A Christmas Top 5 Friday

1. What gift do you hope to get this Christmas?  I’d like to get some new books – I’m in a reading mood!

2. What gift are you excited to give this Christmas?  I’m giving my daughter a trip to Toronto to see the National Ballet of Canada’s performance of The Nutcracker!

3. Will you go to church on Christmas Eve, Christmas Day, or both? We generally go to Mass on Christmas Eve – either just after dinner or Midnight Mass.

4. What’s your favorite family tradition on Christmas Day?  We haven’t had a ton of family around  in recent years but when we did, Christmas Day was always the Gagen family cutthroat Scrabble tournament!  Now it’s generally the day we go to see a movie – this year, Sherlock Holmes 2.

5. Does your family open gifts on Christmas Eve?  Yes we do.  I grew up with that tradition.  We would have dinner and then go to church.  On the way home from church, we’d take the long way, looking at all the Christmas lights and by the time we got home, Santa had been there.  For my own daughter, she has always had the option of picking whether to open them on Christmas Eve or Day.  She usually chooses Eve but she wanted to experience the whole waking up to the presents thing at least a few times.  I always told her that she was special and so she was always given place of honour on Santa’s tour – either as his very first delivery or his very last.

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Wishcasting Wednesday: What do You Wish to Celebrate?

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Flickr, derekGavey

My daughter is 23 and likely will not be living at home again.  Of course she’ll be here to visit for Christmases but still, she’s on her way to forming her own family and her own way in the world.  I’m happy and proud for her but still, it’s bittersweet.  So, I wish to celebrate one last Christmas of her living here…of her being my baby.  I want to make this Christmas extra special – not going nutty by trying to do so much that I’m stressed and frazzled because that kind of defeats the purpose.  I just want us to have some mother-daughter bonding time, building some memories that I’m sure both of us will keep in our hearts for a very long time.  I have some special things planned but on the off chance that she might read this, I’ll have to keep them a secret for now.

Wishcasting Wednesday: Whom Do You Wish to Have Tea With?

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Hmmmm, there are so many people (living and dead) I could happily choose but really, I’ll choose the people who have been most on my mind lately and whom I’m missing very much.  I’ll choose my family – particularly the ones who live far from me in Arkansas and Tennessee since I see them so rarely:  my mom, my sister, her husband, my two nieces, and my niece’s husband.  (How I wish my dear dad and my nephew could be there too but alas, that won’t happen until I get to heaven.)  Surely, we can work out a visit soon and be with each other again!

Check out other’s’ participating in Wishcasting Wednesday here:

http://jamieridlerstudios.ca/wishcasting-wednesday-tea

30 Days Hath November: Day 8: The Last Item I Purchased

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I have been waiting and waiting to purchase this.  It’s a bit pricey (not that it’s not worth it to me) so I made myself wait.  I promised myself that when my first pay cheque came in from the design team I’m on, I would treat myself to this.  A brief time after John F. Kennedy was assassinated, his widow Jackie and his brother Robert embarked on an oral history project to record their first hand accounts of life with JFK.  Although Jackie spent the rest of her life refusing to discuss those times, she did sit down with Arthur Schlesinger Jr. a few months after JFK’s death to record her memories.  Upon completion, the tapes were sealed, not to be opened for many many years to come.  Caroline Kennedy and her family agreed to release the tapes to the public for the very first time in commemoration of the 50th anniversary of JFK’s inauguration.  As a political science major and a history buff I cannot wait to dig into these interviews!

30 Days Hath November: Day 7: A Song for the Day

I’ve been facing a lot of challenges and stress lately and through it all, I’ve been trying very hard to stay optimistic.  This is one of the songs that resonates with me at times like that.  It’s one that reminds me to believe in myself, to trust in my abilities, and to have faith in the future.

30 Days Hath November: Day 6: A Book I’m Reading

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I’m a huge Hemingway fan and so when I saw this book about his first marriage to Hadley, I just had to read it.  A fictionalized account, told through Hadley’s voice, it is one of a great romance faced with great challenges, all taking place in the background of 1920s Chicago, Toronto, and Paris.  It’s not surprising to me that author Paula McLain was first a poet as there is a lyrical nature to this book and the poignant story it tells.  The book is based on letters and biographies but McLain’s description of these events is truly mesmerizing.  She draws me in and sometimes I almost feel like I’m spying on private moments between Ernest and Hadley.  I’m fascinated with these characters and there’s a part of me who wishes I had been there to witness parts of these events in person.  I’m reading this in conjunction with A Moveable Feast, also about Hemingway’s time in Paris and an account from his standpoint of his love for Hadley.  It makes for an interesting contrast to see it from these various perspectives.

30 Days Hath November: Day 5: Three Years Ago Today

I’m not sure that I could say with any accuracy specifically what I was doing three years ago today but  I can paint a general picture of my life at the time, I suppose.  My daughter was away, having just begun her first year of university.  I was excited for her but missed her terribly and it was hard to get used to not having her around all the time anymore.  She was allowed to have overnight guests in her dorm room for a few days each month so I was going to stay with her as often as I could.  It was wonderful to see her so incredibly happy and thriving there!

My boyfriend, now my ex, was away a lot working and even when he was home, it was becoming clear that things weren’t all sunshine and roses in our relationship.  It was definitely the beginning of the end.  We still had some really happy moments, but much of our time was spent apart; reflecting on it now, I’d say we were avoiding each other quite a bit.  The tension in the air was palpable.

We had a “friend” living with us.  I use the term lightly because she really was NOT my friend.  She was his friend whom he invited to come and stay with us (without asking me, by the way)  because she had ended her own relationship and now had nowhere to live.  She was supposed to be with us for a month while getting herself situated in town and finding a place of her own.  By this date, three years ago, she had been with us for over a year and my patience was wearing extremely thin.  I won’t go into details about all the many annoyances of having her live with us but I was quite ill at the time and her presence with us was supposed to also help us out with extra money coming in and with an extra pair of hands to help me out.  Let’s just say that having her here cost us more money and was more work than it had been prior to her arrival.

Because of my health back then, I spent the majority of my time on bed-rest.  There wasn’t a lot that I could do – some reading, watching tv, a bit of artwork on occasion, and a lot of daydreaming of what I would do if and when my health improved.  Don’t get me wrong – I wasn’t sitting around depressed and miserable.  I’m too much of an eternal optimist for that.  But my world was smaller and more limited than it is now.

Not wanting to leave this on what sounds like a negative note, let me just contrast that to my life today.  My boyfriend and I have broken up and I’m very happy and at peace about that.  We weren’t right together and on reflection, I can see that we never were.  We had much different goals and attitudes towards life.  On my worst days, I’m pretty much a glass half full kind of girl – generally I see my glass as full and overflowing.  On his best days, he sees the glass as half empty and on his worst, I’m not sure he even sees the glass at all.  We’re much better off apart.

My daughter is thriving at university – things are even better than in first year for her.  She has changed majors and I think she’s really pursuing her passion now.  She has a long-term boyfriend who treats her like a queen and will likely be a part of our family one day (and I’ll be thrilled about it!).  Our “friend” is clearly long gone and most of the time I live alone – alone except for the three cats and my constant companion, our dog Trinity.  I still miss my daughter but I’ve found my way as an “empty nester”.

Whereas that first year there may have been a few times when I felt sorry for myself, now I have embraced my alone time and have used it to pursue my own interests and spread my wings a bit.  My health isn’t perfect and likely never will be, but it’s much better than it was and with pacing, I’m able to lead a life beyond bed-rest.  I create artwork and blog (I have several blogs) pretty much on a daily basis and I really love both.  I even have my own online channel and do weekly webtv arts and crafts shows.  I took the training and have become a Community Food Advisor, doing volunteer work in the community.   I have joined a women’s social group and go out to events around town with them on a regular basis.

Now that I’m, for the most part, living on my own, I’m working towards decorating the house my own way and in my own style and it’s becoming a reflection of me.  It’s a place I enjoy coming home to, where I feel safe and comfortable.  Life is good and I’ve got big plans for the future.