Archives for December 2013

Saying Goodbye to 2013

Eye will be happy to see this year go

This year kicked my ass.

I knew at the start of the year that it wouldn’t be easy – I knew that my grandpa was struggling following his stroke in November 2012. I was waiting for my divorce to be finalized and getting the hang of the whole single parent thang (and single paycheck thing). And of course, the new year starts in the midst of my least favorite season, so I was slogging through winter blahs anyway.

I didn’t anticipate my job getting cut to part time.

Getting by on half a paycheck.

My grandfather dying.

The struggles related to trying to find full time work.

My basement flooding.

Hundreds of dollars of furnace repair.

My stepfather’s valve replacement surgery.

My brother’s two broken legs.

It seems like every time I turned around, it was something else.

It seemed like despite the fact that there was still good in 2013, it was clouded over by the things that weighed me down.

I am no stranger to struggle but this year? I felt so tested by this year.

And even today as I sat on my couch crying about something, I felt like it was 2013 trying to get one final dig in.

And that’s just ridiculous.

In my heart of heart I know that it’s not the year’s fault. Bad things happen sometime. We lose people we love. We are forced to find our strength when times get tough. That all of this happened in the span of 365 days is probably all just a fluke.

Doesn’t make me hate the year any less, though.

But feeling that way about it, well, it makes me sad. Because a lot was right in 2013: my kids, Chris, my sister’s surprise pregnancy (when she was told she’d NEVER be able to conceive naturally – SURPRISE! My nephew is due any minute!), amazing friends and friendships, a lot of good times, and a lot of joy.

I don’t know what’s ahead in 2014, only that I hope that the year is kinder to me and the people I love. I know that struggle presents us with opportunity for growth – but, you know, I don’t want to grow right now. I’m okay where I am. No growing necessary. Not for now. None for me, thanks.

There’s no guarantee that 2014 will be any better. The clock could strike midnight and the coming year could bring more of the same. Who knows.

But I always view a near year as a new start and so with my new start, I’ll pick myself up, brush myself off, and keep on putting one foot in front of the other. It’s all any of us can do, anyway.

Happy new year, y’all. Love and be loved,


A Grownup’s Letter to Santa

Dear Santa,

I know this letter is late but I figured that perhaps you or your elves might still be checking Google Alerts for your name and so I’m hoping that you might see this in time for Christmas.

I’m writing to you because it beats mumbling under my breath to the universe, it beats slamming doors, and since I’m already frustrated, I figured that you can be my last resort — who knows, maybe all these years of staying off the Naughty List will finally do me some good.

This has been one of the hardest years of my life, Santa, and I’ve been hanging in there pretty well. I’ve managed to do all of the things I’m supposed to be doing, despite a ton of obstacles being thrown at me. I guess the first thing I’m asking for, O Bearded One, is for less obstacles. I know, I know, that which doesn’t kill me makes me stronger, but I also know that I’m getting a little old to care so much about being strong. I want not strength, these days, but endurance so that I can keep moving forward long after I would rather be resting.

I want patience – because the things I’m working for won’t always come easy.

I want persistence so I can pick myself up when I’ve been knocked down. As many times as it takes.

I want the insight and analytical mind required to figure out why things happen as they do and to learn from them.

Sometimes I find myself so frustrated when it seems things come easily for someone else or that they’re not running into the same challenges. I want the heart and the grace so that I can find joy for their joy, so that I don’t begrudge their happiness, and that I remember that I only know just a fraction of their story, just as they only know a piece of mine.

I’m tired of worry and I’m tired of fear and I would love to be a step closer to certainty.

I lost one of the most special people in the world when my grandpa died this year.

I have also been blessed to find love.

I want to be able to counter life’s hurts with life’s joys with an open heart that remembers that both the happiness and the sorrows come from loving without reserve and I want to keep being that person who treasures the love of those special people in my life.

I can’t imagine your elves are going to have an easy time making these things that I want, that I need. I’m not sure there’s a store in the world where these things could be purchased, Santa. I realize I’d have a greater likelihood of getting what I’ve asked for if I told you I needed a new hoodie or a travel coffee mug.

But I don’t need things.

I probably am supposed to be able to do all of these things on my own, Belly Full O’ Jelly, but I’ve struggled this year, so I’m asking you to maybe leave some magic under my tree.

I’d hate to think I’ve been so good for all these years for nothin’. And besides, you know I leave you the best cookies.


Member of the Nice List since 1976

Thursday Ten: Busy Busy Busy Edition

1. The closer we get to Christmas, the more chaotic life gets. It’s always something, isn’t it? Holiday shopping for family and friends, then back at it to shop for class gifts and gymnastics party gifts, holiday concerts, baking cookies, work parties, fa la la la la la la la la. I’m tired. I’m grateful to have NOTHING going on tonight. “You shouldn’t have said that,” my mom told me yesterday, “because now something will come up.” If it does, I’m going to say NO. I’m not leaving my house unless I have to.

2. Seems silly, though, waiting until less than a week before Christmas to realize that something’s gotta give but… SOMETHING’S GOTTA GIVE. There are some things I will happily do, and not at all feel crunched or stressed or bothered… But more and more there are things that are feeling like “have to do’s” instead of feeling joyous, and… I don’t like that. A lot of people are far better than I am about setting boundaries for themselves and their families when it comes to the holidays — but… I’ll get there. Because UGH.

3. One of my favorite things I’ve done so far this holiday season is to go with the girls to see “Frozen.” Delightful little movie. Just love it. We’ve been singing the songs for weeks now.

4. I also have decided – the week before Christmas, natch – to maybe stop eating every bit of junk food that crosses my path. Ha ha ha ha *sob.* Funny how you make those proclamations: “I’m going to eat mindfully!” and then someone hands you a dessert plate with the most beautiful tiramisu you’ve ever seen (and you don’t even like tiramisu!) and suddenly you’ve undone three days of eating boring food. Sigh. Today, I start over. Again. This time.

5. Winter hasn’t even officially started and so far the weather has been BRUTAL.Cold temps lots of snow and icy commutes. And ALL the shoveling! My shoulders from this shoveling. I’m going to have amazing shoulders by spring. And cramped hands from the white knuckle driving.

6. Yep. Still hooked on Netflix marathons of Parenthood.

7. Every year there’s always a present that I’m super excited to give – one more than any other that I think the recipient will be happy and surprised and just over-the-moon about. This year… I don’t have that thing. And it’s a bummer. Next year, I hope to be back to spectacular gift giving.

8. I have a full to-do list for the weekend. I think I can get away with barely leaving the house but that’s really only because there’s so much laundry to do that there’s nothing clean to wear outside the house, anyway.

9. If someone could deliver a greasy diner breakfast-y meal right now, that’d be awesome. Waffles sprinkled with powdered sugar and served with sausage. THIS is what happens when I decide to not eat all the junk food. I crave all the junk food.

10.Last weekend I had the opportunity to do the headshots for a local caterer – what fun, shooting in a kitchen. A totally different vibe and feel than photographing families. It was great work and I’m so pleased with the results. I love having opportunities like that, especially these days.


Thursday Ten: This is my wintersong to you edition

1. I first heard “Wintersong,” a song featuring Ingrid Michaelson and Sara Bareilles a few years ago right around this time. The first day I heard it, I played it over and over and over and over – its simplicity made my heart feel peace and even though it’s been a few years, I still love this song.

2. I cannot believe that there are just over two weeks left of 2013. It has been a year and I am keeping my eyes open for what the future brings. I don’t know that I’ve ever had a more difficult year in my life – but I’m reasonably sure I say something like that every year. Next year, I hope that I am marveling at year end at how good 2014 was to me.

3. Every year, I compile a list of the songs that defined the year to me. Sometimes they are songs that dominated the airwaves and sometimes they are older songs that just caught me and held on and I couldn’t shake them loose. I haven’t actually put pen to paper to officially make my list – but soon! What songs define 2013 for YOU?

4. Every day this week, I have come home from work to shovel my driveway. Three days now. I…actually really like shoveling. And I’m getting so GOOD at it. Who needs a job! I’ll just go shovel! (Kidding. By the time I’m done with my driveway, I’m done. Also, usually I’m popsicle-ish.) It’s a great workout and I’m hoping to have amazingly toned arms and back by the time spring thaws everything.
102 | 365

5. We hosted our annual cookie party this past weekend and a child arrived without having RSVP’d and without the mother having discussed her daughter’s nut allergy with me. Kind of freaked out when I realized she’d eaten cookies with almond icing. Gah. I rushed her home and she was fine – but I was very nervous. I have never known a parent of a child with a nut allergy to be anything but proactive and cautious. This really surprised (and SCARED!) me.

6. I’m already tired of being cold.

7. It’s amazing that they made such a fantastic television show out of the “Orange is the New Black” memoir because the book was a snoozefest. Took me over a week and a half to read and I’m grateful that they took a lot of liberties in the creation of the show.

8. Sometimes I want to buy pretty dresses and fancy shoes and get all gussied up and then I remember I have no money, no place to go and it’s too cold for dresses anyway.

9. Another year of not sending out holiday cards and every year I get fewer and fewer cards. Either we’re all not sending them or I have gotten bumped off the list because I don’t send them. It’s too bad, though, because I like getting them! I just haven’t been up to the whole process of sending them.

10. Introduced my daughter to the idea of a fluffernutter sandwich last week. Blew her mind. Where’s my mother of the year trophy?

Thursday Ten: My Head Hurts edition

1. No, not just a figure of speech. I have been battling it out with migraines this past week. Three days of the past five, I have had a migraine. One excruciating day, two sort of awful days. The dead give away for me with migraines is that I become increasingly sensitive to the way things smell. Last night, I walked into my bathroom and I could smell The Princess’s shampoo from her shower an hour before. *gag* It’s usually very pleasant smelling shampoo. Unless I have a headache.

2. Not only am I hooked (several years late) on Parenthood, I’m kind of hooked on the music they choose for it. A lot of great discoveries have come from my Netflix Parenthood marathons.

3. Our annual holiday cookie decorating party is this weekend. I’m looking forward to the fun, not looking forward to the mess. But the kids love it and frankly, so do I.

4. My efforts to eat healthier would be more successful if it weren’t for cookie parties and migraine-inspired saltine cracker binges. Sigh. May be time to start using the LoseIt app again.

5. I hate when my days are too busy to come up with real photos and it’s just OH HELLO IT’S JUST ME TAKING PICTURES IN MY BATHROOM MIRROR AGAIN.
stop or i'll shoot

6. My life is kind of revolving around taxiing children and getting them where they need to go these days. It happens and it’s part of the way things go but I feel like I haven’t made a real meal in ages and that I spend a lot of time planning the logistics of getting everyone where they need to be. Yesterday, I was go-go-go all day until I finally got to settle in after 8 p.m. I didn’t even work out. And then I binged on saltine crackers. Sigh.

7. I made it through the month of November and the daily writing but i am SO RELIVED that the obligation to write daily is done. I needed a break from having anything to say. Especially since I’m all full of feelings and stuff lately.

8. Gymnastics season rolls on this weekend. Here’s hoping that The Princess’s vault is better this week than at her last meet. She’s been working on it, and knows there’s room for improvement, so I guess we’ll see.

9. My favorite part of winter is my dry hands. No wait. My chapped lips. No wait. The fact that everyone drives like their feet are glued to the brake pedal.

10. Chris has promised me that when my job thing settles, he’ll make me his famous pasta dish. I can’t decide what I want more – this amazing pasta or a steady income. It’s a toss up.


Give Forward on #GivingTuesday

I have been trying to force myself into the holiday spirit this year. Admittedly, I usually kick off the season with some Black Friday shopping – not because I want to knock over unsuspecting shoppers as I attempt to get some deal on a big screen TV, but because I just kind of like being out early on that Friday morning, surrounded by people. This year, Black Friday shopping involved taking the two girls and then it ended up being a little less fun and a little more of a reminder of how focused we all can get on THINGS rather than people.

It’s been one of those years, a year where I have to dial back some of the holiday giving – not because I want to, but because I have to – and so because of that the allure of Black Friday and Cyber Monday — while I’m all about getting deals — has been lost on me. I don’t want to spend money to feel good. Spending money on things isn’t feeling so great right now.

A week or so ago, my friend Nate contacted me about GivingTuesday. Nate is one of my favorite people and one of the big hearts behind LoveDrop. He’s now the Director of Communications for GiveForward. GiveForward is an online fundraising organization for people to help a loved one in need, and they are one of the many organizations participating today in #GivingTuesday.

What’s #GivingTUesday? #GivingTuesday™ is a campaign to create a national day of giving at the start of the annual holiday season. It celebrates and encourages charitable activities that support non-profit organizations.

I remember back when I first took part in LoveDrop in Dallas, Texas a few years ago. Though I had known Nate via Twitter for years before that, it was amazing to see first hand this thing that he and J Money had created. This mission of theirs is what I refer to as “heart work” – work that left me feeling good. At the time, my youngest had been in kindergarten? First grade? And she’d been learning in schoolabout “drops in the bucket” — you’re either putting drops into people’s buckets by doing things that make them feel good, making them happy… or you’re taking drops away by being unkind or otherwise inflicting negative energy on people.

It was in Dallas that weekend that I fell in love with the idea of LoveDrop and the way it made me feel, and how by doing for OTHERS, I was adding drops to my own bucket as well.

Which is why I’m writing to you about #GivingTuesday.

There are a lot of people out there with buckets that need drops.

Families like that of Christian Hannah, a 14 year old born with cerebral palsy. The Hannah’s family and friends are raising money to buy a rear entry wheelchair accessible van. Christian’s mom, Janet, has been lifting him out of his wheelchair and securing him into his car seat – but he’s now about 5′ tall and weighs about 65 pounds. He’s taller than his mom! Between school, doctor’s appointments and day-to-day life, she’s lifting her son into and out of the car several times a day. A wheelchair accessible van would simplify that part of life for their family.

Janet’s a single mom – and admittedly, this is part of the reason the story of the Hannah family tugged at my heart so much. Because good gracious, it’s hard enough to handle the regular day-to-day challenges of parenting on your own, but this woman is doing so much and I love that GiveForward and her family and friends are working to find ways to help her and her children improve their daily lives.

As I’m truly discovering, it does kind of take a village to raise a family, and our villages sometimes extend further than we even know. Like the internet.

Drops in the bucket add up.

Small actions can create big results.

I didn’t bust down any doors on Black Friday. I didn’t take advantage of Cyber Monday sales. But I can kick off my giving season today with #GivingTuesday and fill my heart and my bucket (and my quota for sappiness) by telling you about the Hannah family and encouraging you to click over and read about them and help if you can.