Christmas, Emptiness, and Promises

Last night, I returned home from a rehearsal, that was proceeded first by: work, then picking my two youngest daughters up from school, driving 26 miles to Topeka, quickly dropping by McDonald’s for a snack, dropping the youngest off at her own rehearsal, then taking my 11 year old daughter to the doctor, followed by dropping off a prescription at the pharmacy, meeting my husband so he could take them home, and finally………. Christmas shopping. When I arrived home, I promptly started fuming over the fact that the dishwasher wasn’t cleaned out, the living room picked up, or the laundry folded. I sighed a lot. For me, sighing is like the whistle on a tea kettle….it means I’m letting off steam. I once read that women sigh as an alternative to screaming. I believe that.
Anyway, when I finally finished everything that needed to be done to satisfy my increasingly OCD need for order, I sat down on the couch. Shortly after I sat on the couch, I started to cry, and rant, and express my grief……over Christmas shopping. I lamented why Christmas shopping, and shopping in general, has become such an emotionally difficult task for me. During a brief break in my blubbering, my husband said something he never has in the past. “That would make a really good blog post.” When I added ideas and tangents…..he simply said “See, that would make more to write about in a blog post.” My husband is a smart man, and he very well could have just been diverting me a little (to get me to be quiet and stop crying, so he could finish watching the football game in peace), but it did get me thinking….that yes, this would make a good blog post. So, here are my thoughts on Christmas shopping, social interaction, anxiety, and zombies.

I promised myself something this Christmas season. I promised I would look for the joy in everything. I promised I would look for the beauty in the everyday, in the people around me: in forgiveness, in basic human goodness, in nature. I promised that I would take every negative thought and attitude, and turn it around, remembering the meaning of Christmas. As a first effort in keeping my promises, I created and wrote special messages in two Christmas cards, to apologize and attempt reconciliation with people who really, are the ones to blame. Yet, I simply cannot live with the thought that someone is angry with me, with the thought that I am carried as a black mark in the hearts of by a few people …or that I dwell in someone’s negative thoughts. Yes, I need to get beyond that, but, I do want to know that I have done all I can to make the situation right. In my second effort, and most frequently, I have had to take my negative thoughts, and replace them with positive, warm fuzzy ones….a lot. Sometimes, on a second by second basis.
Even with all of my best and most diligent efforts, keeping those promises to myself this Christmas season has been one of the hardest things I have done in recent times. It’s so much easier to fall into the black hole and stay there. It’s easier to fall asleep there….living in the cool, dark, negative space. When the night has fallen around you, you have to look really hard to find the light……and holding on to that sliver of moon is an effort.
And that brings me to Christmas shopping.
The last few times I have gone out into the masses, and shopped at an actual brick and mortar store (I shop a lot online), I’ve felt like I am in a post-apocalyptic movie…sometimes with zombies. The people I see around me are sometimes angry, and very frequently, empty. In a building filled with dozens, or hundreds of people…..I feel alone. I never, ever used to feel that way, and I honestly don’t know what’s changed; me, or the world around me. Really, it is probably a little bit of both, but I wonder. Admittedly, I suffer from social anxiety, and I’m pretty sure I have my whole life…I’m just now beginning to recognize and face it. For a person who loves the stage, who loves attention, this is strange, I know, but it is always hard for me to face a crowd of my peers. Lately, I have had so much crazy and stressful stuff going on around me, in my personal, and professional life; that I am pretty sure that has a big effect on how a perceive the world moving around me. I used to LOVE to shop….to feel the energy and excitement of the people out and about. I’m pretty sure I wasn’t putting on an angry face…..but maybe I was? Most of all, though, I wonder about this anger and emptiness in people……especially during this Christmas season. Sure, I’m pretty irritated about the fact that I have very little extra money (okay, none) to throw toward gifts for those I love and care for. Maybe those angry people is see, are without jobs, or without insurance, or without much hope for the future. Let’s face it, watching the trending news is frightening, and disheartening. Those of us who are in our thirties grew up when economic times were at their best…..when the sky was the limit. These days, the sky is pretty dark for those of us who have dreams of moving up in the world.
When I started this post, I searched for a photo of “people Christmas shopping during the Great Depression.” Interestingly…in 20 minutes of searching, I came up with one, and it wasn’t too compelling. I did learn something important from my search, though…people didn’t really shop for Christmas gifts during the Great Depression. This article gives a pretty interesting glimpse into the world of the people that grew up as children of the Depression. One quote that was a little heartbreaking to me was: “every year the kids knew Christmas was coming, we’d get all excited, looking over the rooftops to see Santa,” Lyons said. “We always hoped, but it just wasn’t to be.”
Though I can lament that I can’t really give everything on their wishlists to my children this Christmas, and I would love to be able to…but they will have gifts under the tree. Santa will visit our home. The quote in that article, from an 84 year old woman in a nursing home ” “Things don’t make you happy” really strikes a chord in me. A happy chord. Major…with a 7th added for razzle dazzle. (Yes, that’s musician speak…if you get it, a gold star for you today).
Really, I am not too wrapped up in “things.” A few years ago, I started the tradition of giving my girls each a handmade gift for Christmas. I really started the tradition to save money, but honestly…I think those gifts have been some of the most memorable they’ve received. If it was up to me, we’d celebrate Christmas by giving one gift….or no gifts at all, but I am kind of stressed out easily by gift giving. 🙂
All in all, I *do* hope that I am the only one that faces the zombies while Christmas shopping, that it is a completely unique experience, reserved for the mentally ill and exhausted. In keeping with my Christmas promises (and hope to do as Dickens wrote and “honour Christmas in my heart, and try to keep it all the year. I will live in the Past, the Present, and the Future. The Spirits of all Three shall strive within me. I will not shut out the lessons that they teach”) I offer a smile to the angry and zombified masses. Yes, it hurts when they return it with a frown, or pretend they don’t see me. It honestly hurts quite a bit. But when they do return it in turn, I see a fellow living, breathing human being…hopeful, on a unique journey, as I am. “God bless us, Everyone.”

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Campbell is 5

I had the distinct pleasure of taking photos of my 5 year old niece, Campbell Quinn, this weekend at my parent’s Halloween party . I love being an aunt, and I think it is so awesome that I have known Campbell since she was just a few hours old!  So, being privileged to take her photos this year was extra special.  Campbell wasn’t quite sure she wanted her photo taken when she arrived, but I soon talked her into it…….from then on, she was quite the little model. She even assured me she WAS a model. hehe.
One of the best parts of these photos for me (other than the darling niece)? Most of these photos are straight out of the camera (all but 2), and the other two only have 2 basic edits on them. I’m so happy about that, because that means I’m finally getting the technique of photography closer to understood (I mean, we never stop learning, and I am no expert.)

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It has been so long since I have shared anything new here! It isn’t that I haven’t had things to say………I’ve had plenty……but I just never sit down and pour them out! I hope to remedy that very soon! In the mean time, I thought I’d share some images from our trip to Branson, MO, and just “around the house” things ALL taken and edited with my iPhone. I have gradually fallen in love with the camera on my 3gs, and have learned how the tiny little lens reacts to and uses light, and how the angle and composition are everything. I truly think it has made me a better photographer to step back and look mostly at how to compose a pleasing image.
A view of Table Rock Lake, on a cloudy day. Edited in Camera Plus.

I love, love, love these images. They are from the swing Merry Go Round at Silver Dollar City, Branson.

Ah, the Giant Barn Swing, that I refuse to ride. Sigh……I’m so afraid of heights. But NOT afraid of roller coasters. Hmmm……yes, I’m strange.

This is my fabulous hubby, driving home from our vacation, and the following image is as we head into Kansas…..maps on the dash no longer needed. 🙂

The last few days, it has been SO hot, I was not wanting to be outdoors at all. So, I set up fun vignettes with antiques and such I had around the house. I was so pleased with how things came out! I think I’ll frame a few of these for my kitchen!

Well, thanks so much for perusing my images! I’ll be back soon with a wordier post….but until then, my friends in the “heat dome”….please stay cool, and everyone else have a wonderful day!
~ Blessings, A

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Scenes from a photo journey

This weekend, in the midst of things that had left me exhausted, frustrated, and sad from the week before, I spent a few days at my parent’s house in Paola. We visited museums, clothing and scrapbook stores, gardens, and estate sales. At the end of my visit, we took a trip to the former home of the Ursuline sisters; which had formerly been a Catholic school (that interestingly enough my great grandmother attended many moons ago), a college, and then a retirement home for nuns.
My mom had wanted to take me to Ursuline for a while, and we had never made the time. I guess it was just waiting for me to show up when I did…..ready to give me a renewed sense of peace with where my life is right now. Places like this have done this for me before, and they leave a deep impression in my memory each time.
Unfortunately, my blog is giving me fits, so I have had to delete some things I have written, to help things make sense, and some of the photos remain out of order….but it will have to work for now, as I don’t have another 2 hours to burn, unfortunately. I hope you enjoy the photo journey. 🙂

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Coming up roses

In my garden last week, the climbing roses were blooming due to all of the rain we’ve had around here. I took just a few minutes to fiddle around and practice taking some flower shots in the overcast weather. I don’t really see nature portraiture as one of my strengths, but I would like it to be, as I love my garden and the outdoors.

I’ve always seen a rose as miraculous. How each individual bloom shines with its own beauty….and how even the spent petals are beautiful laying on the ground. I love how they are protected by thorns, but the thorns don’t make it something ugly or frightening…it is like that “flaw” is something that makes it more beautiful, and something to be gentle with.

~ “There is nothing more difficult for a truly creative painter than to paint a rose, because before he can do so he has first to forget all the roses that were ever painted.” Henri Matisse

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Mr. Golden Sun {I heart faces, yellow}

Well, I haven’t done an i heart faces challenge in a really long time. I don’t know why I decided that this week’s challenge of “yellow” was the one I needed to participate in, because we have nothing yellow in the form of clothing for my kids to wear. So, this photo isn’t all that yellow………except for the yellow and white striped pillow….and that gorgeous golden yellow sun.

When I looked outside last night after dinner, (contemplating whether or not I had the motivation to do the dishes) the sun told me it was time to stop whatever I was doing, and grab my camera. I am SO glad I did. I had such a great time photographing my beautiful girl, and we enjoyed just laying on a quilt in the grass.  I had so many shots that I LOVED, that my husband commented on my happy smile the whole time I was reviewing the photos.

Sadly the sun is gone today….hidden behind some nasty storm clouds; so I am glad that Brynne and I were able to get out and enjoy the beautiful sun yesterday, while it lasted. I have been praying for the people of Joplin, Missouri, and I am hoping that the weather will steer clear of them, as they attempt to pick up the pieces….bless them.

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Little Miracles

Last fall, right before the first killing frost of the season, Ivy found a big, beautiful, bright green praying mantis.  I encouraged her to put it in a jar, and bring it to school to show her friends. Mostly, I really wanted to delay it freezing, and thought it would be cool for the kids to see…..I loved to do that as a kid. I even brought a tarantula that my dad found at our Missouri cabin to school in 4th grade. We named it Big Harry Deal, and overwhelmed it with a feast of insects that it didn’t really eat. My teacher took it out and played with it. To be honest, though I loved him, I still found him very scary. I am highly afraid of spiders.

Anyway, when I arrived at Ivy’s school yesterday to see her 3rd grade class’ presentation on “The Ocean,” her teacher brought a familiar looking jar over for me to see. She said “Back in the fall, Ivy’s praying mantis laid eggs, and I took them home and put them on my porch. This week the eggs finally hatched, and here are the babies.”

There were probably 100 baby praying mantises in the jar. They were delicate, and tiny.

They moved fairly slow, and were seeking food, a few had died. Of course, nothing that the kids could catch for them would work, because the food was larger than the babies; so the teacher was sending them home. They were going to be returning to the place their mom had come from, starting a whole new cycle of life.

We released the babies in the garden, right next to some aphids…and they attempted to catch some right away. I loved the time with my littlest, enjoying nature’s little miracles. She loved them so, and would give them kisses. I thought that was terribly sweet.

I also thought of Charlotte’s Web, and how a loving mama died, never getting to know her babies, but left them behind to explore and carry on in her place….(and in this case) ridding my garden of plant-destroying pests. Good mothers are truly selfless, even in nature,  and that’s a good lesson to me. Mamas of all kinds love their children without ever knowing what they will become, because a parent’s love doesn’t have boundaries or timelines. Life is simply about loving and living on faith, and it can surprise you with hundreds of little miracles.

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