I can do this

she_turned_her_cants_into_cans-387235We took down the Christmas tree this evening. Usually I dread this activity, but I was more than ready for it this year. Usually, I like to prolong the coziness and the beauty and the feeling of the season as long as possible. Maybe it was our incredibly dry tree with its drooping branches, maybe it was the extra long break we had from school and work, but whatever the cause I am not feeling the usual way about packing it all up and getting on with the new year.

I would like to think that this means I am incredibly hopeful for the new year and am ready to take whatever comes.

2014 was a year of ups and downs, as most of them are. When I began to reflect back, I was struck by how I glossed over the early part of the year which had been rather rocky in parts. In fact, I had been in a nasty depressive funk the likes of which I hadn’t known in many years. I suffered through it mostly alone, not feeling the need to burden anyone with my feelings, assuming it would eventually go away on its own. After all, I blamed myself for even feeling so low because there was no real reason for it beyond a bruised and battered heart and ego. But that’s the funny thing about depression. It doesn’t necessarily hit you when things are so bad. When you might actually be expecting it. No, it knocks on the door like an uninvited guest and tries the door if you don’t answer it, waltzing right in and pouring itself a cup of coffee intending to stay, expected or not.

It was only when faced with the sudden ill health of a friend and the death of a young family member that I was able to dump depression’s coffee down the drain and unceremoniously kick it to the curb because I simply didn’t have the time or energy to deal with all that when there were real issues at hand.

Not that it is always so easy. Not that it was easy at all. But I’ve had a bit of practice dealing with that particular unwanted guest.

The second part of the year was both harder and easier. I opened myself up to second chances and accepted that some things weren’t meant to be. I faced my 40th birthday and took a once-in-a-lifetime trip with the boys. I made memories. And mistakes. I made new friends and said goodbye to others. I made new habits and began to break old patterns.

Maybe that is why I am OK with putting this past year in the books and moving on without sadness or regret or sentimentality. I spent the better part of last year positioning myself for this one. And I don’t plan to waste the golden opportunity.

2015 is now. And now is all that matters. We’ve rebooted. What happens now is up to me.   And surprisingly I find that I can’t wait to see what will happen this year. I’m certain it will be one of the best ones yet.

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Light side/dark side

As I looked through my many half-written posts and jotted-down notes about ideas I should flesh out, I decided I was too damn tired after all to form good thoughts. I want to write something brilliant about raising my boys in this digital age or during a time of civil upheaval (which seems to be swelling); or something inspirational about never giving up even when life is smacking you upside the head consistently or how incredibly lucky I am to have amazingly strong, smart, resourceful friends who are always helping me out; but after spending a day stranded at home with a kid who seemed pretty sick in the morning only to rebound rather suspiciously in the afternoon, while trying to be productive at work, and waiting to hear the verdict about what was causing the horrible metal-on-metal grinding sound from my car and how much it was going to cost me 17 days before Christmas…I’m fresh out of brilliant insights and inspiring wisdom.

Instead, I’m wondering why the hell little boys’ pajamas seem to stop being sold in sets and only “lounge pants” become available. We’ve got roughly a bazillion pairs of pajama pants stuffed into our drawers–this is only slight hyperbole, G changes into them immediately when he gets home from school and never seems to run out, but I dare you to find more than two pajama shirts in our house.

I was distressed when footsies stopped being available for boys of a certain age, although I have recently been given some as hand me downs that look like they could fit a teenager which is disturbing in a different way. I guess you can really only pull off this look for so long:

C and Luna

Do boys of a certain age stop wearing shirts to bed and I have only just now learned of this? Is it a conspiracy with the t-shirt people? Because lord knows we have no shortage of t-shirts, and sadly, my little boys can just about wear some of my old shirts.

I am sure if I searched high and low (or did a google search for pajama sets), I’d find something that would fit the bill. However, it would be nice if I could easily pick up a pair of PJs during a casual shopping trip or, for instance, while I am online trying to finish my Christmas shopping during Kohl’s friends and family sale.

But no. I’ve got choice after choice for lounge pants, and only Darth Vader with a Santa hat or Scooby Doo with a wreath around his neck for Christmas PJs? Really?

I chose Darth Vader. Welcome to the dark side.

Age 7. Possibly the last cute Christmas PJs.

The Santa Question

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Seeing if he could catch a glimpse of Santa or the reindeer on Christmas morning.

There is a new M&M commercial on TV that has the talking M&M characters discussing whether Santa will like the red and green M&Ms they are going to leave him. They run into Santa and red M&M says, “He does exist!” and promptly faints while Santa does the same. It’s cute. Except for the insinuation that red M&M may not have believed that Santa existed before he saw him with his own eyes.

These types of wink, wink commercials are everywhere and it amazes me that kids go as long as some of them do believing. I think it is despite what some evidence may point to, despite the looks adults give one another, despite the kids on the bus declaring there is no Santa; kids believe because they want to believe.

C saw the commercial last night and promptly asked,

“Is Santa real? Or is it you that puts the gifts under the tree? Besides the ones you give us, I mean…like, Santa’s gifts? Are you Santa?”

“What do you think?”

“I think he’s real.”

I nodded and smiled and said no more. I’ve struggled a little with the Santa myth and in general try to downplay his role in Christmas. Mostly because I think kids get way too focused on Santa and forget the Jesus part of Christmas and the peace on Earth and goodwill toward man part; I’d rather they focus on the giving, rather than the receiving. Which, naturally, is pretty nearly impossible for most kids.

But, I had a former colleague who staunchly believed that letting kids believe in Santa was simply lying to them and teaching them that lying was OK and that people who let their children believe in Santa were doing them a huge disservice. I am so glad that his kids don’t go to school with mine.

I want my kids to believe in magic, and kindness, and giving. I want them to know that sometimes you just have to put faith in things you can’t see or know for sure. Like God. And Love. And Goodness. I read this lovely article which reprints a letter which appeared in the New York Times which expresses these very sentiments. Perhaps, when they really start to doubt, I will use this letter or one similar to give to my boys.

For now, I think we are safe. If the boys have an inkling that I am Santa, I am pretty sure they will blissfully look the other way. I’ve been telling them for years that you just don’t ask questions around the holidays. This has allowed me to carry in giant boxes from the mail and keep them in plain sight in my room, stating “Nope, not for you!”

I do hope it won’t be a let down for them when they learn the truth. I hope the season will continue to hold fascination and excitement for them. In some ways, I hope they believe forever. After all, believing in magic is the only way to experience it.

Apples and the tree

My sons are writing a book with their friends who happen to be another set of twins. They are using Google docs and each contributing chapters based on their own point of view. It is wonderful to watch them get so excited to sit down and write and to listen to them flesh out different ideas. Their imaginations are vast and inspired. I’m so proud. And a little jealous.

I think that sometimes as adults we struggle with our imaginations. Too much “reality” has been experienced and it can become difficult to simply let our minds create what they will, to indulge in answering the question of “what if” with no limits, no right or wrong ideas. I have so many half-written stories because at some point I’ve questioned whether what I’m writing rings true, if it could really have happened that way, if my characters would really think or act a certain way. I’ve become paralyzed by whether my ideas are real enough.

This just doesn’t happen with kids. They have an idea and they run with it. The crazier, the better. Magic is not something to be questioned with them. Only believed.

I should learn from their openness. Maybe they’ll partner with me on their next project.

Home stretch

It’s just about the last week of NaBloPoMo. I’ve successfully written a post every day, even through one of the worst stomach flus that I can remember. It has been challenging, but after doing both NaNoWriMo and NaBloPoMo, I can say that this is easier for a number of reasons, the most obvious being that each post is its own entity and doesn’t have to complete the whole.

When you feel that you have to write a number of words that will meaningfully contribute to an overall vision, there is (for me, at least) a bit of hesitance. There is an internal editing that takes place before you even sit down to type your little heart out. And then a bit of a struggle whilst pushing and pulling those words around on paper or a screen. With a blog post, you can take an idea and flesh it out fully or not, put your words down and hope for the best. They are what they are and hopefully they are good, but if they aren’t there is a lot less pressure to make them so.

In that way, I am finding that NaBloPoMo is accomplishing what I have always hoped that NaNoWriMo would…establishing simply the habit of writing every single god-forsaken day. For better or for worse. Regardless of life, regardless of word choice, regardless of distractions. I can write whatever I feel, get it all out, and tomorrow I can write about something completely different. I can change my mind. There is a freedom in that.

In the past, when trying to complete NaNoWriMo, I found that I got so hung up on the story or the characters and spent so much time editing as I went that my time investment went up while my word count stayed the same. I wasn’t able to simply write it all, with the promise that I would edit it later. Even though I mentally gave myself permission for my writing to be subpar, the reality is that my attachment to the story or the characters paralyzed me into not exploring scenes if i couldn’t get the tone right or if I couldn’t get into the right frame of mind.

I’ve learned that in order to be successful at writing (a cohesive novel), I either have to plan meticulously and give myself as much time as needed or I need to isolate myself and immerse myself in the story and writing an nothing else. Since I can’t do the isolation part, as a single mom and the sole custodian for my children, I will need to plug away at it as needed. In the meantime, this blog and NaBloPoMo has given me a wonderful opportunity to just write. To let the thoughts flow as they might and see what comes of it. Some are good, some are just a triumph in persistence; but the habit of writing every day, the challenge of putting it out there for consumption, the knowledge that there are just no excuses for not doing it has been an incredibly motivating and liberating experience for me.

Just nine more days. And a lifetime left to go.