Sunday, December 31, 2006

Where we goin'... are we there yet?

This is my last post of 2006. I feel it should be important, something fraught with deep and heavy meaning. Sadly I can't think of a thing that fits the bill.


The only thing I can think to say is how very happy I am to be alive.

Is that theme running out of steam for you? It's not for me.... but let's veer off for a moment any way, shall we?

Let's talk meditation for a bit.

My friend Lori gave me a meditation CD yesterday - for healing... you know, since I'm all achey and complainy. Though I have always loved the idea of meditation (the theory) I've never been very good at it (which makes my Wicca practice a little sketchy at best), but I gave it a shot.

I've tried in the past, but that whole focus or lack of focus if you will, the 'turn your mind off' portion of the meditation program, has always been difficult for me.

I took a meditation/relaxation class in college (about 3,876 and a half years ago) because I was always tense (yeah... much has NOT changed since then) and thought a little work on my ability to de-stress couldn't hurt.

It didn't hurt, and I liked it quite a bit... but mostly I ended up taking a much-needed nap every class. I'm not sure that was the actual 'goal' of the program... snoring and drooling on a gymnasium floor... but I did like being able to fall asleep easily (always a problem area for me). So that was good.

My problem with meditation has always been the ...okay, okay I got it but there's a million things I should be, have to be, could be doing other than sitting here feeling myself breathing for 20+ minutes part. It seems the height of anti-multi-tasking. I'm the type of person who likes to do at least 2 things at a time. The closest I've come to a meditative state was in Mexico, and even then I was toiling away on my journal or reading most of the time I was 'relaxing'.

But I tried it tonight. It seemed worth a shot, especially as I could stand a little 'healing' and it's the end of the year and all that...

It was good! I liked it. I had no idea what to expect, I just popped the CD in the machine and hit play and went with it. Letting go of the control of knowing what is coming is something I'm working on. Sorta. It's a trust thing. I'm learning to let go and trust. Note I said learning. I'm not actually there yet, but I'm learning.

So I did the meditation, and I think I'll give it a few more tries and see how it works out. And now I think I may have a topic. Something important, fraught with deep and heavy meaning.

With this being New Year's Eve, and tomorrow being the big 'start the resolutions without me' day, it occurs to me: it's not really about one day. It's not about, it's Monday, it's January 1st, it's a new start, it's a clean slate.

It's about this moment right now.

It's about what are you doing this minute. What are you doing that is hurting you? What are you doing that is healing you? Right NOW. There is no tomorrow. There never is. There is only this moment. This second. It's here and *poof* it's gone.

So what do we do with that?

We make the choice.

Not for tomorrow. Not for the 'new year'. But for now. For right now.

If you make the choice to be happy.
If you make the choice to treat yourself and the world kindly, healthily, lovingly right NOW, just for this instant, and you do that every second, every moment, consciously choosing to do what's good, and kind and loving to everyone -- and yourself most of all -- you don't need that elusive 'tomorrow'. It's already here! And every single moment can be golden.

I am not saying there are not trying times, tough times, sorrows (and yes, aches and pains!) I'm not being a Pollyanna here, god knows! But if you feel the bad stuff coming at you, or your own thoughts turning against you... as they can tend to do... and you stop yourself, you stop for that second and DECIDE: "uh-uh, nope. Right NOW I'm going with the happy thoughts, JUST for this moment" it's conceivable that you could stretch that moment into many, many moments and then you turn around and find you've gone days and days feeling happy. Feeling okay with things. Feeling stronger, and better, until the bad stuff starts becoming just a memory, just a spot in the distance you can look back on but that cannot hurt you any more because it's far away.

Where are we going?

Who knows?

Are we there yet?

We're always there.

Have a GREAT moment....and Happy New Year!

Saturday, December 30, 2006

Big Whiny Baby

I've toyed with removing the previous posting because it's sooooo self-indulgently cry-baby-ish. But I'm leaving it.

The theme of this blog is to dwell on the happy. To push for the positive and hopefully to be of some small help to anyone who might be going through the hell of suicidal thoughts that I went through. The whining about my physical pains seems counter to that.... but is it?

Yes I feel like crap: physically. But I dragged myself down the block to the gym because I had an appointment with the wonderful Rafael, my friend and trainer, and I hoped that some weight training might help. Sadly it seems not to have. All I want to do right now is go to sleep and not feel these pains. But I feel compelled to address last night's pity party.

I hurt, and I was angry that I hurt. I felt sorry for myself a bit, but mostly PISSED OFF. I'm pissed that going through whatever the hell this pain crap is, I'm pissed that it was bad enough to affect my plans, I'm pissed! But unlike my prior M.O. I am not pissed at myself. I'm not turning my anger on me. I didn't do anything to deserve this pain and I can't blame myself for it. I think being angry at the pain instead of at myself is healthier; because once the rage turns inward... pow... there's that Depression. And I will NOT allow it. (Much easier to not allow it because of the Zoloft!)

So *ouch* I'm hurting.
Pisssssssed that I missed a show I wanted to see.
Really severely unhappy with the state of my pain.
I can laugh
I can find a way to fix this pain nonsense
I can be happy.

Know why?

Because I'm alive.

And everything is going to be okay. Strike that. Everything is going to be GREAT!

Friday, December 29, 2006

Not doing so well right now...

Oh it's nothing life-threatening, at least not that I know of - meaning I'm not a danger to myself. But I'm not feeling so great.

I don't like it.

Something's going on with me and I'm not sure what it is... I have some theories... I'm not thrilled with any of them.

The main thing I don't like, right now, the thing that's pissing me off enough to bitch and moan about it here, where I really have no business bitching and moaning, is that I'm not going out tonight. Yeah, that's the thing that burns me the most. I'm staying in.

Seems so trivial, huh?

But I'm missing something that makes me very happy, something that never fails to keep a smile on my face for a good two weeks or so... The Niagaras are playing tonight and I'm missing it. And yes, dammit, I'm going to whine about it.

If it were my choice, if it were because I had other plans or some such thing, well alright, no bitching. But this is not my choice and it gets me cranky.

Shall I bore you with the details? Sure, what the hell. You can always stop reading.

The physical problems, that's the problem. Which, yes, granted, better than the mental problems any day of the week, but I'm having a pity party tonight so pull up a chair and turn up the 'poor me' tunes (Patsy Cline works well, though the subject matter isn't exactly right, the woe-is-me tone is correct).

In August of 2002 I got sick. Really, REALLY sick... I thought it was the flu. Lots of people get the flu in August... don't they? Um... not so much. It wasn't flu. It was something I'd never heard of until I got it, and even then I didn't know just how serious it was until AFTER I'd gotten out of the hospital. It took the infectious disease specialists days and days to decide WHAT it was... it isn't seen in NYC all that often so they were stumped. It's called Meningococcal disease and it can kill you. Or you can lose limbs. I was lucky, I neither died (clearly) nor lost a limb. But I lost a lot, and gained some lovely pains in the process. My hands were hit the hardest. And they are what remind me...

At the time my hands hurt so badly that the AIR hurt them. They were swollen, looked a bit like catcher's mitts... red-polka dotted catcher's mitts. They hurt so badly I couldn't open the door to my apartment when my very dear friend trekked in from Jersey to force me to go to the emergency room. I literally could not touch anything without screaming. I had a fever of 104 and all I wanted to do was go to sleep and be left alone. Luckily my friend had a clearer head than me. If I had been left alone and gone to sleep, I would not have woken up. Meningococcal disease can kill you in under 24 hours. By the time the petechiae (polka dots) show up you're in VERY bad shape. We watched as the little red dots popped up before our very eyes... on my hands, on my legs and ankles... It's the outward symptom of the blood vessels bursting under the skin... simplistically: when the vessels burst, the blood stops flowing to the extremities, that's how people lose limbs - it goes to the extremities first. Which is why my hands are all fucked up and my ankles hurt...

Any way... that was 4 years ago and I've gotten back a HUGE amount of strength in my hands since then... but they will never be the same. I was studying American Sign Language when this hit me... it was actually something I was surprisingly adept at... I had dreams of becoming an Interpretor... now I can't even sign for more than a few minutes because it just hurts too much. I can't hold a pen to write for more than 15 or so minutes at a time without my hand cramping up so badly I need a massage... luckily typing doesn't hurt quite as much so I'm able to do that for much longer periods. BLAH BLAH BLAH

The aches have gotten worse lately. I'm also having some other, really odd pains that my doctor can't figure out and is sending me to a Pain Management specialist to deal with... I can't help but feel they are related to the damage caused by the Meningococcal disease. Yeah, good times, all from a disease I was not 'supposed' to get. I did not fall into any of the 'risk factor' groups for this disease. The Center for Disease Control and the NIH were treating me like a rockstar for about a week, while they tried to figure if I was the start of some huge epidemic. I wasn't.

So here I am, in such good spirits, so glad to be alive -- can you imagine, after THAT debacle where I almost died because of a bacterium that just a couple of years later I was planning to kill MYSELF? Amazing. Even to me. And I'm so blue tonight because I feel so shitty physically that I can't face going out to see something that makes me so happy emotionally... yet, blue or not I'm still glad I'm here. I wish I didn't hurt. I wish my hands didn't cramp up so easily. I wish my arm would stop being numb and my ankles wouldn't hurt and my knee would stop screeching every time I bend it. I wish I didn't have these crazy headaches and the weird vertigo... I wish I didn't have these pains... but I'd rather have them and be alive.

I just wish I could drag my sorry ass out to see the Niagaras tonight. And there have been times I could, but tonight I'm having 'the anxiety'. Sometimes it comes with the pains. The fear that I'll start hurting too much while I'm out, that I'll have to hobble home in tears... it makes you not want to risk it. Sure I could pop a couple of Xanax... but then I'd get sleepy and it doesn't stop the pains... so I'd be a sleepy, achey neurotic out on the town. Um. No.

Well. That was a bit of a vent. Goes to show though, you can feel like hell and be blue and STILL be thrilled to be alive. Weird? A little. But it's okay too. And that's about enough of my pity party for tonight. We're closing up, now - you don't have to go home, but you can't stay here. :) No more pity parties... at least until next year. Honest!

Thursday, December 28, 2006

Basil's After Christmas Let-Down

Yes he checked everything. All those beautifully wrapped packages....

None had his name on them. But he stood guard any way, 'cause he's good that way.

But then he was clearly bored.

Monday, December 25, 2006

Merry and Bright...

Happy Holidays!

Humbug, you say.

I know. I remember. Ouch.

Holidays, this season in particular, can be terrifically hard on people. Even people who hold it together the rest of the year feel the drain, depression and angst of this time of year. Or more so, the let-down after the holidays are over. The "oh... that's it?" of January 2nd.

Thirteen years ago this week my cousin stepped in front of an Amtrak train. According to 'statistics' suicide rates go down, rather than up, at this time of year. But what is a statistic?

Just because the rates go down, doesn't mean someone isn't considering it. My cousin proved that. She was a newlywed, less than 3 months, at the time of her suicide. Doesn't sound like she was the 'standard' suicide, does it?

We weren't close, I'm estranged from what remains of my family, which works for me. But her story still makes me sad. There have been other suicides in my family, but not anyone I knew, this one was my generation and I did know her when we were children. I did attend her wedding. She was a stunning woman, but clearly she was very, very ill.

It gives me pause at this time of year, to remember her. To remember her wedding. To remember her funeral so soon after. Christmas lights and funeral homes. There was a lot of denial at that funeral. It's hard for people to accept that someone they loved took their own life. It's devastating for the survivors.

What's curious is how much more connected to her I felt after her death than ever during her life. Clearly we had far more in common than I knew. And when I was making my own suicide arrangements 2 years ago, not for the first time, but certainly the most serious and methodically well-thought out plans that thankfully got re-routed to the happy place I'm in now, I did think of her. I remembered how stunned everyone was, how shocked, how pained. Yet not once did it concern me.

Oh I was concerned about paperwork, and monetary issues and clean-up of my affairs (which I was doing my best to prep so that it would all flow easily for my inheritors). I was also concerned about the 'discovery'... I worried about the timing, worried that my body would be found in a timely manner so that my pets wouldn't be without food and water for more than a day. That's the sort of thing I worried about.

It never crossed my mind that people would be hurt. Never occurred to me that I might be the source of terrible sorrow to my beloved friends. Funny how I worried about the mundane aftermath, but not the emotional scars I might be inflicting. I know it was because I was too deep into my own pain to think that anyone would even miss me.

In fact, I was certain they'd all be better off with me gone.

My cousin would be 43 now. Who knows what wonderful things she might have done with her life in the last 13 years. Who knows how things might have improved for her if she'd held on a little longer... long enough to get well.

Every day I wake up I think to myself, I have another day. I'm here. I'm alive!

Every single day I wake up grateful for the last 2 years and 2 months of my life.

Every single day I remember - I never, ever have a day go by that I don't feel like the luckiest woman alive simply because I'm here. Because everything is different now. Because I am so lucky.

Christmas. The years leading up to my decision to kill myself were incredibly hard. Christmas was the worst of it. Both my parents dying slowly in nursing homes and hospitals. A horrible relationship with a man who fucked with my head and heart so badly that I didn't know which way was up from one day to the next. Loneliness that was so vast and isolating that it didn't matter how many people were with me, or how good to me they were, I was alone and the dark was all encompassing. And I went through the motions every day, and I made cookies at Christmas, because that's what I do... it's what I've always done. And everything meant nothing. All I wanted was to be gone. To make the hurting stop. To be dead.

I remember standing on the train platform at St. James station on Long Island. That's where the nursing home was, the one where first my mother went... and 2 years later my father. And me, trekking out on that long, lonely train ride. Standing on the platform in the cold waiting for the train back to Manhattan thinking about my cousin. Thinking how simple it would be to just step off the elevated platform just as the train was coming through... and it would all be over and the pain would stop. I can't ride commuter trains any more. Too many bad memories.

I remember hating Christmas. The one holiday that was good in my family. I hated it. It reminded me how alone I was, how much pain I was in, how empty I felt all the time. I was envious of everyone, especially at Christmas. People with families. People with relationships that were not INSANE. People who were happy. People who did not want to die.

I'm better now.

I don't love Christmas the way I used to. Because, well, I'm not a Christian. :) And what I loved about it was the illusion that I had a family. That at this one time of the year there was happiness. I don't need that illusion any more, so the holiday doesn't hold sway the way it used to. But I'm good with it again. I like it. I like having a tree again. I like seeing my friends. I like giving gifts. I like being happy. And I like making cookies. I like looking at the store window displays. I like just 'being'. I'm not doing anything special for Christmas, I'm on my own just hanging, catching up on the reading, playing with the dog (and sometimes the cat), making cookies, writing... and wallowing in the most wonderful feelings. Contentment. Peace, real peace, peace of mind. No envy, no longings for 'what everyone else has' that I do not. Because I have the one thing I cherish most, the thing I wanted passionately to throw away two years ago: I have my life. THAT is the best thing. And it's not an illusion. It's a pretty rockin' gift to have.

Merry Christmas. I wish you peace too!

Sunday, December 24, 2006

Behold, I bring you tidings of great joy!

Are there words to describe the kitsch, the camp, the hilarity that is a living nativity? Welllllll.... there are words, but I ain't gonna use 'em!! My best friend, Gary, is in this nativity... he's Joseph, "um, Mary... honey... can you just explain one more time about this pregnancy thing..."

Happy Holidays.

p.s. More serious and on topic fare in store for tomorrow. Be sure to come on back now, ya hear?

Saturday, December 23, 2006

I'm alive I'm alive I'm alive....

The Niagaras (left to right: Tony Grimaldi, Robert Whaley, Johnny Pisano))

(Dylan Wissing on drums - sorry I couldn't get everyone in one shot!) at the Red Lion... what better way to spend the holidays?

My best girlfriend enjoying her very first Niagaras show! (Red shirt)

How great it is to be alive - I am thrilled more and more every day... and I couldn't be more thrilled that this poor woman who has listened to me praise this fantastic band every time we talk on the phone finally got to experience them live for herself. And it took rearranging flights from California to Vermont to do it, and was the travel hassle worth it? YES!! She was wildly impressed, and LOVED it.

Of course she did. They're wonderful, what's not to love?

She's also one of the precious friends who listened to me through my Depressions, through my suicidal thoughts, who talked me down a couple of times in years past... just by being there, listening, talking to me until I was too tired to open a vein and simply fell asleep instead... buying another day, another week, through endless phone calls. She's also the one I called two years ago the night my miracle happened, because for once I needed to share something happy and good rather than miserable and sad, so I called her. I called her because truth to tell, I was confused. I was shaken and stirred and a little scared. I was a suicidal woman who had just had the razor plucked out of my hand by a stranger.... 'happy and hopeful' felt disorienting and strange to me -- I needed the ear of a friend to try to work out verbally what I'd just experienced... And she's said she could tell something big had happened to me that night, I sounded different. I was different, not healed, but on the way - finally. Thankfully. Ever, ever thankful for that night.

So this was my Christmas. A touch early, but what's the dif? I got to be with dear friends, I got to listen to great music, I got to laugh, and laugh, and laugh a little more - because I AM alive. And thankful, and happy to be here.

You have your life and that is a helluva gift to have. Hold it close. Share it whenever you can. And treat it with kindness and care, it's a beautiful gift, the best gift - and it's all yours.

Saturday, December 16, 2006

Fear... cookies... and paint

So busy! Friday I made a mess o' vegan Rugelach for some friends - some are Vegetarians, some are Lactose Intolerant (which is not to say intolerant of other things... just that ornery milk sugar), and some just like cookies. It was my first try at making them and I was fairly apprehensive. I'm good with baking, I've always had a knack for the sugary baked goods, (seriously, I'm like Shakira, my hips don't lie), but these are semi-complex (meaning you have to roll the dough... I'm not good with the rolled dough...). But I wanted to make them, I saw a recipe, I augmented the recipe and then ... I put off attempting it. Yeah. I'm a chicken.

But then Friday came and I just jumped in. Or rolled out, as it were. And they came out okay! This is a picture of the third batch, because although the first two tasted good, the third looked prettier.

Again, and I guess this is a big theme for me, I have to say trying something new - even something as seemingly mundane as baking a new kind of cookie, is SO good for the soul!! It was such a boost to see them come out of the oven looking relatively decent, and tasting okay, that I just had to laugh at myself for worrying about it. What's to worry? It's just a COOKIE!

Pretty much everything in life is a cookie. "That's the way the cookie crumbles" and all that.

I hate to oversimplify, but really, when you come down to it it's not a bad analogy. Conquering cookie fear is the same as conquering fear of the water, or of choosing a crappy paint color for your walls (which I'm relieved to say I did not -- and may I recommend Behr's Atomic Tangerine to anyone who wants to make the leap from neutrals to something bold) -- or posting a photo on the internet of your incredible disaster-area of a livingroom mid-paint job just to SHOW that color....

It's actually a bit more 'orangey' in person... but you get the idea. Bold. And it's an extremely happy color. Which works really well for me, because I'm... Oh God it's still a little hard for me to even say this... but I'm A REALLY HAPPY PERSON. Whew... I said it. That wasn't so hard.


Of course it was hard. It's a commitment to admit to being happy. It's something you have to live up to. It's a bit of a challenge, and there's that fear of tempting fate by saying it too much, or too loud. The fear that it will go away.

I hope it will never go away.

It's not easy for me to accept it, I'm still always waiting for the other shoe to drop... for the meds to stop working... for the depression to return... for something horrible to happen in my little world... for the depression to return. It's a struggle to let go of that fear. Yes, it could come back. Sure, medications stop working, it's possible. Anything is possible.

And that's the thing I hold onto.

Anything is possible.

And that means anything GREAT and WONDERFUL not just anything bad or tragic.

It's a big change for me. I used to, literally, be uncomfortable WHENEVER I was happy... because I was so unused to it, and so fearful that it would turn horrible. And truthfully, a lot of times it did turn horrible, worst fears realized and so forth.

But over the last two years (and nearly 2 months! YAY! Go ME!) I have found that focusing on just accepting 'the happy' - holding it while it's here and not worrying about how it might go wrong - actually seems to feed it. And if you feed something it grows... and grows... and grows... and gets stronger.

So I'm feeding my happiness some cookies. My hips may not like it... but my soul surely does.

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

ahhhh at last... Dessert!!!

There it is, a serving of apple-cranberry crumble. With a scoop of vanilla gelato (thanks to Gary for supplying the ice cream).

It's not the best photo I've ever taken... but it was hard to keep this stuff around long enough to photograph it!

mmmmm-mmmmm fattening!

Happy Accidents

Now then, tell me THAT isn't yummy looking!

That is the extremely hardy chicken stew/soup (with dumplings) that is the result of burning my onions last night. I believe the semi-scorched onions are the key. This came out so beautifully I was shocked. So flavorful it needed no salt, no pepper, in fact it needed only a spoon and a mouth to insert the spoon into.

The apple-cranberry crumble pictures will come later... battery died on my camera before I got the shot. But soon... soon.

So there you have it. Sometimes what seemed like a mistake actually works out to be the best thing possible. Attitude is everything.

Yeah, I know... I sound loopy.

But I've got soup!

Monday, December 11, 2006

Despite my best efforts...

Well it seems, despite workin' it, I am NOT Martha Stewart.

Oh I'd like to think I can do everything at once. I'm writing, painting and cleaning my apartment, selling stuff on eBay, shopping for gifts AND attempting new recipes (baking AND cooking), making holiday plans (wheee out of town friends are visiting!!)... if I were whipping up some needlepoint and tending my window herb garden too then I'd surely be in the Martha running. Alas, I'm not Martha. I don't even have a window herb garden... northern exposure... I'm lucky my 'lucky bamboo' hasn't died yet! But I'm sure I can manage to kill it eventually. I have confidence in my black thumb, dammit!!

But seriously I thought I was doing pretty well.

Until an hour ago.

Until the onions.

I'm making a soup/stew and I'm being all Galloping Gourmet Girl. I'm layering my flavors, I'm sauteing my onions and garlic in broth before starting the soup.... okay, sounds good, right?

Not so much.

I sort of lost track of how long it was between the time I stirred the onions and plopped in front of the computer (to find the apple crumble recipe that's next on the Joy of Cooking show that is me of late)... and then I smelled it.

Oh yeah. Sauteed onions smell delightful, the aroma wafts through the hallways, people get hungry just from the scent... and then... oh then that horrible smell... the burning. The scent of burnt microwave popcorn.

, thinks the not so Top Chef to herself... what's that????"


Luckily I got it off the stove and into the sink before all the onions were charred and the pot was ruined. I did ruin a pot by simply boiling water once. HEY, they say a watched pot never boils... so I didn't watch. For three hours. There was no saving that pot. *sigh*

This time the smell of YOU'RE RUINING THE ONIONS saved the pot... and possibly my soup. I got the unburned out, scoured the pot, put the onions and other veggies into the pot with TONS of broth and it's simmering beautifully right now. Smells awesomely good actually. And I'm topping it with dumplings. Because we really can never have too many dumplings, can we?

The thing is, I want to be able to do it all. And do it all perfectly. And be Martha (albeit no jail time)... but I can't. No one can. Not even Martha. The best we can do is ... well... our best. So you burn some onions. So you have guests coming and the painting is not done. It's not the end of the world. It's really not. Sometimes you can fix things, soup, depression, a perfectionistic attitude.. and sometimes you just have to deal with not being able to fix it, burned pot, the mess of a half painted one-bedroom apartment with people coming for dinner. Either way, it's just life. It's just ... well, shit happens. And we go on. We do our best. And sometimes our best turns out to be better than we'd ever dreamed. I'm hopeful for my soup. I think it will all turn out just fine.

Now YOU go burn some onions!!

Sunday, December 10, 2006

Bloggin' around...

There was an awful lot of wasted space on the right side of this blog page. It's a template and I couldn't seem to adjust it. So, genius that I am, (shush! let me have my delusions!) I decided to upload a photo to fill the space. Naturally, one photo turned into a pile o' photos. It may not be exciting to anyone but me, but it fills the space and I admit freely that I am pussy-whipped by my dog, so there are shots of him... and there will likely be more. Oh deal with it, I'm an animal person!

I also thought, since I'm doing all this cooking and creative work in the kitchen lately (we'll see how long that lasts!) that I'd take pictures of the final products and post those. Oh GOD aren't you lucky???!

I know I am.

I'm lucky to be free of depression and suicidal thoughts. I'm lucky to be alive.

Really lucky.

Every day.

It doesn't take much to make me happy, I'm pretty easy these days. I try something new with a basic biscuit recipe, it turns out edible (and yummy) and I'm as excited as if I won the lottery. Because, let's face it, I have. Because I'm happy. Just happy to be breathing, walking, talking ... and of course, putting silly pet pictures up on my little blog here. Everything makes me stoopid happy. Because it's life. Because I'm here. And every minute of every day is a miracle.

Hey, I got the pictures to upload - tell me THAT's not a miracle!

Thursday, December 07, 2006

The Gifts...

So here we are in that holiday time of year again.

The caroling.

The candles (note how all religions enjoy the candles).

The pretty decorations.

The tacky decorations.

And of course....

The gifts.

Well. That's always the issue, isn't it.

WHAT do I give (fill in name of recipient)??!!

We feel compelled to fulfill societal obligations of gift-giving at this time of year. Personally, I love the giving part. I don't hate the receiving part. But I despise the obligation part. It's that obligation that ends with someone receiving some sort of semi-crap gift that they do not want, need or know what to do with. And then the guilt. Someone you like, or love even, gave you this... well, let's call it a fruitcake for now (but it can be any useless item)... and you simply HATE fruitcake. And you have no ROOM to keep a fruitcake. A fruitcake does not go with your ultramodern bachelor/bachelorette pad. (I love the groovy lingo...) and in fact is interfering with your feng shui.

What do I do with this f-ing FRUITCAKE?!

This is the conundrum.

We want to keep the fruitcake. We want to love the fruitcake and display it and show our friends and neighbors and the Con Edison worker who comes to read the meter. "Look at this lovely fruitcake my friend/sister/lover/co-worker gave me! Isn't it swell!??"

But we can't.

Because we hate the fruitcake.
We think about re-gifting.
We want to chuck the fruitcake in the trash.

But it was a gift.


Okay, here's the thing. Just because someone gave it to us, doesn't mean we have to like it. Or keep it. We can get rid of it. And it doesn't make us bad, or ungrateful. What we KEEP is the gesture. The thought behind the gift, though if it really IS a fruitcake... we might want to rethink that thought... (and the giver.... I'm just saying... fruitcake? C'mon.)

But people feel the pressure at this time of year. They feel the desperation of 'what do I give'! And they end up with a fruitcake. Because they want to make the gesture, they want to do the giving thing, but it's tough to come up with the perfect gift - and there it is, in the tin, the fruitcake.

I have been decluttering my home. I'm clearing out EVERYTHING. I really don't want any more fruitcake cluttering up my chi. And I do NOT want to give anyone more fruitcake that they will have to deal with either. What to do?

Letting go of the obligatory gifting is the first step. It's commercialism gone wild after all, so why go there? My friend Kori has worked under a really good gifting practice for the past few years. I'm going to borrow it and share it here.

If you see a perfect gift for someone: get it, give it and WHEEE!
If you do not know what to give someone: do NOT just go for 'anything' - if it's not special and right for the recipient, just pass until something that IS right presents itself, and give it then.

Just because it is a holiday where gifting has become obligatory, does not mean you must conform. Don't conform. If you find a great gift for someone in July, get it and give it to them. The thought is far more important than the obligation.

I love this idea. It takes the pressure off, thus dissipating the dreaded holiday depression, it makes every day a potential day of surprise gifts, and best of all: no more fruitcake!

Of course it's tough to break the old habits, so if you feel compelled to fruitcake someone you love... maybe you could make them something edible (fruitcake is not edible, so don't get any smart ideas), or get them a gift certificate to a store they like, see if they have an online wish list, or make a donation in their name to a charity they love, or some nice candles - you burn 'em, they're nice and then they're gone (and remember all the religions love the candles!), or take them to dinner, or get them a massage! All these things are gifts, they don't clutter up the house, they show you care, and they're things people don't usually get themselves... and they aren't fruitcake.

Merry Merry
Happy Happy

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

The Airlines are Right

I've been doing something I have rarely done: I'm cooking. For myself!!

Usually I just don't see the point in mucking around in the kitchen just to eat something and THEN have to clean up after myself. If someone is coming and I'm doing it for them, then I'll go nutty and nothing is too extravagant. But for myself? Eh. Cheerios are good. (and good for you!)

But the past couple of weeks I've been on a cooking kick. I'm actually buying things that require cutting, chopping, mixing, heating... you know cooking: like with a pan and fire!

And I'm just loving it!

I had the urge to cook, but my old lazy, "why cook for me?" attitude (where's the applause in THAT?) tried to take over. Luckily my best friend Gary was coming one day last week, so I took advantage. When, as usual, he asked where we should GO to eat, I said: I'm cooking!

Poor thing almost passed out.

Luckily my culinary skills revived him - instead of putting him in the hospital... (Oh Taco Bell what's become of you?) And ever since I've been cooking something new every night. Just for me!

Where are we going with this, you might be asking.

And I have an answer.

You know how the airlines do that happy little speech before you take off?

Here's the slide in the event of an 'unscheduled' landing (take off your heels ladies!)

Here's your flotation device in the event of a water landing (oh puh-leez, like I wouldn't have had a heart attack beforehand)

And most interesting and most important and TRUE:

Here's your oxygen. "put your mask on before assisting your child" Because you can't help anyone else until you help yourself.

And that is the goddamned truth. And it took me a very long time to 'get' it... I'm still working on it, but that's life... you keep working on it.

A lot of us are caretakers. Most women are instinctive caretakers. Some men are as well. The problem with the caretaker mentality is that we are so busy taking care that we forget to put on our oxygen masks first. In the frenzy of worrying about others, whether it's a real emergency, illnesses, or just being concerned that our friends or guests are comfortable and happy, we overlook the one person that we need to care for first, and foremost: ourselves.

It's uncomfortable at first. Who am I kidding? It's damned near impossible at first. We worry that we'll be seen as selfish, or cold. Saying "No" is tough! And I have to admit, if my parents were still alive I don't know that I would have gotten to the point of learning this. I spent my entire life caretaking them... and anyone else who came within 3 feet of me... it happens a lot to children of alcoholics, it's what we learn, it's what we know, it's comfortable (even when it sucks).

But I'm getting it. And I'm consciously working on it all the time.

So every day I'm pulling out the cookbooks. Yes, I have over a dozen of them. A shock to many who know me. Hey, I love books. I love food. It's a natural.... of course they needed to be dusted off, but still...

And every day I'm making something new. Just for me! Guess what? It's nice to put the oxygen on and get cooking. It actually feels good to take care of yourself first. It's not selfish. It's not cold. It's important. You matter, and you have to take care of yourself before you can do anything for anyone else. So Do It. Breathe deep and remember to take care.

Friday, December 01, 2006

Happy friend

I just spoke to a very dear friend today who had the best news. She has a new sweetie, and it seems he's smitten with her.

In a very short time he has done multiple sweet and thoughtful things for and with her that make it sound (to me) that he's crushing on her big time.

And this makes me so very happy. She's a really great woman and I'm thrilled she's met someone who sees what a prize she is. And the best thing about it is she met him doing something she loves.

She decided to go back to school to get a degree in a field that excites her, something she's done as a hobby for several years, now she's going professional and she'll be earning a living at a job that really feeds her soul (once school is over that is!) She had the guts to quit a safe, but draining and ill-paying job, to try something that would make her really happy. And it seems that doing that has opened the floodgates on so many good things coming her way that it really gives credence to following your bliss.

This is one of the great things about life: being happy and excited for your friends and their happiness. Okay, it's new, who knows how it will go - but do we ever know how romance will go? The point is right now, today, it's great - and I am so SO happy for her.

You just never know what's around the corner. Best to keep your eyes open and stick around to see for yourself.

I just love it when good things happen.

Winter's coming?

Or is it?

It may be December, but if you step outside you'd think it was Spring here in New York. I know the reason is global warming. I know it's the result of pollution and our disregard and disrespect for the planet we are lucky enough to live on. I know it's not a good thing. But selfish as it is, I have to say: I LOVE THIS WEATHER!

It is a pleasure to walk out the door without a coat. To go out and not be freezing my substantial ass off. It is fantastic! It may be the death knell of our planet's eco-system... but right now, today, it's gorgeous!

I feel the cold so much more in the past few years that any time the weather is even close to warmish, I'm delighted. My poor old bones can't take the cold any more... Hey kiddies, get me my walker and rheumatism medicine!

I used to prefer the cold weather to the heat, I just couldn't deal with hot weather - especially the humid summers of New York. But now I can't tolerate the chill, even the slightest drop in temperature gives me the shivers.

The heat in my apartment, as many New York City dwellers will agree, gets blasted to the high 100s. It's crazy hot, to the point that people can only find relief by turning on their air-conditioners! This used to torment me - windows open, fans running, just to make the room temperature tolerable. But now I am grateful for the excess heat. I have extra blankets and just got my first down comforter (something that I joked I'd never need in my hot-box apartment).

But today is beautiful. It's simply perfect. Okay, it's a little rainy, but it's warm and I'm psyched. It's a beautiful day. Every day is a beautiful day: because we get to live it. But today, this gift of a Spring day on the first of December, it's an even more beautiful day.

Happy December!