That Escalated Quickly

Just a few short weeks and the world is slowly coming to a halt. It is serious and we must all do our part for the greater good. I love this post at Reluctant Xtian and what he recommends about thinking of others and not just ourselves.

While I agree and will implement those suggestions, I’m also looking forward to the break. The break from the “have to’s”. Deep spring cleaning, long dog walks, and tackling the ever growing pile of must read books on my nightstand are calling me.

Less running around, less hurrying, and less expectations. More boardgames, more snuggles, more breathing and more savoring of the time with my crazies.

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We will continue on with our homeschool curriculum. Books will be read. We will have lots of breaks to sit in the backyard and play fetch and feel the grass under our bare feet. Sweet daughter has been mowing lawns and poop scooping for neighbors. Cookies will be baked, hands will be washed, popcorn popped, movies watched and new recipes tried.

As an introvert, I relish this time. No, I’m not glad we have a rampant virus. Businesses large and small will be affected. People are sick and dying. It’s. awful.

Yet…

Since we are quarantined, schools cancelled for the time being, and precautions are being taken – I won’t be sad for the gifts that this process is giving us. 

The gift of time.

The gift of family.

The gift of remembering our neighbors and our own humanity.

The gift of knowing that we are in this together, and that we can do hard things. 

 

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Unexpected

Post-PCS move, all the boxes are unpacked. The paper (oh so much paper) has been meticulously straightened and folded and packed into one giant box by my equally meticulous husband. (I’m more of a shove it in a box and pack it down type, but whatever.) We have offered it all to others in the neighborhood who are getting ready for their next move.

This is my favorite space. The just after we are settled and unpacked space. Where everything has a place, things no longer needed have been donated, and it’s another 2.5 years before we have to even think about moving again. We have all the hooks in the hallway, shoe racks placed, kids’ rooms decorated and it feels like home.

I sip my steaming hot freshly poured hot cup of coffee and gaze contentedly out the windows that offer a peekaboo view of the San Juan islands and the Puget Sound. It’s still foggy, gray and rainy as the Pacific Northwest usually is in February. My dad asked me recently, “I thought you hated the rain?” Honestly, I thought I did, too.

I am in such a different space than I was the last time we lived here. The kids no longer require my assistance in such things as getting dressed. They are far more independent. We are not in the midst of deployments. We live in a relatively quiet military town – a far cry from the busy-ness (and sunshine) of Southern California. I try to cherish each phase as we move through them, but I’m completely immersing myself in this one. My not-so-tiny-anymore humans are hilarious people and I find myself marveling at their quick wits and quirky senses of humor. Savoring their curiosity and cultivating their love of learning is a calling I never envisioned. I never thought in a million years life would take the turns it has. If you would have told me I would be a vegetarian, homeschooling, 3-dog lover, nature-craving, letting-my-hair-go-grey-naturally, insatiable consumer of books, teetotaler I would have laughed out loud at the ridiculousness of that image.

But here I am in the midst of the unexpectedness of it all and I am loving every dang bit of it. Okay, maybe that’s the coffee talking because let’s face it, not every day is bliss. A week ago I dragged the minions to a hike at one of my favorite trails by the water and they complained THE ENTIRE TIME. “It’s tooooo coooooollllldddddd….” (complete with whining voice) and “Are we done with this yet? I’m bored,” they complained long and loudly. Granted I was a smidge unprepared. We should have dressed a little more warmly, and maybe ventured out during a little later (and warmer) part of the day. Between my pushing of mandatory-family-fun and their reluctance and complaining it was a shit-show less than stellar outing.

Contrasted with this week’s adventure, it was night and day. We played giant chess in the sprinkles that wouldn’t quite become rain. I found joy in the usual spots. The kids drank from a camping spout.

 

Interspersed with the unexpected-joy-nugget types of family fun, I have no doubts they will be sprinkled with “less than stellar outings” from time to time. But that’s the point isn’t it, to expect the unexpected?

trying new things

consuming viewpoint-altering books

the beauty of rain

sobriety

raising kind (most of the time) and compassionate humans

 

And perhaps embrace it all.

 

 

Is there a “wrong” way to do it?

There’s always been something off for me about the label of alcoholic that I’ve never really known how to articulate. Please don’t misunderstand, I don’t think AA is wrong, bad or whatever, but maybe there are more paths to recovery and the way we currently approach addiction and alcohol is not a route that works for everyone. If the main objective is to abstain, however someone goes about it, is it really wrong?

I usually don’t review a book before I’ve actually read the entire thing, but I’m making an exception. I am about half way through Holly Whitaker’s “How To Quit Like a Woman” and I’m completely blown away by her ability to put to words what I felt in my gut but was unable to express in a cohesive way. There are a couple of points Whitaker makes that deeply resonated with me (among about a thousand others so far):

“Alcohol is the only drug in the world where, when you stop taking it, you are seen as having a disease. Because alcohol is the only socially accepted drug, because most of us consume it, because we have come to believe that there are “normal” drinkers and there are “alcoholics,” and because alcoholism is self-diagnosed, it is literally the only drug in the world where you get a label and a lifetime disease once you admit you need to, want to, or do stop….When I drank (and clearly abused), I did not have alcoholism. When I said, ‘I can’t drink,’ I became an alcoholic. Because we believe everyone ‘should’ be able to drink ethanol, and those who can’t are somehow defective, we assign them a label and a lifetime disease.”

She continues on to assert that alcohol is not only addictive to a person labeled as an alcoholic, but to everyone. 

“Alcohol addiction is progressive, that some people are wired a bit differently and are more vulnerable to alcohol addiction…science tells (us) these things…alcohol is addictive to everyone. Yet we’ve created a separate disease called alcoholism and forced it upon the minority of the population who are willing to admit they can’t control their drinking, and because of that, we’ve focused on what’s wrong with those few humans rather than on what’s wrong with our alcohol-centric culture or the substance itself.””What made sobriety so full of wonder is the fact that I didn’t have to negotiate a word that implies a life sentence or a chronic, relapsing disease… what made the label nondrinker downright magical was that it wasn’t synonymous with drunk, inebriate, junkie, addict, lush, wino, liar, or cheat.”

Nondrinker.

It’s sounds weird to my ear because I’m so used to the word alcoholic. Whitaker comments about the fact that we don’t call nonsmokers cigarette-aholics. They are non-smokers. The onus is on the substance, not the person – that’s the simple and huge difference. While it may seem like simple semantics, I am a firm believer in the power of words. Words carry weight, imply, infer and conjure images in our minds. It’s just the way language and culture works. The term non-drinker is empowering. It gives the user the choice, while alcoholic takes all choice away. Perhaps it doesn’t really matter in the long run. If sober, I don’t drink – regardless of a label. Working a program is valuable. Self reflection and conscious examination of one’s self and behaviors is crucial to growth. Maybe if there was less of a stigma associated with sobriety, less normalizing of imbibing ethanol, perhaps more would choose to embrace it?

Sauerkraut…and a Bar

I did some new things this week. For one, I made sauerkraut. (Yep, totally had to look up how to spell it correctly.) I’ve had it before as a kid and detested it, but like other foods, I’ve developed a taste for items previously not preferred.

So pretty and purple!

The recipes online all say “Oooh it’s so simple! Just add salt and voila! Sauerkraut perfection!” While the ingredients are simple, there are a few steps that require some muscle and patience. For example, the splooging of purple cabbage juice all over the counter or the having to dump it out of the sanitized mason jar back into the mixing bowl to keep working it for more brine (salt and cabbage water) to be released to cover the cabbage shreds. (If there isn’t enough brine to cover, you haven’t worked it enough and it can cause mold to grow which is not tasty.)

Just add salt! Righhhhht.
I do not own a food funnel for canning so spooning it in was a *little* messy. I may or may not have purple splotches on more than one counter.
Now to wait. Waiting…..waiting…….

In about 3 days I will be testing my ‘kraut and seeing whether it’s gross or if I’ve developed a taste for fermented fun!

Secondly, I went to a bar for a mom’s night out a few days ago. It was the first time I’ve been in an actual bar in a verrrry long time. It was also the second time in 2 weeks being around alcohol in close proximity outside of the grocery store. (The first being the hubby’s work holiday party.) I’m happy to have had both expericences under my belt. I don’t feel like I was tempted to drink at either event, but I am wary of being overly cocky. Arrogance will likely land me in a place I do not want to go ever again.

Leading up to the work party, I felt very antsy and anxious. I typically feel that way before social events like that as I play out conversations and making small talk (which I suck at) and all the other social crap that goes with pretending to adult. The dinner was a buffet so I was able to eat all of the veggie goodness, while the hubby happily chose beef. Conversation was lovely, with great people he works with and their spouses. As dinner was finished and the music started, it soon became evident who had had a bit too much to drink. There were stumbles and falling off of chairs as well as a wardrobe malfunction or two. We went home shortly after prizes were raffled off. While we didn’t go home with a package wrapped in a bow, I feel like I won. My prize was no hangover, no guilt, and no shame. WIN.

The mom’s night out was with an old friend who I was able to reconnect with after living on opposite sides of the country for over a decade. We went to a local bar and I set myself up for success, as my mother aptly put it. I knew going in there was no way I was going to drink, but I didn’t want to be a social debbie downer so I planned what I would consume – soda water and lime. Honestly, no one really knew any different. If they did – no one said anything. It just wasn’t that big of a deal. As we arrived I let my friend know that I was happy to be the DD for the night if she did want to partake. It was decided – done and done. We watched the amazing drag show, danced, hooted and hollered and had a blast. We closed down the joint and blew off steam. It was (like always) so much more fun than I had anticipated.

Another little thing I did was jot down a little private reminder:

Two years, 7 months, and 7 days

Just a little message to myself of how far I’ve come. As the bar was nearing closing time, it was clear a few other patrons were definitely intoxicated. I saw myself in many of them. It was a great moment to witness the road not taken. If there was ever a desire to detour, seeing drunk people cured it in a heartbeat.

Pickling foods and avoiding being pickled.

I’ll take that any day!

Gratitude, Always

There is tired, and then there’s tired. The kind of tired you feel when you have done way more than there is time for, more than you’d planned, and are sleep deprived on top of it all. It’s the kind of tired you feel when you have to tuck your chin down, keep your feet moving and focus only on the task in front of you.

“Just one more thing. Just get through this,” I told myself as I daydreamed of sleep, looking forward to when this was all over. The truck was getting packed, little by little. The ultimate adult Tetris game being playing by my master-packer husband as oddly shaped belongings filled tiny niches here and there. I wondered as we do every move about the necessity of so much stuff.

For a person who really doesn’t like moving (and the associated stress), it’s ironic that we are a military family. There are aspects about it that I do enjoy; the setting up of a new house, arranging things, and the adventure of it . The part I detest? The packing and the cleaning of the old house. All the nitty gritty cleaning – baseboards, windows, blinds, and ovens. Not my favorite at all.

This move is hitting our little deep-feeler daughter hard. She is very melancholy, expressing her desire to go back to Texas as that is the only home she really remembers. I comfort her the best I can and remind her that it’s okay to feel yucky and whatever which way she feels about all of this. That feelings are what they are and the best way to get through these patches is to just wade right into them and feel them. You can’t avoid the bitter-sweetness, the frustration, and the sadness. The only way is to go through.

Our last night in the mostly-empty house, we did what we usually do. We read a bit of our book, currently book 3 of The Chronicles of Narnia. As I finished, nestled between 2 kids and 3 dogs in our king bed, both kiddos wanted to chat instead of the usual pleading of ‘just one more chapter!’

“What do you want to talk about?” I asked.

“The move,” my daughter quietly replied. The volume of her voice inversely proportionate to the weight of what’s on her heart and mind.

Ever putting the positive spin on hard things, I reminded myself of what I’d explained to her earlier, that the only way through hard things, is to go through them.

“Okay, how about this,” I prompted, “What if we start by each saying 3 things that really suck about moving?”

“YES!!!” they both giggled and begged to be the first to rattle off their yuck list. Hannah asked to swear out loud once. Why not? If that’s how you feel, get it out!

Their frustrations and heartaches vented, as well as mine, we moved on to our gratitude list, things we are thankful for or that give us comfort. All of us agreed the dogs are at the top of that list. Jacob was thankful for his computer and Minecraft, as always. Hannah snuggled in close and ticked off her list.

Exhausting their lists, it was my turn. My over-tired mind contemplated the things I was grateful for. There were so many things. “I’m thankful for the way homeschooling has opened up our schedule to more flexibility,” I began. “I love that no matter what four walls surround us, be it a hotel room, a new house in a different state, home is where the 7 of us are.” They nodded their agreement.

As they drifted off to the last sleep in our house, I was thinking of the tiny little rambler that fit us so well. The morning sun I’d marveled at as it streamed in across the floor each morning, the proximity to the beach, walking paths lined with jacaranda trees and birds of paradise, and a large back yard for the dogs flooded my sleepy brain. A hardworking husband that continued packing well into the wee hours of the night, the ability to see that we were making progress, and the knowledge that this phase doesn’t last forever all came to mind.

“Thank you,” I whispered to the quiet house. “Thank you.”

My Job

It has been nearly 2.5 years since I made the decision to no longer eat anything with a face. I’ll gladly offer resources and information when requested, but am not out to convert others to become vegetarian or vegan. (I will never be accepted in the vegan camp becuase I still have a leather couch, etc. and will not throw it out, but I no longer seek leather goods or items made from animals.) This is what works for me. The whole thing is fascinating, honestly. I tend to geek out about things, diving into stuff headfirst then figure out the details, if needed, later. The benefits of eating whole-food, plant-based were just too compelling to ignore. That, coupled with the experience of doing it and seeing my how my own health markers were positively affected made it a no-brainer.

To some that know me in real life, it may come as a surprise, but I find it very hard to swim against the grain and do my own thing. Highly Sensitive INFJ personality types tend toward perfectionism. (You can determine your personality type here! ) In real life that might look like, “I’m only a good mom if everyone eats a nutritionally balanced meal and no one argues at the table.” (I’ll wait while you stop laughing and collect yourself.) The reality in our family is that the 4 of us are very food-incompatible; a daughter who eats and will try most anything, a son on the autism spectrum who has a very narrow window of foods, a husband who shies away from new tastes, but bravely tries to accommodate, and then me who lives on fruit, nuts and seeds, veggies, rice, beans and pasta. Going veggie was a natural progression for me, but it creates a bit more work to accommodate our family’s preferences. Good thing I love cooking!

I saw a quote recently that “our job is not to convince others to our way of thinking, but to find our own path so that others may find theirs”. This hit me harder than I expected. Is it in our nature (or perhaps just mine) to convince others – of anything and everything? If mellowing with age has taught me anything, it’s that none of my “stuff” really matters in the big scheme of things. Not my circus – not my monkey has become a common mantra. My job is simply to love those around me well, and do what I know is right for me.

Like eating meat, the decision to abstain from alcohol is not only against the grain, but at times isolating. Among military spouses, it’s the norm. It’s how you get through rough depoloyment seasons. It’s how you get through the parenthood olympics, or so we are messaged to believe. Its the one thing that to opt out of immediately begs the quesiton, “Why?!” To not drink is to be dieting, detoxing, Whole30ing, or pregnant.

A blog I read regularly, the author had a recent post entitled, The World Doesn’t Stop Drinking Just becuase I Did.” Always with the impeccable timing you crazy universe! Yet again I’m told to sit down, be quiet and work my program. In my enthusiastic, straight-into-the-deep-end-head-first-ness, I forget that my journey is just that – mine. If it helps others, great, but it’s not my job to do the convincing. My only job is to do the journeying.

Changes

We have recently moved for the 9th time in about 12 years.

It’s been a chaotic few weeks with packing and unpacking, and then for good measure we threw in a dog CCL surgery!

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He leads a rough life. Obviously.

We are loving the new digs and the ocean of cardboard boxes is slowly diminishing.  San Diego doesn’t get winter weather, although you’d not know it based on the winter jackets and Ugg boots in abundance any day that is below 70 degrees. There have been a few overcast and even rainy days that have induced me to make some yummy soups in my fabulous new kitchen. I actually have room for all of my kitchen gadgets and I missed my coffee mug selection more than I had realized!

Internal things have been changing  in addition to our physical location. This post has been sitting in my mind, and the drafts folder, for a couple of months. A few years ago, I  arrogantly posted a meme about exercise being equal to medication for the treatment of mild depression. It was a platitude photo with little concrete research behind it. I regret posting it because I now know better. For years I’ve used exercise as a way to combat depression. And it kind of works – for a while. But it’s not the only way or even the best way to combat depression for many people; myself included. (I’ve also used retail “therapy”, and of course alcohol. What I’ve come to learn is that drinking with depression/anxiety is like pouring kerosene on a fire. It makes everything significantly worse.)

There’s definitely a stigma around the subject of mental health and seeking help – but it shouldn’t be. Knowing this intellectually for other people is one thing. Getting my head around it for myself is another thing all together. My psychiatrist explained a couple of things. “We use what works, until it no longer works.” For as long as I can remember I’ve been a “pull yourself up by the bootstraps” kind of person. “We can often point to life circumstances as reasons as to why we feel what we feel, which is why the average span from onset of symptoms to getting help is 10 years.” Oddly enough, this blew my mind when really it shouldn’t have because I should’ve sought help years ago. When you see a therapist or psychiatrist, they take in your history – a sort of timeline of your life snapshot. I don’t think most people look at life like that, but it was enlightening because patterns emerged of depression, low moods, unexplained or irrational thoughts and behaviors, etc. Laid out in that way, it was not only surprising I didn’t recognize the pattern before, but confirmed the statistic that people just don’t get help – for many reasons.

Depression is more than just being sad. We all get sad. It’s part of the ebb and flow of feelings. But actual clinical depression is much more and can have different causes. It also presents in more ways than simply low mood. Depression can come out as anger and irritability, irrationality, physical aches and pains, fatigue, and restlessness to name a few.

  • Biological differences. People with depression appear to have physical changes in their brains. The significance of these changes is still uncertain, but may eventually help pinpoint causes.
  • Brain chemistry. Neurotransmitters are naturally occurring brain chemicals that likely play a role in depression. Recent research indicates that changes in the function and effect of these neurotransmitters and how they interact with neurocircuits involved in maintaining mood stability may play a significant role in depression and its treatment.
  • Hormones. Changes in the body’s balance of hormones may be involved in causing or triggering depression. Hormone changes can result with pregnancy and during the weeks or months after delivery (postpartum) and from thyroid problems, menopause or a number of other conditions.
  • Inherited traits. Depression is more common in people whose blood relatives also have this condition. Researchers are trying to find genes that may be involved in causing depression.

– Courtesy of Mayo Clinic

As part of my treatment, I now take an anti-depressant/anti-anxiety medication. It was like seeing in black and white and then after a few weeks, the color came back. Technically speaking, more neurotransmitters are firing and working properly in the brain. I didn’t know what I didn’t know. In other words, I didn’t know how bad I felt because it was normal. That’s what depression does – it’s a slow creeper that you don’t see coming. I was no longer jumping at every little noise. I didn’t feel panicky at the irrational thought spirals about awful things happening to the kids. I wasn’t having panic attacks in a store and feeling like I couldn’t breathe walking with a group of people picking up our kids from school. I wasn’t irrationally irritated by the sound of my kids saying, “Mom…” Having depression and anxiety is exhausting.

I *may* have told my doctor that he would have to pry my medication out of my cold dead hands – I feel like myself for the first time in a long time. He laughed and shared that I wasn’t the first patient to have that reaction. “Medication helps a person with depression let more of their personality shine through.”

I’ve returned to exercising, although not at my previous “running marathons” pace. I’ve missed the endorphins and the mind-clearing adrenaline of a great workout. I will get there again, but there’s less frenzy and anxiety about it now. I’m doing it because moving feels good. I’m walking the dogs because I love them and spending time with them makes me happy. I’m running on the beach because I can and the sand helps cushion my injured ankle/tendons. I’m riding bikes with the kids up insane hills because we can do hard things, it feels amazing, and as Hannah says, “the steep downhills are FUN!”

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I hesitated in sharing this part of my life because it’s not comfortable to need help. Who doesn’t like to feel like they have all their shit together?  Growth and change are rarely easy and often uncomfortable but to not do so would be worse. My hope is that sharing my experience might encourage someone who needs it to seek help. I’m grateful for a handful of friends that were open and brave enough to share their own struggles, which in turn gave me the courage to get help for myself.

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Milestones and Mermaids

Hannah eyeing the pregnant lady in the lounge chair, we made our way over to a shaded table to plunk down our towels and kick off flip flops for an afternoon poolside. The kids love the pool. Without fail they inquire the precise time we will be going to swim each morning. Kids off and splashing I sit down and smile at the lady and preemptively apologize for my daughter’s obsessive staring. She laughed and we chatted for a bit.

Of course hindsight is always 20/20, but time has a way of warp-speeding when viewed through a rear view mirror. It sure doesn’t seem like it’s been a decade since I was first pregnant myself. But here I sit with an almost 8 and 10 year old, chatting with a young mom.

There have been some big milestones in our world. These self-proclaimed big kids are riding bikes to the nearby playground, exploring our new place – stepping into their first bits of independence. I remember wondering about my then-infant and toddler when my sister and her daughters came to visit us in Hawaii. It seemed like so long until I would be able to just enjoy our time swimming instead of worrying and being on patrol, ensuring safety. I remember marveling at moms who sat poolside looking at their phones while their kids played and swam, part of me loving playing in the water, part of me longing for the day when they would find friends and play on their own.

That’s motherhood in a nutshell, I suppose – being divided. Not only daily working ourselves out of a job to grow independent and hopefully productive adult humans, but also wondering what the next step will look like, while simultaneously reminiscing about previous phases.

Flash forward to our time in Texas where they both had swim lessons and became comfortable in the water. Playing in the waves on South Padre Island still made me nervous, yet they had no fear, jumping and giggling as waves crashed and tried to knock them over.

Here I sit today, book in hand, sipping on an iced coffee (because I have waded through cardboard seas to rescue my coffeemaker from an ocean of chaos) .

Yet another little step, them in the pool making friends, practicing tricks and flips and jumps. My mermaid and merman happy to swim and soak in all of summer in our new home.

“Mom?” Hannah asks, as we gather up our stuff to leave when the need for food overpowers the need to be submerged.

“Yeah, baby?”

“Will you swim with us tomorrow? I love swimming and meeting friends, but tomorrow I’d like to swim with you, like we did in Texas.”

“Sure thing Hannah,” I say smiling.

I think we’re going to like it here.

April Fools’ Day

“Hey Hannah,” I said, motioning her over to her Easter basket loot. “Do you remember eating these?” I asked, pointing to the Cadbury mini eggs.

“No….well, kind of…” she replied.

“These are your dad’s FAVORITE Easter candies. I thought you’d really like them, too,” I explained. Ever trying to include a deployed parent into daily life is a hallmark of military life.

“Wait. So …YOU –  bought – these? At a store?” Hannah asked slowly.

CRAPCRAPCRAPCRAPCRAPCRAP

The jig is up. She knows. And I let it slip!

“I KNEW IT!” she exclaimed, eyes wide. “It makes no sense how a bunny can get all over the world and hide eggs. It just doesn’t make sense.”

I took a deep breath and sighed. Their days had been numbered. The past few years, my very curious and inquisitive (read: suspicious) children have been tiptoeing around the subjects of various holidays….and holiday characters. I had wondered how many holidays we had left where they still believed whole heartedly.  I knew it was coming. It was part of the reason I knew doing the elf this past year was a necessity, as they would soon cross the threshold of childhood and a layer of magic would disappear. When they asked questions, I would respond with the classic, “What do you think?” and they would hem and haw, just like I did when I was a kid, and I would fool myself into thinking I had bought them just a little more time on the innocence clock.

There was no more hitting the snooze button. Whether I wanted to or not, it was time for the conversation. I busted out the letter I had written (adapted from one online) and read it to them:

Dear Jacob and Hannah,

I heard you discussing the difference between magic and miracles a while ago and how Santa does what he does. (As well as the easter bunny and the tooth fairy.) You brought up some really good points. Your dad and I know you like to have the facts and answers about things. We have given it careful thought to know just what to say.

The short answer is you are right. There is no such thing as magic in the literal sense. Magic is an illusion. We are the people who fill your stocking and choose and wrap the presents under the tree, hide the easter eggs, and put the money under your pillow when you lose a tooth – just as our parents did for us, their parents did for them, and you might one day do for kids of your own. There is no one single Santa, or E.B. These holiday figures are lots and lots of people who keep the spirit of these holidays alive. It lives in our hearts – not at the North Pole.

Throughout your life you will need the capacity to believe: in yourself, in your family, in your friends, and most importantly, in God. You’ll need to be able to believe in things you cannot measure or touch – just because we cannot see them doesn’t mean they aren’t real.

You are also right in that there are such things as miracles – things that cannot be measured, held, or explained in a concrete way; things like love, gratitude, and hope. The idea of Santa represents the miracle of these unmeasurable things. It teaches children to believe in something they cannot see or touch, much like we cannot see or touch Jesus, or the wind, friendship, or love – we can feel it and know it is there. We celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ at Christmas – the miracle that God came to Earth! Santa is a way for little kids to begin to understand such miracles.

We feel you are ready to know the truth. With full hearts, people like Mommy and Daddy take our turns helping complete the jobs that would otherwise be impossible. We celebrate Christmas and Easter using symbols and characters that represent hard-to-explain miracles.

Now that you know, you will get to carry on the spirit of these holidays with us!

Love,
Mom and Dad

Feeling a bit wobbly, I looked up from my screen after reading it aloud. Hannah was grinning, “It’s okay, mom!” she said reassuringly, trying to comfort me! I chuckled.

“I totally knew,” stated Jake. “It just doesn’t make sense.”

“Do you feel betrayed? Like we lied to you all these years?” I asked, curious to know their perspective.

“NO!” they both emphatically agreed. “It makes sense to explain things like that to little kids. We just aren’t little kids anymore,” shrugged Jake, always Mr. Matter-of-fact about things, while Hannah nodded her agreement. We continued discussing the secrets that Eric and I had kept from them all these years. With each new revelation, they would giggle and laugh at our craftiness.

“So, what about the Santa gifts?” Hannah asked. “The tags?”

“Oh, that’s easy,” I replied, smiling. “Your dad and I would buy one special roll of wrapping paper that you had never seen before. That would be “Santa’s Paper”. Then one package of tags would also be new. I would write Santa’s tags with my left hand so the handwriting would be just a bit different.”

“DUDE!” Jacob yelled, laughing. “That’s SO awesome! I never even noticed that!”

“And the elf?” Hannah asked quietly.

I braced myself. She LOVES the elf. Like really loves it.

“Me,” I quietly replied.

“YOU DID THOSE SNOWFLAKES!? And the little paintings?! Wow….” she marveled.

“Mom,” Jacob said distractedly while he continued playing his computer game, “You are really good. That must have taken a lot of work.”

While trying not to be pile of emotional mom-goo at their appreciation of my expert level of deception, I turned to Hannah and whispered, “Now you can be in on the fun, too! We can take turns with the elf, you and I can hide it for Jake and Daddy one day, then they can do it for us the next….”

“Oh yes!!! Can we plan it out right now?!” she asked, jumping up and down.

I laughed. “No. It’s April. We got time, sister,” I told her. This April fools’ day, the “fooling” may be over, but the magic will never end.

Go Big or Go Home

I haven’t felt like I’ve had much to write about lately. Much of that comes from just being too busy, tired, in the midst of deployment, blah, whatever – to put forth the energy to make coherent sentences. I often identify with Solomon in Ecclesiastes…”there is nothing new under the sun” Ecc. 1:4-11 when it comes to writing, but just when I think ‘why should I bother, it’s all been written before anyway’ – I’m quickly reminded that I don’t write necessarily for others. If someone benefits from my experiences, that’s wonderful. I’m grateful to be a conduit of a message needed, but I don’t write for anyone but myself. It’s a release, a creativity, a hobby, a sorting of my thoughts, and a clarity-giver. Sometimes I just don’t know how I feel until it escapes my fingertips, flying across the keyboard faster than my mind can form the paragraph. While we’ve been getting through the blah days and the good days, walking the dogs, I’ve been reading and thinking. My niece wrote this post about her wellness journey, and all that it entails and it got my mind churning again. I’m also celebrating a milestone.

I have been sober for 6 months.

The thought of a glass of wine sometimes sounds so good. The delicious swirl flicking across my tongue, the warm flush as the alcohol enters my system. I daydream about it sometimes. Not often, but when I do, it’s vivid. I have become hyper-aware of both the overt and subtle marketing of alcohol to women. Across social media, you can easily see either a movie featuring a female lead drinking, or a funny meme with ‘mommy juice’ as the topic, and even fitness-themed posts such as beer-yoga and lifting the barbell, with a convenient bottle taped securely, one rep = one swig. Isn’t fitness grand?! A wry smile crosses my face, but I really don’t find them funny. I find them to be… normalizing. Normalizing behavior that really isn’t healthy, but I admit the marketing strategy is effective. Smoking was mainstream and normal once, too. They were and are marketing geniuses.

At the beginning of this sobriety path, I started taking selfies and little mini-check in videos. Not as a vanity measure, but as some evidence of the beginning of change, where my head was at on a given day, and/or any physical changes due to the change over to a whole-food plant based way of eating. Watching the initial video, I was startled at how puffy I was, and how tired I looked. In hindsight, there’s a lot of stress and anxiety, there too.

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Day 1, still shot taken from a video.

The last 6-7 months have encompassed many changes – giving up alcohol as well as switching to a whole-food plant based way of eating. I decided to stop coloring my hair almost a year ago, and actually wanted to go super short then – but couldn’t get my stylist on board. Embracing authenticity in many areas, it has been a season of shedding the superfluous – including hair that for as long as I can remember has almost had an identity of it’s own.  No, I didn’t have a Brittney-style meltdown, but simply feeling the need for some outward expression of inward changes.

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I probably won’t keep it short forever, but I love the idea of a fresh clean break. A starting over and a reboot. It’s freeing in a way I didn’t anticipate. As I picked up the kids from school sporting the new ‘do, I felt lighter, bolder, and honestly – pretty badass. I always thought women who go pixie or bald were so brave. I remember staring in awe as Demi Moore shaved her head in G.I. Jane. “If only I had the guts to do that,” I thought. “I could never….”

Turns out, I have the guts to do a lot of things I didn’t think I could.

I don’t miss the hair. I don’t miss the upkeep of highlights. I don’t miss meat. I don’t miss cheese or bacon, surprisingly. I don’t miss alcohol or the fuzzy way it blots out life. I don’t miss numbing out, because alcohol can’t mute the crap without muting the wonderful.

The crap is definitely worth wading through to get to the wonderful.

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