What Are You Thankful For?

Tomorrow is Thanksgiving. Usually at dinner, people often take turns saying what he or she is thankful for.

This year, I decided to participate in the 30 Days of Gratitude project. Being a part of this project has left me pleasantly surprised. Each day reaffirms that there are so many reasons to be thankful! I hope you’ll let me know what you’re thankful for. Happy Thanksgiving!

30 Days of Gratitude (through November 21)

Day 1: I am so grateful for my husband, Lee. Never have I met a more loving, caring, supportive individual. Not a day goes by that I don’t say “thank you” to the Universe for bringing him into my life. I am truly blessed.

Day 2: I am grateful for Facebook. I have reconnected with a lot of friends who I haven’t seen or talked to for years (hello, Penfield and CCHS!). Facebook has given me the pleasure of reconnecting with my mom’s side of the family (All Hail the Romaines!). Even though we live miles away from one another, I feel closer to you than ever. I miss you all so much.

Day 3: I am grateful for comedians. I worship them. I listen to their podcasts. I try to go see them perform as much as possible. Because no matter what my problems are, no matter how anxious I feel, comedians provide me with a diversion. I thrive on laughter, and I am grateful because they make me laugh.

Day 4: I am grateful for lazy days. Other than taking Blue to the vet this morning (she’s in excellent health, yay!), I did nothing. And it was wonderful. 🙂

Day 5: I am grateful for organizations such as Austin Pets Alive that save worthwhile animals who would otherwise be euthanized because of overcrowding. If it wasn’t for APA!, we wouldn’t have met Blue or Buddy, who are wonderful companions.

Day 6: I am grateful for the freedom to choose. I voted last week, and to be able to exercise my right as a citizen and choose who I think is the best person for the job made me feel powerful.

Day 7: I am grateful for curiosity and the way it nudges me to try something new. Because of curiosity, I’ve volunteered at a wildlife sanctuary, ushered at an ice-skating competition, and learned to knit and spin my own yarn.

Day 8: I am grateful for knitting. It satisfies both sides of my brain. My left side loves following the patterns and seeing how every stitch fits together like a puzzle. The right side is enamored with the colors and textures of the yarn. And in the end, I have something tangible. What a wonderful outcome!

Day 9: I am grateful for Bob Ross. Trees and clouds look a whole lot different to me because of him.

Day 10: I am grateful for antidepressants. Before I started taking them in 2000, I couldn’t drive more than 5 miles from my apartment. Three weeks later, I was able to drive three hours to Dallas. I’m not always on an even keel, but they have definitely changed my life for the better.

Day 11: I am thankful for my cousin Scott, and all the men and women who have fought for our country. I salute you!

Day 12: I am grateful for sleep and the restoration I feel after some worthwhile shut-eye.

Day 13: I am grateful for cold weather so I can wear my handknit hat and scarf!

Day 14: I am grateful to be able to work from home most days and walk our dogs at lunch. Buddy, in particular, is serious about his walks.

Day 15: I am grateful for flexibility. I believe that being flexible is one of the keys to a happy life. I always try to have a Plan A and a Plan B, so that if something comes up, I’m not stressed out about it. It has definitely helped me in many situations.

Day 16: I am grateful for my mom. She’s always been supportive of me, she’s fun to hang out with, and she is very generous. If it wasn’t for her, I would not have been able to try freelancing. Thank you, Mom, for everything. I love you!

Day 17: I am grateful for the technology in my car that reminds me when it needs to be serviced. It even lets me know what should be done! So today, the Fit and I are going to Sears to get its oil changed and tires rotated. Thank you, Fit!

Day 18: I am grateful for books. While I’m happy to have a Nook, there’s nothing like the real thing. The *swish* when turning a page and the *crack* of a book’s spine. The intoxicating aroma of fresh ink on paper. Books are the perfect companion on any day.

Day 19: I am grateful to be an aunt. My ex-husband was also an only child, so I didn’t know what I was missing. I love my nieces and nephew. They are smart, funny, and talented. And they live in Austin! Hearing them call me “Aunt Merrie” truly brightens my day.

Day 20: I am grateful to be alive. Yes, there are bouts of depression and anxiety. But I truly have a great life and am glad that I am able to experience with all my senses everything life has to offer.

Day 21: I am grateful for recipes that have been passed down from parents and grandparents. Not only are the baked goods delicious, my mind is flooded with wonderful memories of making them with my family and friends.

 

Thanksgiving Anticipation

So technically I’m late and I missed a day, but I’m going to say that my clock is a little fast and it’s still November 20, dang it!

I’m having anticipatory anxiety. Big time. About Thanksgiving.

One reason I’ve already talked about: Dad.

The other is that we’re going to my aunt and uncle’s house, and I haven’t really spoken with them in four years.

When Lee and I decided to get married and were making up the guest list, it was easy to invite all of his family because they’re so close (physically and emotionally). My side of the family is a bit more complicated.

The majority of my family lives on the west coast. My dad and stepmother live in Holland, and because they had come to visit for Thanksgiving four years ago, they weren’t going to be able to come in for the wedding on New Year’s Eve.

But Dad asked me if I would invite his sister and brother-in-law to the wedding to stand in for him.

I didn’t.

I can’t say that it’s Mom’s fault. It’s not. Ultimately it was my decision to say no.

My grandmother, Precious I called her, my dad’s mom, passed away in October 2007. She died with my mom by her side.

Before that, she was in a nursing home in Dallas. She had dementia and couldn’t live on her own anymore. With her son living across the pond, and her daughter moving to another state for a job opportunity, my mom volunteered to have my grandmother moved to a place in Houston.

This is what I know. I know that Mom visited Precious several times a week. I know that she brought my grandmother her favorite foods and fed them to her. That she put moisturizer on my grandmother’s face and hands and lip balm on her lips. I know that, even though they didn’t speak for a long while after my parents divorced, that they both loved each other very much and were happy to be in each other’s lives.

I know my mom tried her hardest to advocate for my grandmother. I know that she gave my dad and aunt updates on Precious’s condition. I know she was frustrated with the nursing home.

I don’t exactly know what happened that caused Dad and my aunt to decide to no longer include my mom in family decisions. But I know Mom was deeply hurt. I don’t know if Dad told her why the decision was made. All I know is that my mom wouldn’t go to the funeral.

And she never wanted to talk to or see my dad or aunt again.

I sent my aunt and uncle an announcement. Maybe I should’ve explained my reasoning for not inviting them, but I felt like I wasn’t doing anything wrong. Yes, they are family. But ultimately, the day was supposed to be about Lee and me, wasn’t it?

I didn’t hear anything about it until my dad contacted me and told me that my aunt was upset. That I should contact her. What got to me was that she didn’t contact me directly. Maybe she felt she couldn’t. Whatever the case may be, it has been a battle between me and Dad for almost four years.

Dad told me a couple of months ago that he and my stepmother were going to be in Austin for Thanksgiving and they would be staying with my aunt and uncle. And that my aunt would be happy if Lee and I came to dinner. Initially he said that he would let her know that I would like to be there, but I told Dad I would call her. We had a nice chat.

I may be having anticipatory anxiety for nothing, but I’m afraid of what I will say if they ask. I’m afraid of the disappointing stares. Of us all acting one way when we’re thinking something else.

I just want to spend time with my family. Is that so much to ask?

Hard Work Pays Off

For many years, I’ve wondered what it would be like to freelance. I don’t necessarily mind working in an office environment, but the thought of being able to work from home, especially on days where I felt particularly anxious or depressed, appealed to me. I know many people who have been able to make ends meet, and while everyone has told me that it’s hard work, most have said that they wouldn’t trade freelancing back for working 9 to 5.

In the beginning, I didn’t think it would be possible. The only way I would be able to make it work is if I won the lottery, or had saved enough to live on for the months that I didn’t have money coming in. Well, I never won the lottery (because I don’t play) and my salary, combined with Lee’s, was enough to build a bit of a cushion, but not much.

If it hadn’t been for my parents’ help, I don’t think I could have taken that leap.

I received my first assignment toward the end of August. I knew that it would take a while, and I would have to work a lot of odd hours and weekends before I would see the fruits of my labor. There have been some days, just a few, where I wondered if I made the right choice.

Well, today, my decision has been reaffirmed. Today, I received my first check for freelance work.

I can’t tell you how excited I am. Well, actually, yes I can. I ran into the house yelling, “I got paid!” (The dogs looked at me like I was crazy.)

I know it may be some time before I see another check, but I’m just grateful that I finally have something to show for the work I’ve done.

I may not have won the lottery, but I feel like a million dollars!

 

Eating Mindfully

I did a little Christmas shopping today. Since my dad lives in Holland, and shipping is expensive, I decided to bring him and my stepmother a gift when we see them on Thursday. And then I thought, why not bring my aunt and uncle a gift as well?

For my dad and stepmother, Lee and I bought some of his sister’s art. Aimi‘s style is different from Lee’s, but she is just as talented. For my aunt and uncle, I went to Barnes & Noble and bought Underwater Dogs.

While I was at the bookstore, I decided to look for a book on crochet. I didn’t really find anything I liked, so I moved on.

The self-help section is located next to the hobbies section, and since I have been pretty anxious lately, I decided to browse the titles. But it wasn’t the books on anxiety that I was drawn to.

I ended up buying a book about emotional eating.

I have a hard time explaining why I make the food choices I do. The thing is, I want to lose weight. I want to be healthy. But I struggle with my relationship with food.

I didn’t think I could have a relationship with food, but I do. I use food as a reward (Yay, I met my deadline!), as comfort (I am upset so I deserve some macaroni and cheese.), and as something to fill the void, like when I mindlessly eat at my desk while I’m working.

I’m not exactly sure when this relationship started. But it really doesn’t matter. What matters is that I’ve mindlessly eaten my way to being at least 60 pounds overweight.

I go through a cycle where I’ve eaten too much junk food and feel horrible, so I become determined to eat better and exercise. That lasts for a few weeks. During that time I say that I’ll let myself have soda or some other food that I’ve denied myself if I stay on the healthful path that week.

Pretty soon, once a week becomes twice a week, and then the temptation is so strong and I give in.

I’m not happy about it. I hate it. And I’m not looking forward to seeing the look on my dad’s face when he sees how much I’ve gained since we last saw each other.

That’s why I’ve been emotionally eating for the past couple of weeks, but what about the rest of the time?

Whatever the reason, I want it to stop. But I don’t know how to keep me from sabotaging myself. And, to tell you the truth, I didn’t realize that what I was doing was emotional eating until a book stopped me in my tracks.

It’s called Eating Mindfully. I’ve read only a few pages, and haven’t gotten to any of the exercises, but I’m hoping it will help me “end mindless eating and enjoy a balanced relationship with food.”

And hopefully it will help my anxiety and depression as well.

I tell people that I live in the present, because thinking about the future overwhelms me. But I really don’t. I dwell on the past and worry about the future. I try to capture moments, like the beautiful weather today. But for the most part, I was thinking that I was starving and once I’m done with all my shopping I’m going to get some Arby’s.

I’ve been saying for a long time that “I’m doing the best I can.” But I really do need help, and I hope this book has some of the answers I’m looking for.

The Creativity Gene

I like to think that I get my creativity from my mom.

When I was little, she sewed my clothes and Halloween costumes. She decorated our house. She loved to paint.

She knows how to transform ordinary objects into art. With a little sanding and some paint, she once turned a tree stump into a plant stand that looked like a pair of denim jeans. She’s taken the orange parts of printer cartridges and arranged them to make faces.

She created all the bouquets and other flower arrangements for our wedding. Her eye for color and patterns added so much beauty to a spectacular evening.

Mom’s beautiful flowers around our wedding cake

She still dabbles in flower arranging, but her passion these days is directed more toward paper crafts. And ribbon. Spools and spools of ribbon. She might be able to construct a life-size mummy with all the ribbon she has.

Not to say that she doesn’t use any of it. She does. For the most part, she uses them for hats.

My party hat

Birthday hats, to be specific. They’re centerpieces for tables. I love the one she made for me. And it’s not just the different kinds of ribbon that she used, it’s also because of all the personal touches she added to fit me. She’s made several of them, and each one is just as colorful and happy as the next.

When I think of all the time she put into each and every detail, I’m inspired to do some creating of my own. And, hopefully, make something just as wonderful as she has.

November 16

When I sat down to write this post, I didn’t have a clue what the topic would be. I even looked at the writing prompt today to have a jumping off point. But then I saw the date. November 16.

On November 16, 1985, my mom and I were on a plane, heading back home to Houston from Rochester, New York. We had lived near Rochester, in a town called Penfield, for a little over a year.

A month or so before, Dad had come home late from work. I remember him talking to Mom, telling her the reason that he had been out was because he had gone sailing. And then he told her he wanted to divorce.

Then Dad was sleeping on the couch, then Mom and Dad were arguing, then Dad moved out, then there were the boxes. So many boxes.

I’ll never forget the day we flew to Houston. On one hand, I was excited to be going back to school with friends I hadn’t seen in a while. On the other, I was going to miss the friends I had made in the short time I had been in NY.

I was very upset to be moving away from my dad.

I was 12.

I am now almost 40, and while I don’t usually dwell on the moments leading up to my parents’ split, this year it’s hit me pretty hard.

I think part of it is that I will see my dad, for the first time in about a year, on Thanksgiving. A year that has been rocky, and has tested our relationship as well.

But I’m looking forward to seeing him, giving him a hug, and telling him I love him.

Dad and me on the London Eye

Because I do. No matter what date it is.

Crochet Away!

Ever since I learned to knit, I’ve been comforted with hearing the clicks of the needles with each stitch. And even though I basically just held the left needle while I knit with the right, I still felt like both hands were occupied. (I don’t know if only one idle hand would still do the devil’s work, but I don’t want to take any chances.)

I’ve tried to crochet before, but I never got the hang of it.

There’s only one hook? I hold the yarn with my left hand? What kind of a crazy world is this?

And…there’s no sound! Crochet is silent! My mind will wander and I’ll start to get anxious!

But I was still intrigued. So, on Sunday I took a class at Gauge called “Crochet for Knitters.” The first part of the lesson was spent learning the basic stitches, and the second was practicing those stitches to make a granny square.

I crocheted a couple of rounds, but when I got home I was still befuddled.

It looks like a circle now. Why do they call it a “granny SQUARE”? A ch 3 equals a DC, so I only have to crochet 2 DC at the beginning of a round…what?

I kept practicing. I reread the instructions. I watched videos. (Thanks for the recommendations, Staci!)

And then, this happened:

I did it! They’re not perfect, but they’re squares. Beautiful squares. Four corners of yarn-y goodness.

The conditions were perfect. The soft yarn and complementary colors made me want to crochet one more. Then one more. You get the picture.

And you know what else I realized? There is sound in crochet! It’s not as present as when two needles meet, but it’s there.

It’s a whisper. As yarn is pulled through loop.

Music to my ears.

Previous Older Entries Next Newer Entries