When December starts drawing to a close, I generally go back through the year’s posts and spend some time reflecting.
2018 was a busy year, and not like many others before it.
I saw places I didn’t think I’d ever see, I did things I thought I’d never do, and sitting here, preparing to turn the page on a new year, I feel like I lived 2018 to its fullest.
One of the things that I wanted to do this last year was not just write about life, not just read about other peoples’ lives, but to be a more active participant in my own.
I know that might sound strange, but so many times I have felt like I was on the fringes. Looking in at my life from a distance. Not truly living it.
Hubs surprised me last year with a trip to Mobile to watch the Moon Pie Drop on New Year’s Eve. It’s something I had wanted to do forever, and I think making that one change in our normally mediocre NYE experience set the tone for the rest of the year.
I worked harder this last year than I probably have in my life. Tried to learn as much as I could. Become a better professional.
But I played hard too. I’ve tried to get better at separating my work life from my home life, which isn’t easy when everybody has your cell number and you and your spouse work for the same company.
It took a while, but I’m improving in the area of leaving my work at work. When I can.
I took my daughter out of private school and watched her thrive and be happier than I’ve seen her in years, now a homeschooled student.
I taught her, and continue to teach her to drive. She’ll have her license next year and is preparing for experiences that used to seem so far away. And yet here they are, knocking on our door.
I removed myself from Facebook. Maybe my greatest decision of the year. In doing so, I wrote more. I looked at life with different eyes. And I began interacting with people, and not their pages.
I tried, and continue to try, to learn what it means to be a good wife to my husband. I don’t write about our marriage much, but he and I would both agree that it hasn’t been an easy one.
The dynamics of having a blended family are so difficult, yet can be so sweet when it works. And, after 12 years of marriage, I feel more at peace in my relationship than I ever have. Some of it is medication (ha! No seriously…) but some of it is both of us trying to better ourselves in order to be better for each other. I think our efforts are paying off. We wouldn’t be having the conversations we’re having if that wasn’t the case.
2019 promises more changes. Big ones, possibly. And always lots of small ones. But I don’t fear them. I have nervous energy, always, when on the precipice of life decisions. But I don’t have fear.
I always look forward to starting a new year. I love beginnings. Fresh starts. So many times, in years past, I have been anticipating the new just because I was so tired of the old.
This year, I simply have hope for more of the good. Appreciating the difficulties of the past along the way, and how they’ve prepared me and made me better able to handle whatever life dishes out.
I hope to have another post or two up before 2018 officially ends. But in case I don’t, I want to thank you, my readers, friends, fellow writers. My connection to you and with you matters so much to me. I look forward to more of that in the coming year.
I don’t know that 2018 has been a stellar year for my writing, but I will say that what I’ve written has been honest. Authentic. And I appreciate all of you that come along for the ride. Even when it’s garbage.
I hope you each have a pleasant a peaceful end to the year, and I wish you all a happy and prosperous 2019.
and what have you done?
Another year over, a new one just begun.
A very Merry Christmas, and a Happy New Year. Let’s hope it’s a good one, without any fear.
Last night, I drove into town for Nyquil for my daughter and to start a new Christmas Eve tradition: Krystal burgers.
Hubs and I were tired. He worked yesterday morning, and then we had the funeral for my grandmother, lunch at my aunt’s house after.
So I just took the opportunity to drive. In the darkness, my soft Christmas playlist crooned through the car. I took some deep breaths. Shed some much needed tears. And then came home to a mixed drink and 3 hours of animated Christmas classics before retiring for the night.
And now it is Christmas morning. And my family is still snoozing.
It is quiet. Still. Cloudy and cool outside.
And I still hear those words from John Lennon….
War is over, if you want it…
War is over now….
Following the funeral yesterday, call it a Christmas miracle, but I had such peace.
It wasn’t the absence of anything, but the presence of something. Someone.
In that peace, I reached out to some people, who reciprocated with love and kindness. I didn’t expect anything different, but it was still the best gift I’ve received this year.
I did my best yesterday to lay to rest, with my grandmother, a lot of the past.
Some things, some people, will never change.
But some of us have. I have. I have tried to let every adversity of my life make me better. Stronger. Kinder. It’s a work in progress, for sure. But I think I usually get it right. The fact that I try is a victory, I think.
And kindness, peace and love, without sounding too hokey, is what I want to shape the coming year. What I want to bring to others.
When my family was divided, all those years ago, my dad told me, repeatedly, that my generation did not have to let it continue. That the healing may have to come from us.
And I see us trying. I saw us trying yesterday. I hope we continue.
War is over…if you want it.
Oh I want it. I want it so much.
I found, in my quiet, Christmas Eve drive, a light coming through old darkness.
Peace on Earth.
Goodwill toward one another.
Love came down at Christmas. I saw it. I see it. I will hold fast to it.
Finally, after what has felt like AGES, our book club reconvened.
We had some absences at the last meeting and their presence was sorely missed.
We have just completed our 2nd full rotation of selections, and there were some fantastic reads in 2018.
January- Allison’s pick (me!)
I honestly don’t remember which books I’ve reviewed this year and am too lazy to look this morning, but I’ll give a brief recap.
I picked this selection for several reasons. One, because I love biographies, two, because I thought our rotation needed a little non-fiction in the mix, and three, it centered on a group that doesn’t get a lot of attention: the First Ladies.
I really enjoyed the book, and learned a lot, especially about women like LadyBird Johnson, Pat Nixon, and Michelle Obama.
I have a huge amount of respect for the research the author put in, and it peaked my curiosity enough to delve deeper into some of the life stories of the women behind the scenes of the most powerful job on Earth.
February – LaRue’s pick
I didn’t get to finish this one. I got crazy sick in February, and missed our meeting, too. I WILL start over with this one at some point though because, despite my reservations (I’m picky about my fantasy novels) I was really enjoying it.
It was a little Game of Thronesish and a little something else…Ken Follet? It’s definitely on my “Go back and read” list.
March – Anna’s pick
One of my top 3 for this year. This haunting selection has stuck with me. A lot. And I was reading it during some of the worst depression of my life.
One wouldn’t think that was such a great idea, given this book is so centered on mental illness, but I understood Eleanor in a way that I don’t think you can unless you have been at rock bottom.
I loved, loved, loved this story. It was beautiful and heartbreaking and hopeful and sweet. I highly recommend it.
April – Meredith’s pick
I’ll be honest, I didn’t finish this one either. I struggled through the spring months to do anything productive outside of my job.
I enjoyed a lot of what I did read, though. But I don’t know if I have the mental energy to finish this one.
The author’s writing style is too much akin to my own racing thoughts, which I medicate to keep under control. But there’s no denying that it has some heart, and lots of humor. I respect anyone that can approach their own tragedies with the kind of perspective and honesty used in this book.
August – Kacie’s pick
Kacie generally gets to pick our summer selection. She reveals at the May meeting and then we discuss after a break for the summer. So, in August, we gathered to talk about this gem.
I was so apprehensive about this book in the beginning. It was unlike any novel I’d ever read. Set in Afghanistan, the plights of two different female characters are explored. It is a beautiful, raw, often-difficult novel to read that includes a lot about oppression, violence (domestic and otherwise), and poverty.
It was, at times, exhausting. But worth the effort. I will be exploring more by this author for sure and this selection would also be in my top 3 for the year.
September – Jen’s pick
Alas, I didn’t finish this book. It was one of the first books I tried to “read” via Audible. And I just couldn’t get into it.
I’ve already written a scathing review of this one, and don’t really care to rehash it here. I’ll just say that this book bombed with me, and pretty much everybody else in book club.
Hey, there’s bound to be a stinker in the bunch every once in a while. Mine went over like a lead balloon this year, even though I personally liked it. It’s part of what makes a book club interesting.
October – Rebecca’s pick
I loved Gone Girl. It wasn’t a difficult read, and I expected the same from this one.
But, actually, it was much more in depth and quite a bit darker than Gone Girl. I already had picked up the paperback months before this selection was picked, so I listened to some of it on Audible, and actually read some too.
I love Psych Thrillers. It’s one of my favorite genres. With Gillian Flynn, you are guaranteed some twists (which I love) and some truly WTF moments. I love for books to surprise me and this one did, several times.
I’ll be looking the miniseries up on Prime just as soon as I can devote the time.
November – Kim’s pick
Maybe my favorite book we’ve had and definitely in the top 3 for this year.
I listened to the entirety of it on Audible and, I have to say, the audio version was DELIGHTFUL. I finished it in less than a week and can’t wait for the film to be released in March.
It should probably tell me something when my favorite books usually involve a mental and emotionally unhinged main character. But I make no apologies.
This book involves a TON of emails, so I would recommend the audio version, just to help keep it all straight. I think my experience might have been different if I’d actually read it the traditional way because we got some mixed reviews on it at discussion.
Those of us who work in an email heavy field could be tempted to scan the pages like we tend to do our own email. And if one does that, they will miss some important details.
Even if you’ve never listened to an audio book, give this one a try. It’s worth it.
The Page-Turners met yesterday for our annual Christmas brunch. We gathered at Char in Jackson for food, drink, gifts, and a discussion of Kim’s selection. And to take a few photos for posterity.
(From left, LaRue, Rebecca, Jen, me, Kacie, Anna (in the back), Kim, and Meredith.)
I love, love, love these ladies with all my book-loving, nerdy heart. Their friendship means the world to me and their laughter has saved my soul more times than I can count. Keeping a club together isn’t easy, especially as busy as we all are. Two have moved, one out of state, one started college, many are family caretakers, and we all have personal responsibilities that often push us to our limits.
But we are committed to each other and this special thing that we created, together. I love that our club is as important to all of them as it is to me. I love that we have so much in common, yet our differences also bring us together. I love that we are supportive of each other and encourage each other and new friendships have been formed within this group while old ones have been strengthened.
Starting a book club is still one of my greatest ideas ever. I’m so proud that it stuck. And that, after 2 years, we are still going strong.
As we creep toward 2019, it was, once again, my turn to pick the selection so……(drum roll)….here it is
A Huck Finnish sort of novel (supposedly) but with a female lead. I’m super excited to start it!
Here’s to a new year of great selections and lovely discussions and, hopefully, time for reviews of them all.
My grandmother passed away yesterday.
For going on 20 years or so, we haven’t had any type of real relationship to speak of. But it wasn’t always that way.
As a little girl, I remember desperately wanting her attention. I knew she liked books. That she had been a teacher. I think somewhere in my young mind this computed to “She likes what you like and she used to teach kids like you.” And I knew my Dad adored her. So she must be pretty great.
So I would sit at her feet when we came to visit, chattering away, I’m sure. She let me read her copy of Alice in Wonderland every time we made the 800 mile drive. It was a classic, hardbound copy. It looked so sophisticated up on her shelf. I think it made me feel special to read it.
I remember, as a child, being completely infatuated with the smoothness of her skin. Her hands were so soft. Her face, hardly a wrinkle.
Her kitchen was always warm and her bathroom always smelled like yellow Dial soap.
She and my grandfather took a couple of vacations with us when I was young and I remember her singing silly songs, making me giggle.
I remember moving back to Mississippi when I was 11 years old, and how excited I was to be within walking distance to her house. How cool was that? I’d only ever had a memory of living one place and that was in the middle of nowhere, Oklahoma where we didn’t walk to anybody’s house!
And I did walk. I made the trip up and down our road to visit her more times than I can remember.
She was a writer. She wrote a book. A memoir of sorts. But nothing in that book resembled the truths of her life that I wanted to know.
But that’s where this post is going, I suppose. The fact that I knew her, but I don’t feel like I ever knew her.
The circumstances surrounding why are just too complicated. As it was when my grandfather died, I’m choosing to focus on what was good.
I saw a picture on her wall yesterday that I don’t ever remember seeing. In the black and white portrait, a young Lina Sue smiles, mischievously. A smile my dad could produce like no one else, because he could always make her laugh and they shared the same quirky sense of humor.
Both of my dad’s parents are gone now. He was a strong caretaker for both of them, even throughout periods of his own illnesses and the stressors of his career.
His relationship with his parents wasn’t perfect. But he loved them. Fiercely. And he showed it.
As I grew up, I didn’t know how. I still struggle with how to show love to those who seem to not want it. Because I don’t understand that.
I have been so fortunate in my life to have parents that never fail to tell me they love me, never shied away from hugging me, kissing me, comforting me, encouraging me. That’s what I knew and understood growing up. A reciprocal love. When conditions are placed on it, or it is removed entirely, it is painful. And I guess I never recovered enough to entirely put my whole heart back into trying again.
Because relationships of any kind can sometimes be a daily practice of starting over. Holding fast to the good, forgetting what is behind.
I will never know what might have been. That is what I will mourn, as I did when my grandfather passed away. The wasted time. The missed opportunities. Not on my part. On theirs. What they missed with me. With my sister. My mother. My cousins. The richness they could have had in their lives from knowing us and allowing us into their hearts.
In that way, I am sad today. Because she was a teacher. But I don’t think, deep down, she would have ever wanted this to be her final lesson to a granddaughter that always thought she was pretty special.
But I take comfort in the fact that she is now at peace. No pain. Physical or mental, and she suffered from both. And I know that who she was was a product of where she came from and of her life experiences. Just like me.
It makes me hug my daughter closer. My parents. My last, surviving grandmother. My sister, nieces, nephews, cousins.
Because on their last day, or mine, I want them to remember nothing but the love. I want it to stand in front of everything else in their minds.
Because, in the end, it’s the only lesson that will matter.
Father of all, we pray to you for Lina Sue, and for all those whom
we love but see no longer. Grant to them eternal rest. Let
light perpetual shine upon them. May her soul and the souls
of all the departed, through the mercy of God, rest in peace.
I have always related to George Bailey. Here is a guy who wanted nothing more than to “see the world” and do big things, yet he ended up never leaving Bedford Falls. The stress of life nearly sent him over the edge. He lost his perspective.
Yeah, it’s Frank Capra sappy. My husband hates the movie. But sometimes sappy is just what I need.
I get the character on a very deep and personal level. I feel his desperation, because I’ve been there. I feel his anger, because I’ve been there. I feel his humility, I’ve been there too. I have prayed similarly, “God please, I want to live again. Please let me live again.”
While George was having a fictional, other-worldly experience, mine has been more a product of mental illness. But I think the similarities between the two are evident to anyone who has ever struggled with depression, or feeling lost in their life.
After months of a hellacious work schedule, I am home. Typing this at 9 a.m. on a Friday morning from the comfort of my bed with a warm cup of coffee perched on my lap. Christmas break is here, and for the next 6 days, I’ll have time to focus on the important things in life. Like getting these gray roots covered. 😜
I jest. Sort of. I am excited about my hair appointment, but mainly because I haven’t done anything to my locks in almost 2 months. It’s beyond time.
I will also brave Walmart one last time before I avoid it like the Black Plague. But I have a list and a plan, so hopefully it will be a short(ish) experience.
Beyond lunch with my inlaws on Sunday, my time is my own for these blessed few days. I don’t remember the last time I felt so relieved for a break from work.
If 2019 transpires as hoped, many changes are coming to my life. And while some of them are scary, they are all tinged with excitement and possibility. It’s tempting to let my mind focus there, but not just yet. There are 10 days left in this amazing year. One that has brought good things. Positive changes. Growth. New friendships and deeper connections within existing ones.
So I’m going to just enjoy this time. This opportunity to simply lean into family and friends and the peace of the season.
Life is never perfect, but, like George Bailey, mine is wonderful. I see the way so many lives have touched mine, and hope that I have been a blessing to others as well. I know I have fabulous friends, so I damn sure ain’t a failure.
I used to cross stitch. The front of the canvas would be exactly how it was supposed to look. Flip it over, though, and it was pretty gnarly. Obviously the work of an amateur. But I did what I had to do to preserve the beauty of what I was creating. And those knots, while not always perfect or pretty, did the job.
That is my life. For the most part, it goes like I expect it to, but there are some gnarly knots holding it all together. But they’re my gnarly knots. And that side of the canvas tells an even more intricate story than the side that appears orderly. And there is beauty in that.
And on that metaphor, I’ll pause. Finish my coffee. Go to the salon. Have lunch with my daughter. Maybe catch up with ol’ George Bailey……
Two weeks. It’s not often that I go so long between posting. Sometimes though, life is just….life. Busy. Chaotic, even. And thus has been the case since before Thanksgiving.
What is usually a quiet, catch-up-on-little-tasks time of year for me has been fraught with heavy activity. Professionally mainly, but incorporating that into a busy holiday season as well is proving to be detrimental to my writing.
I’m barely squeezing in one cup of coffee before I have to shower and hit the road these days. Blogging, writing of any kind, even terrible drafts, never to be published, simply hasn’t been done.
Body and mind.
Between the tumble down the stairs that left my ankle sprained and now some sort of back/hip pain from nowhere, I have not been at my best physically.
Mentally, I’m beyond exhausted. Problem-solving, planning, and executing those plans and solutions alongside my daily duties are taking a toll. I’m ready to slow down.
So today, aside from a run to stock the fridge at some point, I’m taking it easy. Trying my best to rest my mind and body before my looming 4 day work week begins.
Starting Friday, I’m taking 6 days off over the Christmas holiday. It can’t be 5 p.m. Thursday soon enough for me.
I’ve barely had time to do any of the things I love to do this time of year. Drive to some of the better Christmas light displays or watch more than a couple of holiday film classics. I did spend the afternoon baking with my mom yesterday, an annual tradition for us. But I even had to scale that back because I just didn’t have the energy to create some of my favorite recipes. Homemade cinnamon rolls? Nah. But I dipped some Oreos and Reagan helped make them festive.
And, in addition to “going home” and getting to see my parents for more than 15 minutes, I also got some pet therapy from this sweet girl:
Roxie always thinks it’s time to play when I show up, but she’s down for a few snuggles too. If I wasn’t gone so much, I think I could talk the Hubs into a dog. But I can’t justify it. It would probably significantly help my stress levels though.
Maybe one day.
I started listening to my Christmas playlist about 2 weeks before Thanksgiving, knowing that I’d be crazy busy during the coming months. Holiday classics and hymns are partly what keep me from plunging into a “Bah! Humbug!” spirit.
Sometimes I just play Celine Dion’s version of “O Holy Night” on repeat to savor the words and maintain a near constant state of goosebumps during the crescendos.
“A thrill of hope, the weary world rejoices, for yonder breaks a new and glorious morn….
Change shall He bring for the slave is our brother, and in His name all oppression shall cease.”
These words are my meditation these days. The difficult days will pass. Better, more peaceful days lay ahead.
Last year is one of the first that I remember in a long time of not sinking into a holiday depression. I’ve teetered some this year. But only because I have been meeting myself coming back for weeks on end. The music of the season calms my spirit.
I’ve only made it to one Advent service this season and that saddens me. But sometimes physical rest has to take precedence over spiritual. Unfortunately. I have really missed the services though.
In many ways, this has not been the Christmas season I’d envisioned. I have struggled to center and focus on the peace that is within my grasp if I would only tether to it.
It’s not a new struggle for me. But I do think I’m getting a little better at it. I recognize when I need to step back. Step away. Take a breath or 2 or 10.
So that is what I will do today. And for the next 5. Until I can expel one long sigh of relief for the extended break from all that has littered my mind these last few months and weeks.
“It’s comin’ on Christmas, they’re cuttin’ down trees, putting up reindeer and singin’ songs of joy and peace, oh I wish I had a river I could skate away on…..”
Not far. Not for long. Just to a quiet place. Away from the noise and my own cluttered thoughts.
But the new and glorious dawn of Christmas is coming. And the weary world, and this weary writer, will rejoice.
Peace be with you, my friends.
Seems like a pivotal age to me. A lot happened to me when I was 15.
I got my driver’s license. I got my first kiss. I watched my sister get married. I remember feeling so ready to experience more of the world. Being entirely uncertain of so much while also thinking I knew everything.
My daughter is 15 today. At 5:59 p.m., in the time it takes for that second hand to pass, she will begin a new year. A new journey. And I am nothing but optimistic about it for her.
I bought her a shirt to wear for her portraits this year. It says, “Nothing basic about me.” Because there isn’t. She is so unlike anyone I’ve ever met. Even in the ways she reminds me of her parents, she is entirely her own person.
She’s smart. Her analytical mind and attention to detail are sharp. Her reading comprehension has always been off the charts. Her memory….kinda scary. From the moment she began forming sentences, she has both fascinated me and driven me crazy.
She’s beautiful. Not just because I’m her mama do I say this. She is a gorgeous young woman by anyone’s standards. She doesn’t use it or even flaunt it. Probably because she doesn’t know it, or believe it yet. Blue eyes the color of a perfect summer sky, give away her inner thoughts. A smile that brightens any room. Long limbs and physical strength she hasn’t even begun to harness. Bone structure models would kill for. Dark hair turned purple occasionally, because, again, why be basic when you can be cool?
She’s kind. She doesn’t want people to see the softie that lurks inside, so she has a tough exterior. But she doesn’t fool me. That inner vulnerability is one of the things I find most beautiful about her.
She’s loyal. If you’re lucky enough for her to love you, she will have your back. Shank somebody for you if necessary.
She’s a homebody, but also up for some spontaneity. A late night movie marathon or road trip to nowhere. Her companionship is fun and entertaining. Her laugh and sarcastic wit has lifted my spirits on many a dark day.
She takes no shit. I was in a PISSY mood one morning last week and she called me on it in a hurry. I remember thinking how reprimanded I would have been for doing the same thing at her age, but I just couldn’t do it. Because she was right. And she ought to stand up for herself when people are out of line. And I was. And my respect for her increased that day.
I trust her. Shes going to make some dumb decisions, because she’s young. But I don’t fear those like I used to. With every passing year, she has proven her resilience. Dealing with many things her peers have not. Broken families, then blended ones. Anxiety. She’s overcome a lot, and handles everything life throws at her with competence and makes no excuses for her feelings.
She’s not perfect. But this isn’t a post about her imperfections. It’s just a post about her. Who she is. Who she’s becoming.
I’m so thankful that, of all the kids in the world, I got her for a daughter.
She is the light of my life.