A lesson in Change Through a Trip to the Store

I have been in this store a million times in multiple states.  And the store has been the same wherever I went….well maybe there were a few small differences, nothing to really throw me off or make me notice them. 

There are quite a few of the stores near me that I can shop at, making it easier because I know if I can’t find it at one store, I will find it at another.  And I can stop in, no matter where I am going because there are so many to choose from.

So, this week I walked into a Target store near me that I hadn’t been to in a few months…. I stopped in my tracks when I walked through the doors.  Where was I?

Really??  Where were the electronics…. They were here near the door the last time I was here.  Ugh!

The ENTIRE store was changed.  I didn’t recognize it AT ALL!

REALLY??!!

Why rearrange the store?  Where did everything go?  I was on a mission with a time constraint and I couldn’t find anything…. Nothing was where it was supposed to be.  Seriously?? 

Change is inevitable.  I get that.  I used to spend all day rearranging the kitchen, or the living room, or the dining room, or my kids rooms, trying to get the rooms just right in the house where we were living at the moment, because I wanted it to feel like home, even though I knew we would be moving again.  I was freaking out, feeling lost and uncomfortable because NOTHING was where it was supposed to be…is that how my boys or my husband felt when they came home after one of my rearranging days?  I wanted to turn around and leave the store and not return until it was back the way it was used to be…. Did my kids and husband want to turn around and run from the house when I changed things?  Hmmmm…..

I was beginning to see how change affects me.  I have always had a difficult time with change.  Change was not always a good thing for me.  It didn’t always bring positive things to my life.  But some change did.  Still, change is uncomfortable.  I want to control the change in my life (thus my rearranging when I WANTED to). 

And well, I figure that after 30 years of standing beside my husband as he served our country in the Air Force, after ALL the moves, ALL the TDY’s (when my husband had to go away for training or other reasons also known as Temporary Duty for those not familiar with military lingo), and after the ALL the deployments, missed holidays, missed birthdays…. Well you get it…. After all the change that was required of us by the military and that was completely out of my control, I think I deserve a “change free” life for the rest of my life!

Yeah.  Like that is going to happen!

My trip to Target proves I will NEVER have a “change free” life. 

Shouldn’t each individual have an “out-of-our-control-change” quotient and once reached, then only change that we can control is allowed?  So, Target should have checked with me before they changed the store!  Shouldn’t they have known that only change I approve of and control is allowed for the rest of my life?

I guess they didn’t get the memo!

So, I cannot control change around me.  I cannot stop it from happening.  But I can control how I handle it.

Yes, it freaked me out to enter a store I did not recognize, when I should have.  But I have gone to new places and not known where things were and it didn’t make me want to run away.  So why did this completely throw me?  Because it was familiar before and now it wasn’t.  When the comfortable and known becomes the unknown it also becomes uncomfortable.  So, how do I make it more comfortable?  By pushing past the discomfort and moving on.  By trusting and taking a leap.

Change is inevitable.  It is going to happen whether or not I want it to.  It is going to happen whether or not I like it.  It is going to happen whether or not I control it.  And though change in my younger years was negative and brought about a lot of pain, NOT ALL change will be negative.  There is positive change in life.  And there is something that can be learned.  Something that can be taken from change that can help me grow as a person, even the negative change. 

Walking into my favorite store this week reminded me that stepping outside my comfort zone creates growth.  And showed me that if I just go with it, then it will soon become comfortable and familiar and it will make shopping their easier in the long run.

Maybe that was Targets plan all along! 

I finished my shopping trip, found everything I needed (though it took me MUCH LONGER than it should have), and my day was NOT ruined by this change.

I just need to take the leap and push through that discomfort, whatever it is, and growth will come!

(I still don’t like change, but I am learning to accept it and learn!)

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Beauty Found in the Desert- A Daily Reminder

To many who have never visited or lived in Arizona, the state conjures up images of the desert, where life is difficult, and water is scarce.  Dry.  Dusty.  Brown.  Dead.  Much like the deserts depicted in Old Western Movies. 

As a young girl growing up in the Pacific Northwest where everything was green and there was plenty of water, the desert did not seem desirable.  Or livable.  As a young girl, all I could picture was a brown, dry, harsh environment where life was difficult and not much survived.  Much like my own life felt….

And then I visited Arizona the summer after my mother’s death.  My dad, 2nd stepmom, her daughter, my sister and I took a road trip from Washington, traveling south through Nevada to Arizona and then back to Washington via Hwy 101 through California and Oregon.  It was a long trip in a very hot car with the windows rolled up and cigarette smoke swirling through the air.  Thankfully we did not spend long days on the road, that would have been hell!  Us three girl’s road in the back seat together and took turns being the one in the middle, because the unlucky one who sat in the middle ended up with the other two laying on her while they slept…..yes, a very long road trip. 

The BEST part of the entire trip was the drive through and the stops in Arizona….the usual stops like the Grand Canyon and Phoenix and then the unexpected stops to see ancient ruins, enjoy a lunch along Oak Creek and a night in my favorite spot, Sedona. 

It was my first time in the southwest and I loved all the things we did and the places we saw in Arizona.  As we drove along the highway I would stare out the window, the others sleeping beside me.  I was mesmerized by the rocks, the shapes they formed, the colors all so varied and unique.  And I felt I would miss the beauty and natural art if I fell asleep.  Next to the ocean, Arizona became a favorite place. 

But it was the RED that drew me in.  The red in the rocks that contrasted beautifully against the blue sky and green of the pine trees.  The red in the dirt that stained my feet as we walked along the trails.  And the red of the sunset, that fire in the sky. 

Yes, I fell in love with the southwest that summer and though I did not live there, my heart desired to be free, living among the red that permeates this state. 

Nine years later, my husband, our oldest son and I drove through Arizona, stopping at the Grand Canyon and other National Parks, as well as historic sites along Interstate 40, heading east….we were on our way to his first Air Force assignment in North Dakota.  Again, I felt the pull, the longing to be in the southwest, to let my heart sing amid the red. 

We did not return to Arizona for another 24 years and it was a road trip that brought us back here.  Just my husband and I.  And it was that road trip that changed my husbands view of the state that had long ago captured my heart.  He, like so many others, thought it was just a brown, dry and dusty environment.  And he loves his trees, all the green of the northwest, and his mountains.  We drove to the Grand Canyon and then south through Flagstaff to Sedona, just so I could show him what I loved here.  He was surprised by the forests of pine trees.  He enjoyed Oak Creek… yes, there is water in this dry state!  And he began to see what I saw.  Yes, this mesmerizing place was drawing him in, too. 

And to my surprise, when he retired from the Air Force a few years later, my husband chose Arizona as one of the states we could live in…. and then we moved here.  He was still thinking that the Phoenix area would be flat and dusty…. and he was pleasantly surprised to see mountains around the valley. 

But the desert is a harsh environment.  It is dry here.  There is not much water.  It is HOT in the summer!  And yes it is dusty.  A very harsh environment where it can be hard for life of any type to survive, let alone thrive. 

But life does thrive here.  There is beauty in the desert.  What once looked dead, thrives when it rains.  Plants and animals adapt… not just surviving but thriving in this harsh environment. 

Here in the desert, in one of the harshest and at times ugliest environments, beauty grows, beauty shines, and life can thrive. 

Every place has its own beauty.  And though I love and miss the Pacific Northwest, I know I was born to live in Arizona. 

I was born to live in a place where I am reminded that despite the difficult challenges, despite the harsh environment, despite the lack at times of the components necessary to live and to grow, there is still life.  There is beauty among the spines and beauty in the dusty arid climate.  We just have to look for it.

The desert reminds me that we too, can bloom.  It reminds me that even those of us who have grown up in the harshest of environments, in abuse and neglect can still thrive.  The desert shows me every day that even without all the things needed to thrive, and with the thorns and spines that a challenging and harsh life has us growing in order to survive, we can still bloom where we are planted.  We can still thrive.  Despite the ugliness of the harshest life, there is still beauty.

It does not matter where my life began.  The loss, the abandonment, the challenges, the abuse… none of that keeps me from growing, blooming and shining.  Just like the wondrous and amazing life in the desert.

There is so much beauty in the harshest climates.  And when we look beyond the brown, beyond the dust, past the thorns and spines, we can see the beauty all around. 

Out of the harshest of environments, beauty shines. 

The desert is proof of that!

I am proof of that! 

 

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Answering the Question-Where will I take this?

So. Many. Words.

So.  Many.  Thoughts.

Every day my mind is filled with words.  Words that I would like to share.  My thoughts about the world around me and the adventures I experience.  My thoughts about the little things that delight my heart and the difficult things that make me grow.  And thoughts about the state of our Mental Health and Judicial system.

I have spent the past couple of months trying to figure out where I want to take this blog.  And I have questioned just what I am doing here with this blog.  Lots of questions, yet no answers came, until this past couple of weeks.

Things have settled down in my life.  I am finding my footing.  The equilibrium is returning, and I feel like we are getting back to somewhat normal.

My son is doing well.  Getting help and finding his way through the challenges he faces.  It has been two years since his last arrest and there is light at the end of that very long tunnel.  Finally.

There are still challenges we face and that he faces.  Questions we are seeking the answers to.  How will he support himself?  Where will he move to when he finally has the means and the freedom to choose?  How can I keep working toward reform in our mental health system and in our judicial system?

We will get those answers.  And work through the challenges.  And I will continue to learn and grow in my life and look for ways to step outside my comfort zone.

So, back to the mess in my head…. Those words….. those thoughts.  And the question, where do I want to take this blog?  What do I want to focus on?

I want to continue to share our experiences as we continue this journey with mental health issues, addiction and the judicial system, because it is all a part of my life and I still believe reform needs to happen, stigma needs to change, and compassion needs to be found.  As I work through my advocacy I will share what I am learning and how things are changing.  But I also want to get back to why I originally started this blog.  I want to continue to take leaps…. Leaps of trust… leaps of faith and see where they take me.  So, I will be writing about the adventures my husband and I take, the things I learn as I step outside that comfort zone and how I grow as a person…all the reasons I started this blog.

So, I took a leap last week and stepped outside my comfort zone and started a second blog.  I know, what was I thinking?  This new blog (Perfectly Imperfect Journey) will focus solely on my weight loss and weight maintenance journey.  It will be for accountability for me.  And it is an extension of the weekly note I wrote and sent to the members who attended my meetings.  All my future healthy living, weight loss and exercise thoughts and experiences will now be found on my second blog which you can find here.

I must have lost my mind!  But the changes I have made in my personal and work life, have led me to here.  I have more time because I am focusing on taking care of me. And I eliminated some very unnecessary stress that was weighing me down.  Getting rid of the stress in my life, the stress that I could eliminate, was extremely freeing… and energizing!  All leaving me with more time to enjoy the moment… lunches with friends, hikes, walks, dinners out, reading books, writing, scrap-booking, organizing and so much more.

I am so excited to see where this life takes me and where both of my blogs take me…. The journeys, the lessons, the growth!

I hope you will continue to come along with me….

Circle of Inspiration

Yesterday morning I completed another 5k, the She Power 5k.

20190128_152212_hdr copyI had signed up for this 5k back in July 2018.  A while ago.  I had done this race in February and loved the race and the medal, so I knew I wanted to do it again.  And the medal this year was beautiful!  Who doesn’t want the bling from a race, isn’t that why we do it?  Well I also signed up with the intention that this was going to be a PR for me.  My fastest 5k race was in January 2009, 10 years ago.  I was 10 years younger and 20 lbs lighter and had trained for a couple of months.  6 months was plenty of time to get ready to make this 5k a Personal Best.  Sometimes the greatest intentions don’t always work out…..

I did not prepare for this race other than a couple of walks here and there and a 5k in November that told me I was REALLY out of shape…. But I still had time.

Everything was pretty much stacked against me for yesterday’s She Power 5k… no training, extra weight, my husband wouldn’t be able to be beside me and encourage and motivate me along the way…. Yes, things were stacked against me.  And thoughts did enter my mind that maybe I would just walk and set a goal for next year, putting off my goal for a future date.  The problem with that is that the future date usually doesn’t arrive.

Yes, circumstances, lack of preparedness and my thoughts were threatening to keep me from this 5k, until….

My Circle of Inspiration.

We all have a Circle of Inspiration, made up of friends, family, co-workers, strangers we meet or see on TV or read about, individuals who walk into our lives for a moment and so many more.  Many individuals form our circle, inspiring us along the way.  And we find inspiration and give inspiration within this circle.  The great thing about a circle is it has no end; the inspiration is all around us.  What a wondrous thing to be able to find inspiration in so many ways, from so many different individuals.

I have a wonderful and wide-spread Circle of Inspiration I can draw from.  And it is in this circle that I find the strength to fight on, to work harder, to keep going when all I want to do is quit.  Whether it is about just getting through my day, getting out of bed, stepping outside my comfort zone, continuing my journey of health, facing hard things in life or crossing a finish line when I don’t think I can, inspiration is there.  My husband, my sons, my daughter-in-law, my extended family, my friends, the strangers I have met and so many others inspire me to just do it, to take the leap and fly!

20190127_073024 copySo, with everything against me, what made the difference for me yesterday morning was these ladies, part of my Circle of Inspiration.  Some had done a 5k before and for some of them this was their first.  And they inspired me on my journey.

When I worked as a WW Coach (formerly known as a Weight Watcher Leader) I had the privilege of getting to know many individuals who inspired me every day, every week.  These women met in meetings I led.  And I was blessed these past couple of years to have been a part of their journey.  I have laughed with them, cried with them, celebrated with them, and commiserated with them.  And I have had the privilege of getting to know their individual stories.

Each of these women came to this race yesterday for their own reasons and with their own goals, inspiring each other along the way.  That Circle of Inspiration.  Some struggled with physical limitations, and some faced mindset challenges, yet each of them was willing to set aside the challenges that could have kept them from walking this 5k and instead they chose to step outside their comfort zones.  I have often said that stepping outside that comfort zone is where our greatest growth happens, and these ladies were proving that to be true.  Having the privilege of knowing their personal stories gave me the strength to show up and to cross that start line.  And they gave me the courage to push myself beyond what was comfortable so that I could finish strong.

We gathered before the race and lined up at the start together.  When it was time to go, we went at our own paces.  Each of us had our own personal goal we wanted to reach.  And that was scary for some of us, maybe for all of us.  But because of this Circle of Inspiration, because of the support we found in each other, we were able to push forward.  One-step-at-a-time, literally!

I was inspired by all of them, whether it was their first race or one of many…. I was inspired by their enthusiasm and excitement at completing a race.  I was inspired by their determination to push past the physical barriers that had kept them from even 20190128_152234_hdr copydreaming of doing a 5k race, those physical barriers that at one time kept them from even walking around a block, let alone 3.1 miles.  I was inspired by how they changed a mindset from “I can’t” to “I think I can” to “Yes! I can”.  I was inspired by the support and encouragement they showed each other.  I was inspired by those who conquered their fear and were willing to do this race with little preparation. I was inspired by seeing the empowerment that comes from believing in oneself.  I was inspired by the resolve to finish faster than the last one.  I was inspired by their faces, the joy, the pride after finishing this race. I was inspired by the courage shown to finish a race despite a fall and injury, and not just finish it, but finish strong, something I am not sure I could have done.

To say that these ladies inspire me is an understatement.  Each one of them is an inspiration and I am so very blessed to know them and be encouraged by them!

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Congratulations, my friends! You thought you could and you did!

We all finished this race yesterday morning, proud of each other and proud of ourselves.  We each met or exceeded our personal goals.  And yes, we are ready to do it again!

I know that without these ladies I would have still done this race, but I am not sure how hard I would have pushed myself without my Circle of Inspiration, those who inspire me every day in my life and these ladies who gave me the strength and courage to push myself faster and to see what I was capable of.

I didn’t finish with a PR, but I finished faster than the She Power 5k 1 year ago and faster than the 5k I did in November.  I walked and I ran, knowing these ladies were somewhere amid the sea of women and they were pushing themselves too.

I was just 3 ½ minutes slower than my fastest race 10 years ago……imagine what I can do with a little inspiration, a little training, and being a little healthier….  Next year will be my year, I have no doubt!

With a vast and far reaching Circle of Inspiration, WE CAN…. I CAN …do anything!!

The Unknown Bucket List Item

Sometimes an opportunity presents itself that you never knew was a bucket list item… not until you have an opportunity to do it, then realization hits…. THIS is a bucket list item.

In years past when the National Anthem was performed prior to kick-off of a football game, I would watch and wonder what it would be like to be one of those on the field holding up the HUGE American flag, the super flag. 

I NEVER thought an opportunity would present itself and I would ACTUALLY be one of those people, on the field before the game kicked off, holding up a football field sized flag while someone sang the National Anthem.

New Year’s Day 2019, my husband and I were among the over 200 volunteers to do just that at the PlayStation Fiesta Bowl. 

It was a few weeks earlier, that my husband had received an email offering him the chance to volunteer to hold the “super” flag at the Fiesta Bowl here in Arizona.  He told me about the email and asked what I thought, would I want to do it with him? 

He had to ask? 

Of course, I would do it with him. 

Luckily, he could bring guests.  So, he applied to hold the flag and added me as his guest.

A few weeks later, he got the email that we were chosen to hold the American Flag.  Yes!!  That was going to be cool!  The anticipation grew as the day got closer.

More emails followed giving us more details.  It would be an early morning on New Years Day with us needing to be at the stadium to practice by 8 am. 

Finally, January 1st arrived, and we were up very early and on the road by 6:40 am to make sure we would arrive in time for the practice.  It was a COLD morning for Arizona, with temps in the 30’s and we were layered up and had our gloves and hand-warmers. 

We arrived at the field along with the others there for the practice and of course, the many who would be tailgating before the game. 

I was so excited!  This was going to be great!  A bucket-list item that I didn’t know was a bucket-list item, until now. 

Once we all were gathered on the practice field, the instructions began. 

There is a lot more that goes into holding the American Flag on the football field than I ever imagined.  It wasn’t just show up, hold the flag and then you are done.  Nope!

The process and roles were explained.  We would practice on the practice field, then we would line up and walk together down into the “pit” and process through security.  Then we would line up again in the pit, remove the rolled up flag from the van and hold it until it was time to move inside.  Once inside we would be staged near the entrance to the field…still holding the rolled up flag.  Then we would walk out onto the field with the flag and would have a few minutes when we would be able to take pictures while carrying and holding the rolled up flag.  And then, finally, it would be “showtime” and we would then quickly leave the field and take the flag back outside to load it into the van.  A lot more than I thought went into it. 

Once directions were given we were then divided up into our roles…. Holders, Runners, Pullers, Side people.  My husband and I chose to be holders, at the top of the flag where we would hold the flag tight while the pullers would pull it open, covering the field.  That also meant we would be carrying and holding the rolled up flag for about 45 minutes.  No setting it down to rest our weary arms.  This super flag was HEAVY (around 2000 lbs!). 

When I heard how long we would be holding he flag, I had a fleeting moment where I thought, what if?  What if I CAN”T hold it?  What if I can’t carry my share of the load?  No way!  This sounds really difficult.  But that was only a fleeting thought!  I knew I would be able to do it!  If only because it was that unknown bucket list item, a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for me.

I have always been a patriotic girl, from a very young age.  And the flag has always held a very emotional meaning for me.  So, this was an opportunity I would not let pass by.  I was going to do this no matter how difficult or how heavy!  What an honor to be on that football field, holding this American Flag, while listening to the Star-Spangled Banner being sung.  And to do it standing next to my husband was the icing on the cake.  I was getting pretty emotional standing there waiting to enter onto the field.

Then it was time! 

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We carried that flag out onto the field and stood holding it while the LSU Marching band finished their pre-game performance and left the field.  There were a couple more presentations and then a moment to honor our military.  And then it was time.  They introduced the National Anthem performer, Retired Navy Petty Officer 1st Class Wilson….

The first note sounded and off went the pullers.  I held tight to my end of the flag, raising it up to keep it from touching the field and holding it as the pullers stretched the flag across the field.  The runners ran in between us and under the flag, their job was to keep the flag from touching the ground. 

Fiesta Bowl 2019 Super Flag
Fiesta Bowl 2019 Super Flag

The emotions ran through me.  My pride swelled.  This was my country, my National Anthem and my flag.  Wow!  I cannot even describe all that I was feeling standing there, tightly holding this super flag.

This was AMAZING! 

And then it was over, and we quickly moved toward the middle of the flag, pulling and gathering this beautiful flag against us, until we met the pullers in the middle.  My arms ached.  We were almost done.  We carried the gathered and rolled up flag, quickly off the field and back outside to the pit, where we would load it into the van. 

And then we were done.

Opportunities come to us, expected and unexpected.  I could have said no.  It was New Year’s Day and I had lots of things that needed to be done.  It would be an early morning and we would have to drive a while to get there.  I could have said no, and let my husband go alone. 

But I said yes.  Sometimes things happen and we don’t realize just how much it will mean to us or that it is a bucket list item until that opportunity is presented. 

THIS was one of those events.  A bucket-list item I never knew was a bucket list item.

Sometimes we just have to take the leap…. Say yes and enjoy!  Oh, the riches those opportunities bring! 

Taking the Leap into 2019

It is that time of year again. Time to reflect. Time to learn from the past year. Time to look toward the new year with anticipation.

As I look back over 2018, I am filled with peace. It has been a while since I have felt this amount of peace at the end of a year. But after the past couple of years, well, this feels really nice.

This past year has brought more good than bad. My family is doing better this year than the last couple of years.

My son is finally getting real, effective help. He has a team supporting him. And we are no longer alone in the fight for our son. A huge burden was lifted when that realization happened right before Thanksgiving. We are no longer fighting this fight alone…. There are others fighting too. My son is happier. He is more present. He is more a part of our family than he has been in a while. And we are not forcing him to be! We are better today, at the end of 2018 than we were at the end of 2017. What a difference a year can make!

We started the year with a trip to Disney World and my first 10k race. We traveled to see our youngest son and daughter-in-law. We explored more of Arizona. We went to movies. I supported my husband as he planned and then completed one of his bucket list items—hiking the Grand Canyon Rim to Rim in one day and the bonus was our youngest son and daughter-in-law hiking it with him. We had visitors. We hosted Christmas events. We had a backyard oasis created and I spent lots of time in our new pool. And I reconnected last month with a long-lost dear friend, a sweet unexpected gift this past year.

2018 found us rediscovering “us”. And leaving the stress behind.

As I sit her reflecting on the past year, I am not only at peace, but I am enjoying the memories, the lessons learned and the personal growth that occurred this past year.

And I am ready to leap into 2019.

I am excited for what this next year holds for me and for my family.

As I have said in the past, I don’t make New Year’s Resolutions, because they just don’t work for me… I am not good at them. So instead I commit to new things, new ways of thinking and mantras. The past couple of years have involved pushing past my fears and embracing adventure. I have spent the past couple of years saying yes and pushing myself to discover what I am capable of. And it has worked. Most of the time, anyway.

So, as I look toward the new year, I am excited. 2019 is going to be a year of discovery, growth, taking chances, trying new things and change.

Change has always scared me. Change has always been uncomfortable. So, I want to embrace change and use it in this New Year to help me to grow, to rediscover or maybe to redefine who I am and what I am capable of. I know I am stronger than I thought I was and that was proven the past few years. But now I want to know what more I am capable of and what my next adventure, next calling is.

And that is what 2019 will be about for me.

I am starting this new journey with a change in the first weeks of January. I am making a change that has been a difficult decision for me but once I made it, I found a sense of calm. After 10 years, the last 4 years here in Arizona, I have decided to resign from my job with Weight Watchers (now known simply as WW) and yes, I have already let my boss and managers know that I am stepping down from my job as a Wellness Coach. I have loved helping others on their own journey to health and weight loss. And I will miss my weekly workshops. I will miss my teams. I will miss those I helped. And I will miss those I was inspired by each and every week. But it is time for me to move on and to take care of me. Time for me to focus on my family and myself. Time for me to step outside that comfort zone and make a change.

2019 is still 2 days away, but it is already getting off to a fresh new start.

And I am ready.

I am taking the leap….. let’s see where that leap takes me!

Christmas Comes Early to Our Home and Hearts

I love Christmas.  And yes, Thanksgiving is this week and I enjoy the Thanksgiving holiday.

But I LOVE Christmas!  I wrote about my family Christmas’s in 2016 here.  That year was made special because my son and now daughter-in-law were home for Christmas.  2016 was the first time in 5 years that both of my boys were here and it had been 4 years since spending Christmas with my youngest son.  So I was happy.  And it was a good Christmas….. but there were some underlying stresses that made it difficult too.

Hopefully, my youngest son did not see how much of a struggle it was for me….for my husband…. Christmas that year and the year before and the year after were difficult to say the least.  Like so many families across the country, we had our stresses to deal with, our burdens to bear.  And sometimes life is difficult, especially during the holiday season.  I really think that it is only because we love the Christmas season so much and all of the magic it brings that we were able to celebrate at all.

Christmas 2015 was the beginning of the chaos with my oldest and I didn’t want to celebrate…. But I did because I had always promised myself that no matter where life took me, no matter what was happening or who I was missing, Christmas would still be celebrated, I would still decorate and bake and sing and shop and so much more.  So I did.  Despite the pain and chaos.  But that year, 2015, I actually started to put away the Christmas decor on Christmas eve.  I was done.  It takes a lot to get me to that point and I had never been there before.  But there I was.  Done.

Christmas 2016 found me exhausted.  I had spent weeks trying to find treatment for my son, navigating the mental health system and the justice system and I was emotionally exhausted and completely drained.  But there I was on Thanksgiving weekend, decorating like I always did.  I played my favorite Christmas music.  I baked.  But my heart wasn’t there.  I was exhausted.  And overwhelmed.  And at one point I just wanted to skip Christmas….me!  The Christmas person.  But my son was coming home and it would be the first Christmas my now daughter-in-law would spend with us, so I kept doing the things that made it Christmas for my family and my wonderful husband picked up some of the slack for me and took over some of the things that were overwhelming me…  I was excited to have my family together and am so thankful they were all here or I may have completely missed my favorite holiday.

And then last year, Christmas 2017, was hard for all of us.  We had been spending months with the fear that my son would have to go to prison…. And how in the world would I be able to do Christmas with him there?  Thanksgiving weekend, I again got out the décor and ALL of my trees and decorated.  It was my distraction from the pain and stress.  We found out in the middle of December that year, that he would not be going to prison and that should have made for the best Christmas…. But the stress took its toll and for the first time EVER I slept through most of Christmas eve, getting up after 8pm.  I just wasn’t into it, still.

BUT this year is way different!  In every way!  My son is doing well.  He has been getting the help he has needed.  There is no court to go to.  There are no lawyers to talk to.  There are no emergency visits to psychiatrists needed.  The stress is so much less.  Things are good.  REALLY good!

So in October, yes before Halloween, when my husband started singing Christmas songs, I thought someone had taken over his body…. What?  Where did my husband go?  Who is this guy, disguised as my husband?  My husband loves Christmas too, just not as obsessively as I do, so this was very strange!  Usually my guys won’t let me play Christmas music until Thanksgiving and then I get the “eye-rolls” from my guys when I say the only music allowed in the house or car is Christmas music.  But here was my husband singing Christmas songs.  And it was October!  And then we would go shopping and he wanted to see the Christmas decor….and we bought some….in OCTOBER!  IN OCTOBER!  Then there were the days my husband would run out to do an errand and he would come home with more Christmas decor for inside and outside!  What happened to my husband?

surprises

All the years of being married to me finally rubbed off on him!

outsideMy husband started decorating the outside of our house the first weekend in November.  I was shocked.  And very happy!  He was making me laugh and smile and we were having fun!

And I started to decorate inside too.  Just the rooms that did not have the fall decor, those insidewould have to wait until after Thanksgiving.  It has made me really happy to decorate.  We started playing our Christmas music a couple of weeks ago and we started watching hallmark Christmas movies then, too.

Christmas was coming early in our house and in our hearts.

I couldn’t figure out why we started so early this year (we never start before Thanksgiving) or why my husband was so into it…. Not until my son asked if I had an extra tree that we could put in his room….. he had NEVER wanted a tree in his room….. of course I had a tree for him!  He says that we are so into Christmas this year that he just wanted to give us a little gift and have the tree in his room to participate in the Christmas spirit.

And that is when it hit me.

This year the stress is gone.  He is stable.  We are all feeling good right now.  The chaos is minimal.  Compared to the last three Christmas seasons, well this has gotten off to a near perfect start!  We have all come a long way this year.

And that is why we are all excited about Christmas.

I hadn’t realized the toll the past few years had taken on us or on our joy of the Christmas season.  I hadn’t realized that it had affected my husband as much as it had affected me.  Or the effect on my son.  And I was pretty good at hiding my lack of Christmas joy from the world outside our walls.  I was trying really hard to find it in the midst of the chaos, but just couldn’t get all the way there.

But we are REALLY excited this Christmas season.  There is NO faking it!  We are ready for the magic.   We are ready for the spirit of the season.  The lights.  The smells. The goodies.  The events.  ALL of it!

So, yes, we started early this year with our decorations.  My friends think we are nuts.  So do our neighbors.  And I am more than okay with that!

Our jumping into Christmas early, isn’t about skipping any other holidays or trying to rush the season.  Our early Christmas spirit is ALL about wanting to enjoy it…. ALL of it…… and ALL that we missed the past few years.

joy

 

This year Christmas has come early to our home and our hearts!  My heart is happy and full of joy!