January, Philosophy

One Word for 2021

I know that our calendar is arbitrary. And that the craziness that happened and the challenges that we faced had absolutely nothing to do with the number “2020.”

And yet, still, the turning of that number always feels like a victory. It feels like we have met the challenges and learned the lessons of the previous year, and now it is time to start over.

January is a calm, consistent time, following the hectic holiday season, and it always feels like a good month for establishing new habits and becoming more disciplined.

2019 was a year that ended with discipline for me. I reached my goal weight in early December, right after Thanksgiving week. I did my 6 weeks of maintenance during the holiday season, tracking every bite that I ate at our Christmas feast. I was successful, and made Lifetime membership in Weight Watchers in early January!

January was also a time of optimism, as Iliana was adjusting to her new school well and had finally gotten out of her arm sling, after her second broken arm!

I began 2020, three months away from my one-very sobriety anniversary. I worked in a place that I loved, in a position that I liked, and my boss and I were already talking about the possibility of me moving in to the special education department, which was my area of expertise.

February brought Rob’s birthday, and he had one day off. I booked us a studio apartment in Montrose, the artisan neighborhood in downtown Houston, for two nights. We work up at 6 am, with the Jeep already packed, and headed out there. We ate breakfast and had coffee when we arrived!

What followed was an incredibly fun day of bicycling (using the folding bikes Rob got me for Christmas) on the Buffalo Bayou trail and thrift shopping. Everyone downtown had cropped peasant shirts and fun colored hair. I couldn’t do the hair, but I did finally have the figure for the clothing!

That weekend was the beginning of the end. Rob started to have problems with a sore right after, and he was in and out of the doctor’s office. Soon he was sick “with a bug,” which I caught shortly after. I attributed it to stress. While I was taking a day off, I had to pick up Iliana due to emotional and behavioral issues, and soon she was sick too. But before, that, Iliana got to enjoy her Valentine’s dance!

Happily, we all recovered before spring break, not thinking that we had experienced anything other than a nasty bug. By then, we had heard of the coronavirus, but we thought it was just another problem that would soon be solved, not unlike H1N1. I saw people getting worried, but people in Houston are germaphobes. We headed off to Elijah’s retreat, for a completely normal getaway.

Iliana cried on our last day there, which is typical, but she cried more than usual. Miss Cheryl, the owner, was there when she cried, and she suggested that we reserve our next trip. We ended up booking a trip in July, right after Iliana was scheduled to get back from camp. We had no idea how important this trip would end up becoming.

There is no need for a spoiler here, because you already know. Spring break never ended, and camp was cancelled. We had signed up for Camp Be an Angel in April, which was also cancelled.

I have lost 60 pounds. I have quit drinking. I left a job that was physically and emotionally abusive to me. And through all these changes and challenges, I have had one thing. And that one thing was my yoga practice and my yoga community.

Our last yoga class was March 18.

Nothing seemed right. I was losing my community, and my biggest support. Since I was still being paid, I continued paying for classes and encouraged everyone who could, to do the same. But there was no guarantee that anything would still be there, once this was all over.

For awhile, we thought Rob would be laid off. Due to the large live aboard community, his store was deemed “essential,” and we were planning to sublet the apartment above the store. However, we had no idea how the store would weather the upcoming storm.

And then there was my job. While I love school breaks, being stuck in limbo without a consistent routine made me very anxious. Iliana did wonderfully with distance learning for about a week, until she didn’t. Everyone was down, and everyone was worried. I had no idea what I was supposed to do. I saw Easter items in the store, and I cried.

I read Facebook posts about Italy, where hospitals were overfilled and people were being left to die.

My parents have health problems.

I have a friend who is in remission from cancer.

Another friend’s husband got sick on ended up on a ventilator.

We knew people who had friends who died.

Nothing made sense. There seemed to be no leadership, no direction.

And then my yoga teacher told me to have faith.

In our last class at the studio, I said that my sobriety birthday was in a week, but it didn’t matter (because everything would be shut down). She said, “It matters to me,” then, looking me straight in the eye, “Don’t let this break your spirit.”

On Iliana’s second day of distance learning, I needed to go to the store. I am not sure what I needed to buy, since I had already hoarded an insane amount of food, thinking that grocery stores would be closed during a lockdown. But that is where I saw exactly what we needed…

When I returned to the car, Iliana had texted me, asking what she needed to do next. I texted her back, asking if she wanted her hair to be green or blue!

While it felt like the world was falling down around me, I walked around with my blue hair and sparkling eye shadow, smiling at those around me. I may have only been trying to keep myself from falling into despair, but Iliana and I did create some fun memories during that time!

A sign found me during one of my shopping trips…

And so we made the most of it!

Easter was our first pandemic holiday, and nobody knew how to do it yet. So while we really tried, it was very bittersweet.

April brought moving day, still during the shutdown. Mother’s day was underwhelming, of course, but Iliana did surprise me with a very sweet present!

My school sent me a wonderful decal for my coffee mug, which I still use today.

Later that month, we received news that the lake we used to live on no longer existed, after two earth dams broke in our hometown in Michigan. Luckily, nobody died in the disaster.

Iliana’s birthday party took place in the early days of Zoom parties. She ate cake, decorated, and sent gift certificates for Dairy Queen to all of her friends. The kids played Pokemon over Zoom, which left all of them emotionally exhausted!

And so I became the mother of a teenager.

Things began reopening in June, which was more disconcerting than reassuring at first. But I felt safe at yoga, where we were taking a lot of precautions. And it felt good to be back into the routine.

However, late June and early July were difficult times. We were in the middle of a surge, there was talk of more shutdowns, and school was still completely up in the air.

Then, at the end of July, it was time for our reservation at Elijah’s. Things had come full circle, and I knew we had made it through the hardest part.

School was a roller coaster. At one point all schools were required to have in person classes without masks. Then, things became more sensible. Our school was one of the first in our area to open with an in-person option. We chose to send Ili back along with me. Our school took a lot of precautions, and we both were a lot happier going back!

We made it a week…

We prepped.

And then we got to dump the water out and not buy groceries for a few weeks…

A lot of teachers resigned this year, at various schools. This included the teacher I had been working under. And so I ended up teaching full time again, and being Iliana’s case manager!

Going back to teaching full time, was an exercise in self-belief and self-doubt. I alternated between wondering if I could do it, and knowing that it would happen if it were meant to be. Of course, I was offered the position as soon as I arrived at that last point.

With school back in session, holidays were much more enjoyable. Plus, we knew how to celebrate around other people, while still social distancing and staying safe.

Yes, in between the happy pictures, there were times when I heard rumors of another lockdown and completely froze. There were times when I received reports of a cases at work (not many) and became fearful.

There were times when articles shared on social media stopped me in my tracks. I detested the phrase “new normal.” I tried to be positive, but was often countered by friends who were “being realistic.”

But what is realistic? I have a long history as a worrywart, but I can’t think of a single time when my worst fears came to pass. Even the most difficult times in my life, have paved the way for changes that were better than I could have possibly imagined. While being in complete denial is not helpful, instantly assuming a negative outcome is also a form of denial.

Which brings me back to what my yoga teacher said. “Have faith.” I had always equated faith with religion, with believing that some bearded old man in the sky would come and carry us all over the rainbow on doomsday. If we were good enough, of course.

But the faith that she demonstrated was a different sort. It was a determination to move forward, to remain human, to take every challenge as it comes, and to trust that there will ultimately be a positive outcome. We all have challenges, but they are often not the ones we anticipate.

Faith is believing in the goodness that is in all of us, and in the love and kindness that we share for each other. It is believing that we will hold each other up in difficult times. It is believing that the love that is at the center of the universe–you can call it whatever you want, but I prefer the term “God”–will never exclude us.

I have learned many lessons from 2020, and while I would never want to repeat it, I am glad that it is something I experienced. And so I look forward to moving into 2021, in faith.

Family Fun

Week 3 (not really) Away from Facebook: Merry Christmas!

What a fun and crazy week!

This is the seventh Christmas that we have celebrated in Texas, and it was definitely the most fun.

We started out the week by dressing up, decorating our adult tricycle, and piling on it to look at the lights on Clear Lake Shores island. Of course we brought music and hot cocoa!

The next day, we allowed Iliana to open one present early!

At the last minute, I ordered Christmas cards! Then I made one special card, from our Roomba (named Jojo) to my yoga teacher’s Roomba (aka Big Ben). Big Ben appreciated the gesture!

We met up with my friend Jocelyn and her daughter, Ava, Iliana’s best friend, at the Shard Yard, where we made creations out of repurposed glass! It was a wonderful time, especially since we haven’t seen each other since March.

Christmas eve, we celebrated with my parents. My brother, Jon, cooked dinner…

Then we opened gifts…

And then we played a game where we unwrapped a ball of plastic wrap for prizes. It was a crazy fun time!

That night we had a visitor in our apartment! Good thing he wore a mask!

Ili and I wore our matching pajamas the next morning, but Rob had his own style…

I poured us the traditional mimosas (made from sparkling cider!).

Iliana was very excited to find a pair of heelies under the tree!

And we had great fun digging into the mountain of other gifts!

Rob and I took my new camera out to the walking trails later in the day…

And I was treated to a breathtaking sunset that evening!

I hope your holidays were equally as magical! Here’s wishing you the best for the end of such a crazy year!

About Us, Family Fun

Week 2 (sort of) Away From Facebook: Downhill Toward Break!

So here we are on week 2, a bit late! What a hectic week it has been…

The last week before break is always crazy, but with the pandemic, of course it was crazier.

However, we did have some fun! Each day had a theme, and here are some of them:

Once we were on break, Ili and I did some Christmas shopping, including buying Jasmine a a sweater! I don’t think she loved it…

I played Christmas music on our new piano, and Iliana joined in on her saxophone!

Ili completed another puzzle! I hope Santa knows about her new hobby!

So now we are on the downward spiral to Christmas! Next week I will share pictures of our celebrations, and I will probably write a post about my (slightly offbeat) New Year’s Resolutions. I am thinking of having a non-picture post midweek, when I feel like it.

How are your Christmas preparations coming? I would love to hear from you in the comments!

Health, Minimalism, Philosophy

Create

Good morning, friends, and happy black Friday.

I know that I have taken a break from blogging, but I have most certainly not been idle.  It has been a time of change and re-invention.

As of yesterday, I am now 8 months sober.  It’s not even a big deal anymore, in my daily life.  I have learned that diet Coke is often free at bars, but Pellegrino is not.  And that the best bars put lots of cherries in their diet Cokes.

shirley temple

This fall, I started a new job doing behavior intervention at a small charter school.  Working full time again has taken some adjustment, and I have had some triggers from the past that I have had to confront.  But I love what I do, and I love my co-workers and students.

A surprising change in this arena, has been that Iliana is also attending the school where I work!  The program she had been in, in the traditional public school she had been attending, was only available at a junior high that was 30 minutes away by car.  The bus ride got to be too much, and I did not like the difficulty I had being involved and communicating with her teachers, due to the distance.  So after two weeks, we transferred her to the school where I work!

 

Charter schools are simply independently run public schools, that are not part of an ISD or school district.  They are 100% school of choice, so they tend to be smaller.  Iliana has thrived with the individual attention she is getting!  She is in pre-AP math and has tested out of speech (which is HUGE, because the language delay/disorder was the most significant part of her disability).  She works with a special ed teacher and counselor on her social-emotonal issues and is doing very well.  (And what could be better for a minimalist wardrobe, than adorable school uniforms!)

20191018_103613

The biggest change for me is not I am not as big as I used to be!  On Tuesday, I will most likely reach my weight goal at Weight Watchers.  But that is just a formality.  The hard work is finished!

I have read from multiple sources that only .8% of obese women ever reach a healthy weight.  Most people would consider a probability like that to be impossible.  And yet here I am.  I have lost 60 pounds and plan to never need to lose 60 pounds again!

So I have done the impossible.  Now what?  While I will be focusing on maintenance and still attending Weight Watcher meetings and using their tools, I know it is time to move forward and work on new goals.  (Here are before and after pictures!)

 

And thinking of those goals, brings me to my one-word theme for 2020.  Do people still do one word themes?  I am not sure, but I definitely will be!  And my one-word theme for 2020 is, “Create.”

create

I have already survived.  I have already faced my inner demons and completely changed my life.  All that remains now is to work on the, “so what?”  It is time to create the reality that I want to experience.

I know a one-word theme is open-ended, but I do have some specific goals I would like to start with.  Maybe these will be my goals for the year, or maybe they will grow and change.  My immediate goals are:

  1.  Reconnect with the blogging community and write a blog post at least once a week.  I will set aside a specific time to write, when no one is allowed to interrupt me.  Not being firm on this has led to my lapses in blogging in the past.
  2. Work on my stretching and flexibility on a regular basis.  Do stretching exercises at least 5 days a week.
  3. Run a half marathon.  Run at least 3 days a week for now, because the stretching will help more than anything.
  4. Declutter and fix up the boat to the point where it is everything I want it to be.  Do the budgeting to make this happen and make it a priority.
  5. Connect with positive people, rather than letting negativity suck me in.  Be kind, but stop personalizing people’s bad moods.

So this is what I will be working on in the next year!  I look forward to sharing it with all of you!