Dear Me

dear-me-photoLast night I enjoyed reading a well-written short article in the latest issue of AARP Magazine. I will now pause while you all snicker and chuckle over me admitting to not only receiving, but reading, AARP magazine.  Yeah, I know, it took me a while to admit to it. My husband and I have been receiving the magazine for about a year (yes, it is because we are card-carrying members…I like to point out I’m only receiving benefits because I’m married to an older man). I used to hide the cover when I was in public so people would think I was reading something like Cosmo or Real Simple.   But what the heck, time to be honest, it’s a good publication. And even better, some times some of the articles make me feel young. I won’t admit to how many others I can identify with…

Anyway… This particular piece was written by radio host Peter Sagal, and it was a note he had written to his younger self.   Now in his early 50’s, he was thinking about his life in his 20’s, and how if he could, he would send a note to his younger self about doing some things differently in life. Nothing huge that would have completely changed the course of his life, but more like tips on rolling with the punches, not being afraid, and adding something beneficial to the world, no matter how small. Most importantly, he advises his younger self to live every day like it is his last. He states “those of us on the wise side of 50 know that life will not be an endless banquet of choices.”   He ends his note by advising his younger self “you should not fret, neither should you fritter. Be calm…be not afraid. And get busy.”

Great advice. It got me thinking about what I would say to my younger self if I was given the chance to drop myself a note of wit and wisdom. What would I want young me to know?

First, I’d want to offer reassurance. Let Y.M. (Young Me) know that even though life is not always easy, there are going to be tough tines, scary times, sad times, but overall it all works out to be a pretty darn awesome life.

But more specifically here’s some things I would tell me:

  • Appreciate and enjoy your youth and beauty. Stop worrying about your hair or your skin blemishes or think you look ugly wearing glasses. In about 30 years you are going to look back at photos and think OMG, I was gorgeous.
  • Quoting my favorite, Nora Ephron: “Oh, how I regret not having worn a bikini for the entire year I was twenty-six. If anyone young is reading this, go, right this minute, put on a bikini, and don’t take it off until you’re thirty-four.”   That’s right, Y.M., enjoy that body. Go ahead and even flaunt it some. Enjoy the fact you can eat a Reeses Pieces Sundae with your BFF and not gain an ounce. Because in the future there will come a time when the only way you can lose weight is by having the flu.
  • Date more. Be a little wild.   Be proud of being a good girl, and a long-term relationship kind of woman. But fit in some casual fun. Go to more parties and dress up and go to more clubs. Have a one-night-stand. Test those waters before you go off into the sunset with your forever man.
  • Be more daring to try new things and seek work that makes you happy. Want to make a change? Go for it. Talk to people in other professions, take a class in something new. Don’t expect that what you thought you wanted at 17 will still be what you want at 50. And most of all, if you aren’t happy at your job, find something new. Don’t spend 9 hours a day miserable.
  • Pay attention and listen to the older generation. Visit them often. Learn skills from mom, because years later when she’s not there to call, you’ll wish you had learned more. Truly listen to stories from Grandma, Dad, and your Aunts and Uncles.. and record them or write them down. That is your real life history, and in the future when the people who told them are not longer here, don’t let that information be lost forever.

And lastly, Y.M., laugh until you pee. Often. Find joy, not drama. You will make amazing friends who become family, so appreciate them. Enjoy literally every moment. Who knows what happens next after this life, so we better take advantage of the time we have here.

But don’t worry, I’ll send another note in the future and let you know. Just keep your eyes open.

Posted in age, beauty, communication, family, friends, home, Kids, real women, Relationships, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Simply Fortunate

world-on-shouldersLately it seems like we are all carrying the weight of the world on our shoulders. Around the kitchen table, at social gatherings, and on social media, we are having far more discussions about the future of our government, political decision-making, foreign relations, the power of others, and the widening gap between rich and poor, than chats about fashion, food and fun.   It was a welcome relief when we all momentarily diverted our attention to football and Lady GaGa. Yet even the excitement over the historical game results and the aerial vocalist’s outfits and fireworks were short-lived. Within 48 hours we were back to travel bans and Senate confirmations. Luckily we in the northeast have an impending snow storm to chat about, and can break up the monotony of worldly worries by having bread and milk parties in the grocery stores for a few hours.

As much as I hate to see our country so divided and restless, I do think it is admirable that so many of us are trying in our own ways to take action, to speak out, to show support for what we each believe in and try to make a difference on a grand scale. But after a while, it just gets tiring. We need diversions. We need to start thinking about the “small” things again. To pay some attention to the areas in our lives where we do have more control. This morning I started to consider how we could all press the pause button in our complaining and worrying and get back to being a bit more thankful. Maybe spend a bit of time recognizing how fortunate we are to have the simple things in life. Plainly stated, I’m attempting a shift in perspective.

Last night I got my haircut. The stylist kindly fit me in last minute, when my hair had reached what I call “flashpoint” and suddenly was unruly and shaggy. The weight-of-the-world-complaining me would see the appointment as “another thing” to try to fit in to a busy day and evening, making me miss my workout, and I was tired. But wait a minute. What really was happening is that someone pleasant to talk to, with skills and abilities far beyond my own capabilities, was pampering me by washing my hair, cutting and styling it and making me feel and look better than I did when I walked in the door. Huh. Ok. Lucky me.

This morning when the alarm went off my first reaction, same as always, was “oh, noooo, not already. I feel like I’ve only been asleep for about five minutes. I don’t wanna get up.”   The simple reality is that I have a comfortable bed in a safe and secure house with electricity and plumbing. I had hot water and great smelling soap so I could take a shower. I had a variety of clothes to choose from to put on (yet how many mornings do I stand in my closet and think “ugh, I’m so sick of these clothes, I have ‘nothing’ to wear”?). I’m fortunate.

It was a busy morning of getting my son off to school, taking care of the dog, getting myself ready for my day, covering to-do’s with my hubby, and hurrying to get out the door early to head out on a business trip.   Yup, lots there to potentially complain about.  Really? Why? Because I have a smart and fairly self-sufficient son who can make his own frozen waffles before shuffling out the door? Because I have a completely adorable and sweet pup? Because I have a hubby who’s willing to drop off a package at UPS for me and carried my suitcase to my car?

Speaking of being fortunate, I find myself very much in a minority of women who love their jobs. It took me a lot of years to find it. My hubby and I both work very hard, and put in lots of hours. But not only are we among the lucky to be employed, but I love what I do, and who I do it for. Shame on me if I don’t take a moment every day to pause and be thankful. Shame on any of us who aren’t appreciative of being able to bring home a paycheck to pay the bills.

My trip today required air travel. Oh, boy, LOTS of potential for inconvenience, discomfort and complaining there. Let’s face it, flying can no longer be categorized as a fun experience. We also hear way too many horrible things about what “could happen”, which can give us nightmares or anxiety attacks. Which again pulls us back into worrying about the big scary world and what’s wrong with it. But today, even cutting my time a bit closer than I had intended, I got checked in and through security in a breeze. I was able to get a vanilla chai tea, and log on using the airport’s free wifi on my laptop to take care of a couple of work things before getting on the plane. How privileged.

The flights were packed, and since today I was traveling via Southwest with unassigned seating, and luck of the draw was in the last group to board, I ended up in one of the last available middle seats. Comfortable? Nope. Even the steward jokingly said “sit back and get comfortable in your 32” wide seats.”   I took my Airborne this morning to fight back the swirling cloud of germs I’d be breathing in all day. But what are the alternatives? Attempt to drive 3,000 miles to my destination, which would take six days, rather than being there in six hours?   Or not make the trip at all?   My best option would be to be like I Dream of Jeannie and blink myself there. But that’s not gonna happen. Trust me, I’ve tried. So there I was, literally winging my way across the country.   Advantaged.

During my travel, I’m lucky in another way. For hours at a time, I’m disconnected from the news. I’m disconnected from social media. I hear smatterings of conversations around me, or maybe briefly exchange pleasantries with another traveler. I spend time looking through magazines, reading a book, or writing. None of which has anything to do with trying to solve the world’s problems. And it is a lovely diversion.

Please don’t mistake my escapism as complacency. Just like so many other R.W’s out there, I care, and I care a lot. I worry. A lot. I take action when appropriate. I learn, I listen, I try to make good decisions. And I pray. A lot.

But once in a while, we need to be a bit less like Atlas, set that world down, take a break, and be glad for what we have.

Sometimes we just simply need to go buy milk and bread.

Posted in communication, education, family, Kids, men, moods, politics, Relationships, simplifying, Uncategorized, World news | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Needing to be Needed

text“When your children are teenagers, it’s important to have a dog so someone in the house is happy to see you.” – Nora Ephron

Oh, sure, we all complain. We all get weary of feeling like we are being pulled in a dozen different directions every moment of the day.   We have moments of wanting to scream – whether it is from having young children and hearing Mom. Mom. Mommy. Mom. Mommy. Ma. Mom. MO-OOM! all day, or from caring for an elderly parent who calls incessantly, requesting help with a tv remote or because they are confused which medications to take..or it could be because of a sick pet who has made messes all over the house and is up five times at night…or never ending chores and errands that fill a whole weekend…or needy co-workers with chaotic deadlines. No matter what the source, we all reach a point where we are tired of responsibilities, and we want some alone time. We dream of running away to a deserted island all by ourselves, no one to take care of but ourselves.

At least we think that is what we want. But in reality, isn’t it really the opposite? Even if we don’t want to admit it, don’t we R.W.’s have a basic human desire to be needed?   Men do too, I suppose…but I think for them, they get their energy more from feeling appreciated and admired. Women need to be needed. Which makes us feel loved – and indispensible.  How many of us have exasperatedly proclaimed like any good martyr “I don’t know how my family could ever cope without me!” while secretly being happy that they would be just ruined without us.

Truth is, they could cope. If we did run off to that tropical island, our loved ones could survive and be just fine. Sure, it may be messy, and not the way we’d like it, but they would find their own ways to cope. To test this, take a trip away from home, even for just 24 hours. Upon arriving back home, you will likely be greeted by dishes in the sink, unmade beds, leftover pizza, a bored pet, and uncompleted homework. But they will have survived.

My husband and I are currently binge-watching the Netflix series Shameless. For any of you who are not familiar with the show, it is aptly named. It is a frequently shocking, sometimes disturbing, ‘dramedy” about the most dysfunctional family you’d ever see. At the core are six siblings who have grown up with no parental guidance (at least no good, healthy guidance) in the south side of Chicago. And although it is of course a tv show, it is an illustration of the power of survival. The kids are messy, rough, crude con-artists – but somehow they keep a roof over their heads and (some) food on the table. But whoo, boy, could they use a mom.

When our children are little, they need us for EVERYTHING. Eating, walking, getting dressed, making decisions. But as they get older, their dependence on us lessens. They learn to do things for themselves, and make their own decisions. Some good, some bad, but we don’t have to take care of them every moment. It can feel kind of wonderful to have more freedom…. Until…. we miss it.

This morning before I left for work, I got a text from my son from school. He had apparently forgotten to tell me he was out of lunch money in his school account. He had no cash on him, and no food in his backpack. I had two options. One, exhibit tough love and teach the Sophomore that he’s old enough to keep better track of things and let him go hungry. Second, realize that it is easy to forget these things and that even if he had told me, I could have forgotten to give him money. I had visions of him passing out from hunger. So of course I made him a lunch and dropped it off at school.

I haven’t made him a school lunch in probably about two years. You know what? It was kind of fun. It made me feel….well, needed. In a really basic, simple, mom-ish kinda way. The best part? Was his text at lunch time. “This lunch is fantastic. Thank you.” I even got a “love you too.”

He may be five inches taller than me, learning to drive, and headed to college in a couple of years. But today, he needed his mom to do something nice for him.

So I suppose I’ll put off that trip to a deserted island… at least until tomorrow.  Because what would they do without me?

 

 

 

 

Posted in Chores, communication, family, Helping others, home, home chores, Kids, meals, Relationships, school, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , | 1 Comment

Food Economics

mini-saladOne of the many reasons I hate grocery shopping is because it is so dang time consuming. When I shop, I’m generally shopping for a week to two-weeks worth of groceries. Since I cook dinner at home almost every night, and pack my breakfast and lunch from home, and have a skinny teenage boy who eats every two hours, that’s a lot of food. But it’s not just the quantity that slows me down. It’s the price comparisons, the expiration date checking, and the coupon organizing. I can’t just grab and go, I’ve got to analyze.

And I’m not even really good at it. Some of you R.W.’s out there are the Masters of Food Deals. You browse every flyer and ad and plan your shopping destinations based on the best deals. You have mounds of coupons, and know which stores will double or triple them. You get rebates and two-for-ones. You are dedicated and efficient, and I’m very impressed. Me, however, I’m just trying to get what I need without having to take out a second mortgage to do it, and to get done and home in under two hours.

And that’s another big reason I hate grocery shopping. Every time, without fail, no matter how careful I’ve been, I get sticker shock. There was a time in my life when things were tough and I carried a calculator around with me to keep track of my total, putting things back if I got over budget. I’m blessed that I no longer need to do that. But that doesn’t mean I can just buy anything and everything willy nilly, and grab only the top brands. I compare prices of the store brand vs. others. I do the math to figure out the best value by quantity. I do clip coupons, even if some weeks I’m only saving a whopping $2.50.   So I try to be wise and clever, yet when I’ve piled my purchases on the conveyor belt, and the cashier tells me my total, I’m still pained.

As I load my groceries into my car and drive home, I start to do food economics in my head in an effort to make myself feel better. I’m shopping for 3 of us, plus occasional friends or guests who may visit. So here’s how I rationalize my bill. Three of us, for let’s say 8 days of groceries, multiplied by the number of home-prepped meals, minus the meals purchased out, and I come up with approximately 46 meals. If I have spent $250, that comes out to approximately $5.43 per meal.   Ugh, don’t think that makes me feel any better, sounds pretty pricey.

I have to admit that from time to time I do get bored with my home-prepped meals. Every morning is pretty much the same, I take to work with me fruit and yogurt and some sort of cereal bar or a slice of quick bread. Lunch is one of three things: leftovers, salad, or a cardboard heat ‘n eat meal (aka Lean Cuisine).   Once in a while I gotta be wild and crazy and stop at a Dunkin Donuts or get a lunch out. And, let’s all face it, some nights we just don’t have the energy or desire to cook, so we do take-out or go out.

Today was one of the lunch-boredom days. I had a lack of desire for my heat n’ eat meal, and I had a spare 45 minutes between meetings and hankerin’ for a good salad that I hadn’t made myself. So for the first time in months I went to Panera for take-out. There were two things that made me happy: First, they still make my favorite salad. Second, they now offer a choice of half-size or full-size. I wish every restaurant offered portions. Jolly and excited to enjoy my lunch, I paid for my little half-size salad, a chunk of bread, and a medium fountain drink. Then the cashier rang me up. $9.50.   WHAT?   $9.50 for THAT?   For a tiny salad that probably took the food prep folks 4 minutes to throw in a to go container and a piece of bread chopped off a larger loaf?   Talk about sticker shock. As I got back to my desk and opened my mini salad, which didn’t even come half way up the sides of the container, I realized there was no way to do mental food economics to make it any better. Yes, I ate every last bit of it, and it was yummy. But for $9.50, my bread chunk should have gotten up and tap-danced on my desk.

In a way, it made me feel better about my weekly sojourn to that place I hate. Perhaps my $5.43 average meal cost for groceries isn’t so bad. After all, some of those meals are full-on hearty dinners. Not quaint little bits of rabbit food.

Funny thing too… you would think that with my efforts to manage my food bill and cut costs, I’d buy less food and eat less, thus losing weight.   Not so much. Because buying healthy food like fresh fruit and veggies, especially in January, is expensive. And somehow I always seem to manage to still buy all my favorite foods that start with c: carbs, cookies, chocolate, and chips.   I’m a whiz at finding sales and coupons for those.

So the vicious cycle continues. I cook, we eat, I shop. I wince at the total. I rationalize. But every once in a while, I’ll hit some really good deals or find a coveted $5 off the total order coupon, or maybe – just maybe – come in a few dollars under budget. And I’ll head home with my trophy: buy-one-get-one oreos.

Because heck, I earned them.

 

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When It’s Ok to Not Know

Concept image of a signpost with Yes, No or Maybe against a blue cloudy sky.My son is a Sophomore in high school. Which means he is caught in that odd transition between being a kid and being an adult. And I’m in that odd transition of wishing he was still my little boy, and trying to encourage his independence. This stage of mom-dom is really hard. I’m excited for him and everything his future holds, but in so many ways I wish I could go back in time to when he was curled up on my lap and we had his whole childhood still ahead of us, both of us in a happy and safe little cocoon together.

While I carry on my own inner turmoil about him growing up, I can see that he’s excited yet anxious in his own way. Teenagers today are put under a lot of pressure to grow up quickly… to take on extra-curricular activities at school, do community service, learn to drive, get a job, decide where to go to college or trade school and what to study, and even to decide what they want to become as an adult. All the while staying out of trouble, making healthy decisions about friends, partying, drugs and alcohol, and getting decent grades. That’s a lot to juggle.

The pressure to decide “what’s next” is the toughest. At a recent holiday party, friends of ours asked my son what he thought he might want to study in college, or if he had any thoughts as to what he’d like to do in the future. His response was honest. He said “Not really. I still have to raise my hand to ask to go to the bathroom, but they want us to decide what we are doing with the rest of our lives.”

At one point when he was feeling pressured and stressed about making decisions about his future, I had to speak not to the adult blooming within him, but to the kid inside. I told him that he is only 16. It is ok to not know. Sure, some kids seem to be born with a drive and direction from the get-go and strive to be a cop, a doctor, or a politican.   But that’s pretty rare. I told my boy that he has no idea how big the world is out there, and the different things he could learn and do. When he gets to college, he will be amazed by the variety of areas of study.

Truly, the world is open to him, and the opportunities are far greater than when I was his age. Tonight we were talking about the various courses in his high school that he’s hoping to take in the next couple of years. Business Law, Psychology, Graphics, The History of Rock and Roll. How awesome is that?   I think the most unusual courses I took were Music Theory and Shakespeare.

When I was graduating from high school and trying to decide on a path of study for college, I literally thought “Well, I like English. Guess I could major in that.” Two or three years in, I still had people saying “An English major? Are you going to teach?” Because that was the natural assumption. Especially for a woman. All I would say was “No, I don’t think so. Not sure what I’ll do.”

Funny thing, it all worked out in the end, even though I had no grand plan. I find it fascinating talking to other people, other Real Women, who have ended up doing something completely different than what they originally intended, or finding their passion in something other than what they prepared for in college. Many years after my graduation, now in my mid-life years, I am happily in a career that has combined my interests and passions with my skills. And I’ve given myself the gift of spending time writing. Which, when I think about it, is something I’ve always done. Even as a young girl, I wrote stories and kept journals. Huh. Go figure.

So who knows. Maybe my son will find some totally new and exciting direction in his future. Or maybe he’ll become any one of the many ideas he’s already tossed around, like being a History Teacher, or a Music Producer, or a Video Game Designer, or a Lawyer or an Actor. As far as I’m concerned, I think it is fine that he has not chosen a path. I don’t want him to feel trapped into making decisions before he’s ready. I hope that he explores a few different directions, tries new things, has fun along the way and takes “the road less traveled.”   Because so very often, it is when we are exploring new views and new trails, looking all around us, absorbing all there is to see – that’s when we stumble into something awesome that feels right and makes us say “Oh yeah. That’s totally me.”   And guess what. That probably isn’t going to happen at age 16.

Happy trails, my son.

 

Posted in age, communication, education, family, Helping others, Kids, Pride, Professions, school, travel, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Wake Me in Spring

hibernation-bearThe excitement of the holiday season has passed, and we are all settling into our regular routines. One would think that with the dawn of a new year, we’d be energized and enthusiastic. Not so much. ‘Tis the season for lack of energy.

It’s not that the holidays wore us out – at least we can’t still use that as an excuse. It’s not that we have become lethargic due to lack of interest. It’s not that we have suddenly all developed narcolepsy.   It is because we Real Women, at least those of us in the colder regions of the country, are fighting our natural instincts to hibernate. Those mama bears have it right.

Let’s review, shall we? We awaken while the day is still dark and cold. We stumble around, wrapped in fleece and fuzzy slippers, and check the thermometer as if it really matters whether it is 8 degrees or 22 degrees out. We listen to the weather forecast as if it really matters whether we’ll get 2 inches of snow, or 12 inches, or just 6 inches of “mixed precipitation”, ie: slush.  We see our children off to school while it is still so dark that the school buses have their headlights on. Then we gather what energy we have and start our days, be it work, or school, or volunteering, or home management… Whatever our activities are, with a hot enough shower and enough caffeine, we begin to feel human enough to tackle whatever comes our way.

We bundle up to head outside, looking like colorful penguins in our long coats, scarves and boots. We walk like penguins too. Any of you who live in a cold clime are familiar with the clenched-and-hutched-shoulder posture we adopt until May.

For a few hours we forget it is hibernation season. If the sun is out, we get a bit of pep in our step. We may even take part in winter activities like skiing, snowshoeing or building snow sculptures. For a moment or two we convince ourselves that this is lovely and fun. Look at me, it is cold out but I’m being active! A productive member of the human race!

Then, a few short hours later, darkness descends again. 4pm feels and looks like 9pm. Once again the bundling process begins, and we try to gather the strength to head home from our work or our activities.   Six months ago, 6:00 at night felt like just the beginning of the afternoon. We had hours ahead of us of daylight and warmth, and we had energy pouring out of our tanned selves. We did evening activities, mostly outside. BBQing, bike riding, gardening, long walks, or just hanging out visiting with neighbors.   Now the only time we see our neighbors is when we are both out snowblowing at the same time. We wave a heavily mittened hand which translates to “see you in the spring”.

The evenings are when our deep desire to slumber kicks in. In place of those summer time outdoor adventurous, active athletes are now sofa sloths binging on Netflix. If we manage to get one productive activity accomplished before bedtime, we are proud of ourselves.   “I got the dishes washed! Damn, I’m good. “ Then eventually we give in, and go where we’ve wanted to be all day…. Snuggled in to bed like the bear’s lair, having eaten enough comfort food to keep a Grizzly full.

The good news is that the winter solstice has passed. Which means, whether we notice it or not, our days are getting longer. Heck, today we actually had 9 hours and 19 minutes of daylight!   Hope you used them wisely!

There is literally a light at the end of the tunnel. In a few months, we will start to crawl out from under our blankets, put down the mac ‘n cheese, put on our sneakers, and emerge from our fuzziness.   Unlike the mama bears, we won’t have lost weight, and we won’t feel especially rested. But bit by bit, our energy levels will return. And that first warm sunny day will feel like heaven.

In the meantime, we can entertain ourselves with the many ways we can wear flannel.

Silly humans.

 

 

 

Posted in beauty, fitness, Food, Health, Holidays, meals, moods, Seasons, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

It’s Time.

christmas-treesAhhh, the morning sun shining down with the promise of a new year, sparkling on the bits of snow and ice, and highlighting….. the heap of dead Christmas trees.   It’s kind of a sad sight in a way. So many trees, which gave their lives so we could decorate our homes for the holidays, unceremoniously dragged out and left by the side of the road. Well, at least in our town that happens. It’s like some sort of secret Dead Tree Society, where seemingly overnight the piles on certain corners get higher and deeper until the DPW comes along with a mulcher.

It is surprising how soon some of those trees start showing up. My husband and I saw one the day after Christmas. Some folks don’t waste any time.  If we all played by the rules, of course, the decorations would not go up weeks in advance (during what my BFF’s hubby calls Hallowthanksmas), and instead our trees and décor would be maintained for the full 12 days of Christmas. Just ask Mary:   epiphany

However in our busy lives, we tend to bend the rules. We get excited to make our homes festive and look forward to Christmas, and to ringing in the new year, so we spruce up our environments with our twinkling lights early.   We may have the best of intentions to enjoy it for as long as possible. But at some point, no matter how pretty and cheerful it all may look, we start to get antsy about taking it all back down again.

I get it. Really, I do. I’m one of those R.W.’s who goes all out with the decorating. I inherited that passion from my mother. Every year I put a lot of effort into putting up special décor, scenes, candles, you name it. Once I get it done, I’m thrilled and want to make it last. Then, somewhere along the line, as if someone flips a light switch, I’m done with it.   I want my house back to normal. This year that switch flipped a couple of days ago when I was walking through my dining room – no, wait, correction, I was squeezing my way through the room – and I could no longer stand the clutter and tight spaces. My Christmas village takes up an entire side of the room, and the nativity scene takes up another corner — so the dining table and chairs are pushed aside and cramped. The table is loaded with now-stale cookies and candy and treats, all of which I’m sick of. Various gifts are spread out on surfaces and small piles on the floor because they haven’t all been put away. The poinsettia is wilting. It is time.

And so, because I have an extra day off to celebrate New Year’s Day, I will spend most of the weekend, like so many other R.W.’s, getting things packed up and put away, and cleaning the house.   It will of course be bitter sweet – I am emotionally attached to many of the holiday items, and cherish being able to enjoy them once a year. Yet at the same time, I can’t wait for my home to feel open and airy again, and to put a new clean rug runner in the kitchen. It’s the little things that make me feel better.

Clearly this clean-out is symbolic. As we all celebrate the end of one year and the beginning of another, we dearly want to feel like we are getting a fresh start. To have hope, to be able to take a deep breath and some how start over.   Even if we don’t stay up until midnight, even if we don’t go to a big wild party, or even watch plastic-faced Ryan Seacrest count down the big ball with thousands of people wedged into Times Square — no matter how we celebrate — we all want to have that glimmer of new, of a clean slate to start over.

So, by the end of this weekend, I expect to see even more trees by the curb. I expect to take dozens of trips up and down my basement stairs as I pack away my decorations. I expect, like every year, I will feel like the house looks a bit bare, but refreshing and somehow a bit new again. A fresh perspective.

In the spirit of a renewed perspective, rather than see those dead trees as something sad and pathetic, I’ll think about how they could be recycled into something new. They could be mulch for our flower gardens, or bedding for animals, or who knows, maybe even be made into paper for the pages of a book.

After all, when we all wake up in a new year, it will be the first page in a blank book that is 365 pages long.

And once again, we have our chance to make it a best seller.

Happy New Year!

 

 

 

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