Tuesday, November 29, 2016

A Grinch I Am And A Grinch I'll Be...

The holiday season has me in its sights and has locked onto me like a heat seeking missle. I guess I should explain: I don't love holidays...at least, not like I used to. Somewhere through the years, they lost their magick. Maybe the baubles that hang on evergreen branches tarnished. I don't know.

I've been called many things over the past years, but Grinch seems to be what fits. I don't try to diminish everyone else's joy, but I'm gonna be honest...holiday decorations hitting store shelves before Halloween? Seriously? Steals a lot of my holiday joy. Growing up, I remember our radio stations playing holiday music, but before we could hardly get the Thanksgiving leftovers put away? It's as if we are trying so hard to rush through the holiday season that we forget what we are celebrating.

Halloween isn't merely about getting candy and dressing up. For some, like me, it is about honoring our ancestors. It is a time when the veil thins between the worlds and we communicate with those who've gone before. Sure, I like a good Reese's as much as the next girl, but there's so much more to it.

Then, we have Thanksgiving. Yeah, I know Pilgrims, Mayflower, Native Americans, blah, blah, blah. For me, this holiday is about giving thanks and showing your gratitude for what you have. Counting your blessings should be an every day experience, but taking one day to be with your family, friends, or lending a hand at a soup kitchen doesn't kill any of us. No shopping. No worrying about what little Bobby and Sue want for Christmas. Just time spent enjoying this life we've been given.

By the time Christmas rolls around, we are so wrapped up in the gift giving that we lose sight of what's important. We have an entire month that is hopelessly devoted to: how many presents does each person have, did I spend the same amount on each person, and did my sibling buy our parents a bigger/better/more expensive gift? When did we stop having fun? I remember my mom making gifts for people. She would spend hours sewing things for them, making sure the colors were perfect. But I also remember getting up Christmas morning, excited to see what Santa brought. I believed in the magick of it all. Somewhere along the way, Santa was sold out to Walmart. Gifts from the heart were tossed aside for big and expensive yet cheaply made items. We lost touch with our roots and reality. I remember gifts I was given as a kid that made me question some relatives' sanity, but I smiled, said "Thank you", hell, I even had to write thank you notes! And I did it. I still do. For me, it's important to sit down and put pen to paper to tell someone how special you feel because they took the time to think of you. I would rather have one simple gift that tells me a person took the time to thoughtfully purchase a gift for me, than to have several shiny, expensive gifts. Someone I loved deeply once bought me a 5-pack of my favorite ink pens. I cried at the thoughtful gesture. That meant more to me than if this person had brought me diamonds.

The holiday season has become so wrapped up in consumerism and selfishness. Your two year old doesn't need a tablet of his own to watch his shows on. He needs a dump truck or coloring books or maybe even a day spent with you. Something to show him that HE matters to you! Not your phone, your computer screen, or your shows, your child! Your kids won't remember the year they got their phone/tablet/video game/etc., but they will remember watching Christmas movies in their jammies, sledding down a snowy hill, playing a board game, or even helping make cookies...with YOU! You are the key to a magickal holiday season! You won't always be here and those gifts don't create memories.

I'm a little older and a little wiser (I think) so let me tell you something you may not know: People seldom remember the gift you gave them 30 years from now. What they do remember is that you took the time to make memories with them. One of my favorite memories? Being in the kitchen with my family, making cookies, fudge, and candies. Me stirring the pan of fudge on the stove. My dad beating the other batch of fudge at the table. My brother being annoying. My mom baking off the sugar cookies. The radio playing and the laughter...so much laughter! We were making so much more than goodies. There was love, laughter, and memories being made in that farmhouse kitchen. 20+ years later and all I have to do is close my eyes. I am transported back to that farmhouse kitchen in rural Michigan on a snowy night surrounded by love.

Wednesday, November 23, 2016

Thank You...

It's that time of year again (where on earth has 2016 gone?) and everyone is posting things they are thankful for. Me? I'm happy to be here!

I'm thankful for my family and friends, for this life I have, and for the ability to do the things I love. Working in the field I do, I appreciate the little things like taking a shower by myself, going to the store (as much as I despise shopping), and even cooking meals. Sometimes it really is just the little things that we don't think about.

As much as people complain about how people have to work on the holidays, there are some of us who don't have a choice. Yes, I am one of those. Stop for a moment though. Who would take care of us in an emergency situation if the doctors, nurses, and EMTs all were home with their families? Who would be there when we have to stop for gas as we travel to see our families? What about those family members who are in nursing homes? Or what about those people who have no family to spend the holidays with? They still need care. They need showers, meals, etc. Not everyone is equipped to deal with an aging or disabled family member.

And I would be remiss if I didn't mention the members of our military who guard us day and night, keeping a vigilant watch over our borders and our families. While I know we are extremely thankful for their service, if they didn't work 365 days  a year, where would we be? And what about their families who are struggling through without them? It's not an easy job being a military spouse or kid! You learn to cherish the time you get, holidays or no.

So, for the people who are working the holiday, I thank you! Yes, even the retail clerks! Do you know why? Because I am me and I will have inadvertently forgotten something. I will have to rush out and pick it up at the last minute. If the store were closed, well, I'd be SOL. And having worked retail, trust me, I've been thanked plenty. From the mother who forgot to pick up formula for her baby to the old man who simply had no place to go for the holidays and decided to do his shopping, I felt lucky to be part of their day.

And while we are on the topic of retail people, can I give you a word of sound advice? If you are out shopping this holiday season, please remember that your cashier is merely doing his/her job! They did not set the prices. They do not know every single item that is on sale in their store, let alone someone else's. They are not responsible if you are shopping out of state and your bank has a spending limit and your card is declined. (Yes, I was told I was incompetent at my job over this issue.) They are not responsible for expired coupons. They are on their feet with minimal breaks dealing with customers who are...let's just say, less than pleasant, and they are barely making minimum wage. They are not there because they wanted a "fun job." They are there because they have to be. They are there working to put a roof over their children's heads, food on their families' tables, and pay their bills. You may be stressed out by all the frantic hassle and mobs of people, but these people are doing it 8 hours a day and not necessarily by choice!

I want to send out a big "Thank You" to all of you who are working this holiday! It's not easy and you'd rather be home with your families, but I appreciate you! I'm thankful you sacrifice time away from your family to be on call for mine. And, in case, I haven't said it enough, I'm blessed to have all of you in my life. Thank you for being here, for reading my blogs, and for supporting me on this mixed up, messed up journey I call my life!

Wednesday, November 16, 2016

From My Point of View...

How many times have you been somewhere and you notice that one person sitting by themselves? They may have an electronic device of some sort in front of them, ear buds in and zoned out to the rest of the world. How many times have you felt sorry for them for being alone? How many times have you thought, "Oh, that poor person has no one to eat with/talk to/be with."? Have you ever thought, "Wow! How amazing is that?" Probably not. I know I never did...until I became aware of the fact that I AM that person.

Let me tell you what it is like to be the heavy girl who sits alone:

The chaos of school was always too much for me so I'd go to the library for the silence. I had friends. Hell, I had some of the best friends in the world, but I needed the silence to cope. I could fall into the world of whatever I was reading and forget that I was a heavy set high school girl with no boyfriend, no date on Friday night, who had to work for the extras she wanted in life. Some days I was Scarlett O'Hara. Other days, I was on the mission to solve the crime in a Victoria Holt novel.

Yep, this is actually me in high school.

As an adult, it is a wonder I ever married, to be honest. I married someone whom a friend had set me up with. We'd known each other since elementary school. I sat alone in our home most days and nights. I didn't want to go out and the idea of socializing was too much for me to handle. I could hang out with my family, but that was the extent of it. The world was too loud for me.

After my divorce, I moved in with my best friend. We went out a lot and he had his brother over...a lot! But, looking back, I can tell you that I was happiest when it was just us, hanging out and talking. We didn't exactly hang out with a quiet crowd and the emotions were more than I could handle. I drank too much and felt miserable more often than I would admit to him. And when his brother was here...OMG, he never quit talking! It was amusing and intelligent, but I was exhausted when he'd go home.

Going to college is even more stressful, let me tell you. I'm the woman who is an hour early to class so that she can pop in her earbuds and simply zone out. I need to do this in order to deal, in order to get my mind focused, to keep myself centered, and, yeah, sometimes to shut the world out. If I take my earbuds out to acknowledge you, then please understand that you are special! That you matter enough to me that I want to hear what you have to say and to share my world with you!

Every seat was filled an hour later!

I'm not just the fat girl with mulit-colored hair who is anti-social or has no friends. I'm the woman who needs to enjoy the silence and not listen to the cacophony of noises that fill the world. I tend to feel too much so I need the music to calm my heart and mind. IF I let you into my space, it is because I think you are worthy of that space. My world is overcrowded with people who demand of me. If you take the time to stop and say, "Hello" or ask how I am, that means (at least to me) that for some ungodly reason, you want to get to know me. And while that is terrifying, I'll let you in to my space. Who knows? I might not notice as you ease your way into my life to become a friend...or maybe the one I could love forever.

I'm an introvert of epic proportions which is why being an author seems to be the best fit for me. I can sit alone in my home and write away about worlds that I only dream of being a part of. I only need to socialize through social media and I can be in the silence. Unfortunately, the bills have to be paid and that requires me to step out into the world. A place full of noises, people, and feelings. A place that overwhelms me on my best days. On my worst, I suck it up until I'm in the privacy of my own home, then, I fall apart. I shake and cry under the warm spray of the shower. On my worst days, I have panic attacks and have to walk out of class.

So, the next time you see someone sitting alone with earbuds in, understand that this might be their way of coping with the world around them. And understand that if you decide to say "Hello", that you may just find your new best friend...or the love of your lifetime.

Friday, November 4, 2016

Simply Simplistic...

The other day I was talking to someone and she called me a "country mouse." Now, it was said in a joking manner and I know she didn't mean to hurt my feelings, but the implication was that I'm "simple". Simple in all aspects of my life, including simple-minded. And that pissed me off.

When did being from the country or liking simple things begin to have a bad connotation?

If you've read my previous posts, you know I'm a country girl living in a big city. When I tell you that my hometown was Norman Rockwell-esque, I'm not kidding. Taking a stroll down Main Street will end with you stopping multiple times to talk to several different people. If you would have walked a two block strip of Main Street with my grandmother, it would have taken about an hour because she knew everybody and everybody knew her.

I'm also a woman who is up between the hours of 5 and 6 every morning. I get almost an entire day's work done before I have to actually go to my job. I come home from work and I don't simply sit down and put my feet up. I make dinner, sometimes I bake a little, I walk the dog, do the dishes from dinner, sweep up the floors, all before sitting down to write before bed. Then, I get up and do it all again the next day.

I don't buy cookie dough, I make it because I don't know any other way. I bake bread the way my mom taught me, by hand. No machinery necessary. I seldom buy convenience meals because I don't need all the added junk they put in those things. I have a garden when possible and hit farmers' markets when I can't. I make jam and put up veggies. I prefer jeans, t-shirts, hoodies, and boots to suits, skirts, and high heels. I love hanging my sheets on the line in a summer breeze and I'm not scared of bugs or snakes (mice, yes, but that's different :) ) I love to get dirty and I love the sound of the frogs and crickets singing me to sleep through my open windows. I'm not a fan of air conditioning and I don't care if my hair gets messed up when I drive with the window down (that's what ball caps are for).

This same person was telling me how much she loves taking pictures of the architecture in the city and how you can't find that stuff in the country. I love taking pictures, too. And architecture is one of my favorite subjects. However,you won't find me taking pictures of brick buildings and polarized windows. Clapboard farm houses, old churches with the original stained glass windows, porches where people used to sit and visit, memories of a life long gone in so many parts of this world.
My pictures, more often than not, are nature based. Leaves, water, trees, critters, things that I think most of us take for granted.

My grandma used to sit on her porch every night in the spring and summer. People would drive by and wave. Some would pull in and sit down for a visit. Sometimes it would be a relative out for a drive in the country. Other times, it was a friend/neighbor...because where I come from, those two things were the same. I knew all of the people who lived on the road I grew up on. I didn't get away with shit! If I tried, one of them would be sure to call my parents or grandparents!

So, yes, I'm looking to get out of this big, overcrowded city with the buses and trains going through on a constant basis. I long for a simpler way of life. I want to know my neighbors. If I have to live in a town, I want to live on a tree-lined street where I feel safe. I want the sound of crickets to sing me to sleep on a warm summer night. I want to go to the grocery store and they recognize me. I want to be able to take a walk down a country road on a spring morning and take in the nature that is waking up.

Simple living doesn't mean that I'm simple-minded. It means I can survive without all the noise and crime that comes with city-living. I just like the slower pace of the country life. I'm an old-fashioned country girl who longs for the simpler ways of life, ya know?