Writer’s Block. Or Maybe Not.

I’ve been sitting here for weeks trying to suss out a full post on something, anything. There’s a suggestion for bloggers to just write what’s on their mind. But I don’t want to write about Donald Trump, or how much I miss San Francisco, or how much 2016 has sucked and I can’t wait for it to be over. I don’t want to write about how my sobriety has been on my mind more in the past month than in my first 17 months. And it actually gives me anxiety when I go to play a word like “gin” or “wine” or “beer” in Words With Friends. Like, what does it mean? What does it all mean?!

And I already wrote about the Cubs. (Woot.)

So, what else can I talk about?

The boys are doing great in school. Ferris can write his name! We thought we totally dropped a parenting ball with that one. By the time Bowie was his age, he knew his alphabet and was curious about words and loved to read. (I have Super Why to credit with that mostly. But still.) Ferris didn’t know any letters and wasn’t curious and liked listening to books, but wasn’t overall interested. But now he writes his name! And he’s curious! And he has some favorite books! Big relief.

The holidays are coming. It’s not a time of year that an alcoholic necessarily looks forward to all that much, it’s actually the most common time of year for relapses and is just really difficult for a lot of us. Many an AA birthday happen in January, a time of rebirth and resolution. And I’ve never had that soft spot for Christmas that most people have. Last year we never even bothered to put up a tree. Our neighborhood go-to tree lot wasn’t open last year, and we just shrugged and gave up. And you know what? It was fine. Plus we’re not “Christian”, so it’s not like my boys are missing out on something “normal” or whatever. But, I digress. What I was going to say at the beginning of this paragraph is that I’m staying positive about the holidays. It’s our first holiday season in this house. When we looked at the house it was only March, but we could practically see the Christmas lights dangling from the cactus in the front. It’s going to be fun.

My mom is coming for Thanksgiving, and I also invited some friends, and if we want a traditional feast, I’m going to have to figure out how to throw one. My first turkey. I’m anxious about it already. Just thinking about all the details makes me wonder how in God’s name my mother-in-law always pulls it off without a hitch. But we’ll figure it out.

There’s a big neighborhood craft fair in a month. When I first heard about it, I panicked, and decided I wouldn’t join, I haven’t done a craft fair in such a long time, and I didn’t need that kind of stress. But a few days ago, I got a bee in my bonnet and ordered a bunch of candle making stuff online. And in a daze, I emailed the organizer and said that yes, I’d love to join. I have fun doing the fairs (even though the prep stresses me out) and I can get to know some of the neighbors while making a little money. Win-win.

I got a part time job. I went back to Old Navy. I worked there for a few years in college, and I liked it. So, when I saw that they needed seasonal help, I applied figuring I’d be a shoe-in. I’m working mostly early mornings, so I’m done by 9 a.m. and can still take care of the boys and the house and volunteer at the cat shelter and go to AA meetings. It sounds like I’ve taken on a lot when I write it down, but really it’s not that much. No one thing takes up a whole lot of my time, so I have space for it all. It keeps me busy and keeps my mind from going to mush.

Bowie has started piano lessons. It’s been a long time coming. He’s had a few lessons here and there from me, and from his old school, but nothing serious. He was so excited about his first lesson, he told all kinds of people at school about it. And kid loves music, I think he will just bloom. I started when I was about his age and it was always such a wonderful part of my life. I hope he gets that same fulfillment.

I binge watched Friends on Netflix, start to finish. And now I’m alternating between Gilmore Girls and Mysteries of Laura. I keep finding Netflix originals that I adore, but there’s only one season, and grrrl, I can get through that in a couple of days. What old shows to you re-watch? I’m thinking of throwing some 30 Rock in there.

I’m not the world’s biggest Leonard Cohen fangirl, but I certainly did like his music and poetry. Hallelujah is on my list of top 10 favorite songs of all time. Even though it always makes me cry. I’ve been listening to it several times a day since I heard that he had passed. And that SNL cold open where Kate McKinnon sang it…goosebumps.

Peace and love and happy Thanksgiving, friends!

xoxo

The Holidays, Anxiety, and Me

This time of year makes me crazy. No, scratch that, I’m pretty crazy all the time. But, this time of year really brings it out in me.

All the lights and trees and adorable snowmen make me happy. I like Christmas, I like the winter season and everything it brings. I like celebrating with family and friends. I like getting gifts, and even more, I like giving them.

But, there’s something about a year drawing to a close that gets me down. There’s a lot of pressure to make the next year better. To become a better version of yourself. And, I like to think every year will be a better year. Except…what’s coming my way? Will it be good or bad? Will it be scary? Will I be able to handle it?

Having recently been diagnosed with Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD), it all makes complete sense to me now. All those unexplained Christmas crying spells when I was a kid, sitting alone in the living room with only the Christmas tree lighting the room. All that holing myself up in my room all winter as a teen, instead of being with friends. All that relief I felt when school would start again in January, and I had less time on my hands to think. I get myself in trouble when I think.

As a part of my GAD, I also have Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD). A disorder that affects people specifically during this time of year. It is attributed to the lack of sunlight and shorter, darker days. So, it’s like adding fuel to already very raging fire. I’ve been told that “SAD is a bunch of crap.” I say, tell that to someone who suffers from it.

It helps to have kids. There’s nothing more magical than a kid at Christmastime. The wonder and excitement in their eyes as they dream about what Santa will bring. My kids don’t know the beauty of snow, and truthfully I never really liked the stuff. But, every year when the first flakes fly, it’s very magical and exciting. And the pure, unfettered happiness when they see a house all decorated with lights and wreaths and a big, shiny tree. With their help, I can see beauty in this time of year.

This year, armed with the knowledge that all my sadness and anxiety are due to chemical imbalances in my brain, I can relax and enjoy life a little more. When I start getting sad or panicky, I can recognize it for what it is and calm down. I have found ways to make life easier on myself–minimizing Christmas shopping, keeping the decorations at a minimum, keeping the gifts simple and heartfelt, keeping get-togethers small.

There’s also the fact that 2015 was about as low of a year as one can have for me. While my anxiety still has me on edge about what 2016 has in store for me, I’m also very happy to welcome it with open arms. A whole new year, a whole new, blank slate for me to fill with happy things, new challenges, new adventures. 2015 is in the past, and that feels good.

I feel like holding hands with all of you, in one giant circle, and stepping into 2016 together. We can do this together. It feels less scary when I allow other people in, and work together to make things happen.

So, have a wonderful holiday season, and come with me to 2016. May it be the best year any of us have seen yet. No pressure though.

xmascard

We’re all fine.

That’s basically all I want you to take away from this post. This is the longest I’ve gone without blogging since I started this whole thing. We’ve all been sick since Thanksgiving (well, not Ferris, breastfed baby immune systems FTW!) and I’ve been trying to cram in some holiday shopping. I’m usually done with all my present shopping before Thanksgiving, but this year I’m just getting started. YIKES. Family members reading this: your gifts are likely to be late.

Anyway, excuses, excuses. I’m here, I’m fine (or I will be when this runny nose and cough finally leave), I plan on blogging in the future. Hope everyone else is staying well, staying warm and having a great holiday season.

A Very Bloggy Christmas

Our holiday consisted of a Christmas Eve with friends, appetizers and plenty of beer and wine, followed by a Christmas day with family and friends, more appetizers and tons of champagne. Also, an amazing, fantastic Boxing Day crab feast, provided by my sister-in-law.

Bowie got some (i.e. 50) Hot Wheels cars and a cool race track with a “hoopty-hoop”(how he says “loopty-loop”) which he played with all morning long.

Hope your holidays were/are filled with all the love, joy and priceless memories they should be.

Five For Friday

Some baby posts.

1. We had two earthquakes yesterday. TWO. I mean, we probably have several tremors every day that we don’t feel, but yesterday there were two large-ish quakes, upper 3s and lower 4s on the Richter scale. Quakes like that are always a little unnerving, but to have one in the afternoon and then another in the evening is…GAH. Reminds me that I need to put together some kind of earthquake kit. Water, canned food, a flashlight, what else? They say these smaller quakes help relieve the faults, maybe preventing “The Big One” or at least staving it off for a few more years. Still, it’s scary.

2. A few months ago, I was casually browsing online for holiday gifts, now I feel like the holidays are coming at me like a freight train. I usually have it somewhat under control, but not this time around. I’d love to make some of the gifts this year. Anyone have any good craft ideas?

3. It pays to buddy up with the owner of your local corner market. Remember on my epic bad day, and they didn’t have a single Coke product to be found? Turns out he had to have them take away his Coke cooler so he could fix the floor underneath. Since he wasn’t willing to take it back at the end of the same day they gave it away, and now he has to wait for a new one to become available. Boo. BUT, today he dug out a can of Diet Coke from the back of a cooler just for little ol’ me.

4. Have you found the Trader Joe’s chocolate covered potato chips yet? TO DIE. Sounds strange, but it’s an amazing chocolatey, crunchy, salty delight. And if you’re into it, then you have to seek out Jimmy Fallon’s flavor of Ben & Jerry’s. Late Night Snack.

4 1/2. Sorry that like, half of this post was about junk food. It’s just been that kind of day.

5. We have lots of visitors coming next week, and the weather is slated to be AMAHZING so new posts may or may not happen. But I’m still here, still love you guys, have a fantastic weekend.

Christmas in San Francisco

I have not spent a Christmas in the Midwest in, I think, 6 years. We’ve made a couple of Thanksgivings, but never Christmas. And normally, come about, say, December 15, I would be a puddle of depressed goo on the ground, just wishing the holiday would come and go already, gah.

I think a lot of it had to do with the fact that, in our old neighborhood, the outdoor Christmas lights and decorations were…scant. In a couple of the houses that had nice, big windows (and superb views of downtown and the bay, luckies) you could see their giant, perfectly decorated Christmas trees. Otherwise, it felt as if we were the only ones who were celebrating that year, with our tiny, fake, very Charlie Brown Christmas-like tree.

The other problem is…it doesn’t snow here. You’d be surprised how quickly a Wisconsin girl will consider 40 degrees to be “really cold”, yet how long it can take that same Wisconsin girl to get used to the idea of “winter” with no snow. I still recall our second year living in California, when we trucked it up to Tahoe in February with some friends, and I secretly spent the entire first day reminding myself that it wasn’t Christmas, even though it was snowing. Not that I ever even liked snow, I so did not! I see the Wisconsin blizzards on the news and think, “hahaha remember when I used to have to deal with that stuff.” Yet somehow my brain still thinks winter equals snow. The human brain is a very complex thing.

Anyway, I don’t know if it’s because enough time has passed that maybe I’m ok with it, or that so very many of our new neighbors have gone all out with their decorations, or that this is the first year Bowie is really starting to understand Christmas, but this year I finally feel like I am home for the holidays. We will be here with just a few friends and family members (and I am used to GIANT family gatherings) but I am, for once, excited about it.

I do miss everyone at home, though, don’t get me wrong. I will still wish on Christmas day that you were here with us to celebrate, but I will have myself a merry little Christmas anyway. Finally.

Needs

For the past few years, in my mom’s family, in lieu of giving each other gifts, we adopt a family and chip in to fulfill their wish list. It’s something I’m more and more glad that we do each year, and it has been so amazing.

For starters, it saves us some of the hustle and bustle that can come with this time of year. We focus less on buying gifts and more on getting a family things that it needs.  We can bring our attention back to the season, and it’s meanings and traditions. Society has become so commercialized, and it’s so easy to get caught up in all of the holiday madness. This takes so much of the pressure off of us.

And secondly, it puts things in perspective. My husband and I have had to live a bit, well, meagerly for a few years now, but we’re certainly not a family in need. That’s totally different. These families often ask for things like towels, sheets, diapers, coats, boots, things that we take for granted. The families all have young children, and sometimes just one parent. It makes me value the things that we have, it makes me want to consume less, and it makes me happy that I have enough that I can give what little we have to a family that needs it more than we do.


Photo credit: mconnors from morguefile.com

10 tips for smarter holiday shopping and gifting

This time of year, it’s very easy to get sucked into the drama and the stress of holiday shopping. I’ve been there! Here are my ten tips on making things a little easier.

1. Shop year-round. You heard me. Have those feelers out 364 days a year. Watch for sales, clearance racks and other deals, and just keep an eye out for gifts that you knew a certain someone would love, or just gifts you know just about anyone would love and store them away in your closet. I’m not talking Hoarders-style here, just a few things you see that are perfect. You can always fill in the gaps come November and December.

2. If you get gift cards, be absolutely certain that the recipient enjoys regularly shopping or eating at the establishment that you choose. There are some striking statistics out there on how many gift cards go completely unused (i.e. wasted). If you’re at all unsure, skip it. A small gift you know they will enjoy goes a lot further.

3. Clothing isn’t a great gift option, so just skip it if you can. Unless you are privy to someone’s sizes (and most of us are not, not even our spouses) it can be awkward for them if it doesn’t fit, and difficult to exchange or return. Save yourself the stress of “what size? WHAT SIZE?!” and opt for a handbag or a nice scarf instead.

4. If you’re a big giver, set aside a little money each month in a special account that you can use toward holiday purchases. It certainly helps to have that money in place when the time comes, and it’s SO much better than maxing out all your credit cards and trying to deal with it in January.

5. Handmade gifts are often the best gifts. Make some homemade cookies or jams, decorate a wooden picture frame, have children color pictures, make a simple sewing project or put together a scrapbook of a favorite memory. Not only are handmade gifts completely unique, but they come straight from the heart, and that’s what a recipient really wants.

6. With some people, I find it fun to have a gift-giving tradition. Each year, buy each other the same thing: an ornament, funky earrings, garden seeds, coffee mugs, whatever it is that you share an interest in. It takes the thinking out of a gift, and in the end you each will have a fun collection.

7. For children, if you find yourself in the toy aisle, head swirling, head to the games and puzzles. They are much more enjoyable and educational. Just find something age-appropriate.

8. Save yourself some money and only send holiday cards to close friends and family. Cut out friends you haven’t spoken to in forever, old bosses, obscure 5th cousins, anyone you wouldn’t mind not getting a card from yourself. You can save a bundle on cards and postage.

9. If you really don’t know what to get someone, just ask. Better you feel like a fool for a few minutes, not knowing what to get, than feel unsure forever that you’re getting the right gift. The recipient usually appreciates being asked rather than you doing some quick guess work.

10. Consider spending money to “adopt a family” instead of exchanging gifts. My mom’s family has been doing this recently, and it’s so great. For one, it completely eliminates the stress of buying gifts, and you’re also helping a family in need, which feels so great. Another great gift is making a charitable donation in your recipient’s name. They will feel honored, and you will have put your money to good use.

I wrote this blog post while participating in the TwitterMoms and Office Depot blogging program, making me eligible to get a $40 Office Depot gift card. For more information on how you can participate, click here.

Beth’s Picks: Holiday Gift Guide

It’s that time of year again! And there’s nothing I love more than browsing lists of gift ideas online and in magazines, to get great ideas for the people in my life. Here’s a tiny little OpenSky gift guide from me to you and yours. Happy Holidays and Happy Shopping!

Intemperantia Chocolates Mini Assorted Truffles: A delicious 9 piece sampler set of these great bit sized truffles. They come in a variety of flavors (dark, milk, white, etc.) Best of all, they are gluten free and all natural–perfect for any chocolate lover! ($15)

Custom Initial Onsies: About as personalized as it can get! You choose your color and your initial and a custom onsie is sent right to you and your baby! Great gift for new little ones in the family. They also come in long sleeved (for $1.50 extra), because it is winter after all! ($11)

Blue Sandtimer Cufflinks: For the gentleman who has everything, some cool cufflinks! A conversation starter, a classy addition to any suit and a unique gift he’ll remember forever. Chrome plated. ($25)

Marx Foods Truffle Salt: A special treat for the foodie in your life! Truffle salt can be added to foods like regular salt, but adds the earthy flavor of black truffles. A delightful treat and a special addition to your cooking. 3.5 ounces. ($26)

Groovy Peace Bronze Necklace: For the hippie in your life. Funky, fun, eclectic and sends a positive message. My high school self would be drooling over this fantastic necklace. ($75)

Three Bar Bacon Soap Set: Know someone who REALLY likes bacon? This soap would be the perfect stocking stuffer! Just be sure to tell them it’s soap before they take a bite, haha. ($18)

Picnic Time Tool Kit: A handy, compact (12.5″ x 3.5″ x 17″) and durable tool kit for anyone you think could use it, from the kid going off to college to that neighbor who is constantly borrowing your tools. ($36)

Love and Kindness 8oz Soy Candle: An all-natural, clean-burning soy candle in a reusable glass jar with 50 to 70 hours of burn time. Comes in a wide variety of scents, and supports American farmers. You really can’t go wrong with these great candles! ($12)

Food Groups: For the kiddos, a great wooden food toy set to teach them all about their food groups. Durable and non-toxic.  ($18)

Stickr Black Frame Kit: Genius idea! Frames that stick to the wall, but won’t damage it when removed! And they can be moved around over and over. Set includes Doiley 5×7”; Queen Elizabeth 8×10”; Broadway 4×6”; Gumdrops 4×6”; Gumdrops 4×4”; Grandma’s Tiara 5×7”; Grandma’s Tiara 4×6”; Doiley 4×6”. ($20)

Ultra Moisturizing Cream Gift Set: A fantastic moisturizer that I have sung the praises of previously on Very Bloggy. This gift set comes with four 2 oz. jars, in the Fresh Lemongrass, Coconut Lime, Almond Vanilla, and Vanilla Fig scents. Great gift for a friend, or stocking stuffers for lots of friends! ($40)

Cookie Treat Cuatro Gift Set: For the doggie lovers. A gift pack of four different yummy organic and all-natural dog treats, with no wheat, corn or soy. A yummy holiday treat for any pooch! ($33)