Auld Lange Syne…Whatever That Means

I thought some of you might enjoy reading my annual Christmas letter, below.  (Names & places have been removed/changed to protect the innocent!)

Fun & Frivolity
Top 10 of 2013
10.  Since changing jobs and moving, my travel has been sharply curtailed.  I went from traveling virtually every other week to just twice in 2013 – and both trips were to San Francisco.  Luckily, San Fran is one of my favorite cities (tied with Washington, DC) so it was a pretty good experience.  I’ve been there several times now but on these two trips I did a couple things I hadn’t in the past:  had dinner in Chinatown (YUM!) and perused the Ferry Building.  The Ferry Building is like a huge indoor farmer’s market with little independent shops.  I had the BEST grilled cheese of my LIFE there, too, at the Cowgirl Creamery.  And of course, when in SF, you MUST have a Ghirardelli hot fudge sundae, which I did (both times!)

9.  On my birthday this year, I started volunteering at one of the local nursing homes, doing crafts with the residents.  Thank heavens for Pinterest!  I know the folks really look forward to my monthly visits and I try to ensure that the crafts I choose are not only fun but able to be completed by various levels of dexterity.  I’ve got several ladies with very bad arthritis or tremors who can’t really craft but they so love coming that I just “help” them make theirs.  I’ve been so blessed by this time but also by rediscovering my inner crafter.  I’ve found that I like “flipping” furniture as well;  I tiled a $10 table I picked up at the Salvation Army and then caught the bug.  I rehabbed a nightstand and a small table as well and actually SOLD them to a shop in town!  I’ve got two chairs to work on next!

8.  I spent Thanksgiving with newlywed friends and had a wonderful time.  Their place is only about a 3 hour drive from me and I was blessed to have them come visit me a couple times this summer as well.

7.  Speaking of which, I am so thankful for the friends who made the journey down to visit me this year.  The winter was a pretty lonely and boring time because I didn’t really know anyone here and I was so glad when spring sprung and suddenly, people were able to visit!  I hope everyone who came had as great of a time as I did experiencing all the beauty and fun to be had here. 

6.  I’ve really spent the last year learning not only about where I work, but also about my town in general.  This area was home to several former presidents!  I’ve visited all and I’ve learned so much history.

5.  One of my visits took place earlier this month.  A friend in Indiana had put out a request on Facebook for people to take a paper gingerbread man that her kindergartener made in school and take photos of him around your town.  (If you are familiar with Flat Stanley, it is the same concept.)  I was ALL OVER that idea!  “Indy”, as I named him, journeyed with me for Thanksgiving, with a quick stopover in Colonial Williamsburg, and then visited Thomas Jefferson’s Monticello with me during a holiday open house.  Mr. Jefferson himself was on hand for that event and I was able to get a photo of Indy & I with TJ!  So exciting. 

4.  In a stunning development, I signed up to train for the local 4-Milerthis summer.  The 4-Miler raises money for the cancer programs at the local hospital.   A dear friend from high school was fighting breast cancer, so I decided to train and walk in the 4-Miler in honor of her (as well as my aunt and another friend who beat breast cancer.)  I was up at 6:30 AM every Saturday from June through August to train and was so thrilled when I completed the race on the first Saturday in September!  This was a huge accomplishment for the girl with chronic pain issues and a rod in her spine and who used every excuse in the book to skip gym class growing up!

3.   When I returned from visiting friends & family last Christmas, I was about at my wits end with regards to meeting people here.  In the short months I had been here, I had tried just about everything I could think of but to no avail.  I kept looking for a book club, thinking that I would find like-minded folks there, but everyone I tried was a bit of a letdown…so I started my own! We had our first meeting in February.  Of all the things I’ve done here, I have to say that THIS was the one that helped turn the tide.  The folks who come out are so nice and we have so much fun.  I really enjoy our monthly discussions!  And we meet at a different restaurant each month, so that’s been fun as well.

2.  And I’ve met some really great gals to hang out with!  We’ve watched polo (seriously!  And it was fun as heck!), done wine tastings (there are about 30 wineries within 20 minutes of me – and that is no exaggeration!), done beer tastings, had lunch and just generally had a good time.  I’m thankful for the “Sunday Fundays” we’ve been having and am looking forward to more in 2014.

1.  By far the coolest thing I’ve done since moving here was to train for and become a CASA.  I was having difficulty connecting with the kids in the youth ministry at my church here and was feeling very discouraged and disappointed.  Then I saw an ad in the weekly newspaper about CASA!  CASA is an organization that trains Court Appointed Special Advocates, who work one-on-one with abused and endangered children to assist the courts in determining the best environment to ensure each child’s safety and well-being.  In some cases, the CASAs may be the only voice that can truly speak for these children.  After 30 hours of intensive training, 2 hours of court observation, 3 interviews, and being evaluated on writing a sample court report, I was sworn in as a CASA on October 15.  I know the work will be challenging, but I believe this will be one of the most rewarding things I’ve ever done. 

So that’s my year in a nutshell!  I want to say thank you to every one of you who has prayed and offered your support during my first full year of this transition.  It certainly has not been easy (and it’s still ongoing!) but I can honestly say, brighter days have come and I’m looking forward to what’s ahead.

Wishing you and yours a wonderful holiday season and a fantabulous 2014!

About The Holly Days

The holidays are hard for many folks, for any number of reasons.  Mid-November through January, while billed as “the most wonderful time of the year”, can instead be a time of discouragement, sadness, and struggle. Feelings of loneliness, isolation, and pain can be heightened.  It’s easy to feel like the whole world is reveling in the gaiety of the holidays while you can barely muster a weak “Happy holidays” to the grocery store cashier.  The thought of buying gifts, sending cards, decorating the house seems like too much to bear…let alone dealing with family you see but once a year.  Believe me, I get it.

Just before Thanksgiving, one of my favorite authors, Anne Lamott, shared the story of her first holiday with her family after getting sober.  She said she had started worrying about Thanksgiving all the way back in August because she felt like the holidays made her family go crazy and she couldn’t help but get the crazy all over her.  A friend pulled her aside and reminded her that Thanksgiving was just a Thursday;  if she could look at it that way, she just needed to show up and not drink.  One day.  One foot in front of the other; a breathe in, a breathe out.  And he sprinkled her with purple glitter and called it fairy dust (which I just love!)

Her point was that he was there for her, God in the flesh, and that we need to be there for one another at this time of year more than any other.  I agree wholeheartedly, as my previous post suggests.  But here’s my other takeaway:

We want so much for it to be perfect in every way. We put so much weight, so much pressure, on certain holidays…but therein is the key:  holidays.

Christmas is just a Wednesday.

It might be tough.  It might be a struggle.  It might be the worst damn day you’ve had all year.

But it’s a day.  Thanksgiving is just a Thursday.  New Year’s is just a Wednesday.  (Ok, Hannukah is more than one day but you get where I’m going here….)

All you can do is take each, one day at a time.  One foot in front of the other;  breathe in and breathe out.  Even if that’s all you can do, it’s enough.

About "Bah Humbugs" and "Grinches"

The holiday season is upon us.  And with it, fun and excitement and joy and peace and compassionate and goodwill toward men and….

Yeah, judging by my Facebook feed and conversations I’ve had with various people – not so much.
I’m sure many people greatly look forward to the holiday season.  (I know some, so I can attest.)  They love finding the perfect gifts, writing out the cards, trimming the tree, decking the halls, visiting family and friends,  the whole nine yards, fa la la la la.  
But for a whole lotta folks, the holidays are hard:
Money’s tight.  And getting tighter.  Bills may have to wait so the kids can have at least one gift to open.  Or maybe they’ve had to explain why Santa isn’t coming this year.  
Family’s a mess.  There are too many issues to be dealt with in such a short time period so how do they cope and “get through it”?
Or the opposite:  they deeply want to be with family and friends but they can’t for any number of reasons.
Time is at a premium already and now they have to do what?  And what?  And that TOO?  It seems like there are just not enough hours in the day.  And they are tired before they even begin.
For some, time is not the issue.  They feel like they have all the time in the world, but no one to share it with. 
Some have lost a loved one and the pain just won’t recede.  The hurt seems more acute when they’re around others, so it’s easier just to be by themselves and avoid the holiday “thing” all together.
Others struggle with depression, seasonal affective disorder, chronic pain or other illnesses.  Try as they might, they can’t simply turn that off or “fix it” for the holiday season.  The heightened “cheer” of others may actually make them feel worse because they just can’t get there.
The list of reasons why the holidays are a struggle for so many can go on and on.  Yet time & time again, I hear people dismiss those for whom the holidays are just a plain out and out struggle.  They are called “bah humbugs”, “grinches”, and various other things – sometimes in jest (or slightly veiled jest) but often not.   Part of that, I would venture to say, is that folks aren’t willing to get deep with those who are struggling;  if they do, they might admit that things aren’t as perfect for them as they seem, either.  It’s easier to donate to an “adopted” family or child, to drop a toy off in the Toys for Tots box, or serve one day at the soup kitchen than to take the time to bear the burden of someone in your circle of friends and family.  And please don’t get me wrong – those are all very good things, in which I too participate year after year.  But the question I put forth to you is this:  Who in your circle could use a little extra time, friendship, love, care, this holiday season?  I’ll bet it’s not hard to think of one…and I’d venture to say more than one comes to mind.  I promise you that giving that little extra to someone you love who is struggling this season will make your own just that much sweeter.