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An Apple a Day

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I always wanted to be a teacher. I think school was the place where I felt safe and seen and successful. I wanted to give that feeling to others.

So, when I was 18, I declared an education major at college – which I quickly changed. I forgot that teaching meant standing up in front of a room of people and I found that terrifying.

So, I retreated back into my introvert shell and decided to become and editor. This sent my career plans in another direction for a few years – until I was training people at work one day and someone said, “You’re a good teacher.”

So, I went back to school and became one. For many years, I greeted classes of high school students. Creativity and helping people express themselves was my gift. Classroom management and discipline not so much.

When I left to pursue my writing, I thought I wouldn’t miss it. I got to crawl back into my introvert shell. But the students had given me gifts over the years – hope, inspiration and resilience.

So, I supposed I will always be a teacher in some form. I’m getting ready this morning to go give my final for my college English class. I teach yoga every week. I’m contemplating teaching some journaling classes.

This shiny crystal apple ornament is the most sparkly ornament on my tree. It reminds me that even the most simple gifts can be dazzling.

When we teach, when we parent, when we train – we give a little piece of ourselves to the next generation.

And over time – our simple gifts – the apple a day – start to bear fruit. And we see in them something that we thought we had lost long ago.

They return our hope to us – and that is the greatest gift of all.

 

Home Sweet Home

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I bought my first house on accident. My ex and I had moved in to the rental a year before. The owners decided to sell. So, instead of moving (which we didn’t want to do), we just bought it.

I can’t say I know a lot about home ownership. But, it was a condominium with the outside maintenance taken care of, so I thought we could handle it.

My father always built houses and knew a lot about how to fix them up. That wasn’t passed on to me. I think I fixed the toilet once – that has been the extent of my work as a handyperson.

But, I loved that little condominium and lived there for years. I bought this ornament to commemorate its purchase.

I remember the first time I went with Michael to see our current house. I was in awe of the neighborhood with the lakes and rolling hills. I liked the idea of having a big front porch to sit on and read. The porch swing sealed the deal.

Now, as we are getting older, we talk about our last house. We think about things like stairs, steep driveways and bedrooms on the first floor. It’s kind of crazy to think about.

My idea of home has changed somewhat, too. I want to downsize. The idea of cleaning a big house no longer appeals. I often like the idea of being a snowbird – spending the winters in the South and the rest of the year here.

We’ve talked about tiny homes, RV’s and rental units. I want to be near my grandchildren, but also have a little bit of beach and adventure.

Wherever we end up, I know Christmas will involve a visit from my very own, Saint Nicholas.

After all, the people we love are what makes a house a home.

Shine Bright

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‘Lighthouses don’t go running all over an island looking for boats to save; they just stand there shining.’ ~ Anne Lamott

I am a lifelong Kentuckian – except for the four months I lived in North Carolina.

Growing up, I was always trying to get out of this state. When I was 18 and applying to colleges, I got a shiny brochure for the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Something about the campus spoke to me. I wanted nothing more than to go there.

But, my parents had other plans. They wanted me close to home and put on the monetary pressure to make that happen. So, I let that shining light of hope fade away.

7 years later after a rough breakup, I decided now was my chance. I used the newly formed internet to secure a job, a roommate and lodging in the great state of North Carolina and off I went – tiny Uhaul in tow.

It was beautiful there – two hours from the beach and two hours from the mountains. I would take long walks in the forest and spend the afternoon lying next to the waves. The winters were mild.

College students were everywhere. There was a vibe of academia and excitement in the air.

But, at the time, I was terribly shy and ill equipped to be out in the world alone. I was like a boat lost at sea in a terrible storm.

Though I had plenty of gumption, I didn’t have the inner resources to weather a move of that magnitude.

And so four months later I returned broken and discouraged.

Things started to turn around and my dreams of North Carolina faded into the background.

I still dream of it sometimes and this little ornament of the Cape Hatteras lighthouse reminds me of that time.

Now, twenty years later, I am no longer that little boat tossed around by every rough wave.

I have ceased running around trying to save everyone else.

I am slowly learning to become that lighthouse – shining my own little light and seeing who responds.

When you do that, no matter where you are – you are home.

Holiday Joy

ornament3I remember seeing an Alvin & the Chipmunks cartoon as a child and loving it. I don’t know if it was because little Alvin was sassy or because I liked the one with the glasses or because I can relate to high pitched voices, but I loved it. This adoration is not shared by many.

But, when I was 18, my then boyfriend took me to see the most magnificent Christmas light display and my love of the Chipmunks was cemented forever.

It was just around the corner in his neighborhood. We parked the car and got out to look at the house across the street. There was a Santa sleigh in the yard, reindeer flying over the roof and a small ice skating rink with skaters. It was a dazzling display and many cars stopped to look a it. But, the centerpiece for me, was in the front window. All day, every day, three animatronic Alvin and the Chipmunks danced and sang their Christmas song.

I squealed with delight as the snow fell around me. And long after me and this boy broke up, I would take a yearly trip to that house to see those chipmunks. It was my favorite Christmas tradition.

I never knew the residents of the house. Perhaps they got old and tired of the elaborate display preparation. But, for more than 20 years I went and looked at that house. I took friends. I took people I dated. I took my son from birth. I even drove an hour to see it after I moved.

But, then one day, the Chipmunks were gone. I was so sad. It was like a piece of the magic had disappeared.

Now, my only reminder is this Alvin and the Chipmunks ornament I have. And yes, it does sing the song. I do still light up when it comes on, despite the groans of others.

“Christmas, Christmas time is here. Time for toys and time for cheer.”

I’ve been trying to find another Christmas tradition. At the college where I work, they have a night where everyone sings “Silent Night” on the lawn and then they turn on the Christmas lights for the first time. It was quite beautiful.

Whether your tradition is quiet or quirky, enjoy these yearly rituals.

We can all use a little bit of holiday joy.

Kodak Memories

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Remember carrying around camera bags with little tubes of film? It seems so long ago now. And yet, most of my memories were captured on cameras with limited photos. You never knew how they were going to turn out. I remember the anticipation of taking them to the drugstore for processing and excitedly picking them up a week later.

I sometimes miss that – having more tangible photographs. Now, I take all of my photos with my phone, rarely have them developed and use Facebook as a photo storage facility.

Sometimes I wish camera phones had been developed earlier. All of my photos of Europe are stuffed in a box in the garage no easily accessible. But, then there are many photos of my youth that I’m glad don’t pop up in social media. My life wasn’t on display back then. And there’s a blessing in that.

This ornament was a gift from my high school friend, Leslie. It’s made out of a photo of us on Halloween. Long ago, I lost touch with Leslie. But, still here she is on my tree.

I remember her being really smart with a thick, southern accent. I have a video of her from my 18th birthday. But, other than this one photo – my memories exist only in my mind.

I’m not sure what is more true anymore – the photo world we display to our Instagram and Facebook or the memories locked away in our subconscious. I sometimes wonder if my memories are accurate, tainted as they are by my perceptions at the time.

But, the photos themselves never tell the whole story. They capture a moment of joy in perhaps a day filled with some boredom or squabbling.

But, maybe that’s why they are precious to us. In the swirl of memories in our muddled minds and in our days filled with tiny irritations – photos remind us of the moments of joy.

So that we can find them again.

Ornament Stories

IMG_20191128_161219628You can tell a lot about a person from the way they decorate their Christmas tree. Some have themes. Others are meticulously color coordinated. What makes me happy about our tree is it reminds me of so many stories long forgotten.

The tree itself is my childhood Christmas tree – well over 40 years old. My parents long since bought a new tree and I took the old one. I remember as a child getting up at night to sit in the living room and stare at the Christmas lights. It felt so peaceful and magical.

The tree is now decorated with old, homemade ornaments, ornaments from my travels and a few colored orbs.

Digging out the ornaments reminds me of where I’ve been. And as December is a time of reflection, a re-evaluation of what one wants in the coming year, it brings back a lot of memories.

Now working full-time, I find myself writing less. It leaves me with a sense of unease, a constant sense of having a phantom limb. A piece of me is missing.

And so, I have resolved to start back my writing practice by writing about these ornaments and their stories for the month of December.

This first ornament is the oldest ornament on my tree. The year was 1987. It was a gift from a relative. I don’t remember which one. 13 year olds are not good at noticing that sort of thing. Oddly, it has my actual name on it – almost everyone called me “Missy” at that time. I think it was made at a Things Remembered store. Having items engraved back then was novel thing to do.

I always wanted to be called Melissa, but I remember arriving in Florence in 4th grade and being told by my classmates that they already had a Melissa, so I would have to be Missy. I tried again in high school, but it wouldn’t stick. It wasn’t until I got to college and began to introduce myself to new people, that Melissa was born.

When I look at this little sleigh, I remember a very awkward junior high girl with a bad perm and braces. She tried to buy the designer clothes her friends had, but she was short and extra small, so they didn’t fit. I almost disappeared inside a baggy Coca-Cola sweatshirt. She was shy, but very driven. I remember very much wanting to succeed – to win spelling bees, to get good grades.

She read a lot, but she didn’t have a voice – not yet. She was uncertain about what the future would hold and had not yet found peace with uncertainty.

She only found peace at night, sitting in an armchair staring at the Christmas lights, dreaming of magic.

Soft Days

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When I was in England, it misty rained all of the time. It was cloudy all of the time. And yet – I was filled with boundless joy – because I was in England! Our tour guide called these kinds of days “nice, soft days.”

I think of that every time the weather is like this. I like to pretend I’m in England or Harry Potter and I feel a little less grumpy about the rain.

I’ve started reframing all kinds of things that used to make me grumpy.

What? You’re late? Thank you for a few extra minutes of mindful solitude.

Child gone wild? Thank you for helping me practice my patience.

It’s hard this time of year, when the days are dark and the nights are long.

My brain is wired to be grumpy and tired.

It’s a practice – banishing the darkness with candlelight

soothing the cold with hot chocolate

coming in out of the rain on a nice, soft day

Fall is for Writing

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It makes me very happy that we now have a coffee shop on Main Street. Writing with a hot beverage while watching the traffic roll by is the best way to spend my lunch break.

I used to just go and sit somewhere. But, I find my mind whirling from work and end up spending my lunch break thinking about work. Writing actually turns off my brain.

As my fingers fly across the keyboard, I am transported to a place free of worry.

I’m working on my third novel, the end of the trilogy. It’s called Infinity. It has past lives and intersecting storylines across time and space. One minute I’m in 2019 and the next I’m in the 1800s.

Speaking of 2019, did you realize kids born in 2000 are now college students? Crazy.

I’m excited to have started a new job.

My hair is long with hints of gray. I haven’t had a haircut in a year. It’s interesting to me because I don’t think I’ve ever seen my gray hair. I kind of like the white pieces – I think it looks witchy and wise.

I love this coffee house with its cool breeze, friendly barista and Pride flag in the window. Am I really in Georgetown?

My new coworkers are fantastic – full of laughter, mirth and kindness. We’re all dressing up as Harry Potter characters for Halloween.

I’m Luna Lovegood – and thus, no haircut for a couple more weeks.

Stay tuned for photos.

 

 

 

The In-Be-Tween Years

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Nicholas is twelve. How did that happen? His feet are as big as mine. He regularly steals my socks. I like to think my feet smell better. Tween boy feet are no picnic.

He had a sleepover for his birthday. There was laughter and screaming until 3 a.m. I woke up to cereal bowls, empty 2-liters and very little cake. It looked like the aftermath of a frat party – but with more stuffed animals and Nerf darts.

He got hamsters for his birthday. Their names are Carol (for Carol Danvers aka Captain Marvel – who he calls a beast) and Shuri which he says is the name of Black Widow’s sister. They sleep all day and become superpowered at night.

He’s all into his cell phone and video games. He says dirty jokes he hears on the bus, but he doesn’t know what they mean. He vacillates between trying to be grown up and wanting Mommy to wait for the bus with him. Until the bus rounds the corner – and then I am dead to him.

He says that our relationship is like the main characters in Whiskey Cavalier – that we bicker but deep down there is love. I’m not sure that’s the right analogy – but I get what he’s saying. He tries to give me the stink eye and ends up smiling.

I don’t know if we’ll survive these ups and downs. But, I’ve taken to shrugging my shoulders and saying, “It’s a middle school thing.” It’s weird to be with a being entering puberty as I enter the menopause years. Both our hormones are malfunctioning. Poor Michael.

What I do know is that this is a transitional time, and with any luck we’ll all come out of it better people.

Meanwhile, I’m hiding my socks.

 

I Love You Billy Blanks

 

Billy Blanks

Back in the 90s, Tae Bo was the latest fitness craze. I had all the VHS tapes. I remember distinctly putting them on in the living room and moving furniture out of the way to start kicking. I found it exhausting. I would shake my fist at the television and yell, “I hate you Billy Blanks!”

There is this section of the video where he yells “Double Time” and strobe lights flicker and your supposed to go extra fast. My ex used to find this really entertaining and would sit on the couch with popcorn to giggle at me.

20 years later and I still have my VHS tapes and VHS player. I’m just not willing to give it up because I bought so many videos back in the day. I’ve moved on to other forms of exercise – mostly calmer forms. I am in training to be a yoga/meditation teacher after all.

Which is why my mood of late has surprised me. Maybe it’s some repressed anger bubbling up from deep introspective work, but I have the urge to punch and kick. I’ve also been watching a lot of Nikita and my son takes Tae Kwon Do. All of this led me to the question – what ever happened to Billy Blanks?

I dug out the old VHS tapes and popped them in. The people in the video looked kind of funny. Billy in particular stood out in his tight spandex blue leotard. What were we thinking back then?

I made it through the workout. I had fun. I was sweaty…but it wasn’t terribly difficult. I remember never getting past the Basic video when I was 25 – but I already think I could move on to the Advanced video in about a week. Who knew? And what of this unfounded hatred I had toward Billy Blanks? I noticed the man was encouraging, said “Don’t give up” and “Good Job” a lot. By God, I think I love Billy Blanks!

So, while the VHS player still whirs to life, I think I may give Billy Blanks another go.

We’ve come full circle me and Billy Blanks. This time I’m ready.