Daily Affirmation

The best things in life are free.
The second best are very expensive.
- Coco Chanel

Tuesday, December 31, 2013

New Year's Wish

New Year's Eve, 2013.  L and I have already been out and had a little dinner at our favorite pizza place.  If you couldn't guess, we're not much for parties and revelry.  I didn't put a stitch of makeup on all day, and I went to dinner barefaced.  And of course I ran into an old friend... Oh well - I think I'm progressing, as I wasn't even properly mortified.  Only just a little.  We had antipasto salads and a medium pizza with "the works."  Exactly what I wanted tonight after all of the rich and fancy foods over the holidays.  I guess it still wasn't exactly lo-cal, but it was true comfort food as one year makes it's exit, making way for the new.

I'm not one to make resolutions.  I have an idea of what I'd like to accomplish, or at least work on, in 2014.  It's a list that wouldn't be an interesting read for most anyone else.  It's a list that will, hopefully, strengthen shortcomings I see in myself, or help me resolve confidence issues.  Help me become more well rounded.  More thoughtful.  More intuitive.  Help me anticipate what steps to take next.

1. Patience.  Need more of it.  Patience with myself.  Patience with family.  There are those family members who are, shall we say, prickly at times to deal with.  I've been known to get extremely frustrated to the point of anger.  I need to stop that, and accept what is.  I need to stop treating the issue like a battle of wills, and just love them.  No matter what.  Because what they don't need is a lecture from me.  A lecture will not stop the behavior, and (although I may be disappointed because something isn't going according to plan) I need to learn how to roll with it and not sweat the little stuff.

2. Spirituality.  Need more of it.  I need to stop putting unrealistic expectations on myself, and realize I just may need a little help here.  Or a lot of it.  Do everything within my power, and then, when there is no more to do (or I'm at the end of my rope), learn to rely on my faith to help me through.  It's never failed me yet, but I am so reluctant to give up my control - the control I never had in the first place.  You see the problem here.  More prayer, more time on my knees, more careful listening for answers.  Not less stress - just the ability to handle it better, accept what is, and try to see the lesson or the plan.  Something.

3. Go the extra mile with confidence.  No thinking that a phone call might not be welcome, or that I might be intruding.  Write more notes, give more compliments, because really - who doesn't like them?  Smile at people I don't know.  Be the first to extend a hand, instead of waiting for an invitation.  And for heaven's sake, don't hide behind a snarky mask when I'm feeling vulnerable.  That's been my favorite go-to when I'm feeling insecure, and it doesn't really show me in my most attractive light.  Not at all.  And call those little ones I love so much, send them cards, and be a happy face in their little lives as much as possible.  Keep up with their fund raisers, their activities, their books read.  That will make us all happy.

So that's it.  The Big Three.  Of course there are other goals - get back on the diet train and lose that last 15 pounds.  Get back in touch with my talents and activities I love.  I used to play piano until (with the last move about 20 years ago) about 14 strings broke.  Make this the year we finally get that baby grand repaired and back in working order.  Get back to playing music and filling our home with it.  I used to paint.  I'm not sure if I love it like I used to, but I'd like to explore it a bit, maybe find a project that interests me.  I've become far too one-sided with work, work, and more work.  Time to clear the table and get out the paints and brushes.  Teach myself some new tricks with my camera.  It takes practice (and patience: see #1 above)  Be better about writing and blogging.  I love to write. 
Sometimes it's hard to sit down and begin, but once I do, the words seem to pour out.  My life is far from extraordinary, but I notice that my favorite writers do tend to write about the ordinary things surrounding them.  It's comforting to realize we all have similar trials, triumphs, and take joy in the same simple things.

We're all just humans trying to get along in this world as best we can.  Some of us pull ahead at times, seeming to have an edge, and sometimes we get knocked flat.  What matters is that we get up and try again.  We take inspiration from each other, we learn to be courageous from watching others struggle valiantly.  We learn compassion from having a hand extended to us when we're in need, so we can, in turn, extend ours to the next one in need.  We behave badly, and we learn better ways to cope with problems.  Always the upward climb in learning and personal growth.  I find that having spiritual beliefs helps.  Makes me feel less alone.  Less helpless.  There is always Someone I can pour my heart out to, who loves me unconditionally, and who knows the real me with all of my complicated issues.  It's comforting and empowering all at the same time.

So Happy New Year - 2014.  It's always interesting to ponder what the year will bring.  2013 brought our family two sweet baby boys.  It brought me reunions with the best sort of friends.  It brought it's share of trials, too.  There are always those, but I choose not to dwell on them too much.  There is only so much I can do about most of them, and so that is where the prayer and faith come in.  Prayer for the wisdom to know when/where/how I CAN make a difference, and faith that we are loved and watched over, and that I can let go of that control I don't have in the first place.  And so as we stand on the edge dividing old and new, I have that excitement that comes with anticipating the unknown.  Knowing there will be hard times and disappointments, and hoping I will handle them with grace.  But also knowing there will be many good times and hidden joys that will be completely unexpected.  Hopefully more of those, as they're much more fun, don't you think?  But having said that, I wish you all the very best for 2014.  Joy, love, happiness, good health - all of it.  The whole banana.  And when the bad days come - as they surely will - I wish you grace under pressure, many helping hands, and the knowledge that you are loved.  Armed with that knowledge, you are ready for anything.  Anything.

Happy New Year.

Thursday, December 19, 2013

No Gifts...And Then There Were

It hasn't been quite the Christmas I imagined.  The first couple of weeks in December were a manic frenzy of online shopping and shipping.  Laying awake nights trying to imagine just the right gift for each special person on my list.  I love to give gifts, but sometimes it makes me neurotic.  I put way too much angst into it, and let myself get way too disappointed when it doesn't go over perfectly, or what I am envisioning is unavailable. 

Just as quickly as the shopping had begun, it was over.  All packages shipped - either from the supplier, or wrapped and shipped by me.  I had at least 3 trips to the post office.  Our house is decorated from top to bottom.  Lights hung on the outside, and I even bought 10 white Poinsettias to mass together on the front porch.  It all looks really pretty.  And then I took a look at the tree.  The tree with no gifts underneath it, other than one for my mother, and one for my aunt.  And I realized that what was missing was my family - all the little ones, as well as the big ones - MY little ones.  Now, they're scattered here and there, all over the country.  None are within easy driving distance, and holiday airfare is prohibitive for families even if schedules permitted.  I have to confess I've been feeling a little bit down.  I really do miss them, and doubly so during the holidays.

I mentioned the giftless tree to L, thinking he would understand.  And he does to a point.  But he's not a mother, and his solution was to wrap about a million gifts for me and put them all under the tree so it wouldn't look so lonely.  It both helped and didn't help.  It doesn't look as lonely now for sure.  It actually looks exciting.  (I do love that boy...) But it still didn't help me from feeling very disconnected from the ones I love so much.  A gift from my daughter arrived.  Excitement elevated.  Today another arrived from Tim and Autumn in New York.  More anticipation.  (Did I mention that I'm still a kid at heart?  I still get excited...)  I confess that I love receiving gifts almost as much as I love giving them.  Almost.  I was ashamed to realize that - it doesn't portray the spirit of Christmas very well, and it made me feel selfish to admit that fact.  But then I began to understand that it's what helps me to feel connected to family, to have that validation that I'm still important in their lives.  Childish?  Definitely.  But I am letting you have a peek into the imperfect person that is me, with all of my insecurities.  I put so much into choosing just the right gift for each of them, and it makes me feel loved when they do the same for me - especially when they're so far away, and I don't get to be there to physically celebrate Christmas with them.  I would give anything to bake cookies with the little girls (and boys!), sing Christmas carols, or experience special traditions with them.  I can see that 2014 should be about bolstering my self esteem as a mother.  (It will take all year...)

Anyway, once I realized the root of my depression, it kind of snapped me out of it.  I decided to see what I could do for those who ARE here, rather than pining away for those who are not.  Last night we took my aunt to see the most amazing display of Christmas lights in our area.  They are all synchronized to Christmas music on a radio station and there isn't one inch of the house that wasn't covered with lights.  She'd never seen anything like it.
L and I are hosting Christmas Eve for my parents and siblings.  I want it to be a good night for everyone.  I felt myself getting sucked into the details and spinning out of control, and that is definitely NOT what Christmas Eve should be about.  So I simplified.  I delegated.  And suddenly its manageable.  And still nice.  And the house is still pretty with lights and glitter and candles.

One sad thing: this was the year I had to finally give up the Naughty Naked Angel.  What is that?  It's a little ornament that has always been Scott's.  It always reminded me of him when he was small.  Naughty.  And many times naked.  Anyway, this is the year he wanted his ornaments sent to him to help fill his and Ashley's tree.  Fair enough.  But it was like parting with a piece of my soul.  Into the box it went, *SIGH* and Naughty Naked is now gracing their tree.  As he should be.  I'll get over it.

Katie has long since claimed her childhood ornaments.  I missed them at first too, but they have found a good home on her tree each year.  I still have many of Rex's - he's never asked for them, and so I hang onto them, letting them transport me back to when he was a towheaded little boy who could hum Silent Night perfectly on pitch before he could even talk. 

So for all of you who have family  in faraway corners, you are not alone.  Sometimes we just have to make do, don't we?  Maybe one year we will travel and be with this one or that one, taking turns.  But for now it seems right to be here spending time with my brothers and my parents, and making good use of the time we have together.  One of the gifts I'm most excited about is my dad's.  I got him a blueberry bush.  I had to search high and low for one that wasn't all wintered out with brown and withered leaves.  But I finally found one, and it's a beauty.  He's always taken pride in his little garden.  He has lemon trees and another kind of berry bush.  He's had kumquats in a past house, but no one ever wanted to eat them.  He's not a man with a lot of hobbies.  Translation: NO hobbies.  But he needs something, so I thought he might have fun nurturing this little bush.  I was told it would have lots of berries in the summer, and blueberries are stuffed with antioxidants which are good for keeping cancer at bay.  It's kind of a random gift, but it's one of my favorites.  And he's quirky enough to love it. 

So while it hasn't been a traditional Christmas for us, it will turn out just fine.  I think I've found new ways to make it special, and have figured out a few things out about myself.  Self reflection isn't always pretty, but it can be valuable.  And there's always Face Time on Christmas morning.  Technology is a wonderful thing - we can almost be there, even when we're 3000 miles away.  How lucky we are to live in these times!  This weekend will be a huge cloud of flour and sugar, as I make and bake all sorts of sweets for our own Christmas Eve and Christmas Day, and also have enough to share with friends.  Because I love to give gifts.  That seems to be the theme this year.  Give, give, and give again.  Because our Savior was born, and taught us all about unconditional love and never ending charity.  Sometimes the message gets muddled in all the commercial noise and manic confusion, but if we sit quietly in the glow of the tree lights, or gaze up into the heavens on a clear cold night, we can still hear the angels sing, if only in our hearts.

Merry Christmas to one and all!

Friday, December 6, 2013

Did Ya Miss Me?

It seems I came back from Massachusetts and fell off the face of the earth.  I don't know quite what happened, other than life grabbed the reins of my carefully controlled existence, and has been running out of control for a month.  I got back from Massachusetts, and then what happened...?  Oh yeah - a week later I was in Minnesota freezing my tush off.  It was a good meeting, but like all things work related, it was not without stress and feeling like I had to be "on"  - even at dinner.  I longed to just eat dinner in the solitude of my room, but it was not to be.  Three long days later I was finally on my way home, exhausted.  One thing we did that I really liked, and it surprised me that I liked it so much, was when we had a "team-building activity."  Now usually those are just horrible, but I have a really good boss who tries to do meaningful things, and she signed us all up to go pack food at Feed My Starving Children - a charity that supplies meals all over the world to children who may only get that one meal a day.  On the particular day and shift we attended, we were packing food for the people who survived the disaster in the Phillipines.  (Does Philipines have 1 "l" or 2?  It looks odd either way and spellcheck isn't helping me...)  Anyway, that's what we did for 2 hours, and at the end of our shift we had packed enough food to feed 76 children for a year.  So awesome.  It was a good feeling to accomplish something that would be meaningful to people who are in such need, so it was a good day.  Plus it was fun to relate to coworkers in a different light.
But it was SO COLD there for a California girl.  The wind was blowing from Canada, and it went right through whatever wimpy coat I'd brought.  Again, I was very happy to board that southwest-bound plane on Wednesday evening.  Especially when I learned they were getting a lot of snow the day after I left.  I was just giddy to be leaving.
One of the things that happened during our meeting was that I was given a lot more responsibility than before.  I guess after two years those crazy Minnesotans finally decided they could trust me after all.  Maybe it was the new short hair - they all loved that, too.  It was like I could do no wrong... It's been a while in coming, but I actually felt like one of the team for the first time.  It's hard to make friends long distance, but I think we've finally done it.
So back home, and the work is really ramped up.  I have more than enough hours for the time being, and that's great, since I need to spend a lot of money right now for Christmas.  I barely blinked for Thanksgiving.  I took my aunt shopping for some "special occasion" clothes - something she's never really had.  We found her some black velvet pants, a sparkly top, a black velvet vest, and a nice necklace to pull it all together.  We picked out a red blazer - so smart and cute.  And the piece de resistance: a beautiful tweed coat with metallic thread running through it in shades of grey and lavender.  Rhinestone buttons.  Metallic braid trimming the stand up collar.  She looks amazing in it.  And she wants to return it.  Probably because of the rhinestone buttons, although she says it's because it has no pockets.  *sigh*  Anyway, she looked like a million bucks on Thanksgiving.  We'll have the debate about the tweed coat soon.  I'm hoping to win, but I'm losing my resolve.
Thanksgiving was nice.  We had dinner with my middle brother and his family, my parents, my aunt, and some assorted others at "the club."  Stellar dinner.  Good conversation.  But L and I followed this simple rule:

And now here we are into December.  I've been online shopping like a crazy person - but I'm almost done!  I only have my parents (huge problem with those two - they have everything, and my dad doesn't ever want anything.  Such a buzz kill trying to gift someone who really doesn't want anything...) and son Scott left to buy for.  Oh, and L - but I already know what I'm getting him.  (An iPad mini, but shhhhhh.... don't tell him!)  I've even bought a gift for my granddog, Kingsley.
L and I are hosting Christmas Eve this year for the fam, and I'm trying to decide what to have.  On the one hand, I want easy.  On the other hand, I want it to be nice.  And clearly you can't have paper plates, and nice all in the same evening.  So I'm struggling a bit.  Plus, our house is very small, and I can't accommodate everyone (12-13 people) around the table, or even in the kitchen all at once, so we'll have to eat scattered around.  Which means eating simpler fare.  My mom said I can use her Lenox Christmas china, but... I don't think that goes with 2 different sets of silverware and a mixture of Ikea goblets and amber tumblers.  (Don't want to bring out the good stemware for people who have to set plates in their laps.  I love my family, but accidents happen, and I don't want them happening with my good goblets.)  You see my dilemma.  And it's a dilemma that no one will even care about but me, as long as there's food and plenty of it.  It's never easy being me.  Never ever.

I will try to finish up the shopping this week, and send off that last package.  We won't have anything under the tree - or very little - because everything went out of state to our loved ones scattered all about the country.  It looks a little sad, but it's better to give than to receive, right?  (Yes, I know - it's hard to say that with meaning.  Because a tree with loads of presents under it just looks... EXCITING.)  Once the shopping is done, the baking begins.  The good thing about baking is that when I'm doing all the work, the finished product doesn't even look good to me.  I've smelled sugar all day, and I'm sick of it.  So I kind of like that I can bake and not partake.  The same rule does not apply to See's candy, unfortunately.  And someone always gives you at least one box of See's... (Anyone? Anyone?)
It'll be a fun Christmas season, with a little bit of this
and a little bit of that

But not nearly enough of this

And that's the best part, if you ask me.  It's hard when these little ones keeping changing lightning fast.
In Denver, Travis went from looking like this when I was there

To this

In Massachusetts, I hear that Drezden, aka the "Man Cub" has already rolled over once and has learned to smile.  It's like a dagger through my heart to miss all of this good stuff.  Life has a way of never standing still.
OH - and I forgot to tell you about another exciting thing.  Did you all watch the Sound of Music on TV last night?  Our son Tim's wife, Autumn was in it!  Yes, she was.  She was nun #14.  And she rocked it.  When they all came in for prayers, and there's a line of nuns in the front, with Maria's empty place in the center, Autumn was the nun on the screen's left.  She got to gesture "Where's Maria?" to the next nun over.  It was awesome, and we're so excited for her participation in it.  So if you recorded it, go on and watch it again, and be amazed at her talent.  A star is born.

So I've caught you all up on what's up with me.  And as you can see, I'm still just unorganized matter, for the most part.  Christmas will come and go, we'll talk to the little ones and the big ones, maybe see a few movies (go see The Book Thief!) and we'll eat some good food.  And then it will be New Year's Eve and we'll start all over again.  I have a business trip for 5 days to San Francisco in January.  L is going with me, as it will be during our 14th anniversary, most of the evenings will be free, and we're staying at an awesome place - the Palace Hotel.  Maybe we'll be able to spend some time with friends if they're willing to come into the city (Sue and Dave, I'm looking at you!)  I think I did really well this past year keeping up with friends and family, but I always want more.  I'm hoping for more next year.  There's a lot to look forward to, and big events to attend.  I'd better eat my Wheaties.

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