure they’d register delight as in “made you look.” Though I am getting better at financial restraint as we approach our golden years, self-control often gets difficult when I open the pages of, say Sundance, a catalog that I’ve loved for years.  img_0555

Anyhow, I was delighted to be able to have sis and company visit for a few days last week. For me, our precious family time means more wine than usual, wonderful food, nephew snuggles, and the opportunity to shop with someone other than myself. To that end on this visit sis and I leave the boys watching football and we head out for shopping and some serious sis-bonding time.

We head to Bridge Street, an outdoor mall. It’s the first place my husband took me during our first trip to Huntsville, when he was considering a job offer over four years ago. From the airport straight to the mall. Pretty sneaky. I can’t complain. After all, I brought The Poodle into our lives with sly tactics of my own.

“See, Huntsville has some of the shops you like to frequent,” hubby had said as we strolled hand-in-hand, window-shopping, on that hot and impossibly humid May evening.

True. I was hopeful about the whole move to middle-earth thing…. until the next morning under the light of day. As we drove around town my heart sank to my toes.  Rocket-man has taken me to the middle of the earth.  How can I possibly live here?

But I digress….back to the present.

We’ve arrived at the mall and Sis and I have just stepped out of the car. As we turn the corner to head to our first shop we practically run into a ginormous white Christmas deer decoration that is already planted in place…its large red bow fixed about the neck dances softly in the afternoon breeze. Wreaths with red bows and shiny ornaments adorn every light post and Christmas music streams through outdoor speakers. It doesn’t help that at 88 degrees its uncharacteristically hot on this late October day.

I must be getting old I think to myself.  Really, I am not trying to be all Bah Humbug….but for goodness sake…. It isn’t even Halloween yet and everything is decked out for Christmas!  Sis voices the same sentiment before I am on to the next thought.

“I know,” I said. “It seems to happen earlier every year. I get it; businesses have to stay competitive and all but its ridiculous that the commercialization of Christmas has gotten so out of hand that they start pushing it on us well before Halloween. In effect, Christmas is three months long!

“I shouldn’t be surprised really, I continued.  “My neighbors had their Halloween decorations up in their yards in early September!”

“Well, if Christmas advertising and all starts in early October, I suppose I can see why people are adjusting their seasonal decorating,” replies sis.

No wonder people get crazy and often mean-spirited well before December 25th.  By the time Christmas day actually rolls around we are thoroughly sick of the season.

I catch a hold of my growing negativity and a light bulb goes off.  You know what?  Let’s nip this in the bud, like now. I vow to not let Bah Humbug happen to me this year.  Last year, our holiday season was a complete wash.  A nightmare, if you will, filled with tears, months of unrelenting stress, hospital runs and emotions run amok as we handled our mother’s decline.

Let the Christmas cheer begin!

Let the Christmas cheer begin!

So I say:  Bring on binge-watching Elf, White Christmas and every other holiday movie…now!  Bring on Grandma Got Run Over by a Reindeer a hundred times!  Bring on Christmas lights and Santa, eggnog and peppermint bark (OK…well, not the eggnog…yuck!  I’ll happily leave that for Rocket-man).

So, I’ve got my credit card at the ready to place my order of Panettone from my Olio Carli catalog.

‘Tis the season! Let the Christmas cheer begin…..  Yippee! is my joyful shout.

But ask me again in another week.