Wednesday, December 25, 2013

Christmas Dinner for One--and I'm OK with That

It's Christmas.  It's a time for family.  It's a time for friends.  It's a time for tradition. 

The world we live in puts so much pressure on any holiday season--especially Christmas.  I bought into it for a long time.  Following my parents' divorce, I remember putting up the family Christmas tree by myself on Thanksgiving night.  It was tradition to put it up on that day, so I did it. 

And then there were the years where my brother and actually had six Christmas celebrations in a 24 hour period.  We were overwhelmed and shell-shocked, but we put on a happy face for everyone.  After all, that is what we were supposed to do.

I spent countless Christmas dinners with a friend's family. It was awkward and uncomfortable, but I did it because I wasn't supposed to be by myself on Christmas day.  I did these things (and many more) because that was what I was supposed to do.  I was going through the motions, but they didn't make me happy. 

I tried.  I really tried to fit into the standards society set for me.  I tried to make myself fit into the mold, but it didn't work. I didn't fit and I wasn't any happier for trying.

Christmas (whether you are religious person or not) should be a happy time.  It's so easy to get wrapped up in the things that society thinks you should do or thinks you should be or thinks you should have.  But why?  Why do we feel like the holidays are some kind of measuring device that determines where we fit according to society's standards.

For me, Christmas has become a time where I get the chance to reflect on the blessings in my life.  While I may not measure up to what the world expects of me, I am truly humbled by how truly blessed I am.  I have an incredibly wacky family that doesn't necessarily make sense to others, but loves me no matter what.  I have three beautiful, compassionate, and funny nieces.  I have a nephew who starts planning a Christmas Eve lunch with me 24 hours in advance.  I have a home that keeps me warm and is my safe haven.  I have friends who understand me and like me anyway. I have many, many outlets for my creative spirit.   And I have a healthy body that continues to serve me despite not being treated the way it should be.

So this evening, I will be having a turkey dinner for one.  I will get out my favorite dishes and open a bottle of my favorite wine for the occasion.  I will give thanks for all that this year has provided me.  I will send out my hopes and dreams and wishes.  And I will go to bed content with the life I am living today and dreams of what the future may have in store for me.

And that is enough.  That is more than enough.

Thursday, December 5, 2013


It's that time of year again.  Time for my favorite movie to make it's way to the top of my list of movies to watch and for me to revisit all those important lessons.

Now, since this is the third time this movie has been the subject of a post on this blog, I should probably reveal its title.  The Holiday!  Yes, my friends, my favorite movie is The Holiday.  I realize that there are hundreds of Christmas themed movies that could, and probably should, have a greater impact on my life, but they have paled in comparison.

The movie is the story of two very different women in two different countries.  But it is so much more than a movie.  If you look at the storyline of Iris, you pretty much have the screenplay of my life!  Sure, the names and situations have been changed, but it's me on the screen.  Those that know me best instantly see the similarities in our situations.  Our heroine is not very heroic at the beginning.  She is filled with the kind of hope that blinds her to the reality of her situation.  And then reality comes and smacks her upside the head--big time.

Really, it's all about gumption!  It's about finding your gumption.  It's about seeing gumption in others.  It's about using your gumption.  It's about holding on to you gumption.

And it's exactly what I need on days like today when I'm questioning my gumption. 

Wednesday, November 27, 2013


Things change everyday.  Little moments here and there.  So small that we don't even notice them.

But then there are the big changes.  Those momentous decisions that actually change who you are.  It's hard.  It's scary.  But you step forward, hope for the best, and move forward.

Going forward is hard.  At first you just go through the motions as you determine if the decision you made was right.  And then those changes come to life.  You begin to see a difference in yourself.  You begin to feel stronger.  You begin to believe in yourself again.  You begin to believe that things are going to be ok.

But there are casualties.  There are those who can't or won't move forward with you.  It's unfair, in their eyes, that you changed the game.  You are no longer the same person you were.  You now have different expectations and different boundaries.  And while you know the changes are for the best, these people try to hold you back.

And so, there becomes a point in time where you have to become selfish.  You don't want to hurt others, but being held back hurts you.  You keep communicating.  You keep trying to help them understand.  You give them time.  But you have to be true to yourself. 

Thursday, November 21, 2013


Over a year.  That's how long it had been since I had been able to get a full night's sleep.  Oh, sure, there was the occasional night, but no more than four straight hours on a regular basis. 

I had tried everything. Exercise, but not too close to bedtime.  Cut back on caffeine.  Remove electronics from the bedroom.  Hot baths, warm herbal tea, cooler temps.  Prep the sleep space.  Use the bedroom only for sleeping. Nap.  Don't nap. Herbal supplement.  Over the counter sleep aids.  Massage therapy.  Breathing exercises.  Oh, the list was endless and nothing seemed to help. 

Others would complain about their lack of sleep.  But their moments were few and far between.  How could something as simple as sleep elude me on a consistent basis?  Why could others sleep and I couldn't ?  What was I doing wrong?  More importantly, what was wrong with me?

The problem--my mind.  I couldn't turn it off.  Every concern for my students, every worry about finances, every moment I could possibly second guess would come forward.  They become voices in my head that would not be ignored.  They made going to sleep a two hour process and loved to wake me up after only a few hours of sleep.  The four hour night had become a luxury.

So I tried for over a year to find a way to silence these voices.  But they were strong.  Before starting another sleep deprived school year, I went to my doctor.  She listened.  She understood.  She started me on a low dose medication.  She gave me hope. 

My doctor and I are still working together, but what a ride I am on!  I now sleep, but experience anxiety dreams where my conscious mind actually tries to tell me the things my subconscious are showing me are not real.  There have been morning where I wake up only to find that I have actually acted out parts of my dreams and moved items in my sleep.  But, at least I'm sleeping on a semi-regular basis.

And I haven't taken for granted how lucky I am.  I get to live in a time where it is ok to admit I need help.  No one is going to judge me.  No one is going to look down upon me.  If anything, most people have commended me for seeking help.  Their only question has been why I didn't do it sooner. I can't help but wonder the same thing.

Now, if you'll excuse me, it's time to wind down and get ready to get some sleep.

Tuesday, May 7, 2013


It seems like the life of a different person.  I had this grandmother.  A little rough around the edges, but when she laughed--oh, you felt like her laughter was the only sound.  She took care of us all the time.  Whenever our parents needed to go somewhere, she was there.  And an overnight visit meant candy and a new box of crayons.  What more could a little girl want???

And then my parents got divorced.  The 12 year old girl was faced with a whole world of complications and unknown experiences.  Not knowing what to do, she followed her parents. 

On the maternal side, it was a world of secrets.  "Don't tell them Daddy left.  He's just working a different shift."  When it became clear that Daddy wasn't coming back, the information was released through a beloved aunt.  Nothing was really said, but the overwhelming sense of love and support was felt--even by an then akward 12 year old.

But the paternal side was much different.  Without any warning, that part of life seemed to no longer exist.  My father would show up on his designated weekends, but contact with his family tapered off until there was nothing.  I followed the example of a man that I now know chooses to live in a world of denial than one of relationships.

But I didn't know that when I was 12.

Through the wonders of social media, I snooped and found out that the wonderful woman I called grandmother is in a hospital bed.  She has been given only days to live.  I haven't seen her in years, and yet I feel my heart breaking.  I don't know who she is now, but I have the memories of the woman she was--strong, fearless, loving, kind, spirited.  It hurts to know that I turned my back on that.  It also hurts that my father, who I followed blindly as a kid, hasn't even called to let me know about the situation.  Even with his tremendous powers of denial, surely he has accepted what is happening.

Ultimately, there is no one to blame but myself.  I have had the power for years to try to mend what was broken, but I didn't.  I don't even know why.  I just didn't. 

But, if there is even the slightest possibility, I want the world to know:  Grandma, I love you!  I may have drifted away, but a part of you has always lived within me.  I am not the granddaughter you deserved.  For that I will always be sorry.  But my love for you will always be there.

Friday, January 11, 2013


It's been an extremely stressful week for this teacher.  Email has been down.  The color ink printer is not cooperating with my lesson plans.  The kids have picked up a horrid cough. A child has pushed the limits so far that I'm beginning to feel like a corrections officer most afternoons.  And if that wasn't enough, we have had inside recess three times this week.  It's no wonder I'm exhausted.

That being said, there are those moments each and every day that grab me from the edge of grumpiness and give me the energy to go on.  Yesterday's moment came from a squirrel outside our window.  This determined little creature kept climbing up the pole of the bird feeder, but the rain caused him to slide right down like a firefighter on a way to a fire.  Two little girls saw it first.  Their laughter drew more and more kids over until the entire class was sitting on the shelving under the window, laughing until their faces were red.  It was the best moment of the entire week.

So, Mr. Squirrel, I'm sorry we got so much enjoyment in your countless failed attempts yesterday, but thanks for the entertainment.  As a symbol of my appreciation, I left some extra sunflower seeds under the feeders for you.  Enjoy!

Wednesday, January 2, 2013


This blog started as a whim.  I was flipping though channels on TV  and happened upon one of my all time favorite movies.  I watched it and suddenly discovered I was Iris!  A woman who discovered that she was not the leading lady in her own life. With the help of an elderly neighbor, she finds her gumption and we are left assuming that she is on the path to becoming the leading lady she has always wanted to be.  I had to get the feelings I had out, so I opened my laptop and started this blog.

2012 was the year for me to start becoming the leading lady in my own life.  It was challenging in so many ways that those around me couldn't see because the struggle was within myself.  I knew I had that person somewhere deep inside me, but I had pushed her away so many times that I had to go find her again.  But, very slowly, she came back. 

It hasn't been easy.  When you have taken a backseat to the feelings and opinons of others for so long, there are going to be struggles in relationships.  It is a bit unfair to change who you are, but it's even more unfair to deny who you are to yourself. 

I have noticed similarities in the people who have struggled with the changes.  They are the people who have been the most critical of me in the past--as if my supporting role in their lives was more important than the role I held in my own life.  Some continue to struggle.  They continue to point out all my flaws and how my actions are interferring with their lives.  I approach them with as much compassion as I can, but I simply can't go back. 

So, my friends, this is the year of GUMPTION!  That single word has become my battle cry.  When I am feeling weak, I say this word quietly to myself.  Suddenly, I am reminded of all the lessons I have learned.  I know that others can only have power over me if I allow it.  I know that I am not perfect, but I am continuing to learn and grow every day.  I know that I have people around me who like me for who I am.

Most importantly, I know that I deserve to be the leading lady in my life.