Sunday, December 16, 2012

Christmas #1

Only 4 more days until we're homeward bound for the holidays.
My boyfriend and I decided that since we're traveling for the holidays, it didn't make much sense to pack our presents to each other in our suitcases and lug them 700 miles to open them up, only to pack them back up and return with them (little did I realize my gift wouldn't have fit in his suitcase anyway!) We decided to do our own little mini Christmas here with each other before we head up to the PNW for the actual holidays.
So Saturday, the 15th we had our own little Christmas holiday. We opened presents in our pajamas, played our new game of Monopoly (one of my gifts to him) and watched Home Alone 1,2 & 3...(although I tried to warn him that the 3rd one wasn't worth watching). We also watched my absolute most favorite Christmas movie, the original cartoon version of How the Grinch Stole Christmas.
In between our movie marathon and game playing we went to Christmas Tree Lane, in Alameda.
 Armed with layers of warmth and a thermos of homemade hot chocolate we walked up and down the street filled with Christmas lights, music, people, and holiday cheer!
J had never been to any place like this that he could remember so it was fun to be able to do something like this together. Plus, I'm game for any and everything Christmas related!
So lets get back to these presents I was talking about. We opened the ones that were wrapped. J told me that one of my gifts would be arriving in the mail in a few days, so I only had 1 to open. The one I did open was the awesome singing bird clock I wanted that sings a different bird song each hour, on the hour. I wanted to hear the clock and we needed batteries for it to work. J said "I think maybe there are some in the office" so I went in search of batteries. I walk into the office and SURPRISE! A shiny red bicycle appears!
J had of course tricked me saying my other gift was "in the mail" and had this beauty stashed down in the garage (which is his man-cave woodshop and I never go down there). Tricky man he is. This gift was a group effort made possible by J, his dad, my mom, and my brother-in-law.
This gift is in part because J wants me to ride with him, but also because of my knee injury and my difficulties with running, they all wanted me to have a way to exercise without doing more damage to my knee. Although I don't want to give up running, this is quite a lovely way to get outside as well :)
So today, despite a forecast for rain... we were determined to ride.
My first bike ride in over a year and my very first time on a road bike. 10 miles later and my butt is sore, my legs feel a bit like jello, and my knee is well aware it was used today. It sure felt great to be outside, riding with J. Him being such an avid rider, I've definitely wanted to get a bike and be able to share his love for them. Granted, I am not anywhere near up to his level, nor will I ever be...but it was still nice to ride along side him for awhile :)

After all of this, it feels like Christmas is over. Then I remember that in 4 days, we get to board a plane and see all our loved ones up north and begin the actual, crazy, huge, loud, fun, amazing Christmas festivities awaiting us up there!

Monday, December 10, 2012

Christmas past, present, and future

It's the Christmas season.
It never fails, no matter what, to be my absolute most favorite time of the year.
I don't know when it all started, but over the years I've morphed into the BIGGEST Christmas crazy person I know.
Christmas has always been a favorite of mine...but as I get older, it becomes more and more for me.
Obviously, as a child the presents were a major element for me.
But even then, it was always more. It was about believing in something, about bringing family together, about the magic of Christmas.

I remember one year I think it was '92 or '93, I was being greedy and wanted to know what I was getting. I went under the tree and carefully unwrapped all the presents with my name on them, peaked to see what I was getting, and then ever so carefully wrapped them back neatly. That was by far, one of the most disappointing Christmases. There was no element of surprise, there was no wonder or anticipation. I knew the things I wanted that I already had, and the things I didn't even like.. now I had to open them and pretend I didn't totally hate them. That was the last year I ever peaked at anything and from then on I've made it a point to stay in the dark about any gifts, even when people try to tell me or give me hints. 
I'm actually surprised none of my 5 older siblings ever tried to burst my bubble about Santa.
I suppose even if they had tried, I wouldn't have allowed it any way. I believed for a long, long time. Right up until that moment in '95 where I came down the stairs Christmas morning and saw my dad filling our stockings.I remember rushing back up stairs and hiding in bed with my eyes shut tight, trying to erase the horror of what I'd just witnessed. I was crushed. The magic was gone! You'd think that would have ruined Christmas for me for years.
Then there was the first Christmas after my parents divorced. The 1st year of many "double Christmases" to come. Anyone coming from a divorced family knows the politics involved, the negotiating, the bribes, the guilt, the time management, the double gifting, the fighting and bickering. It was a lot for a 13 year old to handle. It put a damper on what Christmas had always been for me, I felt the tug-of-war that I'd feel for...well for the rest of my life. I still deal with this tug-of-war, although as an adult it's slightly easier to manage. That Christmas was the first time we'd changed our "traditions". For 13 years of my life we'd celebrated the same way, and suddenly it was all changing. It felt like something had been stolen from me.
If only then I'd know the changes of Christmas traditions would continue throughout the years.
There was the 1st Christmas after my cousin who'd been my best friend growing up and my partner in crime for everything had converted to a religion that did not celebrate holidays. So many of my holiday traditions involved specifically her. I mourned the loss of her for many Christmases to come and still find I miss her most near Christmas time. I can still see her, but these visits no longer include so many of the memories we made year after year.
In '07, it was the first year after the horrible events that lead up to my family dividing in two. For my entire life, we'd always went to my Grandparents house on Christmas Eve. Even after their passings, we still went to the same house, and celebrated with our huge, loud, fun family. We never broke tradition, ever. That is, until a select few of us upset the herd, we spoke out against another family member and aided in him being put in prison for over a decade. This marked the first Christmas we were not welcome at  my grandparents house and were not allowed to participate in the traditions we'd spent our whole lives taking part in. That marked the first year of attempting to build new traditions. It's been a rough adjustment for all of us. Each year is a bit different, still trying to figure out what the new traditions entail. My dad has done his best to make it special for us all, despite the large elephant in the room that I often feel responsible for.
In '10, I thought I'd be coming home for the holidays to see my family and the man who'd promised to marry me. Just before Thanksgiving that year, he gave me the news that he had other plans. He'd broken up with me and a few weeks before Christmas, I'd learn he had gotten back together with his ex. This was heartbreaking and lead to the most difficult holiday season I'd faced yet. He'd robbed me of the magic, my ability to believe it something bigger, and that Christmas I merely went through the motions of the holidays, but wasn't present at all. I'd lost all hope for everything and Christmas was no exception.

Despite all the heartbreak and disappointment of Christmases past, there were so many other years where my memories will forever live in my heart. I don't think I could ever turn my back in Christmas, no matter how close I came in the past. The toughest lesson to learn in life is that change is inevitable, and traditions will be broken. This allows for new traditions, new additions, and new memories to be made and Christmas is no exception here either.

This Christmas won't be like others, but in some ways it will be exactly the same. I won't be able to spend it with everyone I'd like to, it won't go as planned, but I am able to spend it with some wonderful people, I do have a very special man who survived the holidays with my family last year and actually wants to return again. I also get to be a part of some lovely little kiddos Christmas memories, that they can look back at when they're my age and remember as fondly as I do mine.
The years I was so wrapped up in what Christmas should be or how it used to be or who should have been there I wasn't being fair to all those that were there, and continue to be there. I wasn't being fair to my niece and nephews whose Christmas memories I am a part of. My new years resolution this year was the focus on what I can do instead of worrying about what I can't do..and again, Christmas isn't an exception here. I can't change the past, I can't control the future but I CAN enjoy the holidays with my family and do my best to make it memorable for us all.
 Although it's been said, many times, many ways... Merry Christmas to you :)

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

30 Days of being thankful

November, being the month that houses Thanksgiving, is a time to remember what we're thankful for.
 It can be so easy to go through every day without realizing all the little (and big!) things that we have in our lives, both material and intangible. We get so caught up in our daily rituals, our responsibilities, our own minds that we forget to take a moment to really look around at what all we are blessed with.
This year, I took part in a "30 Days of Being Thankful"type of thing. I'm not sure if there is an actual name for it or not, so that is what I'll call it. I noticed on November 1st people on Facebook claiming "Day 1" or "Nov 1st" and thought...that sounds like a wonderful thing to do!
So I set out to complete 30 days worth of being thankful and to my surprise, some days were quite a challenge. It can be difficult to find the good in a day that feels like it's up against you.
I must say this was such an awesome quest for me, I found it really humbling and enriching. Some days my thanks were silly, some days material things, others people or events in my life. Each day gave me a new opportunity to shine light on an area of my life I'm thankful I have/earned/deserve/have been given. I decided to document them all here because I think it's pretty great to see them all in 1 place.
Day 1: I'm thankful for the house we rent, that J has made a home.

Day 2: I'm thankful for Dustin's timing on sending me random little things, unknowingly right when I need a laugh.Thanks Squash. :)

Day 3: I'm thankful for Netflix since it is currently allowing us to watch the entire series of The Wonder Years.

Day 4: I'm thankful for my wife for being in my life for 19 years and never giving up on me; despite distance, egos, changes, and mistakes.

Nov 5: Today I'm thankful for the kindness of strangers, and in East Oakland, no less. Thank you to the man who helped me at the gas station.

Day 6: Despite having done so last week via mail, today I am thankful, as a woman, for my right to vote. Oh and also for being able to get an absentee ballot and vote in my home state!

Day 7: I'm thankful for sleep because I really needed it, and was able to get a lot of it. woo! Although, I still need more.

Day 8: I'm thankful that despite all the drowning, I've managed to stay afloat in grad school thus far.

Day 9: I'm thankful I have a best friend with such awesome style that I'm still getting compliments on clothes she gave away to me like 2 years ago (and am still wearing too!)

Day 10: I'm thankful for my older brother, Troy. Although he's not my only brother, he is the one who has given me the most "older brother" memories, including all the ones where he tortures you, picks on you, makes you cry. There's also a whole lot more that include good advice, games, funny jokes, great memories, and big hugs and even bigger laughs. Love you Troylet.

Day 11: I'm thankful for those who have served and continue to serve. For all the ones I know well and hold dear to my heart, and for those I'll never meet. Happy Veterans Day ♥

Day 12: I'm thankful I have the ability to run, even with all the complications and setbacks of my injury, I'm still capable of running.

Day 13: I'm thankful to have friends I consider family, and family I consider friends.

Day 14: I'm thankful that, despite initial disappointments and rejection during 1st year, I ended up in the research group I'm in because it has proven to be a pretty great fit for me :)

Day 15: I'm thankful J is skilled enough to keep my car alive for as long as possible, because we really need it to keep living.

Day 16: I'm thankful for Chinese food delivery. It's a rarity in this house, but some days, I just really don't want to cook, or think.

Day 17: I'm finding it difficult to find something to be thankful for in the midst of all the stress...but I guess I'm thankful that I am good at baking, because as of lately, its all I've been any good at.
Day 18: I'm thankful this quarter is almost over. I don't think I can take much more. Just a few more days.

Day 19: I'm thankful for those around me that help me out to make my life a little easier, like Freda turning in my paper for me today so I didn't have to drive 85 miles just to turn it in, and for J for always taking out the trash and cleaning up (daily!) the cat poo from the strays that have decided our driveway is a litter box. It's these kinds of things that keep me from going totally insane, and for that I am oh-so-thankful!

Day 20: I'm thankful that my team pulled through (it was down to the final hour!) and we were able to submit to APA!! Here's to hoping we get accepted! :D

Day 21: I'm thankful for surprises in the mail. They really are just the best thing ever :) Especially when they're from people you love ♥

Day 22: I'm thankful I get to be an Auntie and a Godmother. My nephews, my niece and my goddaughters fill my heart with so much love I never even knew possible. I'm thankful for their parents for bringing them into this world and for allowing me the privilege of being in their lives. ♥ I love and miss all these little kiddos, even though some of them aren't very little anymore.

Day 23: I'm thankful for technology that allows me to joke with my nephew via text who is 700 miles away, and talk with my niece about what the tooth fairy brought her, even though I'm 2 states away.

Day 24: I'm thankful for how much joy I get from anything Christmas related, it makes this time of year unbelievably wonderful for me...currently watching National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation and having pumpkin pie ice cream :D

Day 25: I'm thankful for lazy Sundays.

Day 26: I'm thankful I've been able to travel as much as I have in my life so far and been able to experience other cities, states, and other countries...and I hope to continue to do so, if grad school will allow it.

Day 27: I'm thankful for family visitors. J's dad is here until Saturday!

Day 28: I'm thankful for my dad and everything he has taught and continues to teach me and all he does for those he loves. Today also happens to be his Happy Birthday Dad. Love you. ♥

Day 29: I'm thankful for my mom. She's helped teach me what it means to be a successful woman in this world, and that's no easy job ;)

Day 30: I'm thankful for my family, all of them. My family who made so many of my childhood memories unforgettable, and my family who have stood by me in my most difficult struggles. I could not be where I am today without all of them. I am so lucky to be a part of such a large, supportive, loving, laughter-filled family.