Christmas Outtakes

  Christmas 2007- Just me and my “boys”

I don’t have many family traditions when it comes to the holidays. Unless you count someone over doing it on a prescription medication while the rest of us act like there isn’t an elephant in the room to be a tradition, which I don’t. And since my sister died in 2010 I haven’t had the Christmas spirit the way I used to and I am still wondering if it will come back to me or not. In the mean time I have been faking my way through the holiday season, not really depressed, just not really feeling it either. I often wonder how many people are faking it and how many people are really filled with the spirit of Christmas and everything that goes with it. I’ll probably never know since people are pretty good at faking what they don’t actually feel.

I’m not  religious, but somehow this year I feel compelled to go to the Christmas night proceedings at the little church we used to go to when I was a kid. The last time I remember going there was with my sister when we were in our twenties. They handed out a copy of the Christmas story and apparently our copy was different than the pastor’s, so as he read the stories didn’t match up; I still don’t know why, but Carri and I could not stop laughing at how funny it was. There we stood, strangers in this congregation where only the pastor remembered our little kid faces, laughing and snorting behind our hands simply because the words didn’t match. Maybe the story was just a metaphor for the fact that we didn’t match either, and were completely out of place even if the church used to be our story. I don’t know if I want to go to feel closer to her, or to find something missing inside. I don’t believe in God, now more than ever, but I am drawn to the peace of strangers holding candles singing carols and reciting stories about a baby born in a manger. I don’t think my sister will be there, but I sort of hope that if I go I will see her covering her mouth with her hand snorting with laughter that the words don’t match. That would make it all worth while. I miss her.

But back to traditions. Now that I have little boys I want to create family traditions for the holidays. I want my kids to grow up remembering the things we did each year that made the holidays special, that hopefully they will pass on to their own kids. I would like the family time together to be about more than food and presents. I want them to look back and remember the events, the feelings, the love of traditions. My first Christmas with a baby was fine, but there were no traditions and I more or less phoned in the holiday. My sister had only been gone six months and I wasn’t coping well with her loss. I bought my son toys off the internet and I put up a tree, that was about it. I am grateful he was too young to know how little I accomplished, nor will he remember the lack of festive cheer or the tears I fought back most of the day.

IMG_5381IMG_5369IMG_5363IMG_53572010

The second year I had just had my youngest and I was overwhelmed with two children and an out of work husband. We had just moved to Colorado from Virginia and while I tried to put in more effort that year it was about the same. I think we watched a few Christmas classics on TV and we made cookies to decorate with friends. That Christmas eve we spent with friends and it was the only time during the season I didn’t long for my sister, and it truly felt like a wonderful holiday. Last year was a repeat of the year before only I managed to buy presents on Black Friday and we skipped cookies. I felt weary and bad about not having the Christmas spirit, my kids were starting to figure out what Christmas was and how we should be acting.

DSC_0215DSC_0217DSC_0218DSC_0216 2011

This year I am no longer mired in loss and I finally feel like I have enough sleep and energy to dedicate to the holiday that little kids love so much. We have made our hand/Santa ornaments, we have visited old St. Nick, we’ve bought presents and watched Mr. Grinch and we have talked about the meaning of Christmas. I think this will be a Christmas I will want to remember, one I will be able to look back on and say that is when we started our traditions. That was the year we made our first paper chains for our tree (when we stuck them together with stickers because Vazer used all the tape), the year we left cookies and milk out for Santa, the year we toured lights on houses and drank cold cocoa. I think I will look back on this year with fond memories of my sister and our time together instead of grieving what I have lost and the times we will never get.

In the midst of all of this there is only one tradition I have done faithfully since 2006. Sure that was only 7 years ago, but it is my tradition and it had to start somewhere, sometime. Every year I take a family picture right around the Christmas holiday. It started as an attempt to create fabulous holiday postcards, but it has turned out to just be a wonderful way to show the passage of time. The introduction of new family and the passing of old family. I love these pictures and what they have come to show about me, my life, and the people and animals I am blessed to share it with.

IMG_1283IMG_1227IMG_1244IMG_1263 2008

My family has always had dogs in it and it was always my hope to include them in the family photo. I have managed that every year but last year and I still look at that photo and it feels empty to me, fake and somehow not a good representation of “us”. We even took it outside hoping it would make two kids and 5 dogs easier to get a picture of all together. It wasn’t it was terrible. Mind you, every year has its challenges. You try to photograph a bunch of dogs in a confined space with nothing but a remote control and zero for them to focus on. It isn’t as easy as it sounds and I don’t think I make it sound easy. Dogs are not good at getting their photos taken on a good day. Now add a person moving around and nothing to look at and you have general pandemonium. It didn’t help when we introduced kids to the mix either.

IMG_5833IMG_5831IMG_5841IMG_5823 2012

Every year I flip through the 2 dozen or so photos we have taken looking for the “best one”. But even the best one won’t be that good. Someone won’t be looking at the camera, or someone will be licking their privates or making a weird face. But that isn’t why we take the photos, it isn’t why I insist on it every year. These photos are the real “us”. My family uncensored, unedited, unsterilized by a commercial photographer. It just doesn’t get more real than my husband jokingly choking out the Rottie for not behaving, or me pushing a Swissy away from my face because his tongue is in the way of the shot. My exasperated look and my children running around with dogs chasing them is who we are. I love these pictures and the 30 minutes we spend taking them because we have low expectations of the results, and no matter what they are hilarious and meaningful.

20102010

So while I may not remember if we made cookies one year or not, and my kids won’t remember most of the gifts they get, we all will remember the moment we tried to get our family picture. We all will remember the yelling at dogs, the treats flying, kids crying, dad laughing and mom getting flustered as she keeps looking at the shots and saying “just one more”. I’ve only been taking these photos for a short time, I look forward to the day when my whole wall will be covered in the honest picture of our holiday seasons.  I love that I can see myself go from single to engaged to pregnant to a mom to a mom of two and growing children. I love that my favorite dog Cody is in the beginning with Rutger and Harold, then Rutger passes and his nephew Backup takes his place, then Cody passes and my baby joins us. It is a cool thing to look back on, where we have been. It reminds me of where I get to go and how exciting this ride is going to be.

IMG_3256IMG_3280IMG_3261IMG_3269 2009

Below is what we have so far. Enjoy! And may your holidays be filled with the love and laughter of your family and friends. You never know when will be your last picture with someone you love.

20082008

20092009

2010IMG_5379

20112011

20122012

 

 

The Week “Flu” By

A person can learn a lot about themselves when they have the flu. For instance I figured out that two days is about all I can really stand of delusional sweatiness without risking death in a shower. Or that choosing television shows to binge on Netflix should NOT include a show about the flu virus killing off most of the population. Bottom line is, even if the show is good, your dreams will not be. I also learned that nothing hurts the heart like hearing my babies sick in the next room and being too sick to take care of them. Maybe the greatest thing I learned is that next year I will be getting the flu vaccine, maybe the greatest, but not the most important. Here are the top things I learned while crying and chanting “Take care of my little bears” over and over in a delusional stupor certain I would succumb to my illness and die before seeing my boy’s next birthdays.

  1. When your husband tells you he is sick you should not instantly doubt the severity of his illness or you might just get a taste.
  2. Heating pads are your friends.
  3. Survivors is an awesome show unless you don’t like cliff hangers because it ends on one AND was cancelled (you suck BBC). I will never know what happens… never.
  4. The world falls apart when moms get sick. Seriously, I was only out of it for 4 days and no one fed the fish, watered the plants (can you not see it dying?), or managed to keep the mail in one spot. Not to be morbid but I am seriously considering a “If I should die…” Book with just the high points of what I do in case someone has to fill my shoes. PS the fish are fine.
  5. Nothing tastes as good as gluten when you haven’t eaten in days. Seriously, gluten good.
  6. By day two of the flu you will be ready for an audition on The Walking Dead. You won’t even need to act. And yes, I might have eaten brains I was so lost.
  7. Work doesn’t care if you are sick, they will call you at home and see if you can do “just one thing” ah the hazards of working remotely, people assume you are always well enough to login.
  8. You will lose weight, but it won’t be the kind you want. Water weight and a little bit of muscle loss never made anyone look better. Seriously, I think I am part Sharpei, at least my middle part is. ;)

But in all seriousness. I hated being sick. I hated being away from my kids, my husband, my dogs, my life. I found out how much I really love this crazy life of mine. Sure I was just sleeping/sweating in my bedroom mere feet from the life I love, but I wasn’t able to participate, I wasn’t able to be included. And it killed. There is no other life than this one. The idea of wasting even a couple of days of it was repulsive. But it occurred to me, that some people waste their whole lives, and I’m not talking about being sick.

Some people are wasting their every day, their every moment. They are upset or angry or depressed that “things” aren’t what they wished for, wanted, or believe they deserve. So many people out there unable to appreciate what they have or work for what they want. So many people wasting life, their life, the only true thing they will ever have and they are just pissing it away, every day. What the hell people?

I don’t think I am wasting my life, I don’t think I have been unappreciative, but somehow being forced out of my life for a short time made me realize how much I really do love it. I love my little house and that I can see my kids pretty much no matter where I am standing. I’m thankful I don’t have to heat/clean/decorate a bigger home with more things. I love my husband and his silly sense of humor, even if he won’t hug me during illness and it was his cooties that got me sick. I love my little boys even though one of them thinks spitting is a sport he plans to take to Olympic levels and the other is never wearing any pants (totally bare tushie). I love my dogs, despite the dirt in my bed and the gas in my living room. I love my job and the flexibility it affords us and the money it provides to pay our bills and keep us fed. I love my friends who seem to know the exact moment I need a pick me up and have an uncanny ability to contact me out of the blue at the very moments I need them. I love the TV shows that can make me cry, the books that make me skimp on my chores to read them, the moments at the gym (even the bad ones that remind me how lucky I am to be able to work out). I love it all. I wouldn’t trade it, I wouldn’t ask for more.

So getting sick sucked. I haven’t been that sick in a long time (no my husband didn’t hug me that time either, though strangely he did say he would kiss me if he found me dead. Go figure.). I haven’t cried that much in a long time. I haven’t felt so useless and helpless and fragile and afraid in a long long time. It was just the flu. Just some dumb little virus, so small I can’t even see it. Just a dumb little virus that reminded me how fragile life is, how great my life is, and how lucky I am for all of it. I don’t often wax nostalgic for things in my past and I rarely talk about what I hope my future will bring (neither seems to bring happiness) but I think, at least I hope, that from now on I can see my present as clearly as I did in my flu induced haze. I can see everything I have at this moment that make my everything so amazing. So forgive me if I brag a little bit, but damn it, It really is a Wonderful Life.

What I am watching: Sons of Anarchy- Okay seriously, if the flu didn’t kill me the finale might have. Spoiler alert: don’t read on if you haven’t seen it yet. I wasn’t ready for that end. The next day I contacted my friend to discuss it I said did you see the finale? Her response: “Yeah WTF can you believe Jax is single now!” I love her so much. Someone dies with a carving fork to the cranium and her silver lining is the character is now single. lol. I’m traumatized for life, but alls good because she might be able to get it on with a fictional hottie. Kerry, you kill me. And thanks.

What else I’m watching: Survivors. Wow, BBC you always do good work. But why or why did you cancel this before I could find out what happens? 12 hours of my life and no closure. BBC you cancel too many shows. seriously you need to consider a website dedicated to what would have happened on all the shows you killed off too soon.

What I’m reading: Reading?!? Have you tried to read with the flu? I don’t think so. But I did find this. and this is how I get all the fellas, though my husband reports that this is NOT how I got him. Little does he know.

What I’m listening too: Head on by Man on man

What else I am listening to: Let go by RAC Does anyone else hear Morrissey? or maybe Yaz in this song??

For those of you who don’t know Yaz: Weridos. Only you

Now moment: My husband winning the employee of the year award. So proud. So proud. Yep, I almost cried, but luckily the only person who saw was the man giving him the award. Shhh Brian, don’t say a word.

 

 

 

Book em Dano! Spoiler alert: This is not about Hawaii 5 O

I once met a man who told me with great pride that he “wasn’t a reader”. He seemd not only proud of this fact, but worried that I might assume he was a reader and therefore judge him harshly. He was about to begin a story about getting spooked after reading a certain book, and he wanted it to be clear that the particular book in question was the ONLY book he’d ever read that wasn’t required for school. It was really hard for me not to give him the polite, yet condescending, golf clap.

There are two things wrong with this man, okay there were way more than two, but for the sake of this post lets go with two. The first was he thought that being viewed as a reader was a bad thing. That being a reader implied something negative about a person and so therefore it must be clear he is not associated with that group. The second was he thought I would understand or even agree with this. He clearly did not know his audience.

I am a reader! I am a proud reader. No seriously. I can remember reading long before starting school. Begging the librarian to let me check out the big kid books in the second grade, and often feeling like the only people who understood me were fictional. I love to read and I can’t understand people who don’t. I just don’t get it. I would never choose television over a good book. If I were trapped on an island I would want there to be books. When I am bored, or even doing other things, I am thinking about books.

It wasn’t until I started this blog that I realized just how much I love them, or how much a part of my life reading is. Don’t get me wrong, I can’t remember a time when I wasn’t “in the middle” of a book. I always have something I’m reading laying around. I buy my next book usually before I finish my last book and ibooks is my new bff (we cuddle at night but don’t tell my husband) But writing this blog every week and posting the what I’m reading at the bottom was sort of an eye opener. I read at least one book a week, sometimes two, this past week three! (It was a great, can’t put it down trilogy. I won’t apologize for my level of nerdom. All hail Veronica Roth!)

Until what I was reading was there every week staring me in the face, forcing me to consider the author and the name, I didn’t realize I actually read that many books a year.  If I keep up my current pace, by the time the blog reaches its one year anniversary I will have read close to 70 books. Seventy!  Even I can’t fathom that, and I am the zealot reading them.

I have been looking for a happier life and a more peaceful way of being. I now realize, through sharing my weekly book choice, that reading is one of the ways I find peace. Call it escaping, letting my imagination run wild, or just plain old entertainment, books are still some of my best friends and I am grateful I get to spend my spare time with them. They never complain about how far away my house is or the dog hair on the couch. They never judge my unbruushed hair or my snack choice. Books just beam happiness that I am reading, the rest doesn’t matter to them.

How we spend our free time says a lot about us, and I think it also determines our happiness, creativity, thoughtfulness, and outside human interactions (wait there are real humans out there?). I work a full time job from home with two children under the age of 4. Its sort of like having 5 jobs and spinning like a top while you balance plates on your nose. It sucks all available time and energy from your body and mind. Sure I am always home and available to do laundry and dishes between tushy wipes and dull government requirement editing, so I don’t have a lot of chores left when the work day is officially over, but I also have little alone time or moments to breathe.

When the work day is over, and I have created a wonderful home cooked gluten free meal for my men, I clean up, give baths, feed dogs, put children to bed and finally crash on the couch. I then spend questionable “quality time” (how can mindless tv be quality?) with my husband while we watch our favorite television shows for about an hour and a half (there are over 200 hundred hours of things stored on the DVR and we will never have enough time to watch them all). Then, when the night is still and my children are done stirring and my husband is snoring, I finally get to read. I only tell you about my day so you don’t tell me you don’t have time to read. If I can eek out even an hour at the end of the day, then I think just about anyone can.  Most people spend three times that watching terrible television. There is no excuse for not reading.

I love my time alone in the dark reading books that make me laugh, make me think, make me fall in love with new people I will never get to meet only to bring me back down when they die. I love that I don’t need anything but a single book to make the world okay, and make my fears and stress disappear.  Reading a book is like escaping to another world where I don’t matter, where no one needs me to feed them, pay bills, or remember to give medicine. Books make me feel alive and whole. Is it any wonder I want to get my own book published? Nothing could be greater in this world than knowing as an author that your words reach thousands of people, inspire them to change, challenge them to think. Wow the power of the written word!

I recently read about people making promises to themselves to run every day from Thanksgiving to New Years. I thought that was pretty cool and maybe I would do that too. Setting goals is a great way to achieve dreams and often times something bigger. Then I remembered I don’t run. The fact that I read this while running on a treadmill is merely ironic and hardly noteworthy. But there are things I do do. And there are goals I can make, that I can achieve, that will make me happier and healthier. And that is, after all, the goal of this blog. Happiness, peace, realization, intentionality, Zen.

So my goal is to read, everyday for at least two hours. This should get me two books a week without much of a problem. The books will be fiction and not about anything that touches my own life. In other words I don’t want to read about motherhood, sick babies, or dysfunctional relatives. I don’t want my mind to linger or stray to real life. I want books that take me somewhere new and make me believe that great things are happening, even if the great thing is just perfect literature. I challenge you to read. I challenge even the “not a readers” out there to pick up a book and just start (and Yes Candace I mean you!). You never know who you will meet, where you will go, or what you will learn. You will never know how great it can be until you do it.

What book will you read?

As a sub goal, I want to write everyday as well. I want to write my ass off. Now who wants to babysit two sweet angelic boys while I do that?

 

What I am reading: The Entire Divergent Series by Veronica Roth. I don’t even know how to gush on about how much I love these books. I’d tell you that if you like the Hunger Games you will like these, but that would be wrong to compare these books to anything else. I just finished the third book last night, and the nerd in me is going to read them again.

What I am listening to: Little Lion Man by Mumford and Sons

Now moment of the week: Hanging Christmas tree lights with my husband. I always wanted outdoor lights as a kid but we never did them. I think my little kid mind felt you had to have a daddy to do them. I used to drive by houses counting which houses had daddies and which did not, like the lights were a badge of identification, honor. I never did them as an adult either. It seemed like a lot of hassle without little kids to be in awe. But this year we did them together, Mommy and Daddy. And we laughed, and it was silly and over too quickly for me. And now I promise you, and the little girl inside me, that we will always have Christmas lights on our house this time of year. (not year round of course, my husband maybe a redneck but I am not, after all I’m a “reader” ;))

Inspirations from the ether: Amazon Prime. I really can’t say too many awesome things about it. I’ve had it a year now and given our gluten free celiac status it makes grocery shopping for specialty items easy and shipping is free. I can read books for free on my kindle and watch tv and movies for free through my Blue ray player. Seriously, I heart Amazon Prime. You complete me Amazon Prime.