Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Dear Friends and Family (Or, How to Write a Holiday Letter Without Really Trying)

“On a busy day twenty-two thousand people come to visit Santa, and I was told that it is an elf's lot to remain merry in the face of torment and adversity. I promised to keep that in mind.”
― David Sedaris

Dear Friends and Family,

I know it's been several years since I've actually forced my hoodlums to smile for the camera and then submitted their tortured grins to my local photo shop for a holiday card festooned with ribbons and trees and snowmen.  I haven't purchased Christmas stamps in at least three years.  And I've haphazardly attempted my annual "here's what went wrong in our lives this year" letter because I posted it on Facebook but (and I'll be honest here) I've been lazy.  

We're swingers.  Wait, is that appropriate?
I did RECEIVE Christmas cards this year from the few faithful friends who steadfastly refuse to drop my lazy, ingrate self from THEIR Christmas card lists.  You must love me.  Or maybe you're too lazy to drop me from your painstakingly and lovingly created lists.  Or maybe you're just trying to spur me to action in the hopes that the guilt you've inspired will FINALLY bring me to my senses and I'll get back on the Christmas card bandwagon.  Alas, it hasn't worked.  Yet.  There's always 2014.  Maybe if I get started NOW, I can do it.  

I love Christmas cards.  I do.  I open them with delight.  And I post the pictures of your smiling kids and adorable pets on my fridge and hope that may be ONE day ALL of us can get together.  And then I think about how much work that would be.  And I go back to reading my books.  Or writing my blog.  Or staring off blankly into space wondering if my toes are still growing because, seriously, they SEEM longer.  

So, here it is friends and family.  Here's my holiday letter.  It didn't come to you with a stamp. But it comes from as deep in my heart as I can muster: 

Life is never an easy proposition in this family household.  We stumble through it not with those delightfully laid plans of a mother in charge of her family's destiny but, instead, rather haphazardly.  Any really good things that occur seem accidental or, at best, like living life fortune-cookie-style.  "Today the sun will shine on you and you'll make wise choices."  Well, OK.  Let's have at it then.  

We adopted another family member this year.  No, don't get all ruffled up...it wasn't an actual CHILD but instead a delightfully compact Scottish terrier named Mr. McDougal.  Mr. McDougal is a brilliant name for a Scottish terrier and I can only wish I had thought of it.  No, dogs who are adopted EARLY into my household get names like "Sparky" or maybe the classic "Fido."  We're apparently just either a) not that creative or b) put our genius to evil instead of good.  Mr. McDougal LOOKS depressed much of the time.  I mean, he walks around with his little ears perked up and his tail wagging but I think he must grow tired of staring at everyone's ankles.  Living amongst feet can't be an easy or pleasant thing.  Regardless, he's been swept along in the ordinary chaos of our day to day lives and, so far at least, no one has forgotten to feed him.

Thing 1 has sprouted and is no longer the shortest kid in his class, for which I am eternally grateful.  All I need would be to raise a man with Napoleon syndrome.  No, the neuroses he develops after the first 18 years with me will be far more interesting for a psychologist to unwind and I rest assured every night that he will have plenty of fodder to hold against me when he's grown.  He's now in the 8th grade and has uncovered a natural flair for sarcasm.  I foster that when I can. Usually when we're talking about his grades or his future.

Thing 2 started middle school this past year and has developed his more social side.  He spends hours locked behind closed doors playing video games while talking with his friends on a headset.  I'm pretty sure he's shooting them while doing so.  Not that I'm worried, dear friends and family.   I've been told that they're "ONLY video games, Mom."  I have to be honest with him: I'm not a fan of those games.  He told me that he's growing up just fine, though.  I guess I'll believe him until he's 24 and living on my couch in sweat-stained undershirts and boxer shorts.  

I'm not yet addicted to any drugs (prescription or otherwise) and I've managed not to add excessive weight to my sturdy frame this year.  I seem to be hobbling along fine and if you'd call me every now and again you'd figure that out for yourself.  Not that I'm complaining.  And I do realize the phone lines work both ways...it's just that we've established how lazy I am earlier in this letter.  Do you honestly think I can be bothered to pick up the phone?  

The new year begins tomorrow at midnight.  2014 is sure to hold some pretty amazing things for this little family.  Or not.  Where's that fortune cookie again?  And, hey, I'll send out your REAL Christmas cards NEXT year.  Maybe. 

Much love,

Kelly (and the boys and the dogs and the geriatric cat)

P.S. In all seriousness, Merry Christmas and Happy New Year from our little corner of the world to yours.  We love you muchly.  

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Sunday, December 29, 2013

Working Through Life

“In the name of God, stop a moment, cease your work, look around you.”
― Leo Tolstoy

Remember when I said I don't blog about work?  OMG.  I lied.  I have to stop for a moment and blog about work.  Apparently, I didn't blog about work before because it just brought me DOWN so much.  But now that I work for company where we have bean bag chairs and write-on-walls in the conference room (which is called the IDEA ROOM), all I want to do is talk about work.  And write about work.

This morning as I sat down to do some work for a big client meeting we have tomorrow morning, I was smiling.  I have truly a LOT of work to get done today but I don't even seem to mind.  Yeah, my Christmas tree is still up (it's never up more than two days after Christmas...I like to see Christmas clutter come and I do love to see it go).  Yeah, my house is a bit of a wreck.  I need to do laundry.  And I need to shower for church.  And, yet, what I do is sit down to do a bit more work.

This thought bowled me over this morning as I sat down to work:  I am a happy person.

I have been an unhappy person...a miserable wretch who ended up making other people miserable in my wake.  I have focused on and fed my misery by turning things over and over in my mind.  The pain of life has festered in me.  But today...in this moment (and, trust me, THIS moment is ALL WE truly have)...I am joyful.

Meaningful work is a huge part of that.

Letting things go is, perhaps, an even bigger part.

I am contemplating life a lot less these days.  I analyze less.  I understand that the lives of others (even those really close to me) do not revolve around me.  I drink more hot tea.  I listen to more music.  I sing more and cry less.  I live in THIS moment so much more.   And those things have made all the difference.

Work on, sister friend.  Work on.  

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Sunday, December 22, 2013

Dear Santa, We Have To Talk

“So I've started wearing sweatpants to bed because I really don't need Santa seeing me in my underwear.”
― Jeff Kinney

Dear Santa,

I know we haven't been terribly close since my entire third-grade class launched an attack on you.  I mean,  I didn't really believe the lies they were spewing but I figured my all-out adoration of you might best be cloaked under a fine veil of pre-teen scorn.

Your presence in shopping malls and holiday parades always made me shiver a little and I often fought the urge to come and sit on your lap and breathe in your cookies-and-hot-chocolate scent.  But I refrained.  I'm sorry.  I realize we lost a lot of years.

And I know you were probably disappointed when my kids were slightly terrified of you.  But, come on, Santa, you might want to get with the times and take that full beard down a notch or two.  Kids these days aren't accustomed to voluminous fluffy white facial hair.

But here's the thing, Santa:  I need you to show up.  This year, I am ready for you to show up.  And, like Mariah, I have a grown-up Christmas list that needs your attention.  Forget the smushy, oogie, lovey dovey stuff.  I have some real requests. 

  1.  Sprinkle some magic fairy dust to keep people from lying to each other.  I know, I know.  Honesty can hurt.  But you know what hurts more?  Deception and the eradication of trust.  That hurts people way more than honesty ever could.  And I'm not talking about cruel honesty...there's no need to tell Aunt Ethel that her butt is bigger than the side of a barn.  But we shouldn't just lie because it's more convenient for us, should we?
  2. Help people understand that tolerance is a two-way street.  People have beliefs.  My neighbor may have a different belief than I have.  But my neighbor has EVERY RIGHT to believe what he believes.  I may think he's wrong.  He may think I'm wrong.  But you know what?  I support his right to state his beliefs.  And I have to respect our differences.  
  3. Get rid of child abuse.  Santa, I don't need diamonds.  I don't need more stuff.  What I need is for adults to stop hurting kids.  Period.  It's not hard, Santa.  You know what?  Sometimes I get REALLY MAD at my kids.  I do.  But I don't call them names.  I don't hit them.  Can you make that happen, Santa?  'Cause I really, really want that for Christmas.  I've been good (mostly).  
  4. Pull some money out of that sack, Santa, and give it to people who need it.  Some people can't pay their power bill.  It's Christmas, Santa.  Turn on their lights.  Some people need food.  Let's get them to the grocery store.  Inspire people to give to others.  
  5. Make people laugh.  You're a fat, jolly old elf, Santa.  If people can't laugh with you, then there is little to no hope.  Laughter heals.  Laughter helps.  And, quite honestly, sometimes it's all you can do.
 Maybe you can't help me, Santa.  Maybe my list is more suitable for prayers than wishes.   But, Santa, I have to tell you...I am praying about all those things.  And I don't see any answers yet.  But I realize that life is far bigger than I am and that I don't see the larger picture.  

But I have to believe that one day...that, maybe, one Christmas...there won't be trinkets under my tree.  

I have hope.  

I believe.


P.S.  Thanks for that bicycle when I was six.  The one with the basket and the horn?  That was pretty awesome. 

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Sunday, December 15, 2013

The Nutcracker for the Uninitiated: 5 Easy Ways to Understand Ballet

“Real men don't lift weights, they lift women.”
― Every male ballet dancer

I am what you might call a novice when it comes to understanding and appreciating ballet.  I was never the cute little girl in pink tights and a tight bun.  I didn't carry one of those little pink ballet bags to school and I was never asked the question (by anyone):  "So, where are you 'taking?"  ("Taking" is that term for the ones who belong.  They take a class at Miss Suzy Q's Elite Ballet School for Tiny Princesses and, therefore, are "taking."  The "ballet" at the end is not required. Duh.) I don't know if they never asked me because of the obvious absence of the pink bag or because of the fact that I had a tendency to fall down and/or knock things over on a regular basis.  Girls who "take" aren't generally walking disasters.  They glide.  Gracefully.  With long necks.  Like giraffes with leg warmers.

So, I had the "opportunity" to see my second ever Nutcracker performance over the weekend.  Don't get me wrong, I was THRILLED to see my beautiful (and graceful...because, you see, she "takes") goddaughter fulfill a lifelong dream of performing the role of Clara and my other gorgeous firecracker of a goddaughter play the role of a mischievous little mouse.  I really was thrilled to watch the two of them.  But, you see, this performance lasts a couple of hours.  Hours.  Of people dancing.

All I can think of when I see people balancing on the tips of their toes is "ouch, that must HURT" and "Good Lord, that's completely unnatural what they're doing up there" and "WHY is that guy wearing WHITE TIGHTS?"

I realize that if I ever want to become a cultured and somewhat respectable human being I should enjoy attending The Ballet and The Opera and The Plastic Surgeon.  But, I just...don't.  It's mostly because I don't GET it and, quite honestly, I think it just LOOKS a little funny.   When I watched one of the fairies (I don't know if was Sugar Plum or Diamond or Tooth) tiptoe across the stage in these tiny stutter steps with the skin on her arms jiggling (and, trust me on this, it was NOT fat...it's just that human beings shouldn't MOVE like that), I just thought it was...weird.

But, I think I finally have the storyline down.  AND, if there are any people like me left out there who just don't quite "get" the whole ballet thing, I have a checklist here of things to do PRIOR to attending a Nutcracker performance this Christmas season:

  1. Have a drink beforehand.  Or, if you're into it, possibly some hallucinogenic drugs.  I'll bet you could have an amazing experience tripping through the dance of the Sugar Plum Fairy.  Of course, when the Giant Rat King comes out, your horrified screaming of "OH, THE HUMANITY!" might get you thrown out on your kiester.  So, careful on that one.
  2. Understand the story BEFORE you go.  I had no idea what was happening on the stage because THEY DON'T SPEAK.  I didn't know until three hours AFTER the performance that Clara spent all of Act II dancing with the Nutcracker COME TO LIFE!  WTF?  The wooden nutcracker became a Real Boy?  Did someone tell Pinocchio about this?  
  3.  Prepare yourself to not laugh at the men/boys in white tights.  It's inappropriate.  And juvenile.  (But I totally have the giggles right now just thinking about it.  I mean, seriously, have they LOOKED in the mirror?  Are white tights really necessary?)
  4. Understand that the second act is all about the dancing.  The exciting stuff happens in the first act.  There's some magic.  And some ballroom stuff.  And some little kids.  And someone dressed as a fancy cat.  And a sword fight.  So, you're sitting there (falsely) lulled into thinking that you might could get into this ballet thing.  And then the second act opens and they start dancing.  Like, "We Are the World" dancing.  You have dancers who are...well...like maybe the Ukrainian Dancer, the Norwegian Dancer, the Nicaraguan Dancer or something like that.  I don't know if they change countries all the time or if they always stay the same.  There may have been some sort of dedication to Imelda Marcos in there somewhere but I lost count at some point. In between, they sprinkle fairy dust.  
  5. Spoiler: Know that, at the end, it's all a dream.  I think.  I really wasn't following it.  But Clara was great.  And the mouse was pretty terrific, too.  That's all that really mattered to me to begin with.
Go to the Nutcracker.  I'm sure you'll love it.  Most people are a lot more refined than I.  Or less honest.  :)

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Wednesday, December 11, 2013

5 Things To Do When You Can't Get Back to Sleep

"I love sleep. My life has the tendency to fall apart when I'm awake, you know?”
― Ernest Hemingway

I woke up this morning at 2:21 a.m. after dreaming that a man knocked on the back door of my house.  Even though I couldn't really see his face, I figured I should open the door because he must NEED something if he came to the back door instead of the front like a normal person.  And so, like the chick in horror movies who makes stupid decisions that will get her killed, I opened my back door.  In the dream, the man rushed in and asked me for a piece of paper.  I was confused and backed away.  He was obviously a close talker and came rushing at me through the living room.  I whimpered because he seemed kind of odd and threatening (I don't know where I GOT that because he did come in through my back door in the middle of the night).  Anyway, within 30 seconds of entering my house, he had put his hand over my mouth and told me not to scream.

That's when I woke up.

I immediately determined that I had been dreaming (sometimes I'm not sure if I'm experiencing real life or dreaming...my life is JUST THAT WACKY) and tried to snuggle back into my covers.  That's when my brilliant mind took over.

I'm hot.  I wonder where the thermostat is set.  Heat rises in the winter.  Blurred lines.  You know you want it.  I wonder if that's where the dream came from?  Gosh, I'm glad the Dream Man didn't say that because then it would be obvious, wouldn't it?  So, if someone broke in, would I be able to yell to the boys to call 911?  I wonder if they would lock their doors.  How strong are their doors anyway.  If the Bad Man knew that the kids were locked up in their rooms, would he try to break the door down?  If he was distracted trying to get to THEM, I could push him down the stairs.  Maybe he'd break his neck.  Do people break their necks falling down the stairs?  I wonder what the statistical probability of that is?....

You see where that went.  And so, here I am. Once again.  In the middle of the night.  Wide awake. I decided to figure out a few solutions for myself. 
  1.  Drink milk.  Did you know that milk contains tryptophan?  Yep, it's that same stuff that makes Uncle Joe snooze off in the recliner after a big turkey dinner on Thanksgiving.  Granted, it has tryptophan in very, very small amounts, but it still has it.  And if you think something works, honestly, it is more likely to work.  Personally, the idea of warm milk makes me want to hurl but...whatever floats your boat. I like my milk with a little chocolate syrup for delicious goodness.
  2. Do NOT lay in bed for hours.  There is nothing more frustrating than tossing and turning in bed.  You have to train your mind to SLEEP when you're in bed.  If you're not sleeping, you're training your mind that bed is just a place to be frustrated.  (And I'm not touching THAT last sentence with a ten-foot pole.)
  3. Do something mundane.  You probably shouldn't do as I do and blog.  That just gets me fired up.  There is a little something to be said for counting sheep.  It's boring.  Sheep are boring.  Counting is boring.  My challenge with that was always "OOH! Let's see how high I can count!"
  4. Make a list.  A lot of times we can't sleep because our minds are so engaged with reality that dreaming ends up getting shoved aside.  Write down all the things that are bugging you...and let them go.
  5. Call a fellow insomniac.  Because if you can't beat 'em...join 'em.  
At some point, I'll probably follow my doctor's advice and ingest less caffeine which will, in turn, probably help me stay asleep at night.  But becoming a decaf coffee drinker is going to have to wait....I'm brewing a pot right now.

Good night, Gracie.

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Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Transitioning into Transformation

“Author says change emphasizes what is happening TO us while transition emphasizes opportunity for growth within.”
― William Bridges

When I started this blog in March, I was on the cusp of my very own personal revolution.  I was a broken person who was just starting to not only put myself back together (although, unlike Humpty Dumpty, I don't think I'd ever really been whole to start with) but also realizing that true metamorphosis happens only from the inside.

I was coming from a place of complete loss of direction:  I had no idea what to do about truly unhealthy relationships with my boyfriend (OK, give me a break.  I KNOW it sounds SO Breakfast Club but, listen, I grew up with John Hughes' movies), my career and, ultimately, myself.

Turns out it was me I had to fix first.  WHO KNEW?

Yesterday,  I started a new life.  I could say that I began a new job...but, boy, it FELT like a WHOLE NEW LIFE.  Because I had been a defeated and broken person, I had been toiling away in a job and in an environment that didn't work for me.  I had come into that place feeling like a fairly intelligent, reasonably knowledge professional.  My spark died a little bit every single day for over nine years and I came out feeling somehow "less than."  Don't get me wrong, that was NOT my employer's fault.  I just didn't know that the place wasn't a good fit for me until I had already been defeated (I have a tendency to do that kind of thing).

At the beginning of this year, I wrote down some professional goals.  Well, I wrote down one goal:  I wanted to work for a creative place where I could write more and travel more. I didn't think that was too much to ask. 

Because I've spent the last year (OK, fine, maybe it took longer than that) working on becoming an actual adult, I was able to emerge yesterday into the light.

I felt professional.

I felt reasonably intelligent.

I felt competent.

I felt energized.

I felt creative.

Oh my.  I'm working with an amazing marketing agency as an account manager.  They are on a cusp of marketing that I didn't know existed until I interviewed with these guys.  They are doing some extremely cool things that are taxing my brain to its limit...I don't even think I fully grasp yet how cool it is.  I am thrilled to be working with them and even more thrilled that they see me as a valuable asset to the company.  WHAT?  WHO KNEW? 

And, guess what else?  I get to write more.  And travel more.  Part of my job includes blogging about marketing.  WHAT?  And writing e-books when they're relevant.  WHAT?

I'm thrilled.  And I am professional, reasonably intelligent, competent, energized and creative.  I walked a little taller at the end of the day.  And I looked up at the sky and said, "Thank you."

Transformation does not happen overnight but, after you've slogged through the mess, it certainly can make life seem a lot less messy and a lot more beautiful.  And even though I am STILL up at some horribly unreasonable hour, I am awake not because I'm stressed or worried but because I'm EXCITED.  I'm actually going to do a little work now. 

The only real problem I have left is this:  what do I blog about from My Rockin' Chair NOW since I'm all mentally and emotionally healthy?  Crap.  Guess I'll have to start telling corny jokes.  (I know...you can't WAIT FOR THAT, RIGHT?)

If you like my blog, share it.  Or Like my FB page to get updates.  Or make a comment below.  If you don't like it, well...just try not to hurt my feelings.  I'm sensitive.