Archive for the ‘ NaNoWriMo ’ Category

We Need A Little Christmas?

we-need-a-little-christmasIf you don’t know, the 1958 movie Auntie Mame by Rosalind Russell is one of my favorites of all time.  There’s also the 1966 Broadway Musical Mame which starred the incomparable Angela Lansbury.  (There is also a 1972 musical movie version of Mame that stars Lucille Ball, which I’m told is great – but it’s hard for me to watch because of my love for Ms. Russell’s version).

Either way – it was the Broadway version of Mame that first brought us “We Need A Little Christmas” – a song I also love.

Mame has just lost her entire fortune in the Wall Street crash of 1929.  She has no way to provide for herself or her young nephew Patrick, or her faithful household help – her own little family.  Things are the bleakest they have been, with no hope of change any time soon.  Mame declares they “need a little Christmas” even though it’s several weeks too early – and insists they all open their Christmas presents right then.

The tune itself is deceptively cheery – and when I first heard it – I had no idea of the deeper meaning behind it. The forced gaiety, the permission to laugh and smile for just a while, to shake off the burden and stress of the moment – knowing there was still a hard road ahead – strikes a little close today.

Don’t tell me to cheer up – don’t tell me to shake it off – don’t tell me to get over it.”  I’ve seen this dozens of times in my Facebook newsfeed this morning.  And I get it.  And I’m not telling anyone that their fears, their concerns, or their sadness needs to go away.  That’s not my right, and that’s not my point.

But the burden of this new reality is exhausting. We will break our own spirits before anyone else does if we don’t give ourselves permission to find joy amid the rubble.  Maybe not even joy – just time to renew and rebuild so we have strength to carry on.

Don’t pretend this isn’t happening.  Don’t give up the fight.  But when you can, give yourself comfort and lean on each other for a little Christmas in the midst of crisis.  Because we need a little Christmas now.

Searching for Signs

gaffney-peachI wrote the numbers down on a 3×5 card that I carefully pinned to the visor of my car.

 

  • 90
  • 84
  • 91
  • 287
  • 78
  • 81
  • 77
  • 85
  • 385

Those were the roads I needed to take to reach my destination – going from Massachusetts to South Carolina for school. As I got behind the wheel of my ’88 light blue Honda Civic Sedan, I checked the list again.  Then I fastened my seatbelt, turned on the ignition, and headed out the driveway and on to the Mass Turnpike to start my journey.

I had taken this route many times – in my parents’ car, with friends, by tour bus, but this time I was driving it on my own.  No cell phone, no GPS. No exit numbers. Just me, an index card, a back up road atlas, and my car.

I knew how long it was through each state – Massachusetts to Connecticut to New York to Pennsylvania, and then 3 hours. A quick jaunt through Maryland and West Virginia followed by 5 grueling hours through Virginia.  Then North Carolina, and finally South Carolina.  The Gaffney Peach was always the welcome sign that we were almost there.

I now live by the GPS app on my phone (WAZE) and even when I’m just driving home – I still turn it on to help me avoid traffic jams and unforeseen road delays.

Yet there I was, barely 20, driving myself almost 1000 miles with no clearer direction than searching for the signs to tell me where the roads led, and then choosing which way I wanted to go.

This morning, I woke up and felt lost.  The road ahead for us is not clear, and many dangerous things lie ahead. With all my technology, there is no confirmed route that will ensure a safe outcome for any of us.

I took the roads that I thought would lead me where I wanted to end up – a place that would provide safety to my friends, equality for all.  I woke up and found out – the orange glow was not a familiar landmark telling me we were in the home stretch.  Instead, I know we have some new routes to plot out, some new travel plans to make, and a long, long way to go.

I’m still confident we’ll get there.  I’m just not sure when. And I hope my fellow travelers will be safe along the way.

 

This weekend, SH and I went with a group of our friendsdoctor-strange-movie-composer-cumberbatch to see Marvel’s Doctor Strange.   Don’t worry – I’m not going to spoil the movie in any way – but I did want to talk about just one aspect of it.

Stephen Strange is a doctor – a brilliant neurosurgeon with all the cockiness that often accompanies brilliance.  He is precise, impeccable, seemingly impervious to error.  And then that is taken away from him and he has to start again.  (See not spoiled – just summarized.)

As his life changes, people keep asking him his name – calling him Mr. Strange, Master Strange, Stephen. One person even says he can no longer be called Doctor Strange, because he’s no longer able to do surgery.

At a key moment, he explodes:  “I am Doctor Strange.  Not Mister, Not Master . . .”  He goes on to talk about who he was then, what he learned while a doctor, is part of what it took to make him what he is now.

SH and I often talk about how what we went through in our past is what led us to each other.  One change, and we might never have wound up together.  The things I studied in college, the jobs I took in my past, the people I knew and surrounded myself with – all these things, no matter how successful or unsuccessful, made me who I am now.

Sometimes, it’s easier to ignore who we were.  Perhaps it embarasses or saddens us.  Perhaps it makes us regret things. But the more important thing is that we learn from it, use it as we move forward, and make our world better because of it.

And then, as the Ancient One points out, remember – it isn’t always about you.

Cleaning Out The Closet

Today I grabbed a shirt that I haven’t worn in a while and threw it on.

Oh wow – this is cute – forgot I had this.” I thought.

No wonder – my closet is getting full again.  And now that the Gala and other things are over, it’s time to go through and pull out all the things I’m not wearing and give them away.

My co-worker Harley and I were discussing closets this morning.  She recently moved in with her boyfriend and her closet is driving her a little crazy.

It’s just not the way I like it.  I like to categorize things together – shirts, pants, skirts, dresses, etc. Right now it’s just everything all jammed in together and it’s driving me nuts.

I thought about my closet and agreed.  It’s not as orderly as I would like it to be.  But I really don’t have a right to complain – because my husband spoils me and does the laundry and hangs up the clothes.  If I’m going to complain, I’m going to have to be willing to do it myself.

My test when I go through my closet is how I feel when I look at it.  Life is too short to wear clothes that don’t give me joy. I would wear one shirt until it’s threadbare if it gives me joy, rather than have 20 shirts that I put on that just make me sigh.  Besides, there are other people that might find joy in them or need them more.

When I was going through my divorce, I had this small 450 sq ft. apartment – with one big closet.  Every few weeks I would go through and just re-organize it.  Partly because I was poor and bored, but also because my belongings were at a very controllable level.

Since moving back, I’ve seen my “things” take a sharp uptick – especially with the wedding and the merging of households and the general happiness.  The Gala allowed us to clear out all the donations, and before we start collecting again for 2017, I want to get things back in control.

I have this gigantic urge to go through and declutter my whole house – but I’m going to start with my closet.  Next up is the kitchen, then the spare bedroom and the office.  And then the mother of all challenges, the garage.

But first, let’s get to that closet.

 

 

From Briefcase to Purse

Today, I used my orange purse.

Big deal, right?  Well, actually, yes.

18 months ago, I decided I needed a change from where I was working.  I could feel my attitude towards my job changing, and I found myself under an incredible amount of stress.  I actually woke up with night terrors from the pressure.

I left the company at the end of January 2015, taking a higher level, better paying job with a smaller firm.  This new job added more pressure for performance, but at least I had more control and ability to implement the changes needed.  I found myself working long hours, and soon purchased a briefcase so I could take my laptop home with me every night and weekend just in case I needed it.

I also began to travel for my job – something I enjoyed but that often exhausted me.  My health, which was already suffering, became worse. The plantar fibromatosis has grown increasingly more painful, and treatment only cured things temporarily. And even though my work environment was better, the weighty aspects of my job continued to wear on me.

With my wedding in May of 2016, I felt like I couldn’t make any major changes before then – but I also realized that with all the cost-saving budgeting we had been doing to afford our nuptials, I could afford to take a pay cut if it meant finding a job that gave me a better quality of life.

Within 2 weeks of returning from my honeymoon, I accepted a new job with a small but solid digital marketing firm. The changes to my work life were immediate.  But I still couldn’t break the habit of bringing my briefcase every day just in case.

My new boss, however, did not expect us to work nights or weekends.  “We are not curing cancer here, there is no reason to work past 5 PM.”  And she often will be the one shooing us out the door at 5:01.

A few months ago, a friend told me about a sale on laptops, and we snagged one on the last day of the sale. And even though I’ve not used it for work, it’s there if I ever did really need it.

This week, my boss called me in to the office and gave me a 5-minute, highly positive review and a raise.  It was official, I had found my new work home.

And that was it.  My last reason for carrying around the briefcase, and the significance attached to it, was gone.

So today, I pulled my well-loved orange purse down from my closet shelf, transferred over my few personal belongings from my briefcase, and left the house.

Big deal, right?  Yes, yes it is.

 

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The Quilt

img_4545The quilt was an idea I had several years ago.  To get t-shirts from past Geek Galas, along with from some of our sponsors, and put them together as an auction item to help raise money for the event.

It took a while to get it together – to gather enough shirts, to find someone to quilt it, to get it done in time for the Gala.  I had been talking about it for a while, and I know that some folks started to lose faith in it ever getting done – because sometimes projects are just pipe dreams you talk about but never do.

But this year was the year.  I’d found someone willing to help me, I had piles of t-shirts from various movies, films, tv shows, and sponsors.  Donna (my quilter extraordinaire) and I had set a date to meet up so I could hand over the 2 bags of options, and she could get started.

As I made sure I had t-shirts from all the past years (2010 – 2015) – I knew that some of the t-shirts were the last ones I had for that year – which meant this quilt would truly be one of a kind.

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Donna holding up the quilt right before handing it to me for this year’s auction at the Gala.

Donna dropped the quilt back off to me a few days before the Gala.  As my hands passed over all the beautiful stitching, and all the shirts with their memories, I knew I wanted to keep it.  But this was for the Gala, and I had strict rules about stuff for the Gala.  Anything someone hands me for the Gala never belongs to me.  I don’t bid on things, I don’t buy raffle tickets, I would never want to do anything that would make people feel like they couldn’t bid against me or that I had rigged the raffle.  It’s just not okay.   People are so kind and generous with their donations for the Gala, it wouldn’t be right for me to keep it and not have it go where it is intended.

The quilt was amazing – and I happily showed it around to various folks – took it with me to the CW TV station, showed it around my office, told everyone about it.

On the night of the auction, I gave the emcee the list of descriptions and the order of the auction, making sure the quilt was last. I busied myself and ensured we had the card machine ready to process the payments as pieces were bid on.

When the quilt came up for auction, it made me glad to hear some of the “oohs” and “aahs.”  It seemed like 40 hands immediately went up to start the bidding.  The emcee chuckled and just started going up by fives until eventually just a few hands were left.   I tried to focus on processing payments – I didn’t want to see who was lucky enough to take my prized project home.

Finally, the bidding stopped – it had brought in over double what any other piece had earned. I looked up from my tablet to see 3 of my dear friends in front of me.  “We need to split this 3 ways – we bought this for you.”

And I just lost it.  I cried and cried.  I cried so hard, I had to put my hands up over my face to hide the ugly cry.  My friend, LC, just kept saying, “Oh Joey, don’t cry.  Oh Joey.”

Another friend, hearing the good news, told the emcee what had happened.  I tried to wipe the tears from my face as he relayed the news to the crowd.  I covered my face with hands again, and opened them to see a group of folks standing up and clapping in excitement for me.  I cried some more.  I’m even crying some now as I type this. It was one of the most precious moments of my life.

I was later told that the other group bidding on the quilt had planned to give it to me as well. Which made me cry some more.   I had my friend Tiffles take the quilt home with her that night – she was one of the 3 bidders along with LC and KSmiles – and I wanted to make sure nothing happened to it.

Tiffles brought it back over to me last night.  It made me so happy when I saw it.  I didn’t even take it out of the plastic protector I had originally placed it in – I wanted to wait and just make the moment last.

This quilt, this amazing quilt, is just a thing.  But the love and kindness and the friendship that are now stitched in to it by the generous people that fill my life – that is what it means to me now.  And I’ll probably cry about it some more.  And that is okay.

 

Up, Up, and NaNoWriMo!

Welcome to November! In honor of NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month) – I’m going to try to work on a few writing projects. No, none of them are an actual novel – but I just want to get in the spirit of getting back to writing. After all, they say that a habit is formed after 21 times, right? So if I write a little bit every day this month maybe I’ll get back in to the habit of writing again.

I’ve felt bad about this blog – averting my gaze when it would come up on my computer while I focused my attention on other websites I work on. Kind of like that friend in high school that you would hang out with if no one else was around. (I was that “other friend” so I know where of I speak.)

When I first started this blog, it was cathartic – helping me work through my feelings about being back on the dating scene in my 40s. When a dating interaction went bad, I turned that frown upside down by using it as material for my blogs.

Then I found love, and not wanting to over-expose it (especially since I thought I had found love before and was wrong) I hesitated to write too much about it. So I stopped sharing with my blog and just focused on my new relationship.

I tried to change my blog – talking about cooking, and TV shows, and other things. Reality? Not as appealing, and therefore it too trailed off to the nothingness.

So now what? Well, we try again. Being honest, talking about my life, lessons I’m learning, things I find funny. I’m not going to go back and try to catch up – let’s just draw our line in the sand and say, “here. this is where we start. With a little bit each day for the next 30 or so days. And then – let’s go from there.”

Ready? Let’s do this.