A Solitary Life

I went through a rough patch with my faith when I was young.  I’ve been through a lot, and I couldn’t imagine that God (who supposedly loved me), would put me through the awful things I went through.

But, I came around.  My faith is mine.  So know that I share my story of faith with you out of the spirit of sharing and nothing more.  It is not my intention to change someone’s mind, or have them change mine.  My relationship with God is very personal.  And it’s mine.  And I trust His will and guidance and I know, now, that the things I’ve been through were to prepare me for my mission on earth.  I believe that I was put here to shepherd others through their darkness.  Which is why I do so well with words.  It’s why I can convey emotion with my written and verbal communication; serenity and anger and sadness and motivation and love and fear and determination…. all part of the gift I was given.  And while it does make for a sometimes very challenging life, it is really all part of what I need to experience to be able to help other people.

I trust Him, explicitly.

And although I’m very familiar with the origins of Christmas and the pagan roots, I still choose to observe the birth of Christ as a wonderful and momentous occasion.  One man….just one… changed a whole planet.  Jesus changed everything.  I’m grateful for the sacrifice.

A wonderful friend posted this, yesterday, on Facebook.  Originally seen in Spanish, by him, he’s graciously translated it for the rest of us.
(**Side note….the irony is that my daddy had this exact. same. thing. in a frame when I was young, but I never knew what it said.  So I knew it was Divinity that placed it in my path this weekend.)

A Solitary Life
He was a man born in an insignificant little town. Son of a peasant woman. He grew up in another town of no importance, worked as a carpenter until he was 30 years old. And then, for 3 years, he was a nomadic preacher. He never wrote a book, never raised a family, and He never attended a university. He never set foot in any large cities. He never traveled more than 320 kilometers away from the place of His birth. He never did any of the things that are usually associated with greatness; the only credentials he had was Himself.
When He was still a young man, the tide of public opinion turned against Him. In the hour of most danger, his friends abandoned him. One of them denied Him, another betrayed Him. He had to deal with mockery by a jury of His peers. He was nailed to a cross in between two thieves.
His executioners, while He died, gambled for the only material possession He had left in the world: His tunic. When He died, He was lowered from the cross then placed in a borrowed tomb.
Almost 20 centuries have passed, and He is still the only hope for the world, the only comfort for the sad and Savior for the sinners. All the navies that have been assembled, all the armies that have ever existed, all the governments that have been put in place, and all the kings that have ever ruled……..
All of that, combined, has not affected mankind living on Earth as powerfully as that one, solitary life.
Merry Christmas, if you celebrate.  And if not, have a truly wonderful day!

Why it’s fun to make my kid cry

To start, I’m still sick.  I’m beginning to suspect bronchitis.  BFF #1 has it, and it’s possible that I got the bug from her before she knew she had it.  I got a little better for a couple of days, but I feel worse than I did before, now.  Plus, no voice, again.  I did, however, make it to the Christmas party in my bad-ass steel-gray dress (because I was so freakin’ medicated that I could have bled pseudoephedrine).  And I looked good.  So there’s that.  Yay.  Today?  Sucking.  Whatever.  It’ll pass soon enough.

With Christmas rapidly approaching (I really should put the Christmas Tree up already), I was thinking about some of our holiday traditions and how they came about.  Here they are, in no particular order (plus the reason why we do it):

  • Frozen Pizza on Christmas Eve
    We started doing this after many years of Christmas Eve dinner with my in-laws.  They are very nice and well-meaning, but their food is gross.  Not even kidding, none of us ever really enjoyed the meal.  So, one night after the meal, we stopped at a grocery store and picked up a frozen pizza for each of us.  Later that night, we realized that we loved it because each of us got what we wanted (I am a veggie pizza girl, the kiddo likes cheese, and the hubs loves meat).
  • No family on Christmas Day
    It’s just a rule.  Keeps me from murdering them.
  • Chinese Food on Christmas Day
    One year we were so broke that we took the Christmas money we got from the In-Laws and went to the cheapest chinese food restaurant that was open so we had at least something to eat on Christmas Day.  The next year, we did it for fun.  Now we do it for tradition.

Lastly, one of the biggest traditions is one that will make me laugh forever: torturing my daughter with Dora the Explorer.

Dora the Explorer / Courtesy Nickelodeon

Christmas Dora / Nickelodeon

When my daughter (now 16 and a half years old) was only 7, we would put Dora the Explorer on TV and tease her by saying we knew how much she loved it.  She would get all haughty and stomp out of the room.  All of the sudden, we had an instant child remover!  We could put it on, at any time, and she would run out of the room.  (For the record, we’ve probably watched most of the episodes of Dora.  It works to this day!)  Because of this strong aversion, I started buying cheap Dora-themed items and giving them to her for random holidays.  Christmas, Birthdays, even Easter, once.

When she was 9, I started harping on the Dora thing about two weeks before the holiday.  By December 22nd, I had her convinced that not only did *we* get her Dora stuff, but so did her Papa.  On the 23rd, everything came to a head.

Her: So… when will be taking the presents back so I can get the stuff I want.
Me: *gasp* (giving her a stern look) Not until after Christmas!  There’s no time now!  And there’s like, 4 feet of snow on the ground.  I’m not going to tell Papa to go to the store now!
Her: Mom! (and she gets really upset now)  But it’s all Dora stuff!
Me:  I don’t care.  You need to be gracious, even if you don’t like it!  You don’t want to hurt his feelings do you?
Her: (crying now)  But…mom?
Me: Knock it off.  Be graceful, not a spoiled brat!

I know… I’m cruel.  She left the room bawling and I was giggling.  The hubs scolded me and told me that I was being mean.  So I ended up going into her room and calming her down and telling her I was kidding and Papa didn’t get her Dora stuff.  She settled down and I was bummed because I was really enjoying myself.  I get it though.  It’s not nice to scar the child.

She learned a few things, though.  She learned that no matter what, she should be gracious about gifts.  Even when it’s not the thing she wants, it’s the thought that counts.  We used to have a little trouble with her, when she was young, with being kind and polite in challenging circumstances.  One thing I won’t ever tolerate is a spoiled child, so this taught her something.

I did get the last laugh, though.  The very first gift she opened on Christmas Day?  Dora Bubble Bath.  Yeah…her facial expression was priceless. I winked, and she got the joke.  But ever since then, we have that.  I told her that I’ll give her Dora panties when she gets married.  And the great thing is she knows I will.

That’s love.

This is the meaning of Christmas

I’ve long spoken of my disdain for the holidays.  The greed.  The outrageous behavior.  The ridiculous parents that spoil their children (who are already spoiled and misbehaved).  The people going further into debt because they just *have* to give that present to so-and-so because “it’s what you do for Christmas.”  The fighting between family members.  The nonsensical drinking at functions and the following justification because “it’s Christmas” and that makes it okay.

And I won’t even go into the “keeping Christ in Christmas” thing.  Today.  This time.  Out loud.  (Not gonna lie, I am totally on a soapbox in my head, but no one needs to hear that.)

BFF#2 even got me a “Humbug.”  This little creature that is ugly and, for me, symbolizes the ugliness of the season.

But beyond that, you might be asking yourself, “Why?  Why, flame, are you so fired up about this?”  I’ll tell you why.  It’s a little sad story I like to call the history of my life.  It may be depressing in the beginning, but stick with me.  It gets better, in the end.

I wasn’t always so jaded.  For the first few years of my life, I didn’t know enough to be jaded.  That all changed when I hit the ripe old age of 6.  I learned, then, that things aren’t fair.  And you know what?  I was okay with that, for a while.

We were poor.  When I hear my friends (who are all doing well for themselves) talk about not wanting their children to “go without,” you’d think they meant food or shelter or something equally important.  But no… they’re talking about laptop computers and other bullshit.  When I say, “I went without,” I mean that quite literally.  At times I didn’t eat.  At times we didn’t have electricity.  I was even homeless for a small time, and lived in a parking lot.

By the time I was 8 years old, we lived in San Diego and had it rough.  My mother was sinking further into addiction (her drug of choice was meth, but I suspect she did other things, too).  She was also struggling with undiagnosed severe hypo-thyroid disease and narcolepsy.  My step-father, at the time, was sexually abusing me, and using heroin.  We had several other people living with us, all unemployed and all addicted to drugs and alcohol.  Both my brothers were working or away from the house a lot of the time, trying to make a living and/or escape the madness.  I had no such luck.  I immersed myself in books, school, and other cerebral activities.  If I was in my head, my heart was less attached to the awful situation I lived in.  We got two checks at the beginning of the month, every month.  Disability and child support.  We lived like Kings and Queens for the first couple of weeks.

The problem is that Thanksgiving and Christmas come at the end of the month.  When I was 9 years old, I didn’t eat on Christmas Day.  Nothing.  Not over-cooked turkey.  Not mushy stuffing.  Not even gross gelatinized cranberry sauce.  Not. Any. Thing.

When I was 10, we got on some sort of list that delivered food baskets for the holidays.  We also got presents that year.  I got a jacket.  And a toy, I think.  I remember my mom asking me what I wanted, and I felt uncomfortable asking for anything.  I didn’t know who was giving me a present, and I certainly didn’t think it was right to *ask* for anything when they were being generous by giving me anything at all.  I would be happy with what I got.  And at the end of the day, that’s something that’s never changed.

When I was 11 years old, I got a bike.  Someone, a stranger, bought me a bicycle.  A 12-speed.  I was floored.  When I was 13 I got make-up and a journal to write in.  The very first entry I made in that journal was that, someday, when I was older, I would do the same thing for a kid who was in need.

When I was 13 years old, I understood these things:

  • Life isn’t fair.  And you had to deal with it.
  • Poverty existed, and I was living it, but “poor” was a state of mind.
  • The best gift you can give or get is love.
  • Regular people had the power to do extraordinary things.
  • Although adults make really bad choices that make their lives the way they are, children suffer.  A lot.
  • The kindness of strangers can literally change someone’s life (and it’s changed my life a number of times).

By the time I was 14 years old, I lived with my dad.  We didn’t have a lot.  I’d even say that we still lived below the poverty line – but we were not poor.  We chose to make do with what we had instead of going on welfare.  My daddy sacrificed so I could have little things.  I did without, sometimes, so my dad still had money to go out and have adult space.

Fast forward to adulthood.  Those bell ringers you see?  I give whatever change I have in my pocket or purse to them.  And my daughter does the same.  I was in line at the grocery store, once, and a woman wasn’t able to pay for her Christmas meal (ham, potatoes and stuffing), so I paid for it.

But the tradition I have that is the most important to me is “The Giving Tree.”  (If you don’t know what that is, go to your local grocery store and find the Christmas tree that’s normally near the service/customer service desk.  There will be a tree that has little paper ornaments on it.  You can choose a name, go buy a present, bring the name and present back to the store and they will get it to the child.)
I go to the store every Christmas, and pick a name off the tree.  I look through the names and almost always find a name of a child who reminds me of myself, at that age: a girl about 11-14 who has general interests listed but no specifics.  I look, hard, for a gift that matches those interests and bring it back.  Sometimes it’s been a diary.  Sometimes a winter coat.  Sometimes an art kit.  Every year I do this.

That is what Christmas is.  Christmas is the act of giving.  It’s the act of giving to make someone else’s life better, without the expectation of receiving and without the sense of obligation.  I do this every year because I said, when I was 13 years old, that I would.  If you’re looking for Christ in your Christmas, this is where you find Him.  In giving.

I was moved to write this post after reading The Bloggess’ post about how she gives, and the suggestions she makes for her readers.  She inspired me.  And I hope I inspire you, this year, to give.  It doesn’t have to be money.  Give of your heart.  Give of your time.  Be kind.  Love people.  That is the spirit of Christmas.  Everything else is just noise.

Magical pathways (and why I shouldn’t be allowed out of the house)

Stay tuned for the actual point of this post, but here’s the “is-she-crazy-or-not” update.

That really great feeling from a few days ago?  It’s gone.  But I’m not quite buried in the fog, again.  I’m just…neutral.  Thanksgiving was nice.  No pressure.  I cooked.  We ate.  Watched football.  It was lovely.  I was feeling a little anxiety early on, but by the end of the evening it had passed.  Now I’m neither up or down.  Just… I’m here.  And I’m content with that today.

Christmas madness has begun.  I don’t do the whole “Black Friday” thing.  I’m pretty sure that buffets and Black Friday bring out the worst in humanity.  There’s no social order; it’s total anarchy.  Plus, don’t even get me started on all the Christmas music you’re forced to endure while shopping with all the other wackos.

I did go out, but it wasn’t until 1pm.  That’s a normal hour of the day to shop.  In my opinion, at least.  Which leads me to the topic of this post:

So there we were at The Great Indoors, which is closing in our neck of the woods.  Maybe they’re all closing?  It would make sense – I saw a robe hook for the bathroom door that cost $44.  For $44, I will drape it over the toilet like everyone else. And that was where the ridculousness started.  That place was bankruptcy waiting to happen.

At any rate, the hubs and I are walking around the store and half-snickering, half-actually-looking at the “closeout prices” of random items.  I put “closeout prices” in quotes because I’m certain the prices we saw were their sales prices.  Who pays $20 for a towel?  A regular, white bath towel?  I rubbed it all over and a genie did *not* pop out and grant me three wishes. Not even one wish.  A genie didn’t even pop out and scowl at me.  Bottom line: considering there was no genie involved, the towel was clearly over priced.

We continue on this adventure, making mostly quiet snide comments about robe hooks and the $7000 round hot tub that was “clearanced” from $8000.

Then, we stumble upon this gem.  This beautiful wardrobe closet.  I’m marveling at it, and say to the hubs, “You think it’s the path to Narnia?  Or maybe the Mirror of Erised from Harry Potter?”  At this point, the sales person came over to inform me that this sweet little piece of furniture is 125 years old, and was originally priced at $22,000.  The good people at The Great Indoors are willing to part with it for only $7500.  I say, with the straightest face, “Do you think it is the path to Narnia?”  She looked at me, at first, like she *thought* she heard what I said, but couldn’t believe someone would ask such a thing.  So she says, “Excuse me?”

Me: Do you think this might be the path to Narnia?
Her: (blank look) Um….
Me: OR… it could be that mirror from Harry Potter.  The one where he sees his dead parents in the mirror.  I don’t have dead parents.  So all I see is me.
Her: Um…. (still looking at me like I have a cat on my face)
Me: I’m going with Narnia.
Her: (gathering her whereabouts at this point) *clearing her throat* It is from France. (it’s cute… she’s trying to stay collected and professional)
Me: Hmmmm… Narnians could be French?  I suppose anything is possible.
Her: …..Maybe?

At this point she literally walks away *just* before I asked her to open it so I could investigate the passage.  Too bad.  It could’ve been a whole new adventure!

And this is why I shouldn’t be allowed out in public.

I got nothin’

I haven’t quite figured out the title for this yet.  I don’t even really know where it’s going… just that I need to write.  I need to spend some of my anxious energy on something.

I haven’t been able to shake it.  Whatever “this” is.  I have glimpses of relief.  They come in short spurts and then they go.  It’s just a funk.  I wish I could put my finger on it.  My “safe” group, that list of a few people who I feel really comfortable around seems to be shrinking.  Due to no fault of their own, I’m finding that a few people have fallen off the list.  It isn’t that I don’t love them… I just can’t handle their drama.  Their craziness makes me crazy.  I’ve got enough crazy, right now.  So for now…. I’m withdrawn.

I feel very lonely.  There’s a quote in the movie Titanic where Rose says, “I feel as if I’m in a room screaming and no one even. looks. up.”  I feel just like that.  More than anything I want to be coddled a little.  Not babysat… just… for God’s sake… tell me I’m worth something.  Show me I’m loved.  Tell me I’m important.  It’s not like I’m going to do anything drastic to myself.  I’m not in *that* place.  But I am incredibly lonely.  People all around me and I am the loneliest person in the world.

It’s self-inflicted.  I get that.  It’s all me.  That’s almost worse than it being someone else’s fault.  Because when it’s me, and I can’t change it, I’m just left to sink in the quicksand of my own emotion.

*sigh*  The holidays are the worst for me.  I hate Christmas.  All these people who are like, “Keep Christ in Christmas” are the first ones to bowl you over when you’re in line at the checkout.  Walk into Target, or Home Depot.  Look at all those huge blow-up decorations and overpriced lawn ornaments…. tell me – where’s Christ in that?  And beyond that, I just hate the pressure of gift-giving.  I love giving presents and I love getting them.  But the obligation of having to give someone something just because they exist.  Oh… and then the pressure of having to come up with something I want.  I dread it.  I generally don’t want anything.  I mean… stuff here and there.  But I’m not saving up a list of stupid shit I want to buy around Christmas, just so I have a bunch of boxes with my name on it under the tree.

I could hibernate from the Friday after Thanksgiving all the way to New Year’s Eve and be totally fine.  I like New Years.  Another movie quote, this time from Forrest Gump. “Don’t you love the new year?  It’s like you get to start over.   …Everyone deserves a second chance.”

I go on a mini-vacation from work next week.  6 days without having to work.  Thank God.  It couldn’t come fast enough.  Maybe I’ll feel better after some down time.

…….I hope.