Monday, December 31, 2012

New Year's Eve

I couldn't let yesterday's post be the way I ended the year.  Not that I feel badly about it, quite the opposite, but I just didn't want that to be the note I went out on.  So, bear with me.

While I can't really remember a New Year's Eve of the last ten or so years that has been much to crow about, the New Year's Eves of my childhood were magical.  My little brother was born on NYE, so each year my parents threw a party. They would invite my extended family and their friends, and there was always plenty of food and cake.  When the birthday part was over, the adults would play board games and watch movies while we kids did whatever it was kids did at the time.  I don't know that I lasted until midnight that often, but when I did, it was equal parts embarrassing and fun to see our parents hug and kiss and celebrate the coming of a squeaky-clean year.

As we got older, the kids declared the need for our own celebration, and I remember one year in particular. I would have been in eighth grade, thirteen (always young for my grade).  My friends and I got permission to go across the field and have our own after-dinner celebration at my cousins' house.  We thought we were big stuff.  Four teenage girls, five or six older teenage boys goofing off with no parents.  It was the stuff of coming-of-age films.  (Not the crappy ones now with too much, too soon. It was a celebration, not an after-school special.)  I remember watching Field of Dreams with my first teenage crush, wishing desperately for my first kiss (which I didn't get).  And laughing, oh how we laughed.  When I think of New Year's Eves, that's the one I always think of.  Not a party dress, confetti-littered, Hollywood-manufactured image, but one of laughing with friends in our early-90's clothes and big hair, hoping for a midnight kiss.

The years have come gone.  The kids of that night now have kids of their own.  We've lost parents, gotten married, gotten divorced, experienced highs and lows that we never could have imagined then.  And if we could have, would we have wanted to?  I think that's the real beauty of a new year.  We don't know what's going to happen.  Chances are, it will be a mixed bag.  And that has to be okay.  Each moment is golden if you hold it in the right light.  The mystery is part of the beauty.  And the kids will be alright.

Sunday, December 30, 2012

New Year's Honesty -- Read At Your Own Risk

This break was not the break I thought it would be.  I don't really even know what I expected, probably too much.  That seems to be a theme with me.  I always build things up in my mind to be this certain way...more somehow...even when there's no real reason to.  And the optimist side of me thinks this is a good thing, but my realist side says that I'm setting myself up for failure.  I think we all know who usually wins this argument.

I spend a considerable amount of time trying to convince myself that I'm happy.  Is that normal?  I mean, I get real glimpses of happy from time to time--sweet, shining moments--but they are always braced with grounding reality.  Maybe I've just spent a little too much time snowed-in this week.  Being alone with my thoughts has always been dangerous for me.  Add in the reflection that comes with the beginning of a New Year, and I'm pretty well screwed.

Each year begins with so much hope.  And at the end, I look around and see how little is different with me.  Same job, same single life, same, same, same.  And it's not really that any of those things are inherently bad.  I like my job.  I like pajamas and popcorn for dinner.  But what if there are things out there that I might really love?

I know, I know.  We can't live our lives in the 'what if.'  That's not how it works.  We'll drive ourselves crazy and maybe that's what I've been doing.  Life isn't about how we expect it to turn out, it's about what we're actually given and learning to be grateful and all of that.  I know that in my head.  I get it, I repeat it, I try to live it.  But sometimes it's just not enough.  Right?

I'm not whining.  I'm just asking.  Because I'm 31, and I thought someday there would come a point where I didn't feel like such a kid.  Not in that 'kid at heart' way, but in that 'I don't have any idea what I'm doing' way.  I see these people who are my age around me with so much direction and sense of purpose and it feels like they know something I don't, attended a class I missed.  And I don't know what to do with that.  I've never known. And I just wonder if that's normal.  It would be nice to feel like I'm part of the majority, because I don't really know that I've ever felt like that.  (Yes, I know we aren't supposed to compare, but let's get real.)

And so, I spew all of this onto the internet, because I am really tired of talking to myself.  A little New Year's  catharsis is good for the soul, right?

Thursday, December 27, 2012

Why I Hate Snow

We received almost a foot of snow on Christmas night.  I don't know exactly when it happened, but I am officially to the point in my life where I hate snow.  Don't get me wrong, I love cold weather because it's the only time of year I am comfortable outside, but snow is really hacking me off.  Here are a few reasons:

  1. It messes up the plans I had for Christmas Break. No visiting with Tara, no dinner with friends.  Nothing.
  2. What's worse than snow when you already have the time off?  Save that stuff for January or February when I am jonesing for a snow day.
  3. I don't have anyone in my household to help me, so if an emergency arises, I have to be a damsel in distress.
  4. You have to get snow off of every thing to even begin to think about going anywhere.
  5. Delilah, my insane cat, hates snow.  It really freaks her out and she screams and tries to attack me when I come in from outside.
All of this, and a little more, is how I ended up having the traumatic morning that I just survived.  I can't find my snow boots (which are actually muck boots), since I have only worn them to measure discus in the mud pit the last couple of years.  I've looked everywhere, but they are nowhere to be found.  Undeterred, I got bundled up and put on a pair of old Doc Marten's and went out.  The cleaning off of my car wasn't really that bad, if you forget that it's sort of sitting in a snow drift on one side.  However, somewhere in that process, my windshield wiper came apart, and I was not smart enough to put it back together.  I decided this wasn't a big deal and I would just run over and ask one of my neighbors to put it back together before I went anywhere.  

I go back inside to take off my snow covered stuff and what's sitting on the stairs?  A mouse, which Delilah had chased out of the main part of house onto the stairwell.  I stared at the poor little guy for a second or two, and then decided that being the liberated, single woman I was I would take care of it myself.  I opened the door and tried to shoo it out, then found a bucket and tried to convince the little guy to run into it.  Both were disasters, and the poor little guy was just scared and exhausted (and kinda cute, like Gus Gus on Cinderella!).  And so, I ended up going next door and my sweet neighbor, without flinching or questioning, came over and fixed the windshield wiper and took Gus outside and if I had a normal life this would be the end of the story, but I don't.

I took off all my snow clothes, but Delilah could still smell me (and the snow on me) and she began to flip out and try to attack me. Normally, this isn't a big deal and I can ignore her and she will calm down, but not so much today.  She chased me around the house until I could trick her onto the closed-in porch (where her litterbox and food are) and lock her up.  It was a comedy routine of throwing blankets and using a leather briefcase as a shield until that happened.  And I looked like I'd had a full workout, sweat and all.  

And I blame snow for it all.

Monday, December 24, 2012

Merry Christmas!!

I'll be spending time with my family for the next couple of days, like I hope all of you will be as well, but I wanted to take a second and wish everyone a very Merry Christmas!  If it snows here like they are forecasting, you may be stuck with a whole lot of blogging from me later this week!

May your holidays be filled with love and laughter and grateful hearts!

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Observations on Kindness and Christmas Shopping

I went Christmas shopping today, because I am both a procrastinator and someone who hates to shop on the weekends when everyone else is if I can avoid it.  And as much as I dreaded it, it really wasn't that bad.  The trauma of last week seems to have made us a little nicer to one another. I didn't have or see one unpleasant interaction, and let's be honest, people tend not to be their best selves in the Christmas crowds.  Normal, mild mannered people will shank you for a bicycle or a 50%-off sweater.  But not today.  Today, people smiled and said hello to one other, even if they were strangers.  Shoppers were an extra measure of patient, sales associates a little more helpful. Everyone seemed to be taking care of everyone else. At least, that's how it felt.  Maybe I was just paying more attention.  But I hope people really were different.

I don't know if any of you follow Ann Curry on Twitter or have heard this somewhere else, but she (much like my dear internet friend, Joyce) asked people to commit random acts of kindness and it's really catching on.  It's been restoring my faith in humanity one tweet at time.  Seriously, search #20Acts or #26Acts on Twitter and read for yourself.  It's beautiful.

The only question I have is why do we have to wait for something so terrible to happen to remind us to be amazing.  If you are Christian, part of our call is to show Christ's love to others, and I know I fall short of that all of the time.  What if we committed 26 acts and followed it with 26 more over and over and over?  Evil will never truly overpower good.  I hope that we can all find ways to remind the world of that, now and always.

Wednesday Hodgepodge - 12/19

1. How will you spend 'the night before Christmas'? 

With my mom's side of the family eating too much food and reveling in the crazy of  having lots of relatives in one place, especially this year.

2.  What is one thing you are not?

I am a terrible housekeeper, which has been well documented here.  Get to take another shot at it after I finish my Christmas shopping now that I'm on break!

3.  Fudge-are you a fan?  Your favorite flavor?

Absolutely.  Especially my mom's ribbon fudge with peanut butter and chocolate.

4. Did you attend any craft/vendor fairs in the month of December?  Do you prefer homemade goodies or the more professional stalls? Are you giving any homemade gifts this year? 

The only craft fair I attended was in November, but it's become a yearly tradition with my mom and sister.  I like a mix the homespun and professional, and tend to buy at both.  This year, I am giving handmade spoons and a beautiful table runner (and neither of the people they are going to read my blog, so we are safe!)

5. What's your favorite type of holiday gathering? 

I like pretty much any gathering where everyone gets together and eats and celebrates.  But I am looking most forward to all of my friends being home and getting together.  Love those girls with all of my heart and they make me laugh until my belly hurts.  

6.  We're approaching a new year...what's going to be different in 2013? 

My attitude.

7. Share a favorite scripture, quote, saying, or song lyric relating to peace.

Let there be peace on Earth, and let it begin with me. 
 Let there be peace on Earth, the peace that was meant to be.  
With God as our father, Brothers all are we, 
Let me walk with my brother in perfect harmony. 
Let there be peace on Earth,  Let this be the moment now.
Let there be peace on Earth, Let this be my solemn vow.
To take each moment, and live each moment in peace eternally.
Let there be peace on Earth, and let it begin with me.

I can't count the number of times that I sang this during Mass growing up.  It remains one of my very favorites, and the prayer of my heart.  A close second is this:
"Be always at war with your vices, at peace with your neighbors and may each new year find you a better man." - Benjamin Franklin

8.  Insert your own random thought here.

I'm wishing everyone a very lovely Christmas celebration!  Really hoping to actually get some blogging done while I am off!  

Sunday, December 16, 2012

Sandy Hook

UPDATE: 9:17 PM  Jason Robert Brown, a composer that I love, wrote this.  It is heartbreaking, yes, but let us focus on the names of those who were lost in this madness, and not the name of the one who did it.  Twenty-six names.  Twenty-six lives who went to school like every other day and never came home.  May God grant us all comfort and peace.

I need to confess that I've been avoiding the news since it happened, with great success because I won't even turn to a channel that's airing the news.  I've been on Twitter, read articles, cried over the list of names.  But I can't watch it.  There's no amount of footage or analysis that will explain this, because what happened in Sandy Hook is every teacher's greatest fear.  We want to believe that if we put enough precautions in place we can stop someone from doing the unthinkable, but really we can't.  And that is so very scary.  School is supposed to be the one place that I can guarantee my students are safe, and to imagine that space becoming anything else is just too much.  I would like to think that I would do anything necessary to protect my students, that I could be that brave in a time of such unthinkable crisis.  Trust me, every teacher in that building was a hero.  And my heart grieves for that school, those parents, that entire town.

Now is not the time for political rhetoric, it's just too soon, though that time will come.  We have to address accessibility to mental health care in this country.  There will be a time to have a hopefully reasonable discussion about the gun culture, about our overexposure to violent imagery, about all of this and more.  And hopefully some of those things will become action before this becomes another teacher's nightmare.

But those conversations are for another day.  For now, we as a nation need to grieve little lives and the lives of those who died protecting them.  And we need to pray.   In this Christmas season, let us hug our families and say "I love you" more and do all of things that some of the families in Newtown, CT won't be able to this year.  I choose to believe that there is more good in the world than evil.  I simply have to.  Maybe we just need to make the effort to let our love be louder than the evil.  Let's start today.

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Wednesday Hodgepodge - 12/12/12

1.  So, when did you last take a walk in the woods? A stroll along the beach? A drive going nowhere in particular in the car? 

I love a drive in the car.  I have always been the kind of girl who loves a gravel road and some good music.  There's nothing like getting lost in the country.  (Though I will always take a stroll on the beach when available.)

2.  Are you sending Christmas cards this year?  About how many do you send?  Photo card or something more traditional?  How do you display the cards you receive?

I am going to try to send Christmas cards this year, but I am absolutely terrible about it.  Mostly because I never really have time to get my act together until it's too close to Christmas.  On top of that, I'm just crap about getting things in the mail in general, even though I have a mailbox and live across the street from the post office.  (How sad, right?)  Also, it's a little weird to just send a card from only me when a lot of other people my age have the husband/kids combo.

3. What's a word you've heard too much of in the past week?

Finals.  My college friends are taking them and I'm busy trying to prep mine for next week!  I need to make more progress since our finals are next Monday and Tuesday!!

4. December 13th is National Cocoa Day-are you a fan?  Plain or flavored?  Marshmallows or no marshmallows?

Huge fan!  It's easily my favorite hot drink.  I actually love white chocolate hot chocolate from a local cafe the best, but I will drink about anything.  And always marshmallows...lots and lots of them!

5. What is something you do to help alleviate the hectic pace of the Christmas season?

I really try my best not get caught up in the hectic nature of the season.  I'm a big fan of taking each event as it comes and since I still have choir performances, finals, potlucks and shopping between now and Christmas, I have a lot of other things to focus on.  (Plus, I have a really fun night planned with Amber this weekend...more about that next week!)

6. Besides jewelry, what's a favorite sparkly-glittery item in your home or closet?

I'm a really big fan of sequins any time of the year.  Sparkly beading will work as well.  Mostly, I'm just a big fan of shiny things!

7. Share a favorite line or two from any Christmas carol.

"Long lay the world, in sin and error pining, 'Til He appeared and the soul felt its worth."  Pretty much all of "O Holy Night" is beautiful, but I love that line, especially.

8.  Insert your own random thought here.

It really is hard to believe that we are already halfway through the school year!  It seems like we are just getting started.  But I'll welcome it, because I think we have good things in store next semester, including our school musical and, of course, track season!

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

SUYL: Christmas Traditions

Since I don't have a husband or children, my Christmas traditions are still the ones that I have grown up with.    My younger sister, LuLu, is the keeper of all the family traditions.  Since she was born, if we dare to miss a tradition of any sort, we are sure to incur her wrath.  (Which, I suppose, is its own little Christmas tradition.) I actually love that there's someone who makes sure that we do all of the little things, because I would probably be a little lazy about them and let some fall by the wayside.

On Christmas Eve, we go to my mom's side of the family.  This is especially convenient, because it's less than a mile from my parents'.  We eat, mostly appetizer-style foods and desserts, and the little ones (anyone from birth to college) get their presents from the aunts and uncles.  The "little ones" is ever-expanding these days, as I have lots of cousins with kids.  The rest of us trade little things, and we shower lots of love on my grandmother, who is the only living grandparent on that side.  (She's in her eighties and still goes on vacations with her friends from high school.  She's pretty awesome!)

Afterwards, we go back to my parents' and open a couple of presents from them.  One is always pajamas, and the other is something small, maybe a sweater or something.  Then, we watch the local choirs and mock them a little, because we are cynical people with sick senses of humor.  While we are doing that, Santa visits.  That's right.  We are 31, 27, and 22 and Santa still visits.  (As Mom says, "If you don't believe, you don't receive.")  This will be the first Christmas with my niece, The Divine Miss M, so I'm an extra measure of excited!

On Christmas Day, we typically go to Mass (though this year, we will go on Christmas Eve) and then have sweet rolls for breakfast.  My dad's side of the family comes over for late lunch, and we visit and exchange gifts and just hang out and enjoy ourselves.  That side of the family is much smaller, so it's little more relaxed. (This is my parents' cat, Shredder.  He's pretty...evil.)

I can't wait to start some new traditions with my niece.  This year she's still too young to remember, but it won't be long before she will be able to really get into it.  I can't wait to see what everyone else does, too!  Thanks for visiting!

Random List Time!

I haven't done a random list in a while, if you excuse that most of the things I talk about on here are pretty random, so I figured now was as good a time as any.  You're welcome!

  • I don't have my Christmas shopping done, which is really sad because I don't really have that much shopping to do. But luckily, I will have several days off before Christmas to get myself together!  As usual, I can use all the help I can get!
  • I'm also hoping to get my house company ready during those days because I'm planning to host a little get-together for my friends while I'm off and everyone is home!  
  • My organizational skills need some serious help.  My small house has too much stuff, even though I'm lucky enough to have lots of storage space. Ideally, I would start using my attic space after giving it a good cleaning (with some help) and anything I don't need I will take to Goodwill or to the local clothes closet.  Whatever happens, I need to get rid of the excess in my life.
  • I really need to sit down and write a music post for you guys.  I have had one in the works for a while now, as I've been listening to some great music.  But it takes time and concentration, two things I've not had much of lately.
  • If you follow me on Twitter, you heard this already, but I survived my first choir concert as a co-director!  It went better than I could have ever dreamed.  Now if we can just make it through the other two performances before school lets out for break.
  • I have a list of movies I really want to see that I haven't.  Some will be in theaters over break, so I'm hoping to see them (particularly Guilt TripThis Is 40 and Les Miserables), but several are out on video soon.  I also have a long Netflix queqe and am looking at getting a Roku 2.  Do any of you (those that have stuck with all this rambling) have one?  Or use some other method to get Netflix on your TV?  Thoughts?  Suggestions?
I think that's it for now.  I know that I've been neglectful on commenting back and whatnot recently, but I promise I'm reading everything.  (And I'm serious about the technology help.  I could really use it!)

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Wednesday Hodgepodge - 12/5

1.  Share your traditions surrounding the Christmas stocking. 

Our stockings at my parents' house each have their own special hanger that was purchased for our first Christmas.  Mine is a creepy little elf.  But he holds my stocking, so I guess I really shouldn't complain.  They go over the mantle until they are filled with Christmas goodies.  Then they sit with our gifts from Santa.  (Yes, we are 31, 27, and 22 and our mom still does Santa gifts.  But in her words, "Those who don't believe, don't receive."  And she's a retired kindergarten teacher, so you know she means it.  

2.  How many hours of sleep do you average at night?  Is it enough?

On an average school night, I get about seven hours of sleep.  It is never enough, especially lately.  I tend to make up for it on the weekends.  I do my best on about 9-10 hours a night, but I am not willing to go to bed as soon as I get home to make that happen.

3.  If you had to give up one thing for the remainder of this year what would it be?

This question should not be that hard.  I think I would have to go with soda.  I really drink it rarely anymore, but I am trying to take it out of my diet completely.  Next, I am going to start on my beloved sweet tea.  I don't even want to talk about how traumatic that is going to be.

4.  The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge (or Wills and Kate as I like to call them) have announced they're expecting a baby. Do you follow news of the Royals? 

I do follow news of the Royals, and I was very excited!  Maybe it's just because they are my age and they seem like such a nice, normal couple considering their circumstances.  Maybe it's my near lifelong obsession with English royalty.  Either way, I am so very happy for them!

5.  For me,  the sound of childhood is__________________.

I can think of a million smells that bring back thoughts of my childhood, but sound is harder.  I think it would have to be the sound of a tractor.  My grandpa used to take us on rides when we were little, and it was always a highlight of our days with him.  

6.  Fruit cake-yay or boo? What's your favorite dessert made with fruit?

Boo.  My favorite dessert made with fruit is crumb top apple pie.  I'm not a big pie fan, but this one is so very good!

7. What is one thing you want to accomplish before 2012 comes to an end?

I want to have made it through three quality choir performances.  We have one tonight and two more before school is out.  If we can get those done, I will certainly feel relieved.

8.  Insert your own random thought here.

I'm hoping that volunteering to host some of the Christmas Break festivities will give me the push I need to actually give my house the kind of cleaning and organization it actually needs.  Either that, or I am going to be pushing things in closets in a way I never have before.  It's really too early to tell at this point.

Sunday, December 2, 2012


My friends and I all went out last night for Amber's birthday.  It was one of those rare nights where pretty much everything was perfect.  Good food, good weather, lots of laughs.  I loved every minute of it.  And I was sad to go home.  Not that I find that particularly surprising.

One of the things I've been dealing with recently is that I am really lonely.  The thing about living alone is that you do get used to it.  There are times when I don't know if I am thinking things or actually saying them out loud.  And one of the things that happens after a while is that it is easier to be alone than to go out and be around people.  Even when you long to be around people, sometimes it just seems like it's entirely too much trouble.  Last night reminded me why it is usually worth the effort.

I don't know if I will ever end up in a relationship.  I would like to, but I can't sit here and say that I know that is going to happen for me.  It may not.  And while I don't know that I want children of my own, I also have this almost resentment that I might not get the chance to decide all of that with the husband I assumed I would have by this point.  And I don't really know what to do with that or how to resolve it.

The last year has brought about so much change in my life.  And much of  it was not particularly welcome when it showed up on my door step.  Like the changing of seasons, people have come and gone.  (Thankfully, some have even come back again.)  There is still much that remains a mystery to me.  But, at the end of the day, all you can ask for is to have people you love who love you back.  I have that.  No, in this season, that isn't a husband or children, maybe it never will be, but I'm learning to be content with receiving the love that comes my way in whatever form it may appear.  And better yet, I'm learning to love back, which is not really something I've always been very good at.

There are lessons to be learned in every season.  And I'm not even sure what all of my lessons in this one are yet, but I'm willing to keep trying.