Let the Decorations Begin

Every year, it happens. I decorate for Christmas.  And this year it is coming, brace yourself.  I will be in a Christmas decorating frenzy this year, this weekend.  it is time to make the house a wonderful, Christmassy delight, filled with all of the ornaments and decorations of our childhood, along with all of the new and sometimes tacky decorations I have collected over the years.  I am looking forward to this and looking forward to celebrating my favorite time of year.

This is the first year without Mom and dad, but I am determined to make it as happy as possible despite the grief. Grief is not a choice, but it is a choice as to how you handle it.  I will knowledge it and let the sadness wash over me when it hits.  But I refuse to curl up and let the holidays, or let life, pass me by.  I will celebrate this holiday season in their honor, carrying on the traditions, and making my own as well.  I will laugh through the tears, and embrace it all.

It is coming to the end of this hellacious year, and it will not go out with a whimper, no, it will go out with a triumphant soft glow.  All victories do not have to be loud or bright. Some victories are quiet, small but still powerful enough, with enough energy to burn through the minutiae. That is how this year will come to a close.  It will be better and higher than it started.

I am reminded of the fun and lightheartedness of past holidays in one of the most unlikely places:  Facebook.  The On This Day memories.  I am curious and go through the past years and find this gem.  And carry it with me as I move forward.


Day 28, Christmas decorations: Today I am thankful for Christmas decorations. This past Thanksgiving weekend, my Mother decided to pass her huge collection of Christmas Ornaments on to My sister and I. This was sad and exciting at the same time. Sad because she will not be putting up a Christmas Tree, exciting because the ornaments I have looked at since I was a little girl will now be hanging on my tree.

The decorating has already started and by the time it is all done, it will look like Christmas exploded in my house. Already there is mistletoe, Mr. and Mrs Claus by the front door and big red velvet bows. There are Christmas place mats and table clothes, bowls, candle holders, stockings and stocking holders. There are Christmas pot holders, mantle decorations, a table top Christmas tree, tinsel, wall hangings and Salt and pepper shakers. And that is just the beginning!

The Christmas tree will be put up and decorated tonight. My little Charlie Brown tree will be loaded down with Christmas ornaments old and new. There will be lights, balls, crosses, angels, bears, sheep, candy canes, mice, bells, bows, Santas, and even a Christmas Octopus. Oh, it will be wonderful. And the whole time the tree is being decorated, there will be Christmas music playing.

Did I mention I get a little excited and go maybe a little bit overboard with the Christmas decorations? But it makes me happy to sit at night, with all the lights off, except of the soft glow of my little Christmas tree, lights shining like little diamonds. Once I even kept it up until September. It was the New Years Tree, the St. Pat’s Day Tree, the Easter Tree, the Labor Day Tree…it was great even if all of my friends made fun of me and called me a redneck. I just hated the idea pf taking it down. (note: The ornaments get very dusty when left up that long. Dust often)

The first year I had a cat I made the mistake of putting the pretty tinsel onto the tree…and then I discovered a very colorful litter box. Oh you have not experienced the joys of pet ownership until you have fished multi-colored tinsel out of a little box.

Then there was the cat who loved to get a running start and fly into the Christmas tree. His name was Taz. I came home once and found all but one branch torn off the tree that year. Well, the branches he did d not try to eat anyway. That was also the year he ate my favorite strappy sandals, my iPod and my favorite sweater. Alas, I do not have that very sweet, albeit hungry kitty anymore.

There was the time I got tangled up in my Christmas tree and fell to the floor with a thud. I am sure to the outside public it might have looked as if the tree had come alive and was flailing around the floor. It might have even looked like a Christmas tree monster. Oddly enough, my cats have been terrified to come near the Christmas tree since then.

And this year will be extra special. I did not put a tree up last year as I was just too busy. That was the first year of my life that there was no Christmas tree, so this year must be extra special to make up for it.

So let the decorating begin!


The Thanksgiving Visitor

The first holiday without your parents is quite an event.  It can be filled with grief, sadness, depression, anxiety and more.  While this was the first holiday without both of my parents, it was not as bad as I thought it would be and was a lot better than last year.  Yes, there was moments when I broke down and cried, and I felt a deep longing in my soul, because I miss them so much.  But I know that neither of them are suffering and are at peace. They would not want me to curl up into a sad little ball – I can hear my mother say that is silly.  They would want me to get on with life, and carry them in my heart.  And even as I write that they would not want me to be sad, it is a melancholy that never truly does leave.

One of the things that made it possible to have joy was a visitor in the early hours on Thanksgiving morning.  To some, this may sound silly, or ridiculous.  But to those who have lost loved ones, I think it will sound beautiful.

It was one of the most vivid dreams that I have ever had.  It was so real, and I love dreams like that.  Mom and I were sitting on her couch.  She was smoking like she always did, lighting her cigarettes in her particular way, like I had seen her do thousands of times. She was lovely, beautiful even. She was relaxed and happy, like she used to be before she got so sick.  There was an ease and a calm about her.  It felt so good to be in her presence, so good to hear her voice.  And we talked about nothing, and laughed.

It seemed like it was late at night.  We would often stay up talking into the wee hours, about nothing in particular but always good conversation.  About politics, or crimes, or books, or the news and current events.  Or the Braves, or whatever she and Dad were planning.  Or her garden and what she wanted to planted or what vegetables she needed to pick.  She was always so full of interesting things.

And I looked at her, smiled and said “Mom, I have really missed this with you, it is so nice just to be here.”  and she looked and me and smiled, and hugged me.  But this time, it wasn’t a dream hug, where she disappears, or where I wake up before I hug her.  This was a real hug.  I felt her arms around me, and I felt my arms around her. I felt her hair against my face as I set my head on her shoulder.  And we sat there, in a wonderful embrace for a little while.  And then, almost uncontrollably I said over and over, I miss you, I miss you, I miss you, I miss you, I miss you.  And she hugged and held me tighter and closer.

Shortly afterward I woke up with the warmest feeling.  She was my Thanksgiving visitor, letting me know that even though they are no longer of this world, they are here, my angels watching over me.  My mother, my best friend, my confidant. I felt their presence all through the day and the weekend. And it made all the difference.

This Thanksgiving

This Thanksgiving is about giving thanks, of course. And in that sense, I am very thankful for my friends. They have been my heart, soul, strength and more. It has been a tough year, but you they managed to keep me smiling, laughing, breathing, moving, and being. I could not have made it through without them. For everything, all the little (and not so little) things they have done for me that no one knows about, all the conversations, all the hugs, all the support, all the loyalty, all the LOVE. I made it because I stand on the shoulders of giants and angels. They mean the world to me.

Through all of the hard times, heart breaks, break ups, funerals, services, clean ups, break downs, cry fests, confusion, all of it, they were there.

Be a lamp, or a life boat, or a ladder. Help Someone’s soul heal. – Rumi

Life events happen sometimes that cause us to completely redefine not only who we are, but our life as well.  And when those events happen, it is almost like learning to walk again.  things that seemed so basic before, not must be relearned.  New paths in the brain must be made.  We must learn what that “new” looks like, and feels like.  We must get comfortable in our new clothes, so to speak, and learn to wear this new life, rather than it wearing us.

And this Thanksgiving it is also about new traditions.  I cancelled my travels to make sure that I am home for certain things. Funny how priorities can shift in a heartbeat. Tonight friends are coming over for the first annual Thanksgiving Taco Dinner – a new tradition for the night before the big feast.  Everyone loves tacos. They are easy to fix, fun to eat, and a breeze to clean up.

Heading over to a wonderful friend’s house for the day for Thanksgiving. Catching up with my girlfriends, laughing, crying and reflecting about the year. And maybe a glass of wine or five. Lot’s of food and good stuff.

But the other new holiday tradition, is having time for myself.  I need to get my house in order, get a few things organized. Hanging some pictures, finish some unpacking, making sure that I am OK for the next leg of this adventure called life.  Taking some time to breath and be solid.  Going to church, praying, and reading.

I love my life, as I have fought hard to get here.  Now I must make sure that I am capable and worthy of the life that I have been given.  And to celebrate with the wonderful people who are in my life as well.

I am surrounded by love, more love than I knew was even out there.  I have found my roots in the love and loyalty of my friends. My parents taught me how to be discerning in who is in your life and why.  A lesson that has served me well after they’ve been gone.  They knew that one day they would go from being my roots, to being the foundation upon which I build the rest of my life afterward. And I know that they are with me, even as I miss them so much.

To be honest, not much could be worse than last Thanksgiving.  The first holiday without Mom. I was depressed and grieving, as was Dad.  My relationship with my now ex was falling apart, even as I desperately tried to hang on. My Almost-in-laws were wonderful though, even setting a place for my mother at their dinner table, so we would feel like she was with us. The weekend was filled with sadness, grief, strive, arguing and being overwhelmed.  It was the end of the beginning in so many ways. That was when I realized that I was truly alone. And it terrified me.

What a difference a year makes.  Even though both of my parents are gone, even though that relationship is long since over, I am less alone now, and more surrounded by love, than I was at this time last year.  I am blessed. So raise a glass to This Thanksgiving.  It will be a first, but not the last, of it’s kind.

The New Thanksgiving

This year is the year of the new Thanksgiving.  For me it is a time to find myself and the balance between honoring the old and making the new.  It is the acceptance that while the holidays of my childhood are gone, this is the time to honor and find myself.  It is a time to be with love 0 love of my family that remains, love of my wonderful friends, love of my life and love of the future.

This year, while strange and new, also shows me how much I have to be thankful for.  I am thankful to have had my parents for 43 wonderful holiday seasons.  I am thankful for the wonderful memories they created and the magic that was Thanksgiving and Christmas.  I am thankful that they loved me enough for a lifetime.

I am thankful for the family that I have.  Thankful for the love and family and friends during this time. I am thankful for the people i have met this year who will no doubt be a part of my life for many years to come.  I am thankful for all of the love and kindness.  I am thankful that I dodged a bullet and did not end up with my ex. I am thankful to be able to give and express love, to be able to accept love from others.  I am excited to be smarter, but not jaded after this past year.  And I am thankful for the smiles and laughter I have and will have.  I am thankful for my beautiful home that is safe and warm.  Thankful for an incredible career that I love, thankful for all that is in my heart.

This is a new Thanksgiving.  The circle is almost complete, and soon, another year will be done.  And a new year will start. And I will raise my glass, love my people and live life to the fullest.

Love in the 50th Year

The were married 50 years ago today, in a small town on Florida town. I usually had to remind them what day it was.  They always got a kick out of finding out.  They loved each other so much.

Their anniversary was always the start of the holiday season and the start of everything happy and festive.  This year is different.  It is the first holiday season without them.  It is the first year that I am alone.  Except that I am not alone.

I have so much love surrounding me this holiday season that it is magic.  While this holiday season will have it’s melancholy moments, and there is no way to escape that, it will also be better than I thought it would.  There is love everywhere I look.  I cannot go back to the way the holidays were, but I can move forward and celebrate the new life I have and am making in front of me. I can let my friends and love ones hold me in those sad moments, barrow their love and strength.  And I can smile and laugh through tears.

Mom and Dad, I love you and miss you every day, so very much.  But you raised me to be strong and get on with life.  You raised me to make you proud, you raised me to rise.  Happy 50th anniversary, to the best parents in the world. I was so blessed to have you as my parents, to you have you as examples of how love should be.  To have parents who loved me enough for a lifetime.

Magical Navarre

There are times when we all must get away, administer some self care and have some fun. For me it was needed especially before the holidays.  It was a spontaneous trip, but one that sounded wonderful – Navarre beach in the cool weather.

And indeed it was.  The weather was perfect, warm during the day and, cool at night.  There was quiet time walking on the beach at night, wading in the cool water, chasing the waves and watching the tide roll in.  The waves crashing on the shore is one of my favorite sounds in the world.  It is bliss.

The beach is bliss, at least to me.  A place to recharge and find adventure. Between the waves, the sand, the food, the drinks, the hot tubs and the bliss, the beach is perfect.

When we are in our favorite places to recharge, it seems that that is were the magic happens. Maybe because we are open and care free, maybe because we are taking the time to really listen to ourselves and appreciate life. Maybe because we feel safe.

And sure enough, that was the case with me. And something else magic happened as well.  My parent’s 50th wedding anniversary is today, they were married November 21, 1967 In Jasper, Florida.  While I was the Beach I wrote a letter to them, on a small piece of paper the waitress gave me. I wrote the letter right after lunch, and my eyes misted as the words formed on the paper. The letter was short, but sweet and heartfelt. And for the first time I let someone else read it, the message to my beautiful parents. I let my vulnerability show and gently gave the sheet of paper to another hand,  for another set of eyes to read and another heart to feel.

And then it was time to go into the water.  The water was at first cold on my feet, but I quickly acclimated and soon it felt wonderful.  It was cleansing in a way it had not been before.  The waves were big and the tide was strong as I swam.  I had, the letter in my hand and by the time I looked down, part of it was already gone; the angels on the tide anxious to give it my my parents.  And so I swam a bit more, chose a wave, and released the remaining part of the letter and smiled.  I knew my parents were there, smiling with me, holding hands in the mist of the sea, gently caressing my cheeks and the waves washed away the grime and sadness of the months prior. To let go and let be, to mentally prepare for the last celebrations of the year, and the coming of all that is next.

It was magic.

And the rest of the weekend was spent in quiet calm, in smiles and laughter, in appreciation and in fun.  The food was good, the drinks were cold, the music was festive, the beach was wonderful.  I came back simultaneously tired and invigorated, ready to start the holiday season, keeping what is important close to my heart.  The magic of the beach is exactly what was needed.

Oh Navarre beach, I will return to you soon, you magical place.



The Blessed Risk Takers

Blessed are the risk takers, soothsayers and poets; the empaths, the impassioned and the alchemists.  For they are the ones who know the joy and pain and pleasure of humanity.

I have often written about taking risks and always remaining curious about the world around you. I believe this with all my being. It is one of my theories in life that when you stop being curious about the world around you, about life in general and the people in it, then you stop growing.  You cease to truly live and are only existing.

So much joy is found in asking questions and discovering the world around you.  The people, the stories, the adventures.  Life is amazingly beautiful, if you take the time to look around.

It has been a while since I have been able to truly be curious about life and all the miracles involved. Healing, planning, organizing, and general upkeep took a lot of my energy. It took all of my energy actually.  It reminds me of the song:

A time to be born, a time to die
A time to plant, a time to reap
A time to kill, a time to heal
A time to laugh, a time to weep…

A time to build up, a time to break down
A time to dance, a time to mourn

…and sometimes it is necessary to take some time from all that is magical and external, to heal what is sacredly internal.  But when that time is done…

We often feel as if we are bursting at the seams with life, opportunity and adventure.  As if the door has flung open on a spring day after a long, cold winter. It is as if we are seeing the world in color for the first time and cannot get enough of the colors.  The hard times makes us feel joy from such a deeper place than before, that it’s almost blinding in a warm and wonderful way.

I was afraid this holiday season would be filled with sadness and grief.  Indeed, it is there, just below the surface.  But I hear my mother’s voice, see my father’s gentle smile, and know my best friend Rex’s words of enjoying every taste of life is possible.  I hope I make them all proud.  In a way, I am living life for the three of them too….I am forging my own way, creating new traditions, as I carry them with me, I carry their hearts in my heart (thank you ee cummings). They are with me, everywhere, in everything I do and see and say. Their love tickling my heart as I smile and look up at the sun, feeling the warmth.

And I am back to myself. I am taking risks, blazing my path forward. Love of life, thirst for knowledge and a hunger for love are guiding me, but mostly, prayer and the Hand of God, as He directs my path. I am willing. I am done waiting.  I am ready. Life is here. I will be like a sponge and drink every drop of every magical moment.  I will discover what is behind the wall, the curtain, the door.  And all of it is mine for the taking, I do not have to choose.

I will smile, and laugh, and love, and kiss, and have wine, and be with friends, and make memories, and be with family, and those who I love and who love me the best and most.  I will sit by the fireside, making moments at the hearth of life.  I will love life with all that I have in me, with every fiber of my being, with a calm cool passion that will burn those who are not worthy of a seat at my table.  Once again, my heart beats fiercely and freely.  The air is crisp in my lungs and the Earth is soft under my feet. With faith lading me, love calling me, and life lighting the path, nothing is impossible.

Hang on, it is going to be an incredible adventure.