It’s all fun and games until you run into the Minister

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Lately, I’ve been happily ensconced in a world of avoidance.  The less I think about Christmas, the fewer the number of tears that threaten to roll down my cheeks.  I have only managed to put up one Christmas decoration in my house so far.   It didn’t come with shiny lights or reminders of Christmases gone by.  It stands alone,  in a spot that has never adorned a decoration and really looks as sad as I had been feeling.  But it gives me hope that I can find some of the joy the holidays are meant to bring.  If Charlie Brown can do it, so can I.

CB the tree

But recently I’ve felt much more like Peter Pan than a forlorn Charlie Brown.  My mind has been filled with happy thoughts.  Although none of them have been about the holidays, they have been happy nonetheless.  I have been blissfully distracted by work, by the return of my writing muse and by reacquainting with a dear old friend.  The big phantom red X’s on the calendar to indicate the counting down to the big day have gone unnoticed.  Until today.

It was during an innocent trip to the Post Office when I saw him.  Stealthily, he crossed the street like an apparition.  His white hair and white beard made me recognize him immediately.  Had he been wearing red suit, I would have thought he was Santa Claus but the all-black ensemble with a hint of white on the collar to match his beard was a glowing reminder of his true identity.  He was the minister at my mom and dad’s church, a dear friend of my mom and dad’s and a good friend to our family.  I knew as soon as I saw him that I would end up in tears before getting back into my car.

It’s always tough putting on a brave face when the person you are facing knows that you are struggling.  I like to think I walk around in a suit of armor but on the bad days that suit is filled with nothing but a puddle.  Today, seeing the sorrow and understanding in Steven’s eyes converted me from brave face to wet face in mere seconds.  I knew the happy bubble could only float for so long but I certainly have been enjoying the ride.

I know my mom is around.  She is the positive force making the good things pop out of nowhere when the sadness comes calling again.  I can feel her energy and that makes me happy.  And though this Christmas is going to be filled with some sadness and many changes, it will still be filled with a family who loves each other and cherishes the memories of the people they will be missing, especially during the coming holidays.

 

 

Oprah has a name for this…….

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Not everyone has the opportunity to experience a full-circle moment in their lifetime – that epic twist of fate when something you had spent so much time dwelling on in your past creeps up on you in your present.  I had one of those moments today.

I am a product of the 80’s.  I was never a slave to the hair and poorly-chosen fashion (most days) but the movies of the 80’s live on in my current reality.  I can recite those movies verbatim and I recognize a bit of myself in each one of those iconic movie roles that I watched as an impressionable teenager.  And though there were fleeting moments of seeing similarities between the starring roles and my teenage psyche, I always felt a deeper connection with the weirdos, the poets, the dreamers.

It was this truth that bonded me to Andrew McCarthy’s character, Kevin,  in St. Elmo’s Fire in 1985.  Though his role was meant to be a bit of an outcast, Kevin was the definition of how I saw myself in those days.  He was a creative soul, misunderstood on many occasions but he held true to himself.  Unlike me at the time, Kevin knew who he was and, although he struggled, in the end he wasn’t afraid to be that person.  He wanted to describe what he saw in a myriad of ways.  He wanted to describe life by every little detail and not just watch it go by.  He wanted to write.  And he was going to see his way to his future on his battered Underwood typewriter.

That line stuck with me.  It haunted me, actually, and I have seen that written line in a loop in my head for many years.  Like a headlining banner at a movie theatre,  the words “battered Underwood typewriter” scrolled incessantly around my brain.  The image of that machine, the clacking of the keys, kept me bonded to that dream of writing.  And now that image has become a reality.

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In a moment of complete serendipity, I have been gifted an Underwood typewriter.   I have been given a battered, plunking, beautiful, historic typewriter that could write chapters of its own given the chance.  Its stories are burned into the keys.  Its ribbon holds a wealth of ideas and the rest is not history, but my story.  It is up to me to cajole the remainder of the tales from this relic.  This battered Underwood typewriter could be the one thing that reminds me that I can write and, just maybe, will help me get to the next stage of my writing success.

 

And how does that make you feel?

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Lately, the internet has been laden with posts and strong feelings about the Elf on the Shelf phenomenon.  What seemingly started as an innocent way to get children to behave during the month of December has morphed into an epic competition to see which parent can get more creative with the benign holiday character.

Many blog posts and articles have been written with very strong emotion regarding this cherubic creature.  Parents either love him or their contempt is so strong that they hold ill feelings towards those parents who embrace his presence.  Some argue that he is the Elf on the Shelf simply for that reason.  He may stealthily maneuver his way around the house in the darkness to take refuge on another shelf but that is his only purpose.  Others, holding tightly to their innovative genes, have created a list of 101 ways the Elf can get into mischief during the night.  Spoiler alert – most of those creative ideas require extensive clean-up the following morning although I’m sure the children would be thrilled to see what a mess the Elf made while they slept.

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Had my life been different and I had kids of my own, my children undoubtedly would have been in therapy either during or shortly after the Christmas holidays.  I blame my choice of reading material but my sense of entertainment tends to lean towards the macabre.  Picture Dean Koontz or Stephen King finding indecent ways of displaying the Elf and you have entered the world that my Elf would have had to endure.  There would have been crime scenes, possible Elf DNA and an abundant amount of Police tape.  This is the stuff that my dreams are made of, the stuff that helps me write my book.  But this is also the stuff that would have a child sitting in the waiting room of an analyst’s office at least once a week.

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For those of you able to remember to innocently and creatively display your Elf each evening after your children have fallen asleep, I applaud you.  You are creating memories that your child will inevitably pass on to their children.

As for me….perhaps I will get an Elf next year and track his bizarre habits in a journal.  CSI – Elf on the Shelf.  Hmmmm…..I may be on to something……stay tuned.

 

 

Finding the colors

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When sadness overwhelms us,

Mother Nature is there

to help us find beauty,

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to make us stop and absorb the moment,

to find peace in memories.

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to find the lining of colors

in an emotionally gray day,

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and to make us see the spirits,

free in the sky,

 to feel their presence and find our smile.

Why goodbyes are always so hard

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Today I had to say goodbye to, not only an office mate but, a sweet soul and a dear friend.  Ellie May was an 11-year old Landseer.  Her breed is considered to be a black and white version of a Newfoundlander.  She had the disposition of a wallflower and the radar of an airplane.  It took three months for Ellie to warm up to me.  Until then, when that radar detected my presence in her force field, she would alter her course to avoid a collision.  She wanted nothing to do with me.  I didn’t take offence because she was like that with most people.  She was a gentle giant and a very private dog.

Ellie may

Months later, my tenacity seemed to wear her down and, after a long period of the silent treatment, she finally tolerated my presence.  She wouldn’t run the other way but she didn’t seem enthusiastic to see me.  After many months that, too, would change.

This may read like a eulogy, and perhaps in a way it is.   Perhaps it’s easier for me to write my emotion and deal with my loss in cyberspace than it is to confront the empty space in the office where Ellie would to lie and demand her treats.

Although she wasn’t my dog, she was my friend and it is never easy to say goodbye to a friend.  It will take me a while to not hear her footsteps running to the office door and see her silhouette through the glass, looking at me and barking to let her in.  I will miss seeing her “smile” as she and her flapping gums ran down the road to greet me after seeing my car pull into the parking lot.  And perhaps the thing I will miss he most is the whispered bark that she saved just for me and the small circle her lips would leave open for me to “put the cookie in the hole”.

She and I had a connection, a language that we spoke to each other.  And although she was unsure of me in the beginning, she quickly came to realize I spoke dog.  I got her and she got me and we really did become friends.  She left many footprints on my heart and that is why saying goodbye was so hard.

I can only hope that Ellie is now comfortably enjoying her new life beyond the Rainbow Bridge, that her body is as young and spry as her spirit and that she knows how much we will miss her.

 

The long journey of picking up the pieces

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“All the King’s horses and all the King’s men, couldn’t put Humpty together again.” ~ James William Elliott

I would never describe myself as a wallflower.  I’m very willing to stand out, stand up for myself and take charge of my life.  If something is not working I will give one hundred percent to fix it but, if it is beyond repair, I’m not afraid to walk away knowing I gave it everything I could.  Thus was the lesson it took me half a lifetime to learn and thus was the story of my marriage.

Hindsight is a giant pain in the ass.  I don’t care if it is 20/20, it still sucks.  If I were completely honest with myself, I should have known better before I made that march down the aisle, with my brother on one arm and my mom on the other.  As I stood waiting for the music to start, I looked at him waiting for me at the other end of that runway to my future.  I really looked at him.  And for the first time I could see how truly broken he was.  I knew in my gut that this would not be my forever but I wanted so badly to fix him.  I wanted to be enough to make him want to change but his demons were bigger and far more powerful than any strength or love I could throw at them and I finally had to admit defeat.  It was time for that broken duck to find a new pond and keep himself afloat without using me as his water-wings.

After he left something happened that I had not anticipated – I immediately found my joy again.  The saddest part of that statement is that I didn’t even know it was gone.  I was so lost in the spiral of break and repair, I didn’t have time to notice that I was unhappy.   It’s sad to say that it took him leaving for me to be myself again but that is exactly what happened.  When that reality hit me, I cried.  I cried for the pieces of myself that I lost through the process and I cried because I had just given myself permission to get those pieces back and put myself  together again, to become whole.  If I performed an autopsy on the relationship, perhaps I would realize that the cause of death was that I was the one that had become broken.  Somewhere, in what should have been wedded bliss, a small crack had pierced my armor and my happiness began to seep through that fissure. I was like a tire with a slow leak that you don’t notice until it is completely flat.

love puzzle

(image credit: vi.sualize.us)

A very wise fellow blogger once said something that has always stuck with me “the steeper the climb, the better the view”. (Thanks Ned)  I began my journey back to happiness by taking that first giant step and, although my gait was awkward in the beginning, I continued to put one foot in front of the other to reach that summit.  The pieces of myself that I had lost were scattered along the path to the top and I collected them as I endured the uphill battle.

During the climb I paid money for my property (again) but that money also paid for my peace of mind, my dog’s happiness and well-being and the key to the door that had kept me locked away from my true happiness.

Being on the pinnacle of that mountain I am now able to clearly see the type of love that I want, the type of love that I deserve.  Never again will I give away the pieces of myself to try to fit them into someone else’s unfinished puzzle.  After several years of restoring my sense of self, I am stronger than all the King’s horses and all the King’s men.  I was able to put myself together again.

Redefining traditions and stocking up on tissues

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With Christmas rapidly approaching, my resolve to not spend the entire holiday season in tears is very strong.  It is going to be tough this holiday season without my mom but we have been doing our best to redefine some of the traditions we have known for so long and create some new ones.  I had carefully delineated a plan of not leaving the house, but that seems to be going off the rails so I’ll have to do my best to keep a brave face.  I’m sure a few tears will leak from the corners of my eyes and stain my cheeks but that is to be expected and will certainly be understood by all who see those tears fall.

Holidays are about tradition – whether adhering to old ones or beginning new ones.  This year will be a bit of both.  My mom’s famous Grasshopper Pie will surreptitiously make its way to the table after our feast of turkey and our best attempt at her stuffing.  But because of work schedules, our Christmas food bonanza and subsequent turkey coma will be on the 23rd so that will be the first of the changes for this year.

grasshopper pie

My brother and his family will attend the church service on Christmas Eve (I don’t think I can get through that step this year) and we will meet afterwards to show the newly purchased or creatively engineered ornaments to adorn the Charlie Brown Christmas tree my mom loved so much.  We will tell stories of why the ornament reminds us of her and take turns sharing our memories.  I may even sneak into town and hide in a quiet driveway somewhere to watch Santa Claus go by on the fire truck.  I don’t think I can let that tradition go and I know a few tears will find themselves frozen to my face before the truck has passed.

The most important thing to focus on, especially this year, is that Christmas is about family.  My brother, sister-in-law, my nephews and the family and friends scattered around the globe will always be the presence and the only presents I want during the holidays.  And somewhere during the festivities, I know that my mom and dad’s eyes will be looking at us through those twinkling lights and sharing those moments with us.  That is a tradition that will never end.