friendship, giving

Longest Night

When became an adult, got married, moved into a house and had kids (not necessarily in that order), I joined a Methodist church. I was raised Catholic and went to a Catholic school, so this was a big change. One of the first new traditions I embraced was the Longest Night. Each year, on Winter Solstice, the Methodist church had a service that focused on the darker times of the past year. People came who had experienced loss, depression. grief.

At that point, I had recently lost my mother. I had a new baby, a new home, and was overwhelmed and heavy-hearted. I joined the bell choir and played for that service. That first year, I remember just crying through the whole thing.

As you can imagine, the service is not just about loss. Winter Solstice is the longest night of the year. Once Solstice is over, brighter days are literally ahead. So the service is also about finding hope. About persistence. About the triumph of good and light.

I love symbolism so this service always meant a lot to me. I like the idea of things getting better. Of marking time. The cycle of increasing light. And it always comes just before Christmas, a time of frantic preparation. It is a moment to just be still and reflect.

I don’t attend that church these days, but I still take time to reflect every Solstice and remind myself that lighter days are ahead.

This year the Solstice seemed both especially poignant and especially necessary. COVID has wreaked havoc on many lives. So many in my circle have lost loved ones this year. Some due to COVID, others for other natural reasons, but COVID took away our ability to gather and mourn in the way we all want and need to. Still others are hunkered down at home to protect themselves and loved ones, which brings all the pain and challenge of isolation, disruption of routine, and more.

It has just been a heavy year.

I started hearing about the “Christmas Star” (or Great Conjunction) a few weeks before Solstice. Again, the symbolism of Solstice, this unique astronomical happening, and the stars were literally aligned.

I also had it in my mind to go caroling this year. I say every year I want to sing for people more (and not just the poor people at the gym who have to hear me sing along to the soundtrack when I’m squatting). I don’t know why I expect opportunities to be a backup singer for Yacht Rock Revue to fall out of the sky. This Solstice I see I need to create those opportunities.

Who could I bring some light to? We decided to visit two special Moms who have had challenging years, each in their own ways.

I loaded my car and started the night by going out to see the Christmas Star. I went to a parking lot in a remote park about 15 minutes from my house. I was surprised to find about 25 other cars in the lot, all there to view this planetary wonder. I just took some time to quietly look and think about this year and its gifts.

Then, it was over the river and through the woods to the first grandmother’s house. A couple of friends and family members joined in. We dressed silly, I brought my sleigh bells and song books, and off we set to spread some cheer. Our living room concerts brought laughter and tears, smiles and singing along. We took requests. We flubbed the lyrics and stumbled over melodies. We jingled our bells, giggled, swayed and twinkled. In the end, we brought cheer and good tidings and light. On the way to grandmother two’s house we saw lights and so many other holiday sights.

Both these women have lived through this challenging year. They’ve made the most of it. I hope we brought some light and hope to their lives this December. I know their smiles and delight lifted me up. As one of them put it, when we said our goodbyes, “same time next year!”

It’s a date.

family

Fresh Air, Fresh Hair

Don’t underestimate the value of fresh air or fresh hair. Today I had a little of both. This weekend I had a plan for me and my mom. Normally my weekend involves toting kids to activities or getting to point a, b and c at set times. This weekend was different. No have tos. Only want tos.

First event was sunrise yoga. I got a fresh start on crisp morning with some wonderful gal pals. This step was important. I stepped outside first thing in the morning. I had clarity of the mind. I was all-around peaceful. Ready for the rest of the weekend.

Stop two was a pick up. A kidnapping of sorts. I got to grab the beautiful, one-of-a-kind mother of mine. I was taking her from her home to get some fresh air and a haircut. 12 weeks she had been cooped up thanks to Corona. The opportunity was there and I took it and her. Off we went. The haircut didn’t take long but how she enjoyed the shampoo and the cut. She felt like a million bucks. Even if you can’t go places often feeling good about yourself is important. She needed and wanted the hair cut for that sole purpose: to feel good. I felt amazing for making it a reality.

We didn’t stop there. We packed up for a mountain escape to the amazing cabin in the woods. A short drive but one that yields gorgeous views.  From icicles on the rock formations to mist on the mountains, it’s part of the experience. She doesn’t like to eat in the car but I packed her some sweet treats for the ride and it made for a perfect picnic. No crowds in a restaurant to worry about. Just yumminess to go. 

The weather was perfect. The cool mountain air was just what was needed. Fresh air. No smog. No mask filtering the air. Just fresh, crisp mountain air. Secluded. Peaceful. Surrounded by amazing views. What more could we ask for on our escape?

We baked a chicken. We made a salad fresh from the garden and it was ever so tasty. Fresh bread warmed in the oven topped off our meal on girls weekend. Off we went into the darkness to view holiday lights. First stop was the small town decorations. Then into the hidden homes that each played 20-minute light shows set to music. It was a new, fresh holiday treat for us. Windows were down, fresh air flowing, holiday music was blaring and lights were flashing. A great way to make new memories in a new place away from the crazy of life the dark shadows 2020 had cast on many.

Tomorrow is not guaranteed. I never know how much time I have with my mom. For now, I enjoyed the peacefulness of fresh air and many smiles and giggles with the woman I have adored for years.

Many I know don’t have the luxury I have of still having their mom. I share mine when I can so others can have a sliver of her wisdom, her personality, and her sweetness. Getting to your 80s is a milestone. Still moving about and experiencing new things and places is a gift. Living through a pandemic and bending and flexing to rules and lockdowns is draining. Fresh air and fresh perspective can put the fog of tomorrow in the rear view, even if it’s just temporary.

celebrations

The Red Box

Today was a day to get shit done. Lots of projects on the home front. Lots of little things to just take off the to-do list. Now enter the red box.

The red box filled of vanilla creme candies. Dark chocolate covering the sweet vanilla taste. Heaven in my mouth. Now this isn’t just any small box. It’s a 1-pound box of sweetness. Delivered to me by a special lady aka my mom who knows how much I love these candies. Of course I can’t refuse her generous gift. I must eat them all. Just hopefully not in one sitting!

A bigger box than normal so I must have been on the good list but my God that’s a lot of chocolate! Now did I mention this girl really likes her chocolate during a certain monthly cycle? Yup. That’s right folks. Guilty pleasure alert. Or maybe it’s a necessity.

I sit down at my desk to do some work and realize I put the box of chocolates in the drawer to avoid temptation. Yes, I told myself one per day is the indulgence. Well that reasoning went out the door as soon as I ate one.

Because one wasn’t enough. I needed two. Or was it three? Heck, I lost count. So needless to say I had to leave my office because the temptation was too much on me. I couldn’t resist. I lacked the willpower.

I have had these chocolates since I was kid when my Nana took me to the candy house. A fond memory that I passed onto my kids. Now as a grown adult it is such a comfort food. Unfortunately, my macros don’t allow unlimited chocolate intake so I must change my surroundings immediately.

Off to mow a lawn or something to combat the excessive calorie intake. If you haven’t tasted a Phillips Candy House chocolate, they ship to you. Visit www.phillipschocolate.com to satisfy your sweet tooth.

Note: the candy is expensive, but delicious! 

adventure

Taking the Scenic Route

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New (or new-to-me) cars don’t happen often in my life.

We usually drive our cars into the ground.  A car purchase is a big deal that comes along only once in a long while.

In my car history, I’ve graduated from sedans to minivans to sedans again.

Every car says a little bit about where I am in life.  Sedans for the independent girl paying for her first vehicle.  Minivans for the Mom of 3 carting kids and their pals and their stuff here and there.  Then sedans for the Mom looking for fuel efficiency, with some kids who can drive themselves.  And finally, as of this year all my kids can drive themselves. What a life change.  My youngest got my last sedan as her starter car.  Now what?

All the cars did have some things in common: gotta have a sunroof and a top-notch stereo.  My Mom was a convertible girl but I remember she always had problems with leaks and the mechanics of the tops in her LeBaron and Sebring.  So I stay with a sunroof.  And if you’ve ridden with me you know I like to sing loudly in the car, so my backup track needs to be high quality.

Anyway, the time came to choose a car and I lingered over the decision, as is my style.  I researched and figured out the exact car I wanted then sought it out for months.  I finally found it and after much waiting, anguish, car rentals, state line crossings, and other extraordinary measures, I bought my shiny red Jeep Compass Trailhawk this spring.

I’ve had it for a while.  I’ve tried to write about it several times but couldn’t seem to finish a post. I wasn’t sure what the story was or why anyone should care. I almost abandoned the idea to the cutting room floor.

But then last week I took her for her first true off-road ride.  I had my youngest and her friends on a weekend trip a few hours away for a lacrosse tournament. Instead of taking the most direct path via the interstate, I decided to chart a path to a waterfall hike.  It was sort of on the way but kinda not really.  It would take us off the beaten path, to a part of my state I had never visited.

I read the reviews of the hike and most of them said things like: be ready for a long off-road drive to get to the trailhead.  You need a 4×4 to get there.

And lo and behold, I have one! Yippee! Put me in, coach! I’m ready for this.

I was a bit nervous since we’ve had a lot of rain, but the road was mostly rock and gravel. We played with the road settings. I took it slow for the most part. The kids laughed as I splashed through muddy puddles.  Got some Georgia red clay on the tires and my flashy paint job. It was a long drive in and out but the hike and the experience were worth it.

I am at the point in life where I’m taking the scenic route more and more. Instead of just saying “I wish I had more time to…” (hike, chase waterfalls, stop at the sights and shops along the way), I am making the time. And no one can do that but me.   I want to see new things.  A little mud, a little rock, whatever obstacles can’t stop me from getting where I want to go.  A little prepared for anything.  I can tow things and have a few friends and our stuff along.  I can see the sun and play my beats stereo loud.

It’s a different, off-road life for me.  A little more dare, a little more fearless, a little more nothing-can-stand-in-my-way. No limits. No barriers. No exclusions.

They say the most difficult roads lead to the most beautiful destinations.  I’m embracing that as a challenge and a reward, for the journey and all that comes with it.

 

 

 

 

family, inspire

Resilience

The ability or capacity to bounce back and/or recover from a negative situation or difficulties in general. Resilience. Mental toughness. Strength.

Learning resilience at an early age is a must. It’s unfortunate when your child has to learn about resilience when they get a put in a crappy situation with adults who have ill intentions, but it happens. Sometimes it happens more than one likes to admit. For me I’m choosing to write about it.

This week I silently observed a male treat a developing/impressionable girl as a mere pawn. A pawn due to his own agenda but nonetheless a pawn. The lowest component in the game of chess, a pawn. Life is much like a chess game. Lots of moving pieces and many who think they are king or queen and like to push around pawns on the daily. This is the reality of life. Different days you may be in different roles on the chess board.

How you bend and flex with the trials and tribulations shows your character. Sometimes it shows grit, growth and resilience. For me this week I observed all of the above.

I watched a beautiful spirit say to herself, you can think I’m a pawn but really I’m a queen. I can let you think you win but in the end I win. I have resilience. I have a bright spirit that can’t be dulled by your ignorance.

I am me. I may be young but I’m versatile. I can do anything I set my mind to and I can do it better and with more conviction if you tell me I can’t, I won’t or I shouldn’t. Others can’t replicate. Many will try but fail.

I will run faster. I will lift heavier. I will push myself to be the best version of me. I will grow. I won’t sit still and be judged. Those who judge are really the pawns in life. One who tries to suppress a true queen is just an insignificant person.

As I hold my head up high, I strut as I walk away. I strut. I will glance over my shoulder with one last farewell. The farewell smirk that is a silent FU to you. Yes that is correct the FU glance that wishes you well in life.

You will need that good luck. I won’t. I have resilience. I have strength. I have courage. I have me. You may wish you did in the end, but you lost access with your insignificant behavior.

My observation was amazing to witness. My ability to watch that person shine through adversity. I’m glowing knowing she prevailed. She did it. She had fun doing it. She overcame.

She is amazing. Simply amazing. Meet my mini me. The shining star that a male tried to put in the corner for their own agenda. Does she look shaken? Absolutely not. She is a fearless girl ready to take on life and all it’s imperfections.

And just when I thought this post was finished the digital age awoke. The poking from the adult again in an online fashion. A cyber-bullying type event. What is wrong with people?

I will say it again and show another glowing picture. You can’t dull this girl’s shine. She is one of a kind. Gentle spirit, kind heart and an all-around athlete. Unfortunately some may be jealous of that and act selfishly. For that adult acting poorly: you have to look in the mirror each day and realize your behavior is a reflection of you and only you. Raise your bar. Don’t try to bring others down to your level.

This is a proud momma post. I adore this beautiful girl and won’t let anyone bully her. This situation is in our rear view where it belongs. Behind us!