Sunday, December 30, 2012

A new start for 2013

Tomorrow is the final day of another year. I just went back to read old posts from 2012 on my blog because I honestly do not remember much of the beginning of this year. That isn't good!

I want to make 2013 a year to remember. I want to wake up on a Saturday morning, hop in the car and drive. In less than 2 hours, I can be in San Francisco (west) or Truckee (east). Beach or snow. I can be in Wine Country going west (Napa) or east (Amador County). And if I really wanted to, I could drive to Ashland, Oregon in 4.5 hours. There are so many things to see, places to go and in 2013, I want to see more.

In 2013, I want to actually complete projects in this house instead of just dreaming about them. Slap some paint and pictures on walls, organize certain spaces, clean up junky areas for good. I started last week when I cleaned out our pantry and today I tackled the closet in the guest bedroom. There is so much more to do but I'm excited about seeing things get done.

In 2013, I want to refocus this blog. Maybe more home improvement stuff. Maybe more Real Life Pinterest creations. I haven't been huge on writing because life is kind of twisted right now but I see myself investing more time taking pictures, travelling and focusing on our house.

2013 will be my 6th year blogging. I have a history of my life during that time right here on this blog. I want to start a new chapter, a new focus and a new outlook. 2013 for me means it is time to restart. Time to get off the couch, break out of "the usual routine" and try something new.

I hope everyone has a safe and fun New Years Eve! Bring out your best in 2013!!

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Merry Christmas

Christmas Card 001
"The best of all gifts around any Christmas tree: the presence of a happy family all wrapped up in each other."


May your Christmas day be filled with love and laughter, family and friends and good memories.

In our own ways, we are all blessed. Even in the hard times, I look around and know that so many people would love to have what we have. 

A happy, loving family
Kindhearted friends
Employment
A roof over our head
Food in our pantry
Love in our hearts

Count your blessings this Christmas and thank whoever you'd like for providing you with them. 

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Their Generational Shift

On 9/11, I was 22 years and 1 month old. I was in my 2nd week of my last semester in college. I was 425 miles away from home. I was a kid and my world had just changed. On a daily basis, I recall what life was like when there wasn't a concern about insane people hijacking our planes and slamming them into buildings. I barely remember being able to wait at the airport gate for your loved one and being able to go through airport security with full sized bottles of shampoo while still wearing your shoes.

On Friday, when yet another school shooting took place, I mourned for our school age generation. Yes, this has been going on a while, sadly but there is something so horrifying about the Friday shooting that broke me down to another level. I held it together for the most part on Friday. I stayed away from reading anything about the incident. I knew what happened. I didn't need to know more. I bawled on the way to the work holiday lunch and cried that night before going to the gym when I watched the local Priest interviewed. I knew better. Turn it off, Michelle.

Then on Monday, I walked onto a middle school campus. On a busy week, I visit 10 school campuses. Because this is the last week of school in my area, I'm going to 3. Yesterday I expected to be business as usual at this school. I've grown close to the students I work with at this particular middle school. It is the part of my job that I enjoy the most-building relationships with youth. One girl I have known since she was in 6th grade. She is now an 8th grader. She is about 5'2" and weighs probably 90 pounds on Thanksgiving, after dinner. She is tiny with a firecracker personality and steers towards being a no-nonsense gal.

She was broken down. Empathy isn't a huge trait of most 8th graders. They are very "ME ME ME" at that age but I experienced empathy yesterday from them which made me experience extreme sadness for them. A group of 3 very sweet girls, specifically the firecracker, discussed what they saw on the news and had read online. All 3 have iPhones so the world is at their fingertips 24/7. I debunked some myths (no, those kids didn't write goodbye notes to their parents-they didn't have time for that) and told them that if they were feeling very sad to stop watching the news. That was my mom's advice on the days following 9/11 when I was going deeper and deeper into the media rabbit hole of sad stories.

Then the reality hit. These students started talking about lock downs and where they would hide at their school if someone was on campus with a gun. One would climb on top of a bookshelf. Another would go under the teachers desk. "Why do they tell us to go under our desks? They aren't enclosed." "I wouldn't want to hide in the bathroom by myself." "Why don't teachers have guns? If I was a teacher, I would have a locked up gun in my desk, ready to shoot someone if they came in my class with a gun." "My parents talked to me this weekend about what to do if that happens here."

It took everything I had not to start crying. I promised myself that I would wait until I got in my car. I just listened and reminded them that in an emergency at school, they should always listen to the adults because they have a plan and their best interest at heart. And I thought about what I worried about in middle school. Never these things. Living in California, we had earthquake drills and I think those were scary enough to ponder. Ceilings falling on our heads, the earth splitting in two below our feet. Those were my 8th grade concerns.

Never did I ever worry about someone walking onto my middle school campus and opening fire. Never was it even discussed as a possibility or something to prepare for. But these students are faced with that reality. These teachers are meeting to come up with plans and our society has to be faced with how to calm the fears of kids who are scared to step foot in their schools. Schools. A place of learning and fun for most, anxiety and fear for others. And now, anxiety and fear for most.

On Friday, I think many young people faced their generational shift. They might be too young to know it though. They might be too deep into the "ME ME ME " phase to recognize it but for our country, Friday was a turning point. Changes are going to be made. They must be made to protect us from things like this. I hope this generation of young people remembers Friday and can look back in 11 years and know that our law makers did something to make the world a safer place.

Continued prayers for Newtown.


My friend Heather wrote a great blog post on the media response to this. I agree with all of it.

Friday, December 14, 2012

Christmas Trees

Our tree: I love Christmas trees. Each night when I plug our tree in, I stand back and admire the glow of the lights, the twinkle of the ornaments and the overall happy feeling it brings to our house. I was in the backyard last night and I stood there for a while, staring into the house at the tree. Can I please keep it up all year long? I love driving by houses and seeing the trees standing proudly in front of windows. And because we have an artificial tree, I took a good whiff of the real tree at my sister's house the other night. It smelled like Christmas.



My dad's tree: While he was in rehab, healing from his stroke, we talked to my dad about getting him a Christmas tree since we had planned to have our Christmas Eve celebration at his house. "I don't like fake trees" he said. Obviously, getting a real tree wasn't going to work this year but he didn't want to hear it. The day after mentioning it, I received an email from my dad saying he saw an ad for Big Lots. They had artificial trees for a good price. Whew. What a relief. He was on board. But of course, the ONE decent looking tree at Big Lots was out of stock. I finally went to Lowe's on my lunch break one day, hoping to find an affordable tree and lucked out. We set the tree up and it waited for his arrival. This is the picture we sent to him, with his first born granddaughter posing in front of the tree.

Kaiser's tree: I walked through the front doors of Kaiser over a dozen times from November 16-December 9 yet I don't remember when their Christmas tree was put up. But I loved seeing it standing tall each morning, afternoon or evening during my visits with my dad. A piano was often playing holiday music and people were sitting in the chairs near the tree. It lifted my often broken spirit as I came to and from the hospital and it reminded me of the holiday spirit and helped to heal my sometimes broken heart. 
 

Broadway Plaza (Walnut Creek) tree: I had to make a trip to Sephora to return some makeup and use my 25% off coupon one Sunday morning. Broadway Plaza is always busy but especially during Christmas. I arrived at 9:50 and still had to park on the 3rd floor of the parking structure. As I passed by this tree, I stopped and admired it. It was tall and glorious. This is the Instagram version. I'm sure I looked silly, taking a picture of a Christmas tree, but I couldn't help it. It was begging to be photographed.

I must confess that I would love to get a second, smaller tree to put in our loft and decorate in a totally unique way next year. Our main tree is filled with fun, silly ornaments. No ribbons, No bows, no decorative elements. But that is the way we like it. It is personal and every ornament has a story. As we place each one on a branch, we recall the memory behind it. It is one of my favorite things to do all year long. But I do love the look of a cohesively decorated tree with one central theme, like the Broadway Plaza tree. Perhaps there is another artificial tree purchase in my future....


Wednesday, December 12, 2012

12 Things on 12/12/12

People are posting all sorts of "YAY IT IS 12/12/12" on Twitter. I get that it is a rare day but am I missing something super exciting about it? There I go, sounding like a Debbie Downer. Let me try again.

OMG It is 12/12/12. What an awesome magical day! Here are 12 things on my mind today....

1. My dad is released from his rehabilitation center tomorrow.  The worries and fears and anxiety about his arrival back at home are weighing heavy on my mind but I know he has a strong support unit around him and if we remain positive, we know he will adjust to this new normal. Please pray for us!

2. I had a great coffee lunch break with my friend (and co-worker) yesterday. We were in the same area at the same time and spent an hour chatting over Starbucks. I am so lucky to have a friend like her. We are totally meant to be.

3. Speaking of that friend, her annual Cookie Party is on Sunday. Because of all the turmoil in my life, I haven't had time to come up with a super unique and awesome cookie to make. She gives away awards and my super competitive self can't handle not winning. Last year, someone made the same cookie as me. Embarrassing! It was like showing up to the Oscars and wearing the same dress as someone else. The cookie I am making is simple but most importantly, one batch makes about 30 cookies and since I need 60 cookies, it will be an easy baking experience. I have 2.5 hours to make them on Saturday so easy is required!

4. A student of mine (10th grader) asked me yesterday if I thought Nicki Minaj's butt is real. Teenagers are so random.

5. I babysat my nieces for 45 minutes last night while my sister and her husband were out on work business. When I got to the house, 3.5 year old Amy was in bed, singing "Apple donuts, apple donuts." She is my kind of girl.

6. Does anyone know when Silver Linings Playbook opens in wide release? I can't find it playing anywhere near me and it is making me angry.

7. In two weeks, Christmas will be over. This month is moving way too fast! Time to start shopping and wrapping!

8. I'm wearing a black blazer with my jeans and black boots today. I feel like Julia Roberts in the last scene of Pretty Woman when she is wearing a black blazer with jeans.

9. Mark my words: next year, we WILL have Christmas lights hanging from the eves of our house. This year, we are settling for lights in the windows and our large rosemary bush covered in net lights. Festive, yes. Griswold, no.

10. I have an eye doctor appointment on Monday and I think I might be eligible to get a new set of frames. This makes me too excited!

11. I love getting Christmas cards and seeing pictures of friends and family. I need to look at Pinterest for some fun ideas on how to display the Christmas cards after the holidays are over.

12. I have 5 more days of work until I have 13 days off. Now THAT is a Christmas miracle!

Have a wonderful Wednesday everyone!

Monday, December 10, 2012

TGIM: Thank Goodness It's Monday!

While in my counseling appointment last week, we were discussing how our thoughts guide our attitude and that positive thinking goes a long way to making up happier, healthier human beings. My therapist posed a question that I've had on my mind all weekend.

What if we viewed Monday's like we view Friday's? Sure, Monday morning is often times painful and difficult. Even if we enjoy our jobs or had to endure a busy weekend with not a lot of downtime, waking up and going on our way on a Monday is seen as a chore, a disturbance to our leisure time. Not even Garfield the Cat enjoyed Mondays. And he is cat!

As I woke up this morning at 5:15, I tried to be positive. It is another day. I get to interact with some great students today. I get to see my coworkers that I really like. I get to listen to the AM talk radio show that makes me laugh and smile.

The weekends are great although these days, I find myself busier than ever on Saturdays and Sundays and that schedule doesn't seem to be coming to an end anytime soon. So really, Monday-Friday gives me a chance to escape those weekend chores and focus on work. I am lucky that I enjoy what I do 40 hours a week.

I urge you to find a few good things about Mondays. There has to be something! Imagine if we shifted the "Mondays Suck" perception into "Mondays are GREAT." Wishful thinking? Perhaps. But I do believe that positive thinking equals positive health and happiness. And I think we can all use some of that this time of year!

Friday, December 7, 2012

Christmas in the Past

When did things change? I believe it was after I was out of school. I remember hearing rumblings about restrictions and new rules and guidelines and it made me feel sad. Just like that traditions and celebrations were wiped out of schools.

Yes, I'm talking about Christmas parties. And not just Christmas. Halloween. Thanksgiving. Easter.

In Kindergarten, I had to leave school early the day we were going to have a candy hunt on the playground. The teachers hid those small solid chocolate eggs on the slide, in the tire swing, on the wooden frame of the playground and the kid would run around and find as many as possible. Because I had to leave early, my teacher allowed me to go out to the playground and pick up a few pieces of chocolate. That was in 1985.

On Halloween, there was a Halloween Festival. Not Harvest Festival. It was Halloween. There was a cake walk, bobbing for apples, face painting, etc in the school gym. Everyone dressed up in costume. I think my dad won the cake walk one year.

In 3rd grade, I remember taking part in the Christmas Show at my school. Each class was assigned a song and performed on stage in front of parents and students. My class got "Holly Jolly Christmas." There is a line in that song about kissing. Gross. I had never even heard of that song and to this day, I am still bitter that my class got stuck with a random Christmas song while others were assigned more traditional, popular songs.

In the weeks leading up to Christmas Break, the music teach, Mr. Haney, would roll his piano down to each classroom during music class. He would pass out a song book full of Christmas songs (Rudolph, Up on the Roof top, 12 Days of Christmas, etc) and while he played piano, we would sing the songs. Were there students who didn't participate? Yes. They were allowed to go to another class during that time or even go out to the playground. But the large majority of students stayed inside and sang Christmas songs. Did those kids feel left out? I don't know. Most 11 year old kids aren't that aware of how other kids were feeling. This is just how it was and it was fun for 99% of the kids in the school.

Just this last week in one of my meetings with students I work with, the topic of a Secret Santa gift exchange came up. Because I have been told to eliminate Christmas type celebrations, I had to let the student know we couldn't do that. I spun it towards the financial end, saying that I didn't want students to worry about shopping and if someone forgot to bring a gift for their person, that person would be without.

And it struck me. We have been trained for so many years to avoid talk of Christmas in a professional or school setting, when it does become a conversation, it is totally normally to shoot down ideas of fun, bonding and giving. When did the tide turn? When did the excluded group take over and why?

Guess what? We aren't all welcome to do everything offered in this big world. Some people take really nice vacations multiple times a year. Just because I can't doesn't mean that vacations should be banned. The idea of everyone being offended has been taken to a whole new level.

Just because you are offended, doesn't mean you are right. I miss Christmas celebrations. I miss not walking on eggshells when talking about Christmas. I'm okay with you not saying "Merry Christmas" if you don't celebrate Christmas and I hope you are okay with me saying it with joy and happiness.


Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Diet Coke is Evil

Sunday night, we gathered for a belated birthday party for my sister-in-law. My side of the family had just spent 3 hours prepping my dad's house for his homecoming next week and I was worn out. I decided to have a Diet Coke with my slices of pizza even though I don't really like Diet Coke and try to avoid diet sodas in general. I'd rather have a regular soda once in a while than a diet soda daily. Real sugar beats processed sugar.

Diet sodas tend to leave me feeling a little shaky but I didn't have any side effects Sunday night. So I grabbed another soda for the road but waited until Monday at lunch time to drink it. I even watered it down by pouring it over ice. This was at about 1:30.

As I left work for the day and made my way to visit my dad, I started to get very agitated. On edge. Anxious. I started listening to a funny podcast to distract me but that didn't work. I had a long drive ahead of me but no traffic that made me angry. I decided it was that Diet Coke, the second in 20 hours, that left me with those horrible feelings. I stopped to get some water and drank as much as I could, hoping it would "wash" out the soda and calm me down but it didn't work. It took another couple of hours for the feelings to completely go away. In fact, as I was driving through a hilly, windy residential section last night, I felt nearly intoxicated. It was scary!

I know soda is bad and I know diet soda is even worse. Sure, no calories sounds good but the artificial sweeteners are REALLY BAD. Anything that gives you anxiety like I had should not be ingested. I wonder if people who drink a lot of diet soda just become immune to these side effects?

I just googled "diet soda and anxiety" and found this article on Livestrong.com. I can say with honesty that when I drink a Diet Pepsi, I don't experience the same effects. But I think I have learned my lesson and will stick with water from now on.