All the feelings at Christmas-time

On a whim, tonight I bought a rope of silver garland to add to my tabletop Christmas tree. The sparkles are exactly what I’d hoped for. I’m having a Christmas-time flashback of lying on the floor with my head under our family tree – a real one, unlike my current one – blurring my eyes so the lights and garland and tinsel and ornaments sparkled like some kind of trippy holiday kaleidoscope. Oh, how I loved that.

That was in my old house, in NH, which has long since been sold. That was the house where my dad set up his model trains, and where I played Ewoks in the snow with my cousins. Where giant pine trees loomed over the backyard, and orange shag rug lingered in the den. Where the shoe dropoff at the front door was always a muddy mess in winter, and where my grandma’s mobile home was a mere dash across the yard. For some 30 years, that house was Home for Christmas.

Home is different now. I have a home, that I have built for myself, here in Boston, but I have never had Christmas here, nor did I ever have it in Arkansas. Christmas doesn’t mean home anymore. I don’t say that as a negative. It’s just the way it is.

This year, my dog will be part of my Christmas for the first time ever. I am kind of giddy about that. I went down to the Seaport district to hear Christmas carols the other night. I have cookies baked and more to be baked, and presents to be wrapped. It all feels warm and cozy and right.

But amid this nostalgia, my heart is cracking a little bit. My sister-in-law leaves on deployment tomorrow. She’ll be gone for more than 6 months, missing Christmas with her family, including her two-year-old daughter, my niece.

Now, I’ll be the first to admit that we, as a society, apply WAY too much pressure to this time of year. I can remember Christmases when I felt like a complete and utter failure, because I was the lame single person going to hang with her parents while everyone else had Baby’s First Christmas. Luckily, I got over that nonsense, but Christmas demands a lot from us – travel, shopping, cooking, good cheer, assembling of family, and oh yeah, pondering the story that started it all.

At any rate, it’s a lot, but despite our grousing about it, I suspect we’d never, ever, give it up. So as everyone decks the halls and debates which greeting to use (I like Happy Holidays, mostly because I like alliteration and guess what? Not everyone celebrates Christmas!), I’d like to ask that you take a second to think about my sister-in-law. She’s going to be on a ship with literally thousands of people who are not home for Christmas. Most of them missed Thanksgiving, too. Like her, there are many, many people out there, military and civilian, who keep things running during the holidays, who don’t get to chill around the fire or the tree.

I hope they have a chance to look at some sparkly lights at some point.

Cookies for Santa (1 of 1)


Organizational Therapy

That sounds like some sort of management bullsh!# buzzword, doesn’t it?  But it’s not.

I didn’t job hunt today.  I didn’t go seek a mobile office.  I will admit that today, I holed up in my cave a bit and did the hermit thing.  Well, the hermit-with-a-compulsion-to-file things…thing.

I mean, what else should a girl do when much of her life is in other people’s hands?  Now, now, before you chide me to take action to move my life forward instead of waiting for life to happen, allow me to assure you (and my fretting father) that I’m doing the job hunting thing too.  Applications keeping going in, networking keeps happening, research, all that good stuff.  It’s all happening.  But at some point in this job hunt, I had to realize that I am, at least partially, at the mercy of others: their timelines, their decisions.  It’s not a bad thing.  It’s just the way it is.

For those of us who like control, recognizing and being ok with this is an ongoing effort.  It’s not that we don’t get it; it’s that every day we have to remind ourselves of it, again.  Sometimes several times a day.

It’s such a cliché, but today I retreated to the things I CAN control; the plethora of STUFF that has needed to be sorted, saved, tossed or filed since I left my job.

8 years at one company is a respectable showing in these job-hopping days, especially for one of my generation, who’s been told her entire life that she will have 7 jobs before “settling down.”  So it’s not surprising that I had a bit of stuff to deal with.  It came from my work office to my car, and then to the dining room, and then finally to my home office, where it languished, unseen by all but me, for weeks.  But today, I was determined to paw my way through it.

Amid the magnets and bosses day cards that I kept, and the 20th copy of that brochure that I didn’t, there were some fun memories and some incredibly kind and inspiring words from colleagues in handwritten notes.  I’ve added about a dozen books to my overflowing bookshelves, and kept a small bag of buttons and other swag (of COURSE I’m keeping the Avenue Q condom) that will come with me to my next office.

But the one thing that stumped me was this pile of madness:

A mess of badges

See, every time I went to a conference for work, I would keep the name badge and hang it from the doorknob in my office.  I guess they reminded me to keep thinking, keep learning, keep trying new things.  And they also reminded me how lucky I was to work where I did; if you work at a non-profit, conference attendance is one of those “other” compensations, one of the things you rely on to make up for the fact that your salary is probably lower than it would be if you were working in the corporate world.

But once you don’t work for that non-profit any more…what do you with the badges?

In my case, I went through a series of ideas:

1.  Keep the lanyards.  Surely you’ll need them someday.

2.  Seriously, who needs all those lanyards?  Keep the badges.  Surely you’ll scrapbook them someday.

3.  Sure, you who has never scrapbooked anything.  And half of them don’t have dates or locations on them, so what’s the point of that?  Throw them all out.

4.  All of them?  What about the ones that were from conferences that were really, really fun?

And that’s where I landed.  I kept a few and shoved them into my keepsake drawer (you know, the one full of stuff I really should scrapbook someday) because I will enjoy looking at them and remembering what I learned and the fun I had.

And I’m happy to report that though I enjoyed the trip down memory lane, it was a short one.  I’m not dwelling.  I’m not obsessing over what was.  I consider it a healthy thing, when going through a life change like this, to gather the things that have meaning, integrate them into your life and/or file them away to look at later, throw out the crap, and then move on.

So tomorrow will bring more job hunting, more research, more work.  Onward I go, in a much cleaner office.  🙂