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.

Birthday Eve

Technically it’s my birthday. But it’s almost 3 am, so my birthday hasn’t really started. It’s sort of like Christmas when you’re a kid. You may be awake most of the night on Christmas Eve out of excitement, and even though it’s technically Christmas after midnight, it doesn’t officially start until your parents wake up and you’re allowed to come out of your room to see the magic under the tree. Except this time, I’m not awake out of excitement, in fact, quite the opposite. I randomly woke up and just can’t go back to sleep. I’m pretty good at falling asleep when first going to bed, thank you pharmaceutical companies for that. I can usually tame my random thoughts long enough for the handful of prescription medications to kick in. That’s probably not going to work this time since it’s been about 4 or 5 hours since I took them. Which means a whole flood of randomness has invaded my brain. As a teacher on summer break, who also has a mid-summer birthday, this is the 2nd year that I have sworn off anything school related until after my birthday. Since technically it is my birthday, thoughts of school have come to this impromptu thought party. Though I’m pretty sure it’s not necessary now to think about how I’m going to prepare my presentation at the professional development day in September. Also not necessary to wonder what it will be like having a new principal when my current one retires in a couple of years. Funnily enough, pushing those thoughts out of my head and focusing on what I want to do today while my husband is at work also did not help me go back to sleep. I planned out a crafty day for myself, starting with a trip to Joann’s Craft Store to use my birthday discount coupon. I even came up with a little shopping list. That only made me a bit too excited about what I am planning on making today. The store is not open this early, so that’s a moot thought process too.

I wonder if this is what insomniacs experience every night. It kind of sucks. But thankfully, this doesn’t happen often for me. So on this birthday eve, I think I’m going to find one of my cats to bring back to bed with me and be very grateful that there’s only a few hours left before the sun comes up and I won’t have to feel weird about being awake when I’m usually asleep.

Big City Living

The Devil Wears Prada, Julie & Julia, You’ve Got Mail, Coyote Ugly, Music & Lyrics, Will & Grace, Friends

These are all of my absolute, hands down, favorite movies and t.v. shows. I could watch them over and over and never get tired of watching, in fact, that’s pretty much what I do. Given the choice of new things to discover on t.v. or Netflix, I turn to these old favorites (granted I’m watching Friends for the first time on Netflix). Besides the chic-flick kind of story line these movies have that appeal to me, a chic, I think I love them the most because they’re all set in New York City.

New York is my ultimate bucket list trip. I would like to leave this country at some point and visit an overseas country, but NYC is the first place I want to go before anywhere else. My husband and I passed the exit for the city on our trip to upstate New York one summer. My heart practically leaped out of the car when I saw the exit sign. But more so than just a touristy kind of visit, where I’m sure I would be annoying to the locals because I would want to take a picture of everything, I think I want to live there. My husband’s niece just recently moved there and I am SO jealous! What I have heard about her experiences there reaffirm for me the reasons that I think I absolutely need to live there.

I’m certain that my desire is fueled by what I see in all these movies and shows, but they can’t be too far off from reality. In particular, I’m fascinated by the idea of my morning and afternoon commute being centered on the subway and walking to and from subway stations. Certainly I would miss the convenience of my car, but still… I’m also in love with the idea of corner markets and little hole in the wall dive restaurants that are just a walk around the corner from our apartment. Let’s not forget apartments that are up above a pizza parlor or a drug store or some other business.

Knowing me, I would probably get pretty tired of all the people and commotion after a while. Tourists would aggravate me and all the landmarks that I would so desperately want to be around, would become no big deal. I’d get used to seeing the Statue of Liberty off in the distance, or the Empire State building. I’d be frustrated by large crowds on the subway when I’m trying to carry home groceries. The romance of it all might wear off sooner than I’d like. Or maybe it wouldn’t.

I’m reminded of this now because my parents are currently on their way to New York City for several weeks to drive the bus for different groups of people touring the city. And while I’d love to trade places with them, I have to remember that my home is down here in the south. Though I’ll keep my camera charged and ready for the time that my husband and I take his niece up on her offer to come visit. Until then…it’s a You’ve Got Mail kind of movie afternoon.

Sportsmanship at its finest

Last night, my husband fell asleep on the couch. That’s not new, it was a Sunday night and neither of us had to work today. Plus, he had stretched out horizontally and covered up with a fleece blanket, falling asleep was inevitable. It was then that I commandeered the t.v. remote and settled on watching the last several minutes of the NBA East finals, or whatever it’s called. All I know is that it was game 7 and the Cleveland Cavaliers were playing the Boston Celtics. Game 7, of course, being the game that decides who moves on to whatever level of competition is next. Clearly, I don’t watch much basketball, but I put it on because I wasn’t all that interested in t.v. I wanted something that was background noise while I knit.

I don’t generally put games on if it’s a team that I don’t know anything about. I grew up in a town just outside of Atlanta, so I’m a huge Braves baseball fan. However, I’m also originally from Cleveland, all of my family live up there, so in the absence of a Braves game, depending on what sports season it is, I’ll watch a Cleveland Indians baseball game, or in this case a Cavaliers basketball game. Just the mention of the Cavaliers demands a mention of their star player, Lebron James. I don’t know much about Lebron, I really don’t. In fact, my opinion of him is sort of negative based on the fact that I was in Cleveland the summer that the whole city was on pins and needles waiting for him to announce his decision to either stay playing for the Miami Heat or come back to the Cavaliers. Every time the news was on the t.v. at my mother’s house there was coverage of Lebron James and the possibility of him coming back. Every…single…time. Seriously. I was even there the day that he made it official, King James returns! Whatever. I rolled my eyes so hard that day and even took a picture of the t.v. and the ridiculous banner that was displayed across it.

Obviously, his return to the Cleveland basketball team meant something more to the city than what I could glean just from being there for a week and a half. And I don’t live there now to see what it means for all of the championships he’s won for the city. All of this hype for an athlete made me think that he must be a typical arrogant athlete that thinks he’s greater than he really is and only cares about the millions of dollars he earns to play a sport.

But last night, when I watched the end of that game, my attitude about him changed. He could still potentially be the typical arrogant athlete, but I really don’t think so now. When the last seconds ticked off the clock and it was clear that the Cavaliers had won the championship, on the Celtics court no less, Lebron didn’t get carried away with cheering and high fiving his teammates. There were cameras and reporters and a whole crowd of people surrounding him on the court, but the first thing he did was go to one of the Celtics players and embrace him in a hug. He said something in the player’s ear as he hugged him. Then with a pat on the back, he let go and again, cameras and reporters surrounded him. But he didn’t talk to the reporters, he pushed through them and went to another Celtics player that was on the court and did the same thing, hugged him and said something in his ear. Lebron repeated this at least five times, for as many Celtics players that were still on the court. Only after he hugged each player did he stop and talk to a reporter. As a teacher who coaches a team of kids, granted, not athletes, but a Battle of the Books team that competes every year, I drill into those kids’ heads that whether we win or we lose we are good sports and we go to each of those kids on the other two teams and either congratulate them on winning or telling them that they played a good ‘game’.

So seeing this super star athlete who has just won yet another championship care more about showing good sportsmanship to the team he just defeated than boasting of his victory, that really touched me. Someone who does that has character and integrity. And now, as of last night, also has a fan in me.

Go Cavaliers!

The purpose of a teacher’s summer…

…is to relax and rest. Two months off in the summer is the reward for 10 months of having very little free time because of lesson plans, paper grading, and a thousand other extra things that I’m responsible for. There are exactly two and a half days until summer break and my principal has already let us know that when the kids leave on Thursday, she wants us to leave with them. You don’t have to tell me twice! I will lay rubber in that parking lot just as soon as that last kid is picked up.

This summer, I fully intend to do a lot of knitting and a lot of reading. Doing all of that in a reclining position on the couch with my feet up is also in my plan. But this summer, I’m going to do something different. I’m going to actually get up early each day and go running. I have to get up early because here in the southeast, there’s a small window of time each day before the crushing heat and humidity take over, and I plan to take advantage of it. I want to run, I love running, and I’ve been very, very bad at it lately. Bad, only in the fact that I haven’t been consistent in my efforts.

Now though, I have to be consistent because I have already paid my registration for a 4-mile race in the downtown area of my city on the 4th of July. I’m cutting it awfully close on training time. To be fair, I did re-start my couch to 5k app a couple weeks ago, however, school kept me busy and a new baby kitten kept me busy, and a whole host of other excuses kept me indoors. After May 31st, I will have no excuses. There will be nothing to keep me busy besides what I come up with myself. I’m doing this.

It’s going to be a bit tougher this time because I’ve only ever run a 5k, which is about 3.2 miles. This is a full 4 miles, but man oh man am I excited to get out there and try. I really can’t explain what it is that makes me like running so much. Maybe just the sense of accomplishment… I don’t know. But I do know that I’m eager to run this particular race. Perhaps because when I ran my first 5k, I didn’t know there was such a thing as a finisher’s medal, so I went home empty handed. With this race, I am determined to get that medal at the end.

Training for that race will take the first month of my summer break. I don’t plan on stopping after that race–I want to keep a running habit going, so we’ll see what the second month brings. That’s going to be my main purpose this summer–running. One of the songs I listen to when I run has the following line: “Surprise them with a victory cry.” If I make it through this summer and actually develop a running habit and run that race and get my medal, I will surprise myself with a victory cry when back-to-school time rolls around. Wish me luck.

 

There are those days…

There are those days like yesterday, when my husband left to do laundry at his mom’s house and I had to convince myself it was not a reason to cry. When I got dressed and got in the car and headed to the store to go grocery shopping only to turn around halfway there and come back home because I was afraid I would break down crying in the middle of the store. When I’m usually early with emailing a weekly file for my second job but decided yesterday that I just didn’t want to put the effort into finishing it at my normal time. When my nap on the couch turned into something I had to force myself to get up from. When my Saturday routine and joy at being alone turned to torment until my husband came home again.

There are those days like today, when I had enough energy to do everything I wanted to get done yesterday and still had motivation left over to clean the apartment from top to bottom with my husband. When he and I cracked jokes while putting away the laundry and I remembered why I was labeled somebody’s “loudest friend” one time, all because of my laugh. When we went out for dinner and had a nice conversation while we ate. When I marvel at the difference a day makes to someone battling mental illness.

There are those days like all of the ones in between when I am constantly grateful for medical science and all that it has done to help me find a life I can live without the intensity of an untreated mental illness. When I can look forward to going to my regular therapy appointment because I have found someone who can help me understand so many things about myself that I never could before. When I am in awe of the man I married whose patience and willingness to see me through every single day that I am here.

Yes, there are those days.

Hold on!

Tonight, my husband and I were watching a documentary on HBO that told of Martin Luther King Jr.’s life just a few years before his assassination. His life was narrated by the people who worked alongside him. One of the major events that Dr. King had gotten involved with was the Vietnam War. He was opposed to the war and there was footage of speeches he had given at that time, as well as a clip of people yelling hateful things at him as he walked by because of his opposition to the war.

It made me think of my father. He fought in the Vietnam War. And as I watched the footage of what was happening in the United States during the war, I imagined my father on the other side of the world at that exact moment in time, experiencing the horrors of war. As I thought of him, and pictured him in the same war situations he has described to me in previous conversations, I marveled at the fact that I know how his life turned out when he got home from Vietnam. While I don’t know every detail of his life, I know what he has told me, and I know that I am here, a living testament to the life he went on to live. He was only just 18 when he joined the army. He would have had no idea about his future wives and children at the time, as none of us do. We don’t know our futures.

And yet, I am amazed every day when I teach the pre-teens in my English classes that I have been a teacher longer than these children have been alive. Right now, my future students are learning to crawl, saying their first words, and experiencing a host of other firsts–first time walking, first time trying certain foods, etc.

On that same thread, somewhere, there are other children being born. These children will be abandoned by their biological parents. Perhaps it will because their mother is a teenager and cannot take care of them. It could be because some disturbance in the family has caused child services to take them away from their parents. There are so many reasons that children end up without their parents. These children will be placed in foster care, or they’ll be put up for adoption. They might be placed in a group home or some other home where there will be other children like them. They might be scared, or lonely, or simply angry at their surroundings. Their physical needs will be met by those tasked with their care, but they may not have the kind of childhood that would produce happy memories for them. They won’t know what the future holds for them. None of us do.

These children are not my students, they could be in the future, I don’t know. But these children, the ones without a home, without a family, these children need to just hang on, because I’m coming. WE are coming.

My husband and I are working hard to make sure that in a year, we don’t have a need to sign another lease on this tiny apartment. We are working hard to make sure we have a home for these children.

Easter just passed us by, and God willing, there will come an Easter when my husband and I will sit around our kitchen table and dye eggs with our children. I’ll show them the neat way my grandpa used to color eggs using a damp cloth and egg dye tablets. We’ll take them to Mass with us and teach them about Jesus and what Easter really means.

There are so many things I want to do for our children. I want to teach them to knit, and introduce them to my favorite movies, and torture them with music from my generation like my mom did when I was a kid. I know that my husband wants to take them to Jones Lake like his dad did. He’ll want to take them to Bear Island for the day, again, like his dad did. Most importantly though, I just want to be there for them. I want to give them a stable home with two people who may not be their biological parents, but are people who love them as if they were.

Somewhere, right now, our children are waiting for us. Several years from now, I’ll look back on this moment–I’ll think back to this cramped apartment–and I’ll marvel at just how different our lives were before our children entered the picture. Until then, we’re waiting too. But the time is coming soon, we love you already, but please, just hold on, we’re coming.

I want to attend the Oscars

One of my earliest posts on this blog is similar to the thoughts I’m having tonight. The Academy Awards are on tonight and while I have absolutely no desire to be a famous celebrity–I don’t like being the center of attention, even at my own wedding–I still wish I was one, at least just for tonight. I want to be dressed up in a fancy gown and sitting in a plush seat in the audience enjoying the show. This is my desire tonight for the simple reason that I’ll bet none of those people in attendance have to get up early tomorrow and go to work.

When I’m envious of celebrities only because they don’t have to go to work tomorrow, I know I’m starting the downhill descent to summer vacation. I am starting to become “teacher tired”. It’s a real thing. I slept for 12 hours Friday night into late Saturday morning this weekend, and yet, I’m exhausted. I know it’s because I’m the yearbook editor and the deadline is coming up soon for it. My Battle of the Books team is preparing for their annual competition which is going to be a week from Wednesday. We’ve won the past four years and since we’re hosting the other teams this year at my school, there is even more pressure for us to not break the winning streak at home. It makes me nervous every time I think about it. It’s also the week of our monthly faculty  meeting and my principal has already promised us that it will not be a short one. I’m ready for next weekend already and the work week hasn’t even begun!

What I’m dreading about the upcoming week is not the same as what I’m looking forward to. I have not exercised with my whole heart being put into it for a few weeks. I have one excuse after another for why I haven’t exercised consistently and why I have drank more soda in the past two weeks than I have in the past four months. Despite all that, I am looking forward to Monday afternoon because I am determined to stop the excuses and come home to the elliptical and make an honest attempt at getting back into my fitness routine. There are too many gains that I have made that I do not want to lose. Too many signs and reminders pointing me back into the direction of my elliptical and weights. Those A-listers in California can have their night of leisure and grace and not have to worry about tomorrow. But as for me, teacher tired or not, I’m doing this.

Homebody

I like being at home. I yearn for the time that I have each night sitting on the couch with my feet up. I enjoy my Saturdays when I have the time during the day to sit. Being that it’s March, which means the school year hasn’t ended yet, most of that time on the couch is spent on the computer working on something for school. And yet, despite that fact, I absolutely detest staying after school. Many of my coworkers will stay to get work done. Bravo to them for not wanting to take work home. I really don’t want to either, but it’s inevitable, and given the choice, I much prefer to do the work while being at home. Perhaps my  attitude will change when my  husband and I welcome children into our home, but for now, I have found that I truly just want to put off my school responsibilities until I have the opportunity to do it in front of the t.v., usually with a cat laying across my arm in need of attention.

Is it laziness that drives this desire? A routine, perhaps, that has come from being a teacher for the past 13 years and living in this same apartment for 11 of those years? While I am indeed lazy at the end of the day, as we all are, and I am very much a slave to my routine, I think it’s not quite for those reasons that I am happiest here. The physical space is quaint, the rental office uses the term “cottage” to describe this phase of apartments on the property. We’ve lived here long enough to see our space go from an out-dated habitat of the 70s to a newly renovated modern space (still without a washer and dryer hook-up though). My husband and I are looking forward to the near future when we will get a lease renewal notice on our door. We are planning to finally take the next step and NOT renew our lease in favor of moving into a house of our own. Our space here being what it is, one-bedroom and all, is not conducive for starting a family. And yet, I still feel a strong sense of contentment when I’m here. I feel that nesting urge that I understand pregnant women often get.

living room

Our living room this afternoon as soon as I came home. 

I’m almost certain that it’s because this space belongs to us. Maybe not financially, but over the course of our time here, we have certainly made this a home that we can be happy in, if only temporarily. For my birthday last year, my husband bought me an entire new living room set–8 pieces in all! Certainly it’s a long cry from the worn out old couch that had once belonged to my grandmother and the coffee table my husband and his roommates saved from the curb when he was in college.

Much like bringing a pet home and giving it time to acclimate to its surroundings, I too have had time to get used to my living space and I now consider it my safe haven. I truly feel comfortable here and I’m grateful for the seemingly dull evenings spent on the couch. I do enjoy going out with my husband, but I always look more forward to coming back home. There is peace here. No drama. Security. A man that loves me on the couch next to me. Possessions that make me happy. Cats that snuggle with me, even when I’m trying to work. I have everything that I need, right here at home.