Thursday, December 25, 2008

Finding center and strength

I have been blessed with a life in which those I love are always close. My parents are still married to each other. Throughout my childhood, they were both there at every special occasion. I was never that child who had to shuttle back and forth on the holidays or who felt alone as I looked out at a school play or dance performance or graduation. I have been surrounded by a large extended family. I have grown up surrounded by that mantle of security, knowing that, in this world, I am not alone.

I realized this year that I have never experienced a Christmas where someone was missing. When I was a child, I and my sister and my parents were always there. As a young adult, I went home for Christmas or spent it with extended family. When I was married and had children, we were always all together at Christmas. And even after my divorce, which was a long time coming, Christmases were complete, with my children always there along with, oftentimes, my parents. I have never known that hole in my heart when I look around at the holiday festivities and know that someone I love is not there ... until this year. It doesn't really matter why--circumstances or choices, deployment or delayed flights--that bring-you-to-your-knees, yawning emptiness that so many people feel every year was a new experience for me.

He assured me that we would all be together next year. He told me to focus on the kids, to find comfort in their joy. And I did that. I donned my Santa hat and listened to music and wrapped presents. I cleaned house like a mad woman. I took pictures of the mounds of paper and ribbon and a friend took pictures of me. I documented the whole thing on film so I can share it with him. I cried once, early on Christmas Eve, and refused to cry again. He wouldn't want me to be sad. I was proud of myself for holding it together. I thought that he would have been proud of me too. I had a good Christmas, despite his absence. I surrounded myself with my children and my parents and my sister's family and I found center and strength in that security that has been a baseline in my life since I drew my first breath. Without it, I'm not sure I would have been able to cope half as well.

So I sign off tonight on a day that was a first for me, that showed me that perhaps I am stronger than I thought. Tonight I feel thankful for the foundation that my family gives me. I feel thankful for strength he and I find in each other and ourselves. I feel hopeful that this will be the last year that either of us know anything other than the completeness of being with all of the people we love on Christmas.

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Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Damn, my kid rocks

My middle child, commenting on the Hannah Montana/Miley Cyrus phenomenon:
"Her father raised someone even more annoying than he is."

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Saturday, December 20, 2008

Climbing the ladder

An acquaintance on Facebook wrote the other day about, among other things, how she is enduring her boyfriend's deployment to Iraq. She likened it to a ladder, with his departure being the bottom rung and his return the top. In between, each major event in her life--holidays, big work assignments, his leave--were another rung. And she noted that the best way to make it to the top was not to keep her eyes on the top of the ladder, but rather to focus simply on the next rung up.

I think her words show great wisdom and I hope to work harder to adopt that mentality in my own life. I always have believed that as long as I have a target in sight, a light at the end of the tunnel, that I can endure almost any hardship. I have always been confused and troubled when, even though I have that target, I continue to feel stress along the way, that having that focal point is still not enough to calm my anxiety, that the obvious progress brought by the simple passage of time does not reassure me.

I have been focusing on the top of the ladder. And at times in my life when the ladder is a tall one, that's often enough to make me dizzy and nearly fall off. I think, perhaps, that the wisest thing lies in finding the courage to take your eyes off that beautiful light, that shining reward at the end of the tunnel, or top of the ladder, pick your metaphor. If you can simply lower your eyes to the next task, the next hurdle, the next joyous occasion or the next milestone, then perhaps you might look up and realize the top of the ladder is right in front of you.

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Sunday, December 14, 2008

The herd has been culled

Overheard in regards to dating in your 30s:

"It's like going through the reduced-for-quick-sale meat bin and all that's left is cow tongue. It tastes OK if you can get past those funny little bumps on the surface."

Followed by: "I must be cow tongue too. I'm what's left. Dammit!"

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Giant meat

Holy carp! I just bought 17 pounds of ham. 'Nuff said.

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Tuesday, December 09, 2008

It's my fault, I just know it

I didn't grow up in the ___________ (pick your religion) church. I didn't do it. I didn't cause it to happen. I didn't even wish it to happen. Why do I feel guilty about it, then? My mother is Catholic. Can guilt be carried in your DNA?

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Monday, December 08, 2008


I just don't understand how other people think, I guess. Today someone said something to me that was so far outside the realm of logical that I was nearly left speechless. I suppose it would be more accurate to say this person reacted to something I said in a such a way to paralyze my vocal abilities, actually. Let me grasp for an appropriate parallel to protect the innocent.

Say, for example, I have a favorite food, some exotic type of food that most people have never gotten the chance to try. I cook this fabulous food for you, because I want you to get a chance to try this food. I think you will like the food. You try the food. You like the food. The next time I talk to you, you tell me that you liked the food so much you got the ingredients and made some at home for yourself.

My response? Is it, "Great. I am glad you liked it so much." Nope. Instead, I am obviously bothered and say, "Wow, I am surprised that you would make it without me."

What the ...? I think I have stepped into a parallel universe where one plus one equals something ... else.

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Saturday, December 06, 2008

The cure

Something about strapping a couple of sticks of fiberglass to my feet and heading into the woods for an hour does wonders for the psyche. Skiing as Prozac. Maybe so. This is the beginning of one of my favorite sections of trail. Bad cell phone picture. Maybe I'll shoot some nicer ones tomorrow. Today, the snow was fresh enough to make skiing almost noiseless and warm enough to make it nearly effortless. I know I'll never be able to live in the big city. Without the quiet of a day so still that the branches still hold more than an inch of fresh snow, I think I might simply blink out.

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Friday, December 05, 2008

A moment of clarity?

This from a teen I know, if I recall, as an explanation for some truly irritating behavior:

"I can't change the fact that I have my head up my ass most of the time."

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Past blast

I just went to a hockey game in an arena I haven't been in since high school. Talk about flashback. I remember countless Friday and Saturday nights spent meandering aimlessly around in circles with my friends. I don't recall much about the hockey games. It was much more an exercise in flirting with the herds of guys and finding out where the good parties were that night. Life was simpler then. I just didn't know it at the time.

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