Alone on Christmas?

Alone on Christmas?

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Yesterday, I was feeling a real lack of Christmas spirit in my city, but I had a change of heart by the time I reached my parent’s home, which is about an hour north of where I live.  I made a stop at a grocery store in town.  My parents live way out in the country, where you can’t see your hand in front of your face after dark.  Town is about 20 minutes away without traffic.  You’d never think this place is right outside of Atlanta.  It’s a world unto itself.

It was raining hard.  In fact, it was already flooding in some areas.  I really didn’t want to stop, but I needed to get a few things.  As soon as I walked through the door of the grocery store, I was greeted with a smile and a compliment on my shiny santa hat.  This surprised me because I didn’t think it was anything special.  I picked it up a year ago somewhere just for fun, but I smiled back and thanked the lady.  On every aisle there was someone ready to help, and it turned out that I did actually need help.  I couldn’t find the sun-dried tomatoes or soy nog on my own, and you already know how I feel about soy nog.  I appreciated having someone nearby, who could direct me to the right place in the store.

“Can I help you find something?”

“Are you finding what you need?”

“Good evening.”

“How are you this evening?”

“Are you ready for Christmas?”

“Love the hat.  Where did you get it?”

“Have you finished your shopping for Christmas?”

No less than 10 people offered help or greetings to me, and I was only in the store for 30 minutes.  By the time I made it to the checkout, I was feeling quite relaxed and cheerful.  Then, something else unexpected happened.  The cashier helping me began to chat about her day and went on to say that she’d be spending this Christmas alone for the first time.  She added that her daughter had been telling her how she could expect being alone on Christmas to be awful.  I was touched that she’d share something so personal with me, and I was struck by how her daughter’s statement was so obviously affecting her in a negative way.  She seemed a little sad, and I wanted to say something that would help her.

I followed my own intuition and told her what came to me.  I suggested that she plan her day.  I told her to do something special for herself.  I remembered reading an article about how people are choosing to eat out on holidays instead of cooking at home.  So I encouraged her to consider eating lunch or dinner out at a restaurant.  She was concerned that they would all be closed, but I assured her that this was not the case.  I told her that a quick search online for restaurants open on Christmas would help her decide on where to go.  Then, it was time for me to go.  She wished me a happy holiday, and I wished that she would find peace and happiness of her own this Christmas.

For anyone who expects to face Christmas alone this year, be adventurous. Embrace whatever your situation is and make it into what you want it to be.  Let go of whatever is supposed to be.  It’s good to create your own new traditions.  Spend your time alone if you wish or get out of the house and set yourself free.  You never know who you might meet on Christmas.  Know that you don’t have to be alone if you don’t want to be.

Related: Atlanta restaurants open on Christmas Day 2013; Tips for spending holidays alone; 50 Tips on how to enjoy holidays alone

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Birthday letter to self

Birthday letter to self

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Dear Me,

1:25 am.  It’s almost your birthday.  According to your mother, she was asleep because her doctor gave her a shot to ease the induced labor pains she was having.  Yes, her labor was artificially induced.  Yes, you were essentially forced to come here before you were ready.  Stop asking your mother to explain why she allowed this to happen every year around your birthday.  You know you’re never satisfied with the answer.  So just get over it.  You survived.  Try not to get hung up on the little things.

5:57 pm.  It’s your birthday (for real now).  You’re still in your pajamas, drinking soy nog, and watching holiday movies.  Don’t try to explain it.  Just be.

9:58 pm.  Let’s move on to a few things you need to continue to focus on this year.

  1. Remain calm (as much as possible).
  2. Cultivate joy.
  3. Meditate regularly.
  4. Exercise regularly.
  5. Write regularly.

It’s a short list.  It’s manageable.  You can do these things.

Don’t think about it anymore.  You know why these things are on your list.  It doesn’t matter that most of them were rolled over from last year’s list.

Don’t make it complicated.  No elaborate schedules.  It should be pretty obvious that you’ll be doing these things everyday.

I’ll check on you from time to time, and I expect to see significant progress.  No excuses.

Love,

Me

Holiday Song of the Week (Revisited)

Holiday Song of the Week (Revisited)

Remember yesterday’s saga at the doctor’s office?  Well thankfully today wasn’t a repeat experience.  I was very calm and very quiet during the whole two hours of eye tests this morning, but it was hard to ignore my hunger and incredible need to actually see.  The waiting time between tests was prime writing time, but since my eyes were dilated, it was no use.  Besides, having someone poke around my eyes makes me nervous anyway.  I probably would’ve ended up writing junk anyway.

I wasn’t fit for writing (or reading) until this afternoon around 3:00 pm, but I had to work.  Guess what my priority task was for today?  Writing.  I should’ve been happy about it, right?  I love to write, right?  But I wanted to work on my own stuff.  Nevertheless, I turned my attention away from myself and put my best effort into writing a nomination for a national award for several members in my program.  It’s an honor to be able to recognize their work, and I did my very best.  I did.  Really.  Almost all of my creativity was spent on this task, leaving little time (it’s after 8:00 pm here) and little energy for climbing Mount 1667 and then sprinting through another post before midnight.

I was about to throw it in on the post for today and simply focus on the novel, but I received a thoughtful comment from a reader (shout out to Delighted) that gave me the perfect idea.  It’s cheating a little, but hey, surely you can understand that I’m desperate right now.  After reading my recent post about holiday music, Delighted asked me to share two of my favorite holiday songs.  I posted my reply and now I’m following up with this post I did around this time last year.  So this is for Delighted.

Enjoy…

Re-post from 11/3/12

I’ve been caught up with doctor appointments, end-of-year tasks at work, and my usual daily routine lately.  Admittedly, I’ve been showing signs of burnout.  Still, at the strangest times, this little melody has been finding its way to me.  A few notes hummed just loud enough for me to hear while going about my business in the office or on my commute have been enough to bring a smile to my face.  By the time I’ve made it home, my humming has grown into a full blown concert on most days.  Take a listen to LeAnn Rimes and be reminded to never underestimate the healing powers of the music you love.

Holiday Song of the Week:  “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas”

Feels Like:  spontaneous smiling all day long

Sounds Like:  a yellow sunrise

My 2013 Nanowrimo Experience Begins

My 2013 Nanowrimo Experience Begins

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Since today is Day 3 of National Novel Writing Month (Nanowrimo), I suppose I can go ahead and let you all know that I’m officially doing it this year.  I was going to let it pass.  There’s been so much going on, and I haven’t exactly been putting pen to paper very much   in the past couple of months.  I participated in 2010 and 2011, skipped 2012, and there really wasn’t anything moving me to do it this year.  I had already decided to finish my novel by my birthday, which is in December.  Yes, I was a holiday baby!  It makes perfect sense that I’m over-the-top when it comes to the holidays.  Anyway, let me get back on topic…As I was saying, I was ignoring all of the email reminders and prompts about Nanowrimo received throughout October.  I was definitely going to sit this year out, but my 15-year-old nephew called me late on October 1st to ask if I was going to participate.  He gave me a five minute synopsis of his novel and said I was his inspiration for participating in this daunting challenge of writing 50,000 words in 30 days.  While I was happy to hear that he had decided to work on his own novel, I wasn’t thrilled about joining the frenzy that surrounds Nanowrimo each year.

I went to bed, but my mind was restless. I honestly believe I had a dream about word counts and the dreaded feeling of being behind because I didn’t make my daily goal.  November 1st was a banner day.  While I was obsessing over soy nog, I was also feeling the growing urge to write 1667 words before midnight! Plus I’d talked my 16-year-old son into joining in on the fun, too.

The first time I sat down to write was during dinner with my husband.  It was rude, but necessary.  The sun was going down, and I hadn’t even written one word!  I knew from previous years that writers around the world were already in the 1000s.  Many were shooting for 10K in the first 24 hours.  I try to avoid looking at the stats for these folks.  I’m secretly grateful that no one in this group has added me to their buddy list.  They make me a little sick to my stomach, and I mean that in a good way.  There’s very little that I feel true envy about.  These super writers hold a special place of honor in my world.  I’m still trying to get fast enough to write 1000 words in 30 minutes, but I’m nowhere near that pace.  I’m too much of a perfectionist.  The editor in my just won’t shut up!

Back to the dinner table…My husband ordered his food and ate.  I ordered nothing, ate nothing, and ignored him.  I had to do it.  I couldn’t socialize with him and write.  Time was not on my side.  I already felt tired, but my novel was calling to me. Thirty minutes later, when he announced that he was ready to go, I had over 350 words.  That was the moment when my 2013 Nanowrimo experience began.

Day 3:  5521 words and counting…

Looking for the soy nog, again

Looking for the soy nog, again

It was cold and raining when I dragged myself out of bed on Friday morning.  It was November 1st, just yesterday in fact.  I had to get ready for an 8:00 am appointment to discuss qualifications and premiums for long term care insurance.  So I needed to be on time and be prepared to make decisions about my future.  The last thing my husband said to me was, “Don’t be late.”

We had to drive separately because I had to go in to work right after the appointment, and he had to head in the opposite direction.  Being late was a non-issue as far as I was concerned.  The meeting place was only 10 minutes down the street.  I had plenty of time to stop by my neighborhood grocery store to pick up a frozen meal (yuck!) for lunch since I didn’t cook the night before.

I walked into the grocery store at about 7:30 am.  In no time, I’d found the items I wanted, and I was at the register checking out.  As I was waiting for the receipt, I casually asked the cashier when they expected to have seasonal products in the store.  The cashier said, “I don’t really know.”  Why did he say that to me?  It was as if a switch was flipped on inside me.  I had no intention of getting into an altercation with him or the store manager this early in the morning, particularly since I was supposed to be in the car following my husband to discuss health care needs.  I had no business being in the store at all. I should’ve continued driving down the street, stopping only for red traffic lights and stop signs.  But no, I had to stop by the store, and there I was having the same conversation I had last year with a cashier and two store managers in the same store about the same thing–availability of the soy nog.  All I wanted to know was the date that the shelves would be stocked with the nog.

20131102_232528Let’s be clear, when I said “seasonal products” I really meant soy nog.  What else could I have been talking about?  It’s no secret that I obsess over the stuff during the holiday season, and last year was–well–you can read all about it yourself…click here. I don’t try to explain it.  I accept my psychotic behaviors whenever they surface, but this situation wasn’t supposed to happen.  It was only November 1st.  Should I have been expecting the nog this early?  Maybe not, but I am the same person who began celebrating the holiday season on October 1st.  Naturally, after a month I’d have a taste for the stuff.

I left the store in a huff, but not before I asked the store manager if I was going to have to make a special request for them to order the nog this year.  I can’t tell you what he said because I’d stopped listening once I realized none of them had any understanding of how urgent this was for me.

It was 8:25 am, when I sat down next to my husband at the meeting.  I tried to shake the feelings of disappointment and disillusionment.  But things have a way of working out.  After work, later that afternoon, I walked into a nearby Target just to browse and walked out with the nog.  All was right with the world again.

The Joy of Holiday Music

The Joy of Holiday Music

holiday-music

Last year I shared how I began a personal tradition of celebrating the holidays on October 1st each year.  Just for the record, the holiday’s are still on this year.  I remained true to my personal tradition by switching to holiday music right on schedule, as planned, on October 1, 2013.

As I shared a couple of days ago, we loss my husband’s mother in October.  It’s been hard.  It still is hard.  I found playing holiday music around the house during this time soothing.  I think Mom Alice would’ve wanted us to continue on in a joyful way.  She knew I loved the holidays.  She didn’t want us to be full of sorrow.  So I allowed myself to feel the joy that holiday music naturally fills me with when I sing along or just listen to it.

I feel happy when I listen to the songs.  I just can’t help it.  I’m listening to my library of holiday music right this minute.  If you need a quick pick-me-up, I strongly recommend you try it yourself.  Don’t worry about what others around you think.  You don’t have to care!  It’s your moment.  Put on your absolute favorite holiday song, close your eyes, and let the music fill you up until you can’t contain the joy anymore.  Then give the next person you see a great big hug, assuming you know the person.  If not, then perhaps a bright smile will do.

Play it.

Feel it.

Pass the joy along.

Cheers!

2012 List–7 Best Experiences of the Year

2012 List–7 Best Experiences of the Year

I’ve shared the list of products I fell in love with in 2012.  Now, I’m moving on to my best experiences of the year.  I don’t want to give the wrong idea here.  The year was not all easy times.  I faced my share of challenges, which  touched all major areas of my life including my health, increased parental responsibilities, caring for aging parent’s, lifestyle changes, unexpected financial obligations, increased demands and uncertainty at work, and countless stresses on friendships, family relationships, and even my marriage.  At times, I didn’t want to deal with things.  Other times, I wanted to jump right in, but I didn’t necessarily know the best course of action. Some of these challenges will continue into 2013, but I feel ready for them.  I’m taking my lessons with me, and I’m arming myself with tools that I hope will help me.

What makes me dwell less and less on the things that didn’t go so well this year?

It comes down to the power I feel I have to do things differently in the coming year.   This year’s challenges helped me establish my 2013 goals, and I’ve gained more insight on specific actions that will get me to where I need to be.  I’m only focused on what I have the most control over—myself.  There’s power in this approach to change.

Why is it important for me to reflect on the things that were good about this year?

Why not?  By focusing on the good, I am conscientiously cultivating my own joy.  I’m teaching myself to be happy.  It’s a lesson that never ends as far as I’m concerned.  The simple exercise of typing short descriptions of a few good experiences from the year will call up the images, feelings, and thoughts associated with those times.  I can’t wait to get to it.  So here is a snapshot of my good times from the year.

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Valentine’s Day in Washington, D.C.  I had to attend a week long leadership training course for work, which would’ve meant that I’d have to spend Valentine’s Day away from my husband.  I asked him if he could adjust his work schedule in order to travel with me.  Lucky me!  He could and did.  We had a relaxing and productive week together.  Then, we wrapped up the week at the Ritz Carlton—Tyson’s Corner.  It was a weekend of bliss!  Oh the memories!

 

Tea Time in Dallas, TX.  I knew that one of my closest girlfriends was on track to complete her masters degree in the spring, and I promised to be present for her graduation.  This was a personal goal that she’d worked hard to achieve.  I had to be there.  My husband was supportive and came along, too. We flew into Dallas with just an hour to spare before the graduation ceremony.  It had been a long time since I’d been to anyone’s graduation.  I was so proud of her!  Later that night, we met over a dozen of our close friends for dinner.  It was just enough time to catch up, but the highlight of the trip was having afternoon tea the next day at Fearings Restaurant.  The service was excellent.  All dietary needs were accommodated, and this was a treat for me (with my mostly vegan diet) and one of my friends (with her gluten-free diet).  So delicious!

savannah riverwalkFamily Reunion in Savannah, GA.  My mother’s, mother’s side of the family holds a reunion every other year.  This year we gathered in Savannah at the end of the summer for a weekend of fellowship.  I saw cousins I hadn’t seen in years, and it was such a pleasure to sit with our family elders. Bowling was the most popular group activity.  Family members of all ages participated.  As I grow older, I hope I’ll be as vibrant as the elders in my family like my Grandmother, Lillie.

Turning 80 in Florence, SC.  My family traveled to South Carolina to help celebrate my husband’s father’s 80th birthday just a few months ago.  Can you imagine turning 80 years old?  I can’t.  Not yet anyway.  My husband’s father made turning 80 look like it was so much fun.  He strutted down the aisle with his wife beside him, greeting nearly 100 guests.  He was all smiles, and we were happy we could be there to see it.  Watching him reminded me that we have to remain active throughout the early years and the middle years if we plan to be mobile in our later years.  Use it or loss it!

goldringsWedding Anniversary in Greensboro, GA.  On our way back home from South Carolina, we saw an advertisement for a Ritz Carlton resort.  My husband suggested that we stop and check it out.  We liked the property.  To my surprise, he made reservations for our anniversary.  We brought the children along and made it a family celebration.  We lounged by the pool, in the spa, and in the club lounge.  I don’t think any of us will forget that weekend.

Thanksgiving Cruise in the Caribbean.  This year we had the largest group of family and friends travel with us on a 7-day cruise to the Caribbean.  I’ve already mentioned in a previous post that I’m a sunny blue sky, ocean breeze kind of girl.  I liked that I could spend time with the family when I wanted and with myself when I wanted.  My favorite time was in the middle of the night around two or three in the morning.  I’d wake up, open the sliding door, step out on the balcony and stare up at the stars.  I can easily recall the blanket of stars over me, the sea calling to me…

20121216_172217Birthday Celebration (x3) in Atlanta, GA.  Two of my friends and I decided to celebrate our birthdays together this year.  Mimosas and champagne with fresh berries, truffles, gourmet dishes, freshly baked cookies, and the best conversations marked the occasion.  We laughed and laughed and laughed.

I can’t help smiling as I finish typing this.

What are some of you best experiences from 2012?