Holiday Series Take 1

I sat in the straight backed, hard wooden pew of the Cathedral and inhaled deeply through my nose so that I could smell the  incense of the Catholic Church. It’s a scent that is familiar to all Catholics and one that I find comforting each time I enter the church. I quietly observed the beauty of this place, my eyes often shifting focus between the cement walls, the large cross in the center of the alter and the lights hanging from the ceiling. I wasn’t here for a Catholic Mass though. 

The audience was silent. Applause were forbidden until intermission. I remained in stillness, thankful to be cut off from the outside world for two hours. One by one the songs were played, each performed by different musicians and conductors who added their own magical touch. Chorus, brass, brass, brass, organs, bagpipes, percussion and a popular high school steel drum band. The music entered my ears, made my body tingle, filled my heart and touched my soul. It was so beautiful and spiritually moving it was almost hypnotic.

For years of my adult life, I find myself feeling grumpy during the weeks between Thanksgiving and Christmas. Year after year the frustration of shopping, rushing, traffic, retail stores being open on Thanksgiving builds and brings me down because the birth of Jesus Christ in our society is lost to greed. Yes, we exchange Christmas gifts with our family. Yes there was a Santa Claus that came to our house when our kids were little. No, my husband and I do not go over board showering our little darlings with every toy and electronic device their little hearts desire. They get a few things and randomly every few years they get surprised with a Red Ryder Bee Bee Gun type of gift because they are deserving. Before any gift exchange occurs in our home on Christmas morning, the true meaning of Christmas, the birth of our Lord Jesus Christ is observed and reflected upon.

So how do pull myself out of my pre-holiday funks? I look forward to a series of yearly festive rituals that make me feel good and fill me with holiday cheer. It began in December 2012, when my son was a freshman in high school. With his trombone held high in the air, I saw him march in his first holiday parade with his high school marching band as they escorted Santa Claus in. I wasn’t interested in seeing Santa that day, it was the sight of my son marching and playing holiday music that moved me. Miraculously I captured a perfect image of him marching by us. My son is now a young man who is seven inches taller than that kid in the picture and a freshman in college but that image remains with me on the home screen of my phone as a reminder and since that first parade, my list of yearly holiday rituals has grown.

The concert I attended last night, for a second year in a row was The 13th Annual Holiday Brass Concert, and it has officially begun my holiday season rituals. This post is the first in my Holiday Series. It is my hope that my readers who share similar holiday funks will be inspired by this and find their own rituals that give them a reason to exist during the holiday season.

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#OptOutside

The sound of passing cars slowly fades as I put one foot in front of the other and settle into my hike. My head moves from side to side as I observe my surroundings. Fallen branches, dry leaves of all colors on the ground, bare trees , the faint smell of pine needles, and the sound of my boots hitting the dirt. I am so thankful to be here. It has been 37 days since I last entered these woods and although I’ve hiked this trail many times, each hike is different. I have to pay more attention to the trail because the leaves cover the path. The woods feel eerie today. The bare trees stand at attention in the absence of a breeze. The river is low and looks more like a pond than a river. The sky is gloomy gray  and there’s only 2 more hours of daylight left giving me the feeling of urgency and excitement to hike through these woods before dark.

My children’s Christmas lists are to my left as I type this. This is the same spot they place their lists each year. They are teenagers and no longer believe in Santa. I shop from their list and throw in a few surprise things too. Today is Black Friday. I don’t do malls on Black Friday not ever. I’d end up on the 6PM news with the headline of “Nurse went shit house crazy because the mall was too crowded and people were in her personal space”. With that said, I usually begin my online shopping on Black Friday and do at least 90% of my holiday shopping online.

I’ve had a busy fall and I’m finally starting to feel grounded again. In addition to the person who is making one aspect of my life hell, I attended 11 consecutive weekends of college and high school marching band events for my kids. I have no regrets and I am so very proud of my kids but constant motion without downtime on the weekends wears me out. Last Friday with the help of a committee, I executed a successful major fundraiser for the non profit organization that I volunteer for. Last Saturday my butt found the couch. I’ve managed to maintain my sanity through this long 12 weeks but barely. Today I decided to reclaim myself and my inner peace and strength. REI, the Outdoor Gear retail store that my husband and I frequent, remained closed today so their employees and customers could “Opt Outside” and spend the day outside instead of shopping or working. Instead of a day of online shopping, I went hiking.

Recently, I watched a National Geographic Documentary about when Long Distance Hiker Jennifer Pharr Davis hiked the Appalachian Trail in 46 days in 2011, setting a speed hiker record.  What resonated most for me was when she referred to hiking by stating, “There’s something very healing about the physical forward motion” and goes on to say “what makes hiking unique is the cadence and rhythm of moving through nature at two to three miles per hour, which is a pace at which you can really appreciate things. It gives you time and especially space to think, to process the big questions in life”.  In a nutshell that is why I hike and will continue to hike.

It is now 9PM. My belly is full and my legs and buns are sore, reminding me of the perfect hike I had today. I’m about to declare it “pajama time” and I just refused to go buy a refrigerator with my husband so it is doubtful I will get to any online Black Friday Shopping this evening. I don’t care. I opted out. I went hiking.

Breaking Free

I am a wild black stallion. I am wild and free. I am full of energy and life and I can not be tamed. I can not be broken. Right now, you have me trapped. You know that I am at your mercy. You speak to me with words that belittle me. You punish me. You are now playing mind games with me. You are cruel. Regardless of what you think, you will not tame me. You will not break me. You will not defeat me. What ever happens, I will use all of my strength to break free of the reins, of the hold that you have on me. I will charge at you and knock you to the ground. In the end, you will be the sorry one.

I can’t go into details but I am in a difficult situation in my personal life. The outcome of this situation is either going to inspire me, require me or force me to make a change in an aspect of my life I’ve known for over half of my life. There’s so many different ways this could go. It’s scary yet exciting. There is another person involved that has made this part of my life hell and left me feeling defeated, helpless and vulnerable. No matter how hard I try not to worry, or how many people reassure me that what I’m worried about won’t happen, I am still afraid. I can only pray that karma will find this person and burn them to the ground.

I will use this situation as an opportunity to allow one cycle of my life to end and another to begin. I will rise above the ashes. It is a change that I’ve been considering for some time. I’m scared of letting go of what I’ve known for over half of my life yet excited about what could be.