Month: December 2015

A Fairy Tale Holiday Letter

Dear Fellow Fairy Talers,

As the end of the year draws nigh, a holiday respite beckons. Over the next 12 days I will be enjoying time with my true love in a much-needed drumming-piping-leaping-dancing-milking-swimming-laying…ring-bird-hen-dove-pear tree experience.

So for now, I leave you with a special heartfelt poem.

‘Twas the night before Christmas
And all through my mind,
Is the desire to take a break and unwind.

I love writing my blog more than you know,
And taking time off will help me to grow.

We aren’t planning on going away,
But shifting routine and adding some play
Will refresh our spirits and give us some time
To focus on things that keep us just fine.

I’ll have some good stories of this I am sure
When I return to my posting with love and allure.
It won’t be long dear Fairy Tale souls,
Just 12 short days for dreaming and goals.

So much behind us, the wind at our backs,
It’s time to breathe deeply and cut ourselves slack.
Let’s all do our best to have peace, joy, and rest,
And try to remember that we are all blessed.

Now my friends, without further ado,
Happy and Merry Holidays to you.

See you January 4, 2016.
xo xo xo

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Comfort and Joy is an Acquired Skill

We are now inches away from the merry and magical end of the year. In theory and hope anyway. The holidays bring a melange of all of life’s greatest and worst moments all rolled up into one last week of glory. After our enchanted winter solstice evening, Sir Husband and I did a little bit of reflection while we were still riding the high of twirling around a bonfire next to the sea.

After pausing for thought to decide what to release from this past year and welcome for the new one, we knew we had one more hurdle. Getting through the holidays. It’s a crazy time of year, no matter how you cut it. There’s a yin yang feel to it, a sour and sweet, a stirred-up peacefulness. No matter what our reason for the season is, feelings rise up to the surface like a phoenix…for everyone, and it can be both good and bad.

We are quite discerning now in what we discuss or discard, with thoughts, with situations, even with people. Do we allow craziness into our heads, hearts and home-space? Or not? Whether we are dealing with naughty or nice – and I assure you this time of year reveals both – we came up with a few prevailing thoughts.

People are going to be people. Relatives, friends, family or foe, the external environment is what it is. It’s really about our own inner landscape, how we feel on the inside. The big choice is to decide what we are going to do with ourselves in those moments opposing our zen.

If there’s one big thing we learned this year, it’s that our well being, ourselves matter. That is the motivating factor when dealing with people or situations that feel less than favorable, especially now. We really don’t owe anyone anything, and we owe ourselves everything. It’s not selfish, it’s serious. Self-care in the moment can make all the difference.

Yep it takes practice and it doesn’t always feel easy, but we’re getting good at disengaging from what perpetually drains us. We’re mastering the instant discard of yucky people or things. We reach for a happier place in our hearts, or a happier thought in our heads. We do a quick visualization of something that makes us feel good and we go there, giving ourselves permission to remove from whatever or whomever we must. For real. We get out of the way of the chaos, because nobody’s going to do it for us.

We recently learned that when we embrace a bit of peaceful and calm, even just a smidgen, we not only feel better, it grows. Then somehow – and we’re quite not sure how – it sort of spreads around. And that’s not a bad thing to share…anytime of year.

Peace isn’t a destination as they say, it’s the realization we can actually have it. So here’s to happiness and harmony.

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Nothing Like Being Enlightened, Welcome to Winter

Although it was just 6 p.m., the sun had long disappeared. It was chilly outside, but not frosty for mid-December and the last night of fall. The ocean was just beyond the shadows of tall evergreens, silent and invisible under the clouded moonlight. A brightly burning bonfire roared only a few feet away from where Sir Husband and I stood with 20 others in a circle around it, while ceremoniously shooing out the old year and welcoming in the new one in a sacred ritual of renewal.

Yes, on the longest and darkest night of the year, we welcomed the Winter Solstice. Hey, when you write about a fairy tale, you might as well act like a fairy.

Celebrated as far back as history dates around the world, winter solstice is about the sun rising out of a long darkness as a symbolic metaphor for the transition of darkness to light. Many customs are celebrated during winter solstice – the holidays are the most obvious. The meaning stretches far and wide – creation, birth, miracles – it’s a big deal. This visible turning point is not only the shift from fall to winter…and the natural order of each day’s nighttime and daylight cycles…but it can be a personal transition toward our own enlightenment.

Sir Husband and I felt privileged to be part of this special event, tossing index cards where we had written everything we wanted to release or let go of from 2015 into the roaring fire, watching the toxicity of our lives quickly burn and fall to the bottom of the fire pit. Ahhhh. So long stress.

We held the cards we wrote welcoming our dreams, goals, and desires for 2016 tightly in our hands before tossing those in too. And you’d have to see it to believe it, these “welcome” cards, as they burned in the flames literally jumped high into the air, as if they were dancing virtually yards above the fire before blowing away in the wind, turning to ash before our very eyes. I’ve never seen anything like it. But if you don’t believe in magic, go ahead and try it for yourself. It’s unbelievable.

After the ceremonial burning, dancing around the fire ensued before we feasted on a potluck holiday buffet. Setting an intention to review and re-do our personal trajectory, or transitioning from the old to the new, calls for a hearty celebration, as it has for thousands of years in thousands of cultures.

Regardless of our beliefs, everyone has a personal mission to make the most of their life as best as they can. It’s written in the cosmos, and in spiritual and religious texts, and surprise, we actually write it in our personal journals or calendars, or we at least think it. We have an agenda, we have a plan, we have a purpose.

If we choose, we can look at the winter solstice as a time to transition ourselves, and celebrate that. Or we can simply welcome winter, the new season has arrived. Time to light a fire.

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Cookies Are My Window To Tradition

Sir Husband and I sat at the small antique kitchen table covered with a large and well-worn flour sack cloth that was protecting the old pine from the major mess we were making. A marathon of 1960’s claymation Christmas movies was on the tiny TV in the corner, and the oven was oozing heat. It’s Christmas cookie season.

This two-full-day process involves mixing several pounds of butter with a bag of flour, a dozen or so eggs, and a few key ingredients to make four different kinds of dough that chill overnight. The next day is spent rolling and baking them, the ones that are left after Sir Husband sneak-eats the dough.

The tried and true recipes date back to my grandmother’s day, maybe longer. I’ve been baking these same cookies for as long as I can remember, using at least fifteen different ovens through the years. Both with and without extra hands to help, I’ve made double, triple and quadruple batches and given more than hundreds away.

Although they have been called legendary – and my modesty is genuine here – each year I say I will try something different, then each year I don’t. It’s almost like an unspoken vow I made a long time ago, these are the ones until death do us part – no matter what else is going on, no matter what other holiday traditions we try to uphold, no matter who will – or won’t – be with us, the Christmas cookies are made.

We were up to our elbows in two kinds of sugars, hands covered in a buttery glaze. It was impossible to keep the tabby cat from leaping on and off the table to inspect our work, an occasional paw trying to reach into the big bowl of thick, sticky dough, her tail flipping the cottony cloth like a whip.

The aroma now wafting through the house was unmistakable. You can’t capture it in a candle – it’s the smell of generations of tradition, decades of family takers, years of children eagerly asking when they can have one, reaching for them while they are still hot, broken ones going from oven to mouth, not even making it to a plate.

“Who’s on the list this year?” Sir Husband asked, as we put a tray of cooling cookies aside. The give-away list has shortened. They’re mostly for family now, and a tin for Mr. Ex and his Mrs. who put in their request each year. These particular cookies are a mainstay, even long after parting ways. See what I mean? Some traditions never change.

One week from today, it will all be over. Christmas is a short and long time coming depending on your point of view. For us, the build-up is just as wonderful as the actual day, and even the next day lends a soft after-glow. Everyone plans differently…celebrates differently…remembers differently…and bakes differently.

Christmas itself will be different for us this year, not everyone dear is near. With some of our children away and our feelings of dismay, it just may be the cookies that hold it together for us. And there’s nothing but goodness in that.

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No Fear of the Breast Test This Year

A zillion milligrams of Valium and a giant Panera iced tea on board, I was able to not only successfully endure a breast MRI, but enjoy it. Not really, it’s not enjoyable, but it wasn’t really as big a deal as I remembered.

I have the privilege of having an all-expense paid MRI every year since growing a small benign breast mass a few years ago, revealed by a fluke, not on a mammogram or palpable. I just had some pain and discomfort when I was sleeping on that side. Discomfort still comes and goes but I’m not sure that our bodies fully recover from surgical trauma, leaving remnants of painful scar tissue.

Every time I feel it when it winces here and there, I remember when it all started. They say stress is a key factor in breast cancer evolution, and I’m convinced that an ongoing debilitating nightmare with some unstable players manifested the precarious mass. When heavy shi*t happens, our body lets us know when it’s had enough.

Whether we think life happens “to us,” or “for us,” or “because of us,” or we use words like “fate,” or “God’s will,” or “believe and receive,” the bottom line is we try to figure out the reality of our circumstances and then do something about it. And of course when it turns physical, we have to check it out, sometimes regularly.

I normally zonk right out with muscle relaxers, but not this time, instead I just felt good, which was itself a welcome relief. Determined to get through this year’s MRI without one glitch or hitch, I put on my best “you got this” hat, kissed Sir Husband, and got it done. With a sigh of relief and no worse for the wear, we didn’t give it another thought. Because while this is not the best time of year to wait for results, I’m confident they will be fine.

Why? Because I’m done with health issues, hopefully for forever. While that little grape-sized clump buys me an annual high-tech scan, I don’t buy into the “it runs in the family, you had a mass now have the potential, you are now doomed” mentality. No need to dwell on it, why focus on the past? Just because a mass grew then does not mean one will grow now. I’ve re-defined my expectations to make room for really good health. But do I really believe that? I do my best to try.

I suppose with some more Valium I’d maintain a consistently mellow mood. But medication isn’t always the answer, it’s more about our mindset. While pain is an indicator of an imbalance somewhere in our bodies, and subsequently in our lives, I try to remember this old adage:

You can always change how you feel, and you can always feel whatever you like.

So if it’s the power of thinking and emotions combined that can change just about any kind of circumstance – in one direction or the other – then I best move on from my MRI and keep reaching for consummate belief. Make the best of it I say, just make the best of it all.

It’s OK to Rewrite Your Life Story

We all have a personal life story and we tend to live by it. It defines us. Question is, do we carry the story or does the story carry us? And more importantly, why?

What prompted this personal inquisition is simple. Frank Pepe of Pepe’s Pizza. It’s probably the best pizza in the world, or in New England anyway. The official name, Frank Pepe Pizza Napoletana, opened in 1925 when a young Italian immigrant and his bride decided to use their baking skills to first open a bakery, then a pizzeria. What’s interesting is the man’s work ethic in spite of his illiteracy, and the iconic business he built just on his love of the “humble pie” he created – a little homemade sauce and grated cheese on homemade bread. His story is quite incredible.

Mine, not so much. Or maybe it is, depending on perspective. It’s easy for me to say my story is tough, after all, I have lived the pain. Our story is built day by day, as we walk through life, absorb it, and form an opinion about it. We start to walk the walk and talk the talk, and the story becomes ingrained, flowing through us like an essential life force.

The drawback though, is that as we turn each page we tend to keep each page before it, hanging on to each chapter, and before we know it we are lugging around an encyclopedia. It’s not only heavy, we refer to it over and over like an internal google search engine. It’s then this book of past experiences that keeps us going.

If we love our story, or even just like it, then great. Like Frank Pepe, we can live a happy and productive life. That’s not to say it’s easy, but it more often than not feels good.

For some of us though, the story doesn’t feel good, or is full of regret, because hindsight of course is the clearest lens. So do we adjust the lens or put the cap on and just keep going? Not sure it’s that simple. The essence of our story hangs over us like a permeable gas.

And it’s not just the story, it’s the characters. How do you change your story when so many of the woeful players remain unchangeable? Stories and lives intertwine, making the narrative that much more complicated. I’ve been trying to rewrite my story for years but am stuck with lasting congruencies.

Therein lies the lesson. Several words to rethink this come to mind – like forgive…let go…forget…ignore…but those all seem so hard. I tried acceptance for a while, but that just felt like defeat. I want to be in charge of my story, not the other way around.

Which brings me to the word acceptance. We can’t change the past, but we can accept it and acknowledge what it has taught us. The story is what it is, but we can stop telling an old version, then shift it however we choose. Acceptance is a powerful choice, in both in past experiences and future.

A while back I saw the phrase “love life and live it.” How about live life and love it? I bet that’s exactly what Frank Pepe did, and his story still lives to tell it.

 

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The Freeing and Confining Nonsense of Cell Phones (and Mouth-guards)

Please refrain from using cell phones while here,” said the noticeable sign hanging on the wall of the waiting room at the dentist’s office. Yet when I looked around, everyone was on their cell phone of course. As was I. Some were reading, some were scrolling, some typing. It wouldn’t have hurt to just read a magazine, but who does that anymore?

I had what amounted to a five minute appointment to check the fit of my brand new overnight oral mouth guard. Sexy. And while I was in the chair, I literally received eight texts. Good thing I had the ringer off thanks to that conspicuous sign. I follow the rules…sort of.

I am periodically guilty of not putting down my phone. It’s habitual I think. Always having the security of a landline until a couple of years ago, I am attached to my cell phone in the event of an emergency. What if somebody needs me? Somebody always does.

To say my phone is the nerve center of my family is an understatement. Why hasn’t anyone invented the Family Mission Control app? It would prioritize texts and calls as they came in, and alert me if there was something of mass-critical proportion.

It would reply to people when I’m driving, or can’t text, or even think about texting. It would answer the calls for me if my phone was somewhere else. It would let me be away from my phone without worrying. I’m pretty sure we have at least one emergency each week, and several priorities each day. Ridiculous.

But I’m becoming keenly aware of people who are so attached to their phones that they cannot put them down…ever. Even when having a conversation with a real person – whether in person, or ironically on the phone. Texts come in when we’re talking, and those are as bad as call waiting.

Multitasking – a word that’s terribly overused – is not the answer. The real question is, why do we place what’s coming in on our phones over what is happening in our airspace? Why is the phone ahead of what’s right in front of us? Why are we in competition with cell phones?

It’s degrading to jockey for positioning let alone when you’re getting usurped. It’s a “hurry up and say what you need or want to say,” before the phone beats you to the punch – and wins – situation.

It must be an auto-programming of sorts, to constantly and immediately reach for your phone, check it, answer it, respond to it, and tell the person you are with, “Oh hold on….Sorry one sec….Oh I have to take this, just one minute.”

It’s that 24/7 world of immediate access and super-speed technology, of instant gratification, of tending to things in the moment instead of prioritizing. But honestly it seems kind of rude. Not to mention it’s exhausting to be in the ‘hold-on zone,’ and try to keep up with people who are constantly keeping up with everyone else at the exact same time.

So until the FMC app is real, and when I’m at the dentist, I’m going to pay attention to what’s right in front of me, and put the human first. Oh wait, maybe not. What if it’s an emergency? Or better yet, my mouthguard is in. Hold on a minute…maybe that is the best answer of all.

 

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Dear Diary, Lost My Jolly Today

Ever write in a diary when you were little? You know the kind that had a pretty princess on the front, with a little lock and the tiniest little key that bent when you tried to lock it? I had one but never trusted it was safe from anyone’s eyes, and when the key bent with the lock locked, I quit. Not sure where it went. Probably in the trash.

Then in adolescence I tried journaling, but it seemed so laborious. Little irony here, I’m a blogger now…and all grown up. While I write from the heart in my posts, I choose my words carefully, pay attention to grammar, always think about the readers, and the message I want to share.

But some days I just want to write in a diary – a faceless, blank piece of paper that is both ready and willing to take on words and absorb feelings. So I googled “how to write in a diary,” and find it pretty funny that I needed directions on that. Here’s what I got:

When you’re writing in your diary it’s important to just write whatever you feel like, without worrying about who might be reading. Simply writing 100% honestly about your feelings or your ideas can help you work through them. This diary is for you. It is to help you remember.

Helping to remember is key, especially when the memory bank is sketchy. Too bad I didn’t try it sooner.

Here’s another one:

Diaries are great ways to keep track of your past and think about your future. Diaries have also been shown to help regulate mood and emotions. Keep your entries honest, detailed, and authentically you.

Honest, detailed, and authentically me? Check. But here’s the validation:

Writing your diary daily can get repetitive and discouraging. However, fret not for a diary provides a record of your life, in only your view. It is the safest form of communication as there are no limitations. 

Ok then. Here goes.

Dear Diary,

There are times that I don’t hear from my busy college boy. But it seemed odd that the last few of days he wasn’t returning my texts at all, which sparked some upset and worry. So I sent him a text sharing my concern about his silence, and then I found out why. 

It’s official. Apple won’t give him time off to come home for Christmas, they told him that it’s impossible and he can’t even swap his shifts. As I read his text I started to cry. It was a long one – his text that is – and he was crying too. He said he had a stern talk with his manager who told him sorry, but he has 3 days off the week after Christmas, so that would have to do. But Diary, he lives 9 hours away. 

My mind raced for hours before it wore itself out, darting from one thought to another, along with plenty of tears.

My boy won’t be home at Christmas, or anytime really since he has to pay his way through college because a while back his father gambled away his college money and won’t help with tuition now… We had to move away from where my boy still lives because of Scary Mrs. Ex and her big fat bag of unleashed crazy… How does Sir Husband cope with not seeing his own kids due to her parental alienation… How do people who have kids in the military get through the holiday season… What about all the lonely people in the world…   What about his brothers, they will be so sad…  Christmas is off.

You know what else dear Diary? I don’t expect anyone to understand, unless they’ve been through it, and I don’t expect many to care. I am not looking for sympathy, just for a break – where everything works out for once. 

I don’t need any “be grateful” dribble. Honestly that isn’t the point. All I am is grateful, every single day. So I can be hurt every now and again, I just have to work my way through it, like I’ve had to do my whole life. My son won’t be home for Christmas and we’re all very sad. 

Love, Me

I’d sure love to see what I wrote in that little princess diary of mine. I wonder what it said, or if its imagined future was like reality is now. Because little girls dream and hope and believe, wonder and dance and sparkle.

Hmmm. It’s never too late as they say.

Dear Diary…

 

 

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You’re The Boss Millennial Generation

Society calls them obnoxiously confident and self-expressive, scared yet aggressive, liberal and demanding of change, but my take on my three millennial sons is pretty cut and dry:

Thanks for giving me life, I’ll take it from here.

I recently learned that my 16-year-old son pretty much has a life of his own. I secured him a steady tutoring gig, then came to find out he’s already got a job, except this one doesn’t pay. Apparently he’s working on his extra curriculars for his college application, and he kept me out of the loop. Sorry Mom, N-O he said. Not an option that is, he’s already got a full plate. Fifteen going on 40? Or just a teen with a ‘tude?

All three of my near-grown millennial boys are like this. I housed them for nine months until they made their way into the world, but it seems the world took over. That must sound ridiculous, considering I’m their mother. It’s not like I’m disconnected or lost, in fact, just the opposite. It’s that they have wandered off of the cord, as they really are supposed to do.

So I sit on the fringes now and wonder who they really are. Sometimes I recognize them, sometimes I don’t. Each is so unique in their personality, and also their personal life paths. But what do I expect? They are millennials, aka Generation Y. This culture of youth born between 1980 and 2000 is getting a yin-yang rap.

Yes, Gen Y-ers are a new breed, but as a Gen X mom who raised them, I’d like to say they are an extraordinary group of individuals whose independence is so solid, that parenting is more like as-needed guidance. Whether that’s true or not I can’t say, but it helps me sleep at night.

I do respect their perspective. Shaped by technology and a terrible economy, they’ve got moxie, they’ve got pride, and they’ve got an endless determination to pursue their creative passions while trying to make big bucks.

There are times of course, when my view of this breed isn’t gleaming, and I know I’m not alone. Spoiled…entitled…narcissistic…these technology social media addicts think they know everything, deserve everything, and unrealistically believe anything is possible.

While I’m not a narcissist or raised my boys that way, I try to live by that credence myself. If you dream it then by all means go for it, and don’t let me stand in your way.

That may be a unique perspective, but I’m glad it’s one they imbue. Doesn’t mean I don’t miss them though, because the “not standing in their way” part means they are off on their own. Even the youngest who lives in our house seems more like a roommate than offspring. But he is who he is, can’t fight that.

I’m not alone in my belief in millennials – the largest generation of our time. The White House also finds them renowned, so much so they state these are the shapers of our economy, forming the future for generations to come, and sharing a perspective like no other generation prior to them.

Alright then, like I said, don’t let me stand in your way. But my lack of Snapchatting, or Instagramming, or demand for instant gratification beyond a pile of chocolate, has left me in the dust. Okay boys, carry on.

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Yep, that’s my millennial.

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