Re-Thinking Holiday Survival

25 November 2013

Now that the holidays are upon us, I'm sure you've seen an article or two offering tips on how to "survive the holidays." The advice ranges from how to field awkward questions (about your love life, about your plans for family, etc.) to how to deal with poorly behaving children. Almost all of these types of articles that I've seen are selling from the standpoint "holidays are stressful, so be prepared."

I'd like to offer a twist. Are you ready for this? It involves something that you have complete control over: your mindset. So what is it I suggest?

Flip the script.

Instead of looking at holiday gatherings as something to "get through," look for the ways you will enjoy yourself. 

Often times, stress is created when stress is anticipated. If you tell yourself that Thanksgiving is going to be stressful because the whole family will be there with Aunt Martha forcing green bean casserole on everyone while dad tells awkward jokes, then yes, it will be stressful and those things will grate on you, and you may in fact cause a stressful environment by bringing your negative energy to the table.

But what happens when you go in with a positive mindset?

Sure, Aunt Martha might still offer you some green bean casserole, but you'll see that she does so because she wants to share something she made with the people she loves. And yes, your dad will make some awkward jokes, but you can just laugh them off.

Let me tell you a little story. I must first preface by saying that I have social anxiety, so gatherings of more than 3-4 people can make me very nervous, and are sometimes over-stimulating. One day last Spring, I was on my way to a walking Meetup that I had organized, and when I checked my phone to see how many women had signed up, there were 20. 20 women signed up to go walking that morning. I went into panic mode straight-away. I couldn't handle meeting with 20 women that I did not know! And then I stopped myself and said, no, that does not have to be true. So I arrived for my Meetup, and only about 15 women showed. I greeted everyone with a smile, and we all introduced ourselves, and I had a wonderful time. If I had gone in with my original negative mind-frame, I'm sure I would have been much more shy, and looked for things I did not like about people. Instead, I rocked it and met some really cool people.

I learned a valuable lesson from that experience, one that has helped me when I stress out over future events. Anticipating stressful social situations creates stressful social situations. Go in with no expectations, but looking for the good, and you just might enjoy yourself. That's what I intend to do this year.

Have you ever experienced a mind-shift like this? How do you intend to enjoy the holidays? I'd love to hear from you in the comments below!

Go Play

19 November 2013

How often do you play? Do you ever set aside your to-do list and do something just for fun?

Before moving in with my sister and her family, I never gave this much thought. But oh, what a change of perspective and an opening of eyes comes with living with a toddler.

Fox loves to play, and most of the time, he likes to play "railroad." He'll pull out his Thomas trains and steer them around. Sometimes he likes to play with a smartphone, especially the camera. Other times, he loves chasing my dog in circles.

Fox also likes to have company when he plays, and I've taken to indulging him. I need play time as much as he does. And this is where the magic lies.

When I first started this blog, my daily routine was work, workout, come home and blog, go to bed. Part of why I have changed my blogging pace is to make room for unplanned play time. And it has been incredibly beneficial to my well-being.

During play time, I am forced to be absolutely present. There is no work, no chores, no bills, no blog. Just play. And joy. When all is removed, I am free to laugh and enjoy a simple moment.

So I want to urge you, my readers, to carve out some time in your day. You need this. Make plans to just do something fun that has no purpose, no end goal. If you have a dog, play ball with her, or rub her belly for a bit. If you have a child in your life, get on their level and play with them. If you have neither of these things, do whatever play means to you. Experiment with making homemade body butter, color in a coloring book, do a puzzle, write a limerick. 

Whatever you choose, let yourself be in the moment. Everything else will come later and will be taken care of in its time. But for just 20 minutes, give yourself a break, and go play.

Sisters, Sisters

If you did not hear the voice of Rosemary Clooney singing the title line of this post, then you are dead to me (I kid). White Christmas is a classic that my sister and I enjoy watching every year during the Christmas season. Every time we watch it, my dad proclaims how my sister looks like Ms. Clooney with her big blue eyes. And my sister and I talk about procuring gigantic feathered fans and putting on a re-enactment of this scene.

But really, today I am talking about my sister. Why? Because today marks 27 years since she came into my life. I remember that fateful night for two reasons- there was snow, and I wanted a Kit-Kat. I still want a Kit-Kat.

I don't know who I'd be without my sister. I used to joke about her being brought here by aliens, and there were many years where she was alien to me (she did not like playing Barbies nearly as much as I did, and it pained me). But really, having a sister is like having a built-in friend-for-life.

As someone who has moved around a bit, especially during my younger years, I don't have any childhood friends who I am still friends with. My sister is my constant, the one who knows what I was like when I was younger, who remembers my awkward years, my fat years. Most of my friends now only know the polished gem, not the gray and jagged rock that once was. But my sister has, and through the years, our relationship has only improved.

So today I am dedicating my post to the "Wind Beneath My Wings." The girl (now woman, but that one is still hard to accept) who says what she means, whether a person wants to hear it or not. The girl who sticks up for herself, even if that means stepping on some toes. To my karaoke cohort, the Elton John to my George Michael, my "Private Dancer" (inside joke), the Hall to my Oates: Happy Birthday!


17 November 2013
As I said in my last post, I was in Pennsylvania last weekend for family. When we weren't visiting with the relatives, we did some exploring of historic sites with ties to the birth of America. Below are some snapshots taken at the Brandywine Battlefield and in Philadelphia. Let freedom ring.

George Washington's Headquarters at the Brandywine Battlefield

Constitution Tree

Independence Hall

Benjamin Franklin Court

First National Bank

Franklin's Grave- "A penny saved is a penny earned."

I always feel like cemeteries are buzzing with inspiration.

Just FYI, in case you needed your hat trimmed.

Liberty Bell, the most vibrant gold tree,  and an old post office


11 November 2013
If you follow me on Instagram, you might have picked out that I was in Pennsylvania this past weekend. What you might not have known, was the reason for my trip: my grandfather's 80th birthday celebration. All of his children and some of his grandchildren gathered to celebrate with a party. What you also might not know is that my grandfather has Alzheimer's.

Grandpa and Aunt Becky looking at the album my grandmother had compiled for their 50th anniversary.

It had been over 7 years since I last saw my grandfather, before Alzheimer's had taken hold in his brain. The last time I saw him, he was watching his wife battle cancer. Back then, he had spunk and was adamant about what the U.S. should do about Iraq (nuke it).

Let me tell you, seeing my grandfather now is like seeing a skeleton of a man who lived long ago. He had no recollection of who I was and I mostly received blank stares from him. I had been forewarned as to the extent of his memory loss, but nothing is ever really real until you see it for yourself. And when it's real, it's like taking a cannonball to the stomach, that's how hard it hits you.

Dad being duped out of $5.

At first, it was incredibly hard to take. He is not the man I knew. He's not the man who offered Snickers bars to me and my siblings when we visited the Cleveland Zoo. He's not the man with strong political opinions. He's not the man who was so proud of his granddaughter when she studied abroad and sent postcards from all of her travels.

Grandpa dancing with Aunt Becky to What a Wonderful World

Once I got past the initial shock of what Alzheimer's is doing to my grandfather, I was able to enjoy my time with him. Because, and it's funny, Alzheimer's is a disease that forces you to live in the moment. There is no past, there is not future. There is only now. Everything you know about a person is out the window.

Grandpa with his four children

So who is my grandfather now? He is a man who loves listening to live music- he is the one who sings and dances along (and he has a nice, booming voice). He is a man with a sense of humor, telling (false) stories about his past. My favorite is the story he told (repeatedly) about one of his Great Danes eating the sandwich right out of the mailman's hand. 

Me with my sister and brother. We did not plan to match each other.

And then there are the strange things he now believes. By his telling, he worked in the Pentagon when it was bombed, and this was during World War II when bombs were dropping everywhere. He believes he worked with Oliver North, and had a cat named after him. He now proclaims to be Catholic and crosses himself often (had and my grandmother attended the Church of the Brethren for decades after leaving the Catholic Church). And, sadly, my grandfather believes that my father is his brother, a brother he never had.

But seeing how happy my grandfather is when he introduces his brother, well, you can't deny a man that. And that is what I took away from this weekend. Seeing my grandfather smile, seeing him tear up because of how blessed he felt to have so many people there to celebrate his life, that is what counts. 

Be Bold

07 November 2013

Today, my friends, I would like to urge you to be bold. This was my motto for myself two years ago, but in reality, I should make it my every day motto for life. Because you only get one shot at this life, so you might as well be bold with it.

So when choosing between a gray or a red sweater, choose the red.

When given the choice between plain or sprinkles, choose sprinkles! Always choose sprinkles.

When greeting a friend, go for a big squeeze instead of a light hug.

If you're singing along to a song (and you should), sing it loud for all to hear!

When choosing a Halloween costume, go for the unexpected (Liza Minelli) instead of a typical cat/witch/maid/nurse.

Look for opportunities every day where you can choose to be bold. I guarantee, once you get started, you will be well on your way to being a force to be reckoned with.

If you knew that your life was merely a phase or short, short segment of your entire existence, how would you live? Knowing nothing 'real' was at risk, what would you do? You'd live a gigantic, bold, fun, dazzling life. You know you would. That's what the ghosts want us to do - all the exciting things they no longer can. -Chuck Palahniuk

Stand upright, speak thy thoughts, declare The truth thou hast, that all may share; Be bold, proclaim it everywhere: They only live who dare. -Voltaire

How have you chosen to be bold lately? I'd love to hear from you in the comments below!
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