Tis the Season

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Does anyone else sense that something is different about this holiday season? We all know that Christmas and the winter holiday has become very over commercialized. For some time now, it has seemed that stores have pushed the season up. This year seems different to me.
It seems as though the season is early, but it’s the people and not the commercial establishments that are off to an early start. I notice on social media that lots of folks put up a Christmas tree before Thanksgiving. Now, there are no rules about when to put up your tree, but it does seem a bit early. Driving home from my daughter’s house on Thanksgiving evening, I noticed several houses that had their tree shining and decorated, on display in the window for the world to see. Quite a few houses had holiday lights trimming the house.
What’s this all about? I have a theory that we are craving the joy that comes associated with the holidays. We are all out there looking to “make spirits bright.” I’m hopeful when I see this if I’m even close in my analysis. It seems like we’ve all been at each other’s throats this year, and anything that serves as a distraction from that can’t be all bad.
As an optimist, I look for the good in things. I am usually excited about the holidays and the end of the year. I am a firm believer in our ability to change course and reinvent ourselves if we’re unhappy with our current situation. I love the end of the year. The new beginning. Starting over and pledging yourself to new resolutions.
Some people are more cynical about the holiday season. I know that there are lots of people that are lonely and unhappy at Christmas time. Emotions run high, and patience seems to be in short supply. We’ve all had someone cut us off and give us the finger during the holiday season. It seems to be more unsettling when you’re in a holiday mood.
Is anyone else experiencing this sensation of people pushing the holiday? Are you striving for that warm feeling yourself? What’s different about this year?
2017 is my first year in a long time without having to be in a retail environment at Christmas time. I enjoyed sleeping late the day after Thanksgiving. Not having to be somewhere at 5:00 am is something to be thankful for, to be sure.
I know I’ll be making more posts about the end of 2017 as the month continues. But, you know, I thought I’d just get started early. I wish you and your friends and family a beautiful holiday season and end of the year.

– Cat

Running Wild

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I was talking to a friend today, and he was telling me that he met a man that hiked the Appalachian Trail. Pretty cool, huh? What if I told you that he did this when he was twelve years old? With no adult supervision… just a bunch of Boy Scouts on their own, hiking the Appalachian Trail.

It got me talking about my childhood. We all tend to romanticize about the “good old days”. And, maybe that’s just what I’m doing. We lived in a house in upstate New York. I lived there from age six to age eleven. We had a big tree with a tire swing and a big side yard that my parents made into an ice rink in the Winter. On the other side of the house was a hill that was perfect for sledding.

In the more temperate seasons, my friends and I would leave our houses in the morning, and go off on adventures. Sometimes we would come home for lunch, and sometimes not until dinner. If our parents ever worried about us, they never let on.

We would play in the apple orchard, climbing trees and throwing apples at each other. We might decide to go to the pond, and see what creatures we could find. When we got tired of that, we would go to the farmers field, up to the place where there was a bunch of old tires. Sometimes we saw snakes there. It was scary, alright. But worth the risk to climb on those tires.

Some days, we would stick closer to home and stomp down the field of high grass into a “fort”. This was a maze of rooms and we would sometimes accessorize them with treasures from home. We were always building forts and off on general explorations all summer long.

My husband grew up in Scotland. He was taking the tube (subway) around London when he was twelve. When he was seven, he would take the bus into Glasgow and go to the cinema… by himself. Can you imagine allowing something like that with your kids or grandchildren?

The point is, these days we have to watch kids like a hawk, it seems. I was strict about where my kids played when they were little, and wanted them to stick close to home. Now, people might say that they did not have proper supervision. I wouldn’t let them go off to a pond, or across a field out of view. It’s a different time.

 
Or is it? Do we have more danger and treachery in the world these days? Is it possible that the people that prey on children have expanded in number exponentially? Or do we just hear about it more? Does the internet that makes it easier for evil people to commit crimes against children? Or, does the internet just keep reporting these crimes so much that we become desensitized at some point?

When we recall these childhood days, are we longing for a place… or a time when catching a frog was the highlight of the day? If I had to pick the happiest time in my childhood, it was when we were running wild.

– Cat

My Muse

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So, if you look up the definition of the word “muse” as a noun, it will tell you that a muse refers to “a person- especially a woman- who is a source of artistic inspiration”. If you look at the word “muse” as a verb, it means to “consider something thoughtfully”.

 
Thank goodness, we’ve thrown gender roles out the window, since my muse is a man. At the risk of sounding sappy, he is my verb and my noun.

 
Anybody that knows him would tell you that he’s not always the easiest person to get along with. Heck, he’ll tell you that himself. But, he’s usually right, and he is definitely the yin to my yang.

 
He is supportive of my choice to be a writer. In fact, he rarely reads anything I write. It’s not because he’s not interested. He doesn’t want his opinions to taint my writing style. He has confidence in my ability to get my point across, and will not proofread my work. My muse challenges me to get better every day, and that encourages me to work towards doing so.

 
He will help me with the organization of my business and my production schedules, which is so helpful to me. He is supportive as I navigate through the learning curves that are inevitable with any business. Although he has been dreaming of retirement, he has delayed that dream while I establish my career.

 
So, while other writers, artists, painters, and musicians may be inspired by whimsy and beauty, I am inspired by a strong and steady muse. And, I am ever so grateful.

-Cat

 

 

In Mysterious Ways

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My friend lost a child yesterday. Suddenly, unexpectedly, and sadly, gone. He would have turned two years old in a couple weeks. He was loved by his Mom and Dad, and his two sisters. He brought immeasurable joy into this world when he was born. He will leave a desperate sorrow with his passing.
As a writer, I pride myself on being good with words. When I saw the post on Facebook, I was stunned… at a total loss. I had nothing to say in response to the family, and the many others who had commented on this sad tragedy. Every response I can think of seems inadequate.
How can I say something comforting? I just cannot imagine or construct the proper response. Really… is there one? Is there the “right thing” to say to someone when their 2-year-old, the light of their life, has suddenly left this world?
We place so much importance on such ridiculous stuff in our daily lives. Road rage, sports, jobs, video games, new cars, sneakers, politics, organized religion, the latest technology, and fashion. We live like we will never die. We focus on achieving goals. Long term goals, short term goals, financial goals, college goals, retirement goals, career goals. We yearn for materialistic things.
This won’t change. It’s how we get through it all. We keep putting one foot in front of the other… walking through this world until our number is up.
Sometimes it doesn’t happen suddenly, or so we think. We know someone is older, and they are ill. It crosses our mind that they might not make it. It may be obvious that they are at the end of their journey. Why does it still shock us when they actually die? Is it our eternal hope that we can somehow escape this fate?
In the end, what’s important?  We each have a chance to make a difference while we’re here. Never underestimate that. What you do with the time you’re given can make all the difference to the lives of others. We can be a positive influence and encourage people to do their best.
I have to admit, I’m one of those people that has great faith in the resilience of the human body and spirit. It always shocks me when someone actually dies. I guess I’m the one that thinks on some level that we’ll all live forever in one form or another.
Some of you believe in God, mother nature, or some form of higher power. I do. I believe that we are under God’s care. We may not understand how events like these fit into the grand plan. The fact is, we are not privileged to know the big picture. We cannot possibly be granted foresight and volition. Because we get to choose our actions, we can only guess the outcomes. Some things are obvious, and some are hidden.
So, while we may not know tomorrow, we can live today. Hold your loved ones close. Call someone that you haven’t talked to in a while. Smile at a stranger. Take your chance while you have it.   If you’re the praying kind, please pray for my friend and his family tonight.

-Cat

What Are We Gawking At?

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A lot of people in my generation don’t know who Chris Cornell was. So, the news of his death was not of interest to them.  They didn’t realize that although he had a four-octave vocal range, he was an acquired taste.  Not everyone liked his singing voice.  I did.

I’m not going to sit here now that he’s dead and tell you how much I loved him and how grieved I am.  I liked him, and it’s sad for his family.  He died on the day my youngest grandson was born, so I won’t remember the day in a mournful way.

So, I wanted to write a piece about Chris, but realized that I didn’t know much about him.  I knew that he was the singer for Soundgarden and Audioslave, and I like his solo work as well.  When I went on the internet to research a little, I immediately regretted it.  I can now tell you five things you need to know about him, his wife, his first wife, and his kids.  In fact, five things you “must” know about Chris Cornell.

Now, I’ve got this list of ten interesting things I know about him.  But I want to talk about just one.  The articles all state that he had problems with depression, drugs, and alcohol, but that he went through rehab.  They say that he’s been clean since 2003, and that he’s helped other addicts to stay clean.

Fast forward to now.  His wife says that there’s no way he could have committed suicide, since he was making plans to do stuff on Memorial Day.  When she spoke to him that evening, he was slurring his words.  He told her that he might have taken an extra Ativan or two.  

When a musician dies, it’s usually drugs or suicide.  This looks like a combination of both to me.  I know it’s hard for his wife to accept, but if someone takes an extra Ativan or two, they’re not clean, and they are self-medicating.  

If you think I’m judging, I’m not.  We go about our lives with a very distant relationship with our mortality.  I only know one person that was obsessed with the fact that they were going to die.  They’re dead now.  

The truth is, most people don’t want to know if you’re hurting or depressed.  For all the publicity that mental health awareness gets these days, it’s still considered something that happens to “other people”.  I’ve seen people take a hard stand against suicide, depression, and mental illness. Like they think it’s made up, or self-inflicted, or the person is seeking attention.   I believe we all have our vulnerabilities.  

People say that if you’re feeling depressed, you should talk about it.  To whom?  If someone is suffering with depression, they are carrying a heavy burden.  That’s what depression is.  Exactly who is it that wants to talk about that?  If you suffer from anxiety, you’re scared all the time.  Do people want to talk about that, or should you take Ativan?  Change your Facebook profile pic for a day, yeah.  But have a real discussion?

So, once again, I’m impressed by how fragile we are.  I do feel sad that Chris Cornell, for whatever reason, couldn’t talk it out.

That’s enough cheer for a Monday night!  Thanks for listening…

-Cat

Working Without a Net

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As many of you know, I’ve been wearing two hats in my work life since the first of the year.  By day, I’ve been working for a large corporation.  In the evenings, and on my days off, I’ve been pursuing my passion as a writer.  I’ve built my business to the extent that time allowed.
The full-time job that I’ve worked at for almost 11 years ended today when my position was eliminated.  I was one of many that were affected.  I’m a firm believer that everything always works out the way it’s supposed to.  I’ve been through some stuff in my life that wasn’t fun and didn’t feel good.  But, I’ve always seemed to make a comeback.  That whole phoenix thing.
So… I now have more time to promote and work my business.  50 hours a week more.  I called this blog “Working Without a Net” because that’s how it feels.  Exhilarating and scary in equal parts.  There are a lot of things I couldn’t do to grow and work my business.  Now I will.
I’ve met a lot of good people at my job, and will keep a lot of friends in my new life.  I’ve learned so much in the past 10 years, and the experience has helped prepare me for this moment.
I don’t have any hard feelings.  I’m feeling bad tonight for all the people who depended on their job to house and feed their family.  It’s a shame that this had to happen today.
It’s amazing how your life can change in one day…
– Cat

 

Quotable Quotes

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I’m not sure why he came to mind tonight, but he is a person that I treasure in my memories.

I graduated from high school early, when I was sixteen years old.  The only way you could do this at the time was to take Summer School English.  Senior English was always British Literature. I had taken a lot of English courses, even English electives, throughout high school.  But, nothing in my education remains with me like the Summer of Mr. Meehan.

The students in this class couldn’t have been more different from one another.  People graduating early, people repeating the course after failing.  I befriended a girl that was pregnant after her Junior year. Going to high school while pregnant just wasn’t done back then.  So, we all had different reasons for winding up in Mr. Meehan’s class. Because it was Summer School, it was a concentrated course, every day for three hours.

He was a big fan of Marshall McLuhan, and was fond of reminding us that “The Medium is the Message”.  He loved photography.  He was devoted to his wife, and talked about her often.  But, one of the things I loved most about the class was that every day, everyone had to bring in a “Quotable Quote”.  So, here were teenagers from all types of backgrounds, finding meaning through words every single day.  I did not understand how powerful that was at the time.  We would start class by going around the room, sharing a quote.

Mr. Meehan retired in 1995 from teaching.  I looked him up online, and found his obituary from 2007.  It was on a Washington Post archive page, sandwiched between two ads for a Jeep Renegade.  Ironic… the medium is the message.  I’m not sure how he would have felt about that.  He did have a great sense of humor.   There were lots of students who poured out their hearts in the guest book on his obituary.  So, I know I’m not alone when I say he played a big part in my education and love for language, words, literature, and quotable quotes.

Here’s one for the road:

Let us remember: One book, one pen, one child, and one teacher can change the world.  – Malala Yousafzai, activist for female education and the youngest-ever Nobel Prize laureate.

Goodnight, Harry *

-Cat

Did you ever have a QUITTER?

 

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Warning… this post is full of nonsense and silliness.  I just had to share a moment from my work life.  First, some background.  I work with a diverse bunch of folks.  We come from a lot of different backgrounds.  I can think of at least five different languages that we can speak.  I’m one of a couple caucasians, and I’m the wise, old sage of the group.  We have a blast, and love to joke around.  So, my coworker, who happens to be caucasian like me, is arguing with someone in the back, but I can’t hear the conversation.

She comes up front and says to me, “Miss Cat, what does it mean if I’ve got a quitter?”  I didn’t have to think too long before I told her that I would think she had a sock that wouldn’t stay up.

We’ve all had that feeling of dread.  You put your socks on in the morning, and everything’s fine.  As soon as you get out of the car and start walking around, you feel it gradually… or not so gradually, slide under your foot, inside your shoe.  It’s going to be a long day.  You’ve got a quitter.

When I answered Natalie’s question, she was thrilled. “I keep telling them that, and they wouldn’t listen.”  So next up, Cafiann, who comes from a Caribbean background, says “We just say the neck is broke”.  Nobody recognizes that one.  In fact, most of the others don’t even have a name for this syndrome.

So the group decides on the spot that quitters are a caucasian thing.  They suggest I write a blog post about it.  I could call it “White People Be Like”, after the popular memes on the internet.  We laughed so hard that I think we must have scared some customers away.  I thought it was funny enough to share with you, but I chose a milder title.

As a follow-up, I asked one more person today.  Stacey is also caucasian, and I figured this would settle it.  Guess what?  Turns out she’s never heard of the infamous “quitter”.  There goes the whole theory.  It’s maybe just a coincidence that Natalie and I both refer to the devil’s sock by the same name.

Hmmmm… just when you think you’ve got life figured out.

– Cat

Keeping Christmas in My Heart

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I love the quote written by Charles Dickens in his famous book, A Christmas Carol.

“I will 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”

Most of us are familiar with a movie by the same title.  My husband, Iain, is a big fan of this movie.  I should say “these” movies, because he watches various interpretations during the holiday season.  He likes the older versions, and loves the Disney one, with Jim Carrey in it as Scrooge.

We watch a lot of holiday movies at Christmas time.  The old favorites, Holiday Inn, and White Christmas, are always watched in the run up to the big day.  We like some of the newer ones, too.  Polar Express has become an annual tradition. We’re guilty of tuning into the Hallmark Channel for the smoochy Christmas movies.   A Christmas Story, and my favorite, It’s a Wonderful Life, are usually reserved for Christmas Eve.

We’re not big fans of the “Bob slashes his best friends to bits on Christmas Eve” movies.  Some of the comedies that are Christmas themed are too cynical for us.

But, getting back to A Christmas Carol.  It isn’t really religious, but instead deals with having a kind heart and a good spirit.  This is the part of Christmas that I try to keep in my heart.  It’s about being charitable, empathetic, and connecting with other people.

I feel like this is the part of the holiday that has faded over time.  We all acknowledge that Christmas is over commercialized, but how do we balance that out?  So many things can be distracting this time of year. The calendar fills up fast, and everyone’s busy.  With all the thinking, planning, organizing, spending, partying… how can we keep Christmas in our hearts?

I think that so many people feel emptiness this time of year, when we forget to pause and reflect.  If you are religious, Christmas is a great time to think about your relationship with God.  Allowing yourself to be strengthened by prayer can definitely have a positive effect on your feelings about the season.

If you’re not Christian, you may still be religious or spiritual.  The end of the year is prime time for reflecting on your faith.  A renewal of your dedication to your chosen religion, a reset once a year, can’t hurt… and will most likely help you cope with the holidays.

If you don’t believe in a God, or a higher power, use meditation  to help you clarify your values and beliefs as the year ends.

Consider making these commitments to yourself over the holiday season.  Don’t beat yourself up if you get overwhelmed.  Refer to the quote above.  Scrooge says he will “try” to keep it all the year. He isn’t perfect and neither are you and I.

Merry Christmas!

Happy Holidays!

– Cat

How Did I Miss That?

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Sometimes, I contemplate experiences that I’ve had in my life. And, I wonder “Why did I take that for granted?”.  It makes me think more about being present, more mindful, in the moment.

Here’s what I mean.  As we age, we pass through different stages in our lives.  Friendships, family, and relationships tend to mutate as you move through the changes.  When you’re single, you tend to gravitate towards single people.  It’s natural to want to be with folks that are living the same lifestyle as you.  You like to do single people things.

When you’re married, or  when you’re a young parent, you will develop friendships with people who are at a similar stage in their life.  You don’t plan for relationships to change, they just do.  You may be close to a friend when you’re both single, going out, doing things together.  Then, when you become a parent, you find that you just don’t have much in common with them anymore.  It’s natural to form new friendships and for these earlier bonds to fade.

It’s a part of life, but it’s still a bit sad.  There’s the saying that some people are in your life for a reason, and some for a season.  Sometimes you’re lucky, and you can find a friend to drag through life with you.  Every once in a while, I mourn for a moment that I took for granted with someone.

In the break room exchanging views on life with Erin. Having lunch with Amy, and taking road trips with Catie. Having ice cream in Scotland with Scott, Lesley and Iain.  Seeing Diane talk in sign language with her customers. The time Travis caught that bird.  The time I laughed so hard with David that we couldn’t finish dinner. I miss all the great bosses I’ve had.  All the amazing coworkers I’ve been blessed with over the years.  Above all, the joys I had with my kids when they were little.  We don’t realize at the time how precious those connections are. 

 It’s not that you “break up”.  Erin and I are still friends.  We just don’t work together anymore.  She lives pretty far away, and is a young mother.  The opportunity to have lunch together and get all the problems of the world settled is just not there.  We don’t even get to talk much.  It feels like those moments are in an alternate universe now.

And, of course, we make new friendships, and connect, and adapt.  I don’t mean to sound so glum.  I don’t think that these thoughts are unique to me.  It’s just a realization that’s part of the aging process, I guess.  Maybe it’s just a case of reminiscing about “the good old days”.  We all do that from time to time.

So… life continues.  That’s beautiful, especially considering the alternatives!  Let’s not get bogged down in stress and schedules.  Let’s be aware of the people and good times in our lives.  We may miss them some day…

– Cat