I can’t find words today, so here’s a cat with a bow on her head from last year.
I’m tired, y’all. Sub teaching is exhausting. But its’s blogmas, so here I am.
The holidays herald not only a time of year full of warm memories with family and friends, but the inundation of people and organizations asking for donation. It’s easy to get overwhelmed or angry with the amount of people who seem to be standing with their hands out.
But it is the season of giving. And honestly, many of us wouldn’t know where to give if charities and people wanting to do good for others didn’t point to those who need our help and say, “Here. Give here. These people need your help. These children deserve a happy Christmas with the same things more fortunate kids take for granted. The animals in this shelter and that shelter deserve love and comfort while they wait for their forever home.”
I am not in a place where I can give monetarily to the places I want to support. But I can point people in the right direction. If you want to give directly to a family in need, please consider checking out the Bloggess’s annual James Garfield Miracle. Or look at Project Night Night, which gives homeless children a canvas bag with a blanket, book, and stuffed animal.
Give time to a local shelter. Donate to a food bank. Go into Wal-Mart & pay off someone’s layaway order. Your giving doesn’t have to make a splash to make a difference to someone who needs a blessing right now.
Update: One Simple Wish is another organization that is worthy of your help. There you can help to fulfill the wishes of kids in foster care, or who have aged out of the foster care system.
Yesterday I wrote a list of topics to cover for blogmas, just so I don’t have an excuse to say, whining, “But I don’t know what to wriiiiiiiite!” Well, I do. Thanks to many, many blog posts with blogmas ideas — many of them with the same ideas, I have a list, and it’s a good list, Carl. (I’ve never seen Walking Dead, sorrynotsorry.)
When I was little, I really, really, REALLY wanted a preemie Cabbage Patch Doll. Like. I wanted that doll like I’d not wanted anything before or since (besides a steady job and universal insurance and equality for everyone ever, but whatever). We’d gone to Kentucky to visit family friends, and they had two little girls, and one or maybe both had one of these preemie’s, and I just fell in love with it. I don’t know how often I told Mom and Dad I wanted one, but I know I had to have done it more than once.
On Christmas morning, I woke up and there were presents! Under the tree! Yay! Santa came! I opened my presents, but alas, there was no preemie Cabbage Patch Doll. There was, however, a Middleton Doll under the tree for me. (Sidenote: The Lee Middleton Doll Factory was based out of Belpre, OH, and as a child I went on a field trip to the factory at least twice through school. The factory is no longer open, and the store attached to it is likewise closed.) Accompanying the doll was a letter from “Santa” telling me that he ran out of the Cabbage Patch dolls, but that he had a very special doll for me instead. Her name was rose, and I still have her. She’s on the top shelf in my old bedroom, gathering dust with a few other dolls that are more collectibles than playthings.
The next Christmas, though? Oh, that next Christmas. I cried when I opened the present, because I finally had my preemie, and she was beautiful. Her name was Marie, and she was one of my favorite dolls for years. Unfortunately, I think she’s languishing in the basement with other toys. I need to find her.
Of course, as a five or six year old, I didn’t understand the ramifications of what being premature meant. I only knew it as a cute, small baby that I wanted to love. Prematureness in babies is absolutely a serious condition, and there are many babies who don’t survive being born too early. I wish I had known then about the ramifications of popularizing premature babies as a “cool” thing to have then.
As an adult, the thing I’ve wanted for years and years was a KitchenAid standmixer. In 2015, that was my present from Santa, and I can say that it is amazing. I don’t use it as much as I want to, but when I do, it works like a charm. I’ve made cakes, cookies, bread, and even butter in it.
Tell me about your favorite Christmas or Hanukkah present! What good things are you giving this year?
Five days into December, I decided that I wanted to do Blogmas, that month out of the year where you blog every day. Well, really, it might as well have been six days into the month that I decided, but since it was still technically the 5th, I’ll go with that. I have a bad habit of starting writing projects and then abandoning them. Nanowrimo, blogging, tumblr, bujo, physical journals, livejournal, insanejournal, dreamwidth — I’ve sat down with good intentions for all of them, and then did not follow through.
I always justify not starting, or by starting and then stopping, by telling myself that (in this case), it’s so close to the first of the year that it doesn’t make sense to start until then. Start new! Afresh! A blank year-slate! Or it’s Wednesday, the middle of the week. Start Sunday! At the latest on Monday. And then the day or the year comes, and I don’t, and then my brain tells me that I HAVE to start on a first, or a Sunday, or a Monday, and so I don’t do it. And then my blog lays dormant for a year minus 2 days, and I feel guilty because I’m not doing what I told myself I would do.
All of that leads me here, to Wednesday, December 6, when I am starting Blogmas 6 days late, but I’m going to do it anyway, because it’s been too long since I liked Christmas, and I want to again.
Growing up, we never decorated for Christmas right after Thanksgiving. But when it was time, it was time. Mom had all sorts of little figurines to put in the windows, and she replaced candles with red ones and put (fake) holly and mistletoe around the bases. She had a Christmas Card wreath to put all of the cards we received. It wasn’t until I was a full-grown adult that we got an artificial Christmas tree; up until then, it was always a real one, decorated with ornaments Mom & Dad collected over the years. Mom liked the look of little red bows on the tree, so we always put those on. Even now, we put them on when we put up the tree — it’s a way of keeping her with us even though she’s gone.
Making cookies was a yearly tradition. As children, my brother and I were allowed to roll out the dough and cut out the shapes in the sugar cookies, and then to decorate them. These days, a lot of the time I cheat and get store-bought dough, but I try to make some every year. Christmas morning was spent opening presents as a family, then a special breakfast — usually some sort of breakfast casserole. Then we would get food ready to take to Grandma & Grandpa’s, and away we would go for the day. Before dinner a card table was set up in the living room, with a cheese ball, summer sausage, cheese, veggies with dip — just little nibbles to get us through until it was time to eat. The entire family would gather to open presents, and then it was time to eat.
I have so many memories of helping to clean up after dinner, and then settling in for a few hours to read whatever new book(s) I was given that day. I was the only girl in a crowd of boys (like, 3 boys. It’s still a crowd, okay?), and was always more interested in reading than anything else. So I read until it was time to go home. Then it was home to put away all the new goodies from this year and to eat leftovers and mess around with my gifts until bedtime.
That’s the basics of my Christmas memories. What are some of yours? Over the rest of the month, I’ll share more, plus favorite recipes, carols, and even look into Hanukkah and Kwanzaa. Happy Holidays!
Yesterday, I was told that I should go back to school and get a degree in education.
Nope. Nope, nope, nopity nope. Noooooope.
Now that the word holds no meaning and even looks weird from typing it out seven times, I will elaborate. I like kids. I really do. Once upon a time, I thought I wanted them. I like being around them, and talking to them, and teaching them to read. But do I want to be a teacher? No. I know the hoops and the hell that teachers have to go through just to teach their students. I also know that I lack the patience to do this in a regular basis. I’m easily irritated. I get frustrated when students who know what they are doing act as if they don’t. I have a low tolerance for people who don’t even try to understand their lessons, and the young people I would be in charge of for school years at a time deserve teachers who have much more patience than I do.
I am very adamant that all children deserve the best education possible, and all opportunities available to them. I believe that reading is the key to unlocking every single other area of education. I believe that art and music should be taught at all grade levels, and that girls especially should be encouraged to enter into STEM fields. I believe that education, toys, and clothes should not be gendered.
I also believe that my talents will be better used for the children in my life by advocating for education reform, in programs that support and hold up underprivileged children. This is why I don’t want to be a teacher. It’s okay that I don’t want to be. I’m a substitute teacher right now, and that has shown me what I don’t want, professionally. I don’t know exactly what it is that I do want, yet, but eliminating possibilities will show me the way.
In the years prior to my mother’s stroke, she had begun collecting snowmen. They became her new favorite way of decorating for the holidays, even though she only collected one or two per year. Her final collection was not a large one, and I’m not entirely sure where they all are.
The past two Christmases have been tough. She passed away in June of 2014, and while we put out the decorations and happy faces for my nieces and nephews, it was – and still is – a difficult time of year. But this year’s different, at least for me. I was visiting friends last month, and during a quick shopping trip to Kroger I noticed the lawn and porch decorations for sale outside the store: snowmen. A week later, I was in my own hometown for a town-wide open house that the businesses had put together. One of the shops features artwork. You know the type, the rustic art, with the cute figures and the slightly unsaturated colors, all of it painted on found objects.
There was a group of teenagers outside of this particular shop, singing carols to people as they walked or drove by. They were related to the owner of the shop, and eagerly told me of the wonder that awaited me just inside the door. They were fantastic, and cheered me, and I went in.
Without any warning I was surrounded by snowmen. The owner had chosen this year to paint nothing but snowmen and women on pallets and strips of wood and metal lids and any other surface that would take acrylic paint. It was wonderful, and all I could think was how much Mom would have enjoyed it, the whole evening. She might have bought something at that shop, and she would have loved walking from shop to shop, poking into nooks and crannies to see what was available, and finding people to talk to in each one.
And she would. Mom knew so many people, and she was so gregarious, so giving of herself. I miss her always, but I think I miss her most right now, at this time of year. I miss cooking with her, and making cooking, and planning holiday meals. I miss going shopping with her, and wrapping presents, and going with her to church on Christmas Eve.
This year is different, though. I miss her, but I’m not so soul-crushingly sad as I have been. I want to celebrate, because by celebrating, by doing the things we did together, I am remembering her, and our good times. By keeping those traditions going, I am keeping a small part of her alive. I think she’d like that.
I turn 36 today. Odd, because I don’t feel like I should be 36. By the time my mom was 36, I was just about to turn 10 years old, and had been married for almost 13 years. I’m unmarried, single, and child-free. I can honestly say that in at least these two areas of my life, I am happy, and satisfied. I am by nature solitary, and I value my time to myself so, so much. In 2012, I spent my birthday by myself as I house sat for friends who had gone on vacation. I had 2 or 3 days to myself, watching Star Wars, playing with their cats, meeting another friend for lunch, and just generally truly enjoying myself. Then, when they got home, I had a nice dinner with them, and then a few more days hanging out with them and enjoying their company before coming home.
This year, I’m celebrating next weekend, with a different group of friends as we go to a pop culture convention in a local city. It’s the first year for this convention, and I’m pretty excited about it. I don’t have the time or the money to put together a costume or anything, so I’ll wear my trusty Captain America t-shirt & hoodie, and prepare to just experience the convention. If it’s a good time, and they decide to do it again next year, then I’ll have that time to figure out and put together a costume, if I want. But this year, it’s all about getting together with good friends and having a ton of laughs and a rollicking good time.
A year ago, Wil Wheaton essentially rebooted his life. He took a very hard look at his life and decided that he didn’t want to be in that place anymore, and from there made another decision to change. He looked at several areas: alcohol consumption, creativity, physical health, mental health. He chose to change his life in very large, real ways, and I am so proud of him and so impressed and inspired. He’s done it, and he’s been so successful at it, and the change for him has been so profound that I am also a little jealous. I want that. I need that sort of change. I am not the best me that I can be right now, and I haven’t been for a very, very long time.
This summer I’ve taken steps in the right direction. I’m in therapy, and this month something seemed to click. Instead of talking about anxiety and how it affects me, I’m doing something about it. My therapist advocates for pushing through the anxiety. I started small, and it worked. My anxiety has been up, but that’s normal, she tells me. I’m rewiring my brain, to take the things that it labels as SCARY: DNW, and to rip that label off. Of course, my anxiety just labels something a little bigger with the scary tag, and it’s my job to confront that, and to tell my anxiety that no, it’s not in control. It’s there, but I am going to do the thing anyway.
That’s how I’ve applied for more jobs in the past two weeks than I have in the past two years. That’s how I am doing freelance copy for a friend’s website/web store. That’s how I suddenly, wihout any warning, came to be a freelance writer for my local newspaper. I go to my first event tomorrow, and will submit the story on Sunday.
My change starts now, on my 36th birthday. I don’t have a set of core areas in which I want to improve, but it will happen, this weekend. There is a saying, “Be the change you want to see in the world.” I have to be the change I need to see in my own world. No one else can do it.
The other night I had what I believe to be my first real nightmare in a long, long time. I remember as a child having one, and I vaguely remember that it involved a shadowy figure, but that’s all I have. For years now I’ve had really vivid dreams, including one where Smurfs were doing the Thriller dance while hanging from the ceiling of my 2nd or 3rd grade classroom. And when I was in 7th grade, I had a dream where I or my best friend were crouched behind one of those small trains that you see at small amusement parks or the zoo, blowing on it to make it go forward.
But I haven’t had nightmares.
The one I had the other night included small dragons that I needed to stay away from, because although they were very small, and look like the dragons in the mobile game Dragon, Fly!, they were nasty little things, and dangerous, and one of them had got loose and was going to electrocute me if I didn’t get out of the lake NOW.
Then the Unexpected Journey soundtrack hit a high note and woke me up. It sounded JUST like a dragon making a screeching sound. Makes sense, I guess.
When I was young, I thought I wanted to be a doctor. I was okay at math and science — enough so that my grades ensured that I was third in my graduating class. But I didn’t love the subjects, and the deeper I got into high school, the more it became clear that my actual interests lay in history, literature (sort of – I had five English teachers in four years, and none of them inspired me to love the subject), the social sciences, and that side of academia. I also feel that I was completely robbed my senior year. That year, instead of having the teacher we all thought we were going to have for senior college prep English, we had a first year teacher who let us TALK HER OUT OF teaching the Canterbury Tales. That year was a horror show of a teacher who I now wonder if she even liked her subject and made it as boring as possible. With the hindsight of an adult, I also think that she went about teaching the subject as if we were in seventh grade, instead of seniors in high school, preparing for college. She does get a pass for introducing me to George Bernard Shaw, but that’s about it. The class was unorganized and a waste of my time. At one point, a good chunk of us asked the teacher we SHOULD have had to help us out a bit, and she did, but I feel like her extra lesson ended up being unnecessary.
I hated senior English.
But the lack of teachers who instilled a love in their students for the study of literature wasn’t mirrored by teachers who taught us history, economics, and government. From those men I learned that history isn’t a dry series of names and dates, with an event to give the names and dates a title. I learned that history could be dynamic, and evolving. And this lesson was brought to fruition during college, where I was challenged and supported and taught that history is living and changing, and needed to be studied and understood, so that the future could be better shaped by what had come before.
I graduated college, and entered into a period of several years where I lost that connection to the subject that I had loved before. I became certain that since I hadn’t made it into the arena to continue my education, that I was actually worthless as an historian, and not competent to learn for the sake of learning. What was the point, I thought, if there would be no reward at the end of it?
Depression had sunk its teeth into me really deeply, and that was the result. My most recent bout of therapy has helped me the most, I think. I’m addressing the anxiety that has held me down for years, feeding the depression and leading me to believe that depression was the main mental illness that has been my companion for years. I now believe that the anxiety has been the worst monster, and as I start to chip away at it, learning to tame this beast that leads me every day into a battle against it, I can start to find my way through it. I may have felt like a failure all of my adult life, but my life isn’t over YET, and there is still time for me. I can still write, I can still learn, I can still reach out for the life that I deserve and that I can make happen.
I recently started listening to the Stuff You Missed in History Class podcast. I’m learning things, just for the sake of learning them. I’m remembering what I knew about history when I wrote an essay about why I wanted to immerse myself in the subject in college, how it is dynamic and ever-changing, and how we as human being need to learn from the past so that we do not repeat the mistakes that were made. The years since college have taught me to appreciate a truly broader knowledge of the world, and to understand that the lessons contained in the history texts we’re given in high school and which we buy for our college courses do not even begin to cover what can and should be taught. I have learned, and continue to learn, that what I have been taught isn’t always correct, and that in order to be a better human being with a better understanding of my actual place in the world, I need to be willing to listen to and seek out other sources of knowledge, and to acknowledge that the history I have been taught is biased and does not include all that it should. I am also learning that I do not need to have the shiny degree to do all of this, and that I can best teach the young people around me these lessons by living them.
My life isn’t over yet, and I have a lot of learning left to do, and I intend to do it.
I am a terrible blogger. I’m good at the writing part, but the consistently posting part? The part where I sit down and write, write, write? Not so good. The truth is that I’m terrified that what I’m putting down in words isn’t Good Enough. I’m putting myself out there, and I’m afraid that what I have to say isn’t interesting, or has already been written before, and better, by someone much more with it than I am.
I’m afraid of forward progress, because what if I fail? What if I actually can’t climb out of this hole that I’ve fallen into physically, emotionally, mentally? It’s safer, by far, to just stay where I am. Remain inert. Don’t rock the boat, and just keep wishing for a better day, even though I know that better day won’t come unless I actively work for it, and reach out and take it. Therefore, my new motto is, sort of, “Do the thing anyway.”
I’m doing the thing anyway. Here’s a blog entry, almost two months after my initial offering. It doesn’t say much, but it’s here, and I’m writing it anyway. And it doesn’t count for anything but a blog post. This week I updated my resume, and applied for jobs through a job center. I’m keeping a bullet journal. I’m trying to do the things that make me anxious, the ones that will benefit me, and it’s hard, and I’m scared, and i wish I could skip this part to get to the part where I’m successful and independent and not bogged down with depression and anxiety.
In case you, reader, are wondering about the state of my health, since I was open about that in July, here is an update: the problem is not my reproductive system. The tests came back negative for anything bad, and an ultrasound revealed no cysts and no problems with my uterus or ovaries. Therefore, the problem is elsewhere, we just have to keep looking. At the suggestion of Therapist, I am now off of Paxil, and tried Lexapro for a few weeks, but because of reasons, I am on Zoloft. Discontinuing Paxil is not a fun thing to do, ever, especially at the same time as starting a new birth control. I felt like I was on edge the entire time I tapered, and by the end of the third week I was on the verge of tears all. the. time. Anxiety and depression were more pronounced, and it was awful.
I then started Lexapro! And the first week was amazing, except for the joint pain, and the tingling and pins and needles that would come around any time I held either hand the wrong way. I don’t know which was was the wrong way, except that every way seemed wrong. The joint pain was in my hands, it was supposed to go away after around two weeks. It mostly did, to the point where I kept thinking that it was actually gone, then would come back! That was fun. My doctor and I conferred yesterday, and since I want to actually have hands that don’t hurt or fall asleep because of my medication, we decided that Zoloft is the next thing to try. So that’s where I’m at. In a month, I see her again, and hopefully Zoloft works for me, and makes me feel better, and helps me get to a place where I am truly independent and in a good headspace, mentally.