Christmas Nostalgia

Johnny Mathis is Christmas, to me anyway. Apparently he has albums that aren’t full of Christmas music, but I wouldn’t know anything about them. My parents had every single one of his Christmas albums on cassette tape and they played on repeat in the background of every Christmas throughout my childhood. It was the soundtrack of baking cookies in the kitchen, decorating the tree, and opening presents on Christmas morning.

It has been many years since I have spent any time with my family around Christmas, but it only takes the playing of any of his holiday songs for me to instantly feel the memories of family. The Christmases of my youth were truly something special. As it is now only two days from the big day, I couldn’t help but go back to what it was like for me as my husband and I were driving home from a day trip. After giving up on scanning the radio for a good station, I insisted he listen to some of the Johnny Mathis songs I have on my itunes Christmas playlist.

My mind focused clearly on the excitement of Christmas Eve. My two older (teenage at the time) sisters and I would be “sentenced” to one bedroom for the night. It was mostly to keep me from getting up and peeking in the middle of the night, as I had vowed each year to set an alarm and get up in time to see Santa. Of course, I never slept on Christmas Eve, and because of that, neither did my sisters. My grandpa, from what I understand, always had a similar sleepless night on Christmas Eve. His excitement rivaled mine, which easily explained his annual 5:00 am arrival at our house with my grandma so that he could put on his Santa hat and pass out gifts to all of us. And of course, when I would hear Grandpa and Grandma Jean arriving, I nearly burst as I waited for my parents to give us the o.k. to come out of the bedroom. When the all clear was given, I always led my sisters into a living room with all our lights and decorations plugged in and shining brightly, and Johnny Mathis singing in the background.

Despite the many years between my last Christmas at home and the Christmas I will have with my husband and his mother next week, I can remember everything so vividly. Some of the excitement still lingers too. I still have a difficult time sleeping on Christmas Eve. With the exception of last year when we slept until 7:00, I still insist on getting up extra early on Christmas morning so that my husband and I can exchange gifts. I’m thinking that perhaps this year, I’ll be sure to turn on the music when we get up. My husband and I don’t have children yet, and though I very much wish that we did already, I know that it will happen for us at some point. When it does, I will absolutely relish the opportunity to introduce my children to the significance of Johnny Mathis to Christmas. I’ll tell them, like I told my husband tonight on the drive home that “Hallelujah Chorus” was my grandpa’s favorite Christmas song. I’ll play it for them as we decorate cookies or as we drive to the mall to shop for gifts, and I will take comfort in knowing that the tradition is kept alive.

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A Breezy Prelude

I drove home from my mother-in-law’s house with frustration in my heart. I had spent much of the day at her house doing laundry, since our small apartment doesn’t have a washer/dryer hook-up. We’ve been doing laundry at her house for the past 11 years…the exact duration of our life in this apartment. My frustration intensified as I thought of the day when I will not have to leave my home to do laundry. How much longer do I have to wait?So much of the future is not certain. So much is not decided yet. My impatient heart so badly desires a firm plan…a timeline of when our lives will change. Driving home I could feel the sting in my nose and throat that always arrive before the tears start to well in my eyes.

It wasn’t a long drive home, and before the tears could actually begin to pool, I had gotten home with the clean laundry. I initially thought about taking a walk. Today is a very mild winter solstice day. The temperature is in the mid 60s and there is such a strong breeze outside that I decided instead to open every window in the apartment. A quick look at the weather app on my phone showed that there is a line of rain headed towards my dot on the map. The skies have turned from intensely bright and sunny to heavily overcast. So rather than go walking and risk the rain, I have put on one of my favorite movies, “Julie & Julia”, and am preparing to put away the clean clothes.

Perfect weather for sitting in a window.

The frustration I felt on the drive home has dissolved. There’s something about being at home that truly calms my soul. This is only a temporary home. We pay rent, not a mortgage, and there’s only one bedroom, not room for another smaller person, but this is home…if only just for now. Christmas is in four days, and while there is still so much up in the air about the future, I am going to focus on the joy of the season and the time I will get to spend with my husband over the next several days. In the meantime, the impending rain has arrived, accompanied by thunder and lightning and there is still laundry to be put away. Although the weather is not, my heart is calm, and I am at peace once again.

The Blood Pressure Project

I have many hobbies. I knit and crochet, and have a massive quantity of scrapbook supplies that I haven’t used on a scrapbook in quite some time, but treasure nonetheless. My small apartment holds the makings of many projects. And yet, I look enviously at my students and the projects they engage in. Some are school related…such as my champion Battle of the Books team and their project of reading 15 specific novels in a few months in order to compete in a contest of their comprehension and knowledge of the books. Much to my boastful delight, they take it very seriously and bring home the trophy every year! There are other students too, that have told me about personal projects. One year, a young girl wanted to learn how to crochet so she could make and sell potholders. She wanted to send the money to the ASPCA because she saw the commercials featuring images of abused animals and sad music playing in the background.

With an intense focus on their goals, these students have been successful with their projects. While I don’t really have time for projects like these kids, I do wish I had something to focus on. I have run two road races in the past and that seems to have worked for me. They were projects that required training and a specific end goal, but that end goal ended with the finishing of the race. Each time I had the best intentions to keep running and sign up for other races, but I never did.

Yesterday I was presented with a new project that really isn’t optional. An appointment with my psychiatrist led to a same-day appointment with my primary care doctor. My blood pressure has been an issue for many months. I had dental work done last month and even my dentist was concerned about my blood pressure. The appointment with my psychiatrist was at 8:00 in the morning and my blood pressure was high right off the bat. 167/107 when I went in and 165/105 when they checked it again on my way out. Considering my psychiatrist spent most of the appointment discussing my physical health rather than my mental health, I felt that I should take his advice and get in to see my primary care doctor asap–which ended up being an hour and a half later.

When all was said and done yesterday, I spent this morning making plans for this new project. Both of my doctors want to see me back in a month–not the usual three months they give me–so I truly cannot procrastinate with starting this project. I have a month to get my blood pressure started on a downward path. Losing weight is ultimately what needs to happen here. This means that exercise needs to become a priority again, which leads me to believe that it was some sort of divine intervention that after repeated messages and inquiries on Let Go and Facebook Marketplace, nobody actually followed through to buy my elliptical. I was trying to sell it because I stopped using it and wanted more space in my living room. Silly reasons to get rid of something that had helped me so much in my past attempts at weight loss.

This will be the third time that I’ve started a weight loss journey. I hope it will be the charm. I’m going to mix the elliptical, weight training, and running in with a low-salt diet. I really do enjoy running and I am looking forward to getting back out there again, though I am going to stay away from races for a while. I’m afraid of running the race and not continuing with my running regime after it’s over. Running, for me this time, has to be a means to an end. I have to use it as a part of my project to lower my blood pressure, not just to run a race.

I watched a Facebook live video yesterday of a woman who lost 100 pounds in one year. She said that you have to consider your weight loss journey as who you are now. Not just as something you do part time or do some times but not others. You can’t quit because you make a mistake and gorge on junk food. You have to learn from your mistakes and keep going. I’ve made mistakes in the past in my attempts to lose weight and those mistakes were simply that I did not keep going.

I want to lose weight and lower my blood pressure in order to be healthy in a way that I never have been before. Granted, there’s no Battle of the Books trophy that I’ll get when I achieve my goal, but then again, this project doesn’t have an end. It will be something that I just keep doing and maintaining. A daunting task? Sure. But not a task that is unfamiliar and certainly not one that is impossible. Here I go.