Monthly Archives: December 2013

Happy New Year

NIGHT
I usually try to write something on New Year’s Eve and even though I’m at work this year, I still feel the need to post.

What I most want to say has nothing to do with resolutions, or the year in review, or regrets or hopes-all the things we usually write about in the waning hours of the year.
I spent almost an hour in the doctor’s office this morning with two of my residents. No, I’m not complaining about the wait. We were early and that’s what happens when you’re like me-I’d rather wait than be late.

I love looking through magazines because they are a rich source of ideas for art, writing, cooking, etc. Of course, this is the holiday season so the magazines were all loaded with Christmas decorating and cooking ideas. I love holiday magazines for all those reasons. Except this morning I got so bored, looking at one color coordinated Christmas scene after another. The children were outfitted to match the tree, which was decorated to match the furniture, and the accents in every room were so well coordinated that all I could think was…

“Everything’s so beautiful, so PROFESSIONAL, so cold, so expected, so PROFESSIONAL…” and after the third magazine I was aching to see one tree-just one!-that actually boasted handmade children’s ornaments mixed in with ornaments bought on memorable vacations mixed in with ornaments saved by our own mothers and handed down to us for our trees…and ornaments from the office and ornaments from our first tree when we moved out into the world on our own…ornaments that prompted stories as they were reverently removed from drying, yellowing tissue paper.

I wanted to see a room with a fat tree bursting with meaningful ornaments in all the riotous colors of Christmas. I wanted to see colored lights-not just the sane, elegant everywhere-you-look tiny white lights that “hold all the elements together.” I wanted to see old toys-real old toys, our own old toys mixed in with gaily wrapped presents in lots of different paper, in lots of different colors and patterns. I wanted to see all the physical proof that we come together at this one time of year to show each other we care.

I wanted to see a room full of people in individual clothes that spoke of their culture and hope and enthusiasm for being there.

I understand why magazines make these photographically perfect displays. I worked in the publications industry for years and those color coordinated rooms are agonized over for months. I know that. I understand. I don’t care. I still felt famished after looking at hundreds of pages of “Christmas Celebration.”

I was hungry…hungry for color¬–real color, not sea foam and pink, not sage and peach. I wanted to see hundreds of colors-not three shades of two colors. Texture! Give me metallics and flocking and velvet and satin-make me want to touch the person wearing the red velvet dress, pick up the shiny package with the sparkling bow. Make me want to be there, interact, experience the season!

I do have something to say about hope, though. I hope that next year, someone out there in publication land has the courage to stage a Christmas scene that speaks to those of us in the real world.
I don’t have a family much anymore, and I make things for Christmas for my friends and the residents where I work. I read these magazines to get ideas, as do many other people. I take one thing, one DIY ornament idea, or decorating tip, and I go with it. My room, my ornament, usually doesn’t look much like the designer version. That’s OK; it looks like I made it. And the person that gets it will hang it every year from now on, even when I’m not there.

I know I’ll be remembered and there will be fond (I hope) comments about the year I made and gave the ornament. There are grown people out there who got that ornament before they could drive and have hung it every year. One niece keeps hers out all the time in bowls because it keeps me close to her even though we live hundreds of miles apart.

Oh, I doubt I’ll ever see a REAL Christmas scene in a magazine. They’re just for ideas and they just offer guidelines about how to decorate for the most anticipated season of the year. Still, I had to say it.

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Merry Christmas!

Merry Christmas!

December 22, 2013
3 days before Christmas. Now there’s an original opening.
I’m at work because my coworker is sick. I’m happy to do it-I can use the extra money. I’ve finally found a place where my coworkers are ADULTS so anything I can do to be supportive, I’ll do it. Happily.

Still, watching the approach of my 60th Christmas is sobering. My birthday, on the 5th, was a quiet affair. My landlord went with me to buy tires for my car and later he took me to lunch. Actually, it’s the best birthday I’ve had in about 10 years. Really. We talked about the world, about being older, about lessons learned, and not learned, about giving ourselves permission to relax…finally. My job pays my bills and the occasional sale of my art gives me a little extra to buy supplies, the odd reference book, and a new coat from Goodwill. Sometimes, like this week, I’m needed at work to relieve my coworker and there’s a little spike in my paycheck. My car is in good shape, the cats are healthy, and I’m healthy. I have art projects I’m working on, but I’m taking my time to explore new techniques, or mediums, ideas.

I have tossed deadlines. No more. I will finish my art-and my writing-in my time. I’ve lived my life on deadline. No more. When I finish an art project, when I’m happy with it, when I decide it’s done, it goes out. Not before. No more getting it done as quickly as possible to make the most of whatever season is coming to an end. Same with my writing. I will finish the story and then look for a publisher. If there’s a call for that story, great, if not, eventually there will be. In the meantime, I have a story I’m proud of. No more deadlines.

And I’m sort of dating. Sort of. I’ve posted one of those perky, chirpy profiles and a picture. That takes a lot of nerve for me. I’m gaining in self confidence all the time, gaining clarity about life in general and mine in particular. Yet I still have that moment of “WTF???” when I pass a mirror because I’m still the same in my head. I haven’t aged. I’ve gotten smarter, I’ve gotten calmer, I’ve learned a lot of lessons but I don’t feel any older. I still love hiking for hours at a time. I still clean my house with the same passion and energy I always have, I still move around with the same enthusiasm. What’s with the sagging neck? The lines around my mouth? My friends remind me that we EARNED that proof of life on our faces. And then I think, “That’s right.”My face isn’t 30 anymore, but I still run circles around most of the people I know-even those half my age. Then I stop and say, wait a minute; it isn’t a contest, is it? AM I still trying to prove something? AM I still trying to be good enough smart enough, pretty enough to be accepted? Is that shit still happening? Then I wonder if it’s wise to even try dating. I definitely don’t want to get into that awful anxiety about who I am, what I look like. I LIKE not caring.

I met someone who, so far, seems very nice. He seems to think I look fine. It’s early days, and as I’ve said before ‘They’re ALL nice in the beginning.” To be fair to him, I don’t know what he thinks, whether he’s just curious to see where it goes. Maybe he’s reminding himself we all get better looking once we get to know each other. And maybe he’s curious about me, what’s in my head, what I think about him. Maybe he’s interested enough to want to show me he’s attractive enough, smart enough, nice enough to keep doing whatever this is we’re doing. Then again, maybe he’s just tired of microwave dinners and wants regular sex. The only real way to find out, it seems, is to do this dating thing. Or not. I’ll see what happens for a while; see if it’s worth giving up my precious free time. If I decide it isn’t, I can decide I don’t want to date and that’s that. I don’t HAVE to do this. So we’ll see.
Sigh.
Merry Christmas.

Cat Thoughts

I get into a lot of trouble with cat people when I say this, but here goes. I try to allow my pets as natural an environment as possible. I have a cat door, so they can come and go as they please. I’m gone a lot because of my work, and my landlord checks on them every day, changing the litter box and putting out fresh food.

My cats have a rich, active life. Yes, they bring in moles, voles, mice and the occasional bird (not many, though. Apparently mice are more plentiful.) In the spring and summer, they keep my little home mouse and mole free. They have also extended their work to my landlord’s garden. We refer to it as “paying the rent.”

They are both neutered so there is little fighting with neighborhood cats other than the occasional territorial yowling. Max is an outdoor cat. Big and strong, he loves to spend his days outside, but comes in to check on me periodically when I’m home. Annie is perfectly content to stay inside. She does go outside, just not nearly as much as Max.

I get a lot of terrible feedback about how many birds my cats kill every year and I have to stress that birds are probably killed by strays more often than house pets. I think it’s more important that we work toward eliminating the number of strays. My cats are familiar with their home, inside and out. When they are outside they know what, and who, to watch out for. Cats that are never let outside are vulnerable when they accidentally get outside. Believe me, they will get out- it’s a matter of when, not if. I know too many people who have terrible stories about the cat that got out.

Mine are happy and have no weight problems. Max is big and loves to go outside, regardless of weather. The boy is all muscle! Annie is more petite but is active enough that she’s well within her weight ratio. And they are both very healthy.

I recommend allowing your cats lots and lots of activity as well as watching their weight. We have to increase our exercise routine when we want to lose weight; they are no different. If you live in an area where it really is dangerous (busy thoroughfare, for example) I understand your reluctance to allow them out. I used to have a cat tree when I lived in the city. Make room for it. They LOVE it and they can busy themselves all day.

These are Nature’s creatures. They need activity and healthy food just like everything else. They’re not pretty things to plop on the sofa. And they aren’t just there to make us feel better-we owe them an environment that allows an active, healthy life even when we’re not around.