Friday, December 27, 2013

Who Woulda Thunk It?

     A year ago today I screwed up all my courage and drafted my very first blog post.  Since then, I've written 70-something posts that over 3,000 folks have read.  It's not a very big readership. I know.  It's stunning to me that it is mostly folks I don't know, though.  Most of my readers found me through other bloggers or while searching for a blogpost about something I've written about or searching for weird ass shit that somehow led them to me (which is a bit creepy).

     I have not followed any of the rules about being a blogger, apparently.  My format is a mess and I don't also have a Facebook page or Twitter account for the blog and I don't generally publicize my posts.  I think perhaps this year, I will take some time to learn the rules and maybe take this writing thing a bit more seriously.

     You see, for me, this past year was mainly about getting over myself.  In retrospect, the amount of terror I felt is absolutely ludicrous.  Readers, you have been tremendously kind to me.  My friends and family have been really supportive. Other bloggers have been especially wonderful.

Elle over at This Is Mommyhood gave me my first break, by letting me guest blog for her.

Jenny Lawson (you know, Supreme Goddess of the Blogosphere from The Bloggess) let me share her Traveling Red Dress story on my blog.

Similarly, Lisa Rosenberg at Smacksy inspired me to write about the Official Summer of Awesomeness To Do List when she wrote about hers.  She, too, let me share a link to her blog.

Stephanie from Mom in Two Cultures and Louisa from WeezaFish are among my favorite penpals ever.   And I miss my friend Boo over at Boobaloo.  

     Thank you, all of you, for being so good to me.  I'm kinda excited to see what this next year will bring!

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

(Not so) Random Acts of Christmas Eve

     For my children's entire lives, the week before Christmas has been all about the Big Reveal.  My Personal Chef has elevated the delivery of gifts to an art. He calls it Making Memories and he takes it very seriously.
     The first year of  Making Memories, he put all of Thing 1's and Thing 2's gifts in refrigerator boxes.  To see their faces when they saw the GIANT wrapped gifts in the living room was priceless.  There was the year that my Personal Chef spent countless hours locked away in his workshop downstairs, creating what was sure to be a masterpiece.  He put wrapping paper up on the windows and padlocks on the doors to keep prying eyes out.  All the kids in the neighborhood were engaged in trying to suss out the secret.  Were the kids ever surprised when they came downstairs Christmas morning to discover that they had gotten computers!  Yes, to throw the kids off the track, my husband actually spent hours in the basement watching sports.  During commercials, he'd  rev a drill or saw, maybe bang a hammer against some scrap wood.  He even threw handfuls of sawdust onto his shirt and in his hair before coming upstairs.  That was tough to beat, but the year the kids had to go through the entire neighborhood on a scavenger hunt to find their gifts was pretty spectacular. "Two Days Until the Secret is Revealed!" has become part of our family's lexicon. It's what  my FabFam says whenever they are looking forward to something any time of year now.

     So, this year, where we have chosen to have a Giving-Not-Getting Christmas, there is no Big Reveal.  Over coffee this morning, we talked about that, My Personal Chef and I.  He's having last minute regrets about not having a big gift to surprise the kids.  This feeling is unexpected.  In a year full of unexpected emotion, this seems fitting to me.

     Tonight, several of our closest friends will come by to share the joys of the season, which stand in sharp contrast to the sorrows we are still struggling to come to terms with.  There will too much to eat and to drink.  There will be plenty of laughs (both appropriate and inappropriate, mostly inappropriate). There will be some small gifts and stories and hugs and tears. It will be both wonderful and terrible, joyful and mournful. In the end, though, it will be overwhelmingly loving.  Even without the Big Reveal, I'm certain that we will be successful at Making Memories.

     Wherever this day finds you, and however you choose to celebrate it (or not)  may you find that you have plenty of peace, joy and love!  

Saturday, December 21, 2013

Random Acts of Christmas: Home Stretch

     I'm not ready.  Christmas is days away and I'm just not ready.  In fits and starts, I've gotten closer--I got the Christmas Albums finished  (they don't make themselves you know).  I found the dining room table. I filled the freezer with cookie dough.  I've ordered and shipped (most) of the gifts for the AWAY  wee ones. I cleared my desk at work of the loose ends that would haunt me during this holiday break. I'm still not ready, though.
    I know that it worries my family that I am not my usual whirlwind of holiday cheer.  They have extended plenty of grace to me these past weeks.  I cannot tell you how grateful I am for that.  I'm also grateful for the lessons of this stripped down Christmas.  Even with all the Tradition I've cut out or just not gotten around to--I didn't send out Christmas cards, we haven't watched a single Christmas movie (with the exception of about 1/2 an hour of White Christmas last week), we haven't attended most of the usual social engagements--I've experienced real moments of significant joy.  There was the hour I spent with some grade school kids this week, and the delight of opening the mail to find that Thing 1, my thoughtful daughter, had my favorite Christmas movie (the musical version of Scrooge starring Albert Finney) sent to me.  There was the surprising  response to one of my recent newspaper columns, and several encounters with people that remind me how rich in love I am.
     And, of course, there was this week's Giving-Not-Getting.  While most of our giving has been personal support of specific individuals, I am going to highlight two charities you might not know about.  We made a donation to St. Jude Children's Research Hospital which is widely known, of course,  and to this small, local charity the Lauren Zarembka Memorial Foundation. 
     In a few minutes, my FabFam will be heading to our lake house in New Hampshire.  It is slated to be a low-key, but festive weekend of good food, Christmas movies, and great company.  (Because my mother is involved, there is also likely to be matching pajamas for everybody, too.)
     Christmas will be here on Wednesday, whether or not I clean everything that needs cleaning, cook the entire feast,or get all the gifts.  I'm a bit unsettled about "blowing it." I'm trying to find a balance there.  In the end, I know that I will be with all the people I love and it will be more than good enough.

Saturday, December 14, 2013

Random Acts of Christmas Part II

     My children (the ones I gave birth to and the ones we seem to have collected along the way) and my husband continue to bless my socks off.  Their enthusiasm for Giving-Not-Getting has not wavered at all.  They continue to come up with great suggestions for bringing holiday cheer to folks.  They've been talking it up to their friends.  It's been an even better experience than I  imagined it would be.
     Coincidentally, the Evil Genius' middle school is involved in a project called "Revolution Kindness" where the entire student body is attempting to do 5,000 good deeds before New Year's Day.  For each good deed, a student is given a ball to add to the giant ball pit that is being constructed in the main entrance of the school.  As part of the events marking Giving Tuesday last week, they made a You Tube video.  The Evil Genius is the very last student on the film.

     Here are some of the really terrific charities our FabFam has supported this week, you know, in case you were looking for a cause to support.

We joined Rosie's Circle at the YWCA of RI.  In my professional life, I have worked with Deb Perry and her great team for many years.  I know first hand the quality of their programming and the difference they make in the lives of young women.

We also joined  The Tutu Project  after reading this blog post.  This couple are our kind of people--using inappropriate humor to get through some really difficult times.  That they are doing so much good for so many other women (and their families) battling cancer just blew us all away. 

We sent my blogger friend Stephanie over at Mom in Two Cultures, and her brave, brilliant son Sky 
Love Bomb.  
They recently moved to a new city, and Sky, who struggles to maneuver through social interactions because of his autism, articulates how tough it has been adjusting to his new neighborhood and school. Anyone who has been "the new guy" will relate to Sky's story.

     I find that I'm still slogging through a bit of a funk (which is a story for another day), but my spirits have been buoyed by these daily Random Acts of Christmas.  Stay tuned for what great things they come up with next!


Friday, December 6, 2013

Random Acts of Christmas Part I

     So this is what the FabFam has come up with:  Starting December 1st, we're counting down  until Christmas by doing a different charitable act (or acts) a day.  To hear each member of my extended family talk about the kind of efforts they want to support--some by getting out there and volunteering, some by donating funds that would otherwise have gone to gifts for them--fills my heart to overflowing.

     The Evil Genius is most interested in charities that focus on active military and veterans.  Thing 2 has always had a soft spot for special needs children.  Thing 1, as vehemently as she denies it, is my mirror and wants to change the whole world.  She wants to fill pantry shelves, help children, support our troops, do all the good she can.  My Personal Chef  has identified specific individuals that he wants to give a helping hand to this season.
I'm completely gobsmacked by it all.

     For our family, doing the good is all the reward we need.  However, I think that part of the good we can do is to publicize some of the charities we choose to support.  I know we aren't alone in searching for ways to make a difference.  Perhaps we will be able to introduce some of you to some new charities that resonate with you.

     Here is one of the efforts we supported this week:  Luna Luna Magazine .  It's a wonderful online magazine.  A poet friend introduced me to it and I'm grateful she has.  I just learned, moments ago, that they are $200 from their goal!

    Another day this week, we spent the hour after dinner sitting together addressing Christmas cards to active servicemembers. There are a lot of terrific organizations that provide holiday cheer to our troops, but we went through the American Red Cross' Holiday Mail for Heroes program.

     It's been a great way to start off the season.  I'll keep you posted on what else my merry band of elves comes up with for their Random Acts of Christmas.

Sunday, December 1, 2013

My FabFam Tries to Figure Out This Christmas Business

I don't have a full post here for tonight.  I just got home from spending an emotional long weekend with a good showing of my sisterfriends.  

We went up to my family's place on Lake Winnepesaukee in NH.  

We ate too much pie.  Drank just enough wine.  Said really-funny-if-vulgar things that would absolutely horrify our adolescent sons if they'd heard us.  Missed the sister who cannot join us ever again. Cried a wee bit.  Laughed a bit more.  Ate a bit more pie with a dip-and-chip chaser.  Played with a sister's hair.  Ran some errands.  Popped into a pub for some lunch.

Cheered on the gals that got tattoos and the one that got her nose pierced.  
(No, Mama, I didn't get either this time.)  

Missed the Man Who Loved Us who can't cheer us on in our hairbrained schemes anymore. Cried a wee bit more.  Laughed more than that. Had a cup or two of camomile tea. Let a dark and handsome stranger buy us breakfast.  (Okay, he wasn't EXACTLY a stranger.  Two of us went to summer camp together 30 years ago...) White tornadoed the house so that my folks keep letting me sit at the adult table.  Packed up the last few pieces of pie for the long ride home.

I arrived home to a delightfully affectionate welcome from my boys--my husband, my sons, and my pooches.  And there was an email from my firstborn, Thing 1, the daughter who never fails to bless my socks off.  It was simply this link:

Between that, Thing 2's commitment to doing whatever My Personal Chef and I come up with to "make memories," and the Evil Genius' pronouncement that "Christmas is about food and family--mostly family,"  I think we're starting to figure out where we'll be going this season.