Sunday, December 9, 2012

Day Four: Mental Health Day

In that familiar, if somewhat annoying, song “The Twelve Days of Christmas”, the singer’s true love gave on the fourth day “four calling birds, three French hens, two turtle doves, and a partridge in a pear tree.” (I apologize to anyone who now has this song stuck in their head, it was necessary to tell my story).

Well on my fourth day of Christmas, I woke up with the migraine from hell on day eleven of it’s never-ending torture. I barely had the energy to get dressed so I skipped breakfast (bad choice). The fluorescent lights in our classroom seemed louder and brighter than usual, and it made me crabby. One of my students got upset with my insistence on saying “No” when she did something she shouldn’t have been doing, and hit and scratched my face several times on the way to the time out room.

So I decided to give myself a gift (since I haven’t met my true love yet), and I took the afternoon off. It was more of a “mental health” than sick day, although my head was threatening to explode, so I found something relaxing to do – create. I allowed myself a few hours to work on my newest mini album projects after the Excedrin Migraine kicked in (and my migraine was tamed to a mere headache). I also made a very delicious dinner for myself, watched a few episodes of Alias on Netflix, and went to bed early. Although I didn’t deviate far from my typical routine, it was just enough to help me step back from the pain and chaos for a few hours.

Getting back to the song, have you ever wondered about the gifts that were given? What exactly is a “calling bird” and why would someone want four of them? And do French hens lay special eggs that make “French toast” even yummier?? If so, I’ll take three myself!

Well as it turns out, the word “calling” is an American change to the English word “colly,” meaning “black.” So her true love gave her four blackbirds on the fourth day. The third day is referring to Faverolles hens, also known as French hens, obviously originating in France. A very multi-cultural song!

Now for the two turtle doves, I’ll pass, doves kind of freak me out a little. My friend Sonya had a pet dove, and I spent a few nights at her house back in the day (early high school if memory serves). In the middle of the night it would laugh (it was out in the living room but I could still hear it), and it was more of a disturbing cackle.

Finally, a partridge in a pear tree. I love pears, so I wouldn’t mind the tree, although I have no yard in which to plant one. I’d probably ask Jeff and Denise to take care of it for me; after all, they live in the Lewiston Orchards! The partridge is a member of the pheasant family, so I could cook it up with a nice pear sauce perhaps.

Stay tuned for my own version of “The Twelve Days of Christmas” coming soon to a blog near you. (Ok, to this blog)

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Day Three: Don’t Be A Grinch

Only three days into December and I already find myself feeling “bah humbug” as a general state of being. No worries, I’m fighting it with all I have, but this migraine is making it a feeble attempt at best. To help curb some of this unwanted attitude I decided to join a friend in watching a Christmas movie last night.

She chose the Grinch – the newest one, with Jim Carrey playing the big green guy. She was watching it on her television in Canada, I attempted to use a link online. Several links, as a matter of fact, and every one of them failed me. The first four or five stopped the movie at 12:22. Seriously. The very same spot on every one of them. By then I was determined to finish it. The last link I tried made it past that point, only to re-buffer every 15 seconds or so. I lost patience.

I have to admit, it made me smile that Mr. Grinch was a source of my frustration, an irony not lost on me. So I took a moment to step back and consider my certain situation. What is it exactly that’s getting me down? Of course the usual things came to mind:  being lonely, not having my space set up the way I’d like it, feeling as though I’m wasting my life, intelligence, and skills on laziness and poor choices. My self-reflection tends to get a bit intense.

Acceptance is the first step on the road to recovery. I accepted that I need an attitude adjustment. I quickly moved on to step two:  a willingness to change. Well I wouldn’t be analyzing my situation if I didn’t want to change it. Awesome. I was already at step three. Problem:  I don’t know what step three is.

So I jumped off that train of thought and landed on another:  while it’s true there are pieces of my life that haven’t yet fallen into place, it shouldn’t be true that I wait to live that life until they have. There are things I can do to learn and grow, to better myself, to find pleasure in life. I don’t want to stand still and let life happen to me – I want to be actively involved. That’s as far as I’ve gotten, though. I know what I want to do but have no idea how to do it. Still, I won’t let myself be a Grinch.

Monday, December 3, 2012

Day Two: Making “Memories”

Yesterday was a long, slow day; I spent almost half of my waking hours in bed fighting a wave a nausea from a migraine that won’t go away. It was like an echo of the previous Sunday, although last week I wasn’t able to get out of bed until almost 4 in the afternoon, so yesterday was better for sure.

While I was up and about, instead of doing the much needed organizing on my mental to-do list, I decided to work on another album project, my own version of “Project Life” that I decided to start recently. I’m using a mini album pattern that contains 28 pockets, so I decided to add a few more and make one album for each month of the next year, beginning on my birthday. I have two in progress – the first will be for April 21-May 20 because of the elaborate floral patterns and colors (I posted a picture on Facebook but it's much cooler in person); the other is titled “Memories” and will be blue, silver, and white. It starts on December 21st and is turning out to be really cute and simple.

Working on albums is relaxing and almost meditative. “Memories” especially, since I know it will be used soon, and I’m using a lot of blues (my favorite color). As I design the layouts and choose which embellishments to include, I’ve been thinking about some things I would like to do in order to fill the pages. And while I was working on the April-May version, I couldn’t help wondering what great things God has in store for my life in the coming months.

Much like the December Daily project I mentioned yesterday, these books will record through photos and journaling my thoughts and experiences in daily life. Having them built ahead of time will help me stay motivated, and hopefully encourage me to get out and experience life more fully! If you would like to join me in this project, I can teach you how to make these albums, or make some and sell them to you. As they say, the more the merrier!

Sunday, December 2, 2012

Day One: It’s A Wonderful Life

I’m still undecided about when to write each day. I suppose it will depend on what specifically I’m writing about and which part of the day it happened, or the thought occurred to me; this is of course the essence of random rambles sprinkled with a little Christmas spirit.

Last night I watched “It’s A Wonderful Life” as my daily Christmas movie. I’ve only seen it once before, so I had forgotten most of what happened; the main thing I remembered is that I liked it. Good enough for me! This time as I was watching it I couldn’t help thinking about the title and what the words mean. I’m not talking about in the context of the movie, but more egocentric – in the context of my own life. I have many things to be thankful for, many ways my life is “wonderful”.

Being an admitted word-lover, I went to my old friend Webster to find the specific definition of “wonderful”. I discovered the phrase “unusually good”. So if we look again at the title, it would read “It’s An Unusually Good Life”. Now tell me that didn’t make you smile!

The basic plot of the story, in case you haven’t seen it or don’t remember, is that a man named George Bailey repeatedly sacrifices his own wishes and dreams to help those around him – his family, friends, and community members in the small town where he lives. Set in the late 1930’s and thru WWII, it’s obvious that times were simpler, and yet the complexities of life have remained unchanged. When someone steals money that will ultimately bankrupt his business, George realizes his life insurance policy makes his death of more value than his life and considers suicide. His Guardian Angel (second class, no wings yet) intervenes.

This part is reminiscent of “A Christmas Carol”, although in this case Clarence (the angel) shows George what life would have been like had he never existed. The town would be a slum, his brother would be killed as a boy, and his mother and wife would be lonely and bitter. When George returns to the present, to his home, he is greeted by the police as well as many friends from the community who give him more than enough money to make things right.

Now, getting back to reality, it's a fact that none of us will be granted a view of life any different from what we know. In some ways, that makes it more difficult for us to realize the impact we have on this world just by being in it. So we have to train ourselves to pay close attention to our words and actions, every day, in every situation. It’s the random acts of kindness, the words of encouragement, the smiles that we pass along that make every day an important piece of “an unusually good” life. Not just for ourselves, but for each person we come in contact with – family, friends, coworkers, even cashiers at Wal-mart or Safeway.

This time of year it’s more difficult for me to remember how good my life really is; there are very few things I need that I don’t have, and I am thankful for that. Yet those things that are missing play a significant role in my sense of happiness, accomplishment, and safety. So I have to believe that God will bring those into my life, and  patiently wait for them no matter how much longer it takes (patiently is the hard part!); if I stop believing, I will lose the ability to live this “unusually good” life I’ve been blessed with.

Returning again to my first day of Christmas, watching a movie and considering how unusually good my life is, can be, and will continue to be, I made a list of just a few of the hundreds of blessings I’m surrounded by every day, and designed a special project I plan to create to remind me of those blessings. I’ll be sure to post a photo of it when it’s finished, and I encourage you to do the same, even if you simply stick the list on the front of your refrigerator, or tape it to your mirror. I promise you that having it on display, somewhere you can return to each day, will increase your joy for life and faith in the indescribable Creator who designed it.

This is getting a bit long. However, before I go, I want to tell you about another project I’m starting; it’s somewhat well-known in the crafting world, a specific type of mini album called a “December Daily” that is designed to record the events of each of the 25 days of Christmas. I’ve never made one before, in fact last year at this time is the first I had heard of them, but this year I decided it would be a valuable aspect of my new life adventure and desire to become a better person. Again, photos when I’m finished putting it together, which will hopefully be later this evening (I finally have a good use for some of that Christmas paper in my stash!)

Also, as part of these daily Christmas countdown posts, I’m going to share what I intend to record in that album. For day one, Oliver and I spent most of our day at Paper Pals working on another album that I will be sharing about in a few weeks, and collaborating with a few friends who also enjoy the world of creating. We came home, ate dinner, watched a movie, and chatted with a friend online. I made some hot chocolate that turned out to be rather disgusting, and eventually found sleep. It was rainy, windy, and cold most of the day, so I decided not to join some friends at the local tree lighting. Over all, a lazy, relaxing start to the month of December!

Saturday, December 1, 2012

25 Days of Christmas

I love new beginnings! Today is not only the beginning of a new month it is also the beginning of the countdown to Christmas. It bothers me that there are 25 days (an odd number), but I’m just going to avoid thinking about that aspect of it and try to have some fun.

So far I haven’t done much to celebrate the season. Oliver and I put up my Christmas tree (he mostly watched, and played in the branches when it was up, before the lights and ornaments went on). Also I’ve been trying to watch at least one Christmas movie every day. Most I’ve seen before, a few are new to me. I started with "Elf" the day after Thanksgiving. So far only one has been really lame, out of nine. A few others I don’t want to see again but they were ok once.

I have to be honest in saying that I haven’t really felt the joy of Christmas for a long time. When I think about it from a distance, this is by far one of my most favorite times of the year, right up there with early spring when the world starts to come alive again. And yet every year when Thanksgiving ends I just feel….lonely.

This isn’t the rabbit trail I want to explore today. Then again, I’m not sure what I’m going to write about, so we’ll discover that together. Feel free to leave suggestions, I’ll at least read them, maybe even accept a few! For now let’s just enjoy a Christmas classic (“It’s a Wonderful Life”), and I’ll be back in a while.