Friday, December 31, 2010


So as I mentioned in my Self Delusional blog there was a point in time where I thought I wanted to be more Martha Stewart like but soon realized that's just not me. One of the main areas that I wanted to be that chic, that put together, that fabulous was Christmas decorations.

Growing up my family sort of had (and they still do) a Griswold Family Christmas theme going. If some is good then more is better! If clear twinkle lights were pretty than multi-color multi-function lights were awesome! Don't get me wrong, I loved all of our Christmas things and my childhood Christmas memories are full of color and lights because of them, but when I headed out on my own I wanted to do something different. I had dreams of trees with all white decorations, or all red. Ribbons cascading gently down the tree. Natural centerpieces that I made by hand and would change depending on where we was going to be beautiful! So I traded in my folk's colored lights for strands of clear bulbs, I made a vow that less was more and set out to make the perfect Christmas house!

So as you can imagine at Christmas time when you walk in to my house it looks like the elves threw up in here. All of my good intentions just never came to fruition. I have tried a few times to change the course of things, but what would I give away? The gift that Chad gave to Brent and I the Christmas two days before we were married? He was so excited for us to get this present, he said it was PERFECT for us and he just couldn't wait...then we opened it and 24 years later we are still not sure why he thought it was so us...but now it is.

Or would we pack away the ornaments that my mother passed along to me? Like the angel that was on my stocking as a child? With her dirty face, torn dress, missing wings and missing halo she's pretty much perfect.

Or would I have to give up the ornaments that mark milestones in C's life? Or the ones he made for us?

What exactly would I have to give up to make it a perfect Christmas like I had imagined? The extra large Santa and Snowman collection? The random Christmas themed stuffed animals that we have somehow accumulated through the years? Anything that glitters? What would it take to have the Christmas I imagined I wanted? And would I even want that now? I have to say there is still a part of me that gets a little ping of envy when I see a house that is just perfectly decorated. Understated and classy...and I do tend to apologize to people about the clutter when they come to my place at Christmas. But then when I was packing up the huge amounts of decorations yesterday I was able to see that sometimes...just sometimes by keeping everything whether it was classy, crass, brassy, understated or over the top you get to run into things that you forgot you had, but never want to lose.

I hope all of you had a wonderful holiday filled with memories, family, friends, love and laughter.  Classy and understated or sparkly and over the top. 

Happy New Year and I will see you again in 2011!

Thursday, December 30, 2010

Touchy touchy.

I am a very touchy person. I don't mean fly off the handle emotional touchy (though if I hit a really bad stretch with no sleep at the right time of the month I can sure act like one!) I mean touchy feely. Enough so that I feel like I should warn people. If you are sitting next to me expect me to touch your arm while we talk, expect me to rub your shoulder, expect me to pat your leg. I just am a touchy person.

When I met the friends I made online for the first time I warned them all that I would be greeting them with a hug. I knew them and they were my friends after all...we just hadn't met face to face yet. And to be fully truthful I don't hug, I HUG. I don't hold back. The first time I go drinking with a group of friends I warn them as well, because as touchy as I am sober I am much worse after a few drinks. Most people are fine with it but you never know how comfortable other people are going to be with being touched. I try to keep that in mind, but most often I will still hug someone or at least pat them on the arm.

I think part of it is brain chemistry. Because it's not just people that I touch, it's everything. In a store I am the person that walks by the clothes and reaches out to feel them even if I have no intention of buying them. Right now as I proof read this blog I am running my hands over the edge of the desk because there is a rough edge there that feels different than the rest of the desk. I don't eat certain foods because I don't like the way they feel in my mouth. I would honestly eat everything with my hands if I could get away with it so when food comes to the table I have to hold my hands in my lap to keep from touching the food, just to see what it feels like. And sometimes that works and sometimes it doesn't. Brent and C both are very understanding about a random finger in their plates. And not only do I want to touch everything but then I want you to as well. All of my friends know that if I am wearing a particularly soft article of clothing they all must feel it. If I find a very smooth rock at the beach everyone must marvel at the smoothness. I want to share what I feel, so if you are close to me you get touched and must touch as well.

I have passed this compulsion along to C as well. He will pick his entire wardrobe based on how the clothes feel not how they look. I spent his childhood washing walls because he couldn't walk down a hallway without trailing a hand along the wall and kids seem to just be sticky by nature. Though he isn't as touchy feely with people as I am. It was a sad day for me when he reached the age where he stopped cuddling up on the couch with me to read a book or watch a movie. But I have for the most part respected that boundary. When he hit around 11 and got a little more embarrassed by public displays of affection we turned the hug into the fist pound fist bump routine that we did for years. Hit the top, hit the bottom, bump.

I noticed that when he left for college the one thing I really missed was being able to touch him. I talked to him once a week by phone and a few times a week by IM or Facebook. We never really stopped communicating (he is a very good college boy and humors his mother) but I missed being able to touch him. When we went up for Parent's Weekend I gave him a hug when we first saw him, of course, and then spent the weekend fidgeting with him. Straightening a collar, brushing his hair off his forehead, punching his arm...softly...but still just something to register that he was really there. And then spent the rest of the time holding my own hands so that I didn't bug him too much.

Right after Brent and I got home I was out driving one day and got stuck behind a school bus bringing kids home from elementary school. As I watched the kids get off the bus and meet with waiting parents I was struck by the amount of touch. For the little ones, it was usually a hug that was eagerly reciprocated by the child. Then you hit around 2nd grade level and the mom or dad would reach out and pat the top of a head, or put an arm around a shoulder but for the most part the kid would just stand there. Then you got to the older kids, if there was a parent waiting for them at all the greeting was a high five or a fist bump. Setting up those boundaries but still a little bit of touch. Just to make sure they were okay and really there.

I wonder if we are all hard wired for that touch and just some of us have stopped listening to that need. I told you earlier that I believe part of it is brain chemistry for me. I also believe part is the way I was raised. My parents were both brought up in houses that were pretty closed off. They decided that they would do things differently, so we were touched a lot as kids. Hugs, hands held, heads patted and they also touched each other in front of us. My father still can't resist patting my mother's butt as she walks by and he is 80 years old! No matter how embarrassing it was when I was a teenager, it stuck with me. I am not embarrassed by public displays of affection (within reason, there are things nobody needs to see at the mall!) and think it's sweet when you see a couple walking down the street holding hands. Or an entire family for that matter.

As a massage therapist I can tell you that you need touch. You have all read about or heard about studies done with children who were not touched enough as babies and the problems they have. But it happens with adults as well. Some people are just touch starved. We would get clients in to clinic at the school who had not been touched by anyone in weeks. Just the act of laying a hand on them would help them begin to relax. Touch is important. But it doesn't have to be structured touch, you don't need to visit a massage therapist to get that benefit, just hold hands with your kids, with your spouse, with your best friend. Put a hand on someone's arm when they are telling you a story. Connect, touch.

There is a corny Miss America joke that used to go around when I was a kid about her answer to how to end war..."I believe the whole world should hold hands, because if you are holding a hand you can't hold a gun." Something to think about...

Wednesday, December 29, 2010


So I have been thinking back to last February where I made sure to post something in my blog every day for a month. I am considering doing that again, but with one change. It can either be something new or a re-post from earlier. What do you all think? I know I have some new readers out there now (thank you!) so would people be interested in me pulling up some of the older blogs and re-posting? How about my faithful readers, would that just annoy you?

As far as the writing to be published part goes, I am still undecided where that will lead. As I read more and more about the process I am not sure it's for me. But then again, as I read more and more about the process I am not sure it isn't either. So much like everything in my life I will decide when it happens. If it feels like it's right to submit something to a publisher then I will, but if it feels like this is just enough, then I won't. And fiction versus what I do here, the stories of day to day life. Which should I focus on? Or should I keep to my way which is never to focus on anything for too long? (I am still adding metaphors to my collection for ways to call myself flighty, can you tell?)

Here is part of my fear with the writing. I like to write right now. I enjoy putting the words down and having people read them and then engaging in discussion about what I wrote. I like the idea of writing a fictional story and having people experience a world that I created. But I am afraid if I make it too much of a job the shine will wear off. I will lose some of the joyful spark I get from writing. But on the other hand if I don't focus and treat it like a job and get some real things accomplished with the writing will I regret the choice later?

So I guess here are the things I am putting out to the world today. Would you be interested in reading older blog posts again? Would a daily post just be too much? Or if there is a daily post should it be new material only? And the rest is for you to continue to be my sounding boards as I brain dump everything in to this space as usual.

And can I get a cape if I start calling myself Multifocus Girl?

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

So you want to be a writer?

As you all know back in August I set up a new challenge for myself. Before my 43 birthday I wanted to be a published author. It didn't matter what it was, just something I wrote had to be published. My definition added that I had to be paid for it, not just some free publication. The money is what was going to make it real.

So here we are five months into the challenge and what have I done so far? Not much. I am going to break it down for you. I have done hours and hours of online research on writing and how people go about getting things started. I wrote a fairly detailed outline of a book idea I had bouncing around in my head, which I then lost. Poof gone. Like it never existed. But I haven't gotten around to rewriting it so I am guessing that means I wasn't that in love with the idea after all. I wrote the starts to a half a dozen short stories that I was planning to weave together into a somewhat cohesive narrative then two weeks ago in a fit of frustration I deleted those. I regret that now...but exhaustion, frustration and self doubt can make you do a lot of rash things. Next time I will just put them in a "work on it later" file instead of a "YUCK!" delete mode.

I wrote one children's story that I like, but now have to decide what to do with it. I have a second children's story forming in my head that I need to get down on paper. Or up on screen as the case may be. And that's where I am with most everything else. I am still constantly "writing" stories in my head and not taking that next step to put them down on paper so others can read them as well. The narratives are going on all the time, but the line from brain to hand to keyboard is still not happening.

And the decisions, what do I want to write exactly? I just got an idea for what would be a teen series yesterday, but do I have enough there to actually turn it into a book? And is it too derivative of other work that is out there to actually stand on its own? But I have the what now?

And that's my biggest challenge right now. What now? So I have this idea (still) that I think I can be a writer. That I have ideas that would make good stories. That I have things to say that people want to read. But do I? In a way with this blog I already have an outlet for my writing. It's not the fictional stories, but it's still my writing. And I know at least one person faithfully reads them (hello, C!) but is that all I want to do? And if not then why do I want to do more?

I used to write a lot when I was younger. Poems, stories, song lyrics. I wrote all the time. And when I wasn't writing I would tell stories. I spent a lot of time on a bus when I was in my teenage years, on tour during the summer with my youth group and then later traveling to competitions when we switched to Bible Bowl. Back then there were no hand held video games to keep you amused, you either read or slept or talked. Reading in a car makes me sick so I either slept or talked. And those of you that know me know sleeping is not my strong suit but talking I can handle. And in the course of talking I would make up stories. Ghost stories were my favorite.

In fact when I was around 11 or 12 I told a particularity good one on the way up to Camp for the week that I wove El Porvenier into and ended up scaring the heck out of the entire new dorm full of girls. It was a brilliant day (or night as the case was) even though the next morning I had to fess up to my camp leader that it was all my fault that the girls were all screaming at the window of an empty cabin. To be able to tell a story to two girls in the back seat of my parent's car that ended up being retold to a dorm full of girls that ended up taking on enough weight that it actually made them see the face in the window that I described? Yeah, that was good stuff.

I also wrote a short story when I was in 8th grade that I thought for awhile was going to get me kicked out of school. And if someone were to write it in this day and age, it probably would. It was HEAVILY influenced by a book called The War Between the Pitiful Teachers and the Splendid Kids that I had read a few years before. Now my story and that book would never fly in today's world. In both stories the kids revolt against the teachers and actually kill them. In mine, my classmates took over the school and set up a sort of commune living there together. One student got pregnant, all adults were banished, killed or locked up. It was a revenge fantasy played out on the pages of a notebook. And it was a hit among my classmates. Until Tanya let her mother read it.

I can remember her coming to school the Monday after she took the story home for the weekend, it was passed around like that, different kids took it at different times to read it, and telling me, "My mother says you have a sick mind." My reaction? "You let your MOTHER read it??" And then she let me know that her mother had confiscated my story and would be considering turning it into Mrs. Robertson (the principal and one of the first killed in my book). I moved pretty quickly from appalled that she let her mother read what was OBVIOUSLY just for us kids to terrified I was going to get kicked out of school.

Now of course I would love to have the story back. Just to have it in my possession, though I am sure it was horrible, it would be fun to read it again. And as far as Tanya was concerned? My biggest regret is that I didn't include the storyline of Tanya and Kerry being lesbians that I had originally thought about. Because then she would have NEVER let her mother read it, and I would still have my story.

I took one journalism class in high school but like everything else in high school I didn't take it seriously. When I was in college I thought about taking creative writing but when I looked at the course description and saw that the instructor would be telling me what to write I realized that it didn't sound very creative to me at all. I bought my first book on writing books when I was in my early 20s. My father-in-law heavily discouraged me from pursuing that path, though now I know he was always interested in being a writer himself and even started a book before he died. I have to believe he discouraged me because he knew it wasn't as easy to write as it is to read.

When I was in my mid 20s I wrote away to one of those "Be a Children's Book Writer" things where they supposedly judge your writing sample to see if you have talent and then hire you if you do. Well of course I had talent! Of course they wanted to hire me! Of course it would only cost me the low low price of.... Yeah, maybe not. I also wrote an outline for a story that has been bouncing around in my head ever since about an abusive man, a talk show host and a scared former wife. So through everything else there was always this thought of, "I wonder if I could."

Now I am trying to call myself a writer more often. To stop saying to Brent at the end of the day, "I didn't do anything, just wrote." Change it to, "I wrote today." I am trying to find my voice. To figure out what exactly it is that I want to write. And maybe, this is it. Maybe it's just the blog. The stories that are me. But maybe there is a story in there that will get published. If this sounds to you like I am letting myself off the hook for my challenge this year, I sort of am considering it. I am trying to decide if the published for money part is what would make me a writer or if the more than two people reading what I write is what would make me a writer or if just sitting down every day and putting words on the screen is what would make me a writer.

Or maybe I already am.

Monday, December 27, 2010

I resolve to...

I don't make New Year's Resolutions. I am not sure if it's because I am in a constant state of change so resolving to change would be redundant. Or if it's because I know that most people make these grandiose change declarations and then give up on them within a few weeks so why set yourself up for failure. Or if it's because I hate going with the crowd. I think it's probably more to do with the season.

My big drive for massive change hits at two times each year. Late spring and late summer. I tie these back to school age times. Every spring I would think about what I wanted to accomplish over the summer. Usually it was big things like, get a tan, lose some weight, get a great wardrobe for back to school. I have no idea why I thought one summer would be different from the last and that I would all of a sudden be able to tan my lighter shade of pale skin, lose the weight that wasn't fat but was just me or get the money for that wardrobe. But I had BIG PLANS every summer to do just that. And every August as it was time to go back to school I went back with my pale skin, my curves and my second hand clothes.

Then the second round of resolutions would hit. This year would be different! I would apply myself! I would go to ALL of my classes, EVERY day! I would work hard, study hard, live up to my full potential! I would stop writing my papers for Honor's English the period before! I would...wait...every day? All of the classes? Even the boring ones? That one would last about a week, sometimes less. My junior year I didn't even make it to all of my classes on the first day. It was my birthday! What was I supposed to do?

So now I don't tend to make resolutions at all, but I do feel the pull for change those times of the year. April was when I decided to lose weight two years ago. August was the first 365 Day Challenge and now the "published before I'm 43" challenge. And really aren't those the same resolutions I have always made? Lose weight over the summer, live up to my potential in the fall? Interesting how no matter how much we think we have changed we are still living our old patterns half the time.

But I am still watching my friends as they all work on their resolutions for 2011. Health and money seem to be the big ones. People want to have more of both. I wish everyone luck! The desire to change is the first step towards change. So even wanting to lose weight, stop smoking, get to the gym, write that novel just the wanting to parts...those are good first steps! Now just decide how to take the second and third ones.

Oh and as for that other big change time of year? I always tell everyone what I am giving up for Lent are my New Year's Resolutions!

Saturday, December 25, 2010

...the gift.

The real title of this blog should be something like..."Family Traditions and my big mouth" but that seemed really long so I went with "the gift" instead.

Now most of you that follow my blog also see my photos on Facebook and saw the picture last year of "The Gift" this is the present that C could open the Christmas after his 18th birthday. Today was the day. After waiting every Christmas for as far back as he could remember, today he got to open this gift. The end of a family tradition. Next year the gift won't be re-wrapped and placed under the tree as the first gift, it won't be there as the last gift. It won't be there at all. Which then got me thinking about other family traditions...

The Clifton side of the family has a long standing Christmas Day tradition. The White Elephant gift exchange. Each member brings a gift, a really horrid cheesy gift and we draw numbers and exchange and steal them and exchange and steal and so on until the end. It's fun, it's rowdy, it's Christmas. Now the rule is, you have to pay to play. Kids, adults, grandparents, family, friends, first timers or every Christmas you're there, you bring a gift to get a gift. And this is where two traditions collide...

When Brent first got out of the Navy we went back to New Mexico to live for a couple of years. C was 3 at the time and we weren't sure if he would want to play during the gift exchange. Three year olds aren't so keen on getting their presents taken from them, you see. So we bought a cheesy gift, wrapped it up and tossed in the bag to take to my brother and sister's house just in case. Turned out C didn't want to play the exchange game so the gift stayed in the bag. Thinking ahead I tossed it away with our Christmas supplies to bring the next year. Well the next year Brent's folks decided to come up from Alamogordo on Christmas Day so we only spent part of the day Christmas with my side of the family and didn't do the gift exchange. The present stayed under the tree.

As we were finishing up with the gifts C said that there was still one there and whose was it? I said it was his, because it was, and he then asked if he could open it. Well I have been known to pop off sometimes and this is one of those times...I told him not until he was 18. No big deal right? He was 4 at the time so what were the odds that this would come back to bite me? Ah...but C was not your typical 4 year old. With a mind like a steel trap the next Christmas came around and as we were unpacking the decorations, out comes the gift and he says, "That's mine but I can't open it until I am 18."

So every year we would re-wrap the gift, I am a little distracted by shiny things and so a new coat of paper would freshen up the gift. Every year it would go back under the tree, first gift under, last gift out. And the legend around it grew as well as the size of the gift. That's a lot of wrapping paper.

A couple years ago Brent and I started to get a little worried, we knew what the gift was but in C's mind it had reached epic proportions. This was THE GIFT he could open at 18, this was going to be great. Now we had a couple of choices, we could come clean right then and there and tell him what it was, we could change what was in THE GIFT or we could let it play out and hope for the best. We decided that in our family the funny really is the thing so we would do that latter. But we did do some well placed hints to try and lessen C's expectations.

So today was the day...C opened all of the other presents and THE GIFT was the last present under the tree. With its new wrapping and for the first year ever, ribbons.

Now the momentous task of unwrapping THE GIFT, each layer of paper was undone separately. 1,2,3,4...11,12,13,14,15...a pile of paper to the side of him...

Finally! C got to hold in his hand THE GIFT! The one he has waited every Christmas to open! And it was...

Yes, that's a roll of Christmas themed toilet paper. And yes, C is smiling. The funny is the thing in this family and really, that is THE GIFT we have given to him, this year and every year. I hope your holiday has been filled with smiles and laughter and love. Ours has. (Even if C might want to know what the exchange time limit is on new parents right about now)

Merry Christmas!