It’s Not All Cookies and Cocoa (Holidays Can Be Hard)

It’s Christmas Eve!  We have reached a fever pitch of anticipation!  The trees are trimmed, the cookies are baked, and the gifts are all wrapped.  The turkey is thawed and ready to be stuffed.  The stockings are hung by the chimney (and if you are in the midst of the hot spell and running the air conditioning there is no chance of them being burned by the fire).  The only thing left to do is to await the arrival of the big, jolly man and his sleigh.  We are all feeling cheerful, festive, and excited!  Except if we aren’t…

Wait, what is that you say?  It’s Christmastime!  We are supposed to be filled with the joy & love of the season!  We are expected to be happy, happy, happy!  But what if that isn’t always the case?

The fact is that the holidays are not easy for some people. There are those who would prefer that the month of December quietly pass them by.  The reality is that there are people who struggle during the Christmas season, and we need to be mindful of their feelings.

I have friends who have lost loved ones within the past few weeks and months.  This is the first year they will be “celebrating” without a mother, a father, a sister, a brother, or a friend.  I know people who are caring for family members who are gravely, critically ill.  They will spend Christmas Eve spoon-feeding soup and medicine, offering sponge baths, and praying to their higher power for a pain free night for a cherished soul.

There are people who have been disappointed by those who should be closest to them. There are others who have been stressed to the breaking point by demanding, pushy family members who do not know, or do not care, when they are asking for too much. There are those who are so lonely that they would do anything to have some of those pushy people fighting for their attention.  There are some who are gasping for breath under the crushing weight of depression.

Yes, buried beneath the glow of the bright lights, silenced by the sounds of the nonstop Christmas music on the radio, you will find them if you only look.  They are the newly divorced, spending Christmas Eve alone with a freshly broken heart while their ex has the house full of kids.  They are the spouses of law enforcement and military personnel, resigned to yet another holiday making sure things are just right for the kids while trying not to wonder if their loved ones will make it home for next year’s festivities. They are the parents desperate to provide gifts not of cellphones and laptops, but merely a new doll or a toy firetruck.  They are the recently widowed, or the children who have lost a parent, gazing up to the heavens and trying to understand why.

We need to acknowledge and accept that there are people who simply prefer not to celebrate, or to do so in a low-key fashion.  We must understand that they are trying to maintain a facade of cheerfulness while inside they are coming apart.  We cannot trivialize their feelings by telling them to, “Cheer up!” or by admonishing them to, “Stop acting like a Scrooge!”

If we truly do keep Christmas in our hearts all year long then we must be sure to keep it in our hearts during the month of December.  Let us give those who are struggling the gift of our patience.  Let us bestow the present of love upon those who are suffering. Let us understand if they wish only to go to church to light a candle and reflect in solitude rather than accepting our invitation to a raucous Christmas party.  Let us be available without demand, and let us let them do what feels right for them.  Let us know that they do not wish to in any way diminish or minimize our celebrations by taking a more subdued approach to the season.

I am thankful not to be one who has lost a loved one.  I am grateful that my family and friends are healthy and happy.  I am, however, one who has had her Christmas spirit kicked around this year.  I am one of the ones who was disappointed by some while being pushed over the edge by others.   I do not cry often, but I have been reduced to tears more than once over the past few weeks, causing me to retreat and regroup.  I tell you this not to ask for any sympathy, as life presents us all with tough times.  I tell you this because it has helped me to have a greater understanding for what people do struggle with this time of year.  It has led me to a place where I get that the best some can do is to spend a quiet Christmas Eve at home, eating tacos and watching Home Alone 2: Lost in New York.  (Yes, this is our grand plan for Christmas Eve, and I am looking forward to a quiet night remembering who and what matters the most.)

Whatever holiday you celebrate, and however you choose to celebrate it, I wish for you an abundance of peace and love.  If you are one for whom this post resonates know that I hold you in a special place in my heart this year.  If you know someone for whom this post may resonate I ask that you offer them an extra dose of comfort and encouragement over the next few days.

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Blue Blood, Blue Christmas

I wrote this last year days after NYPD Officers Liu and Ramos were assassinated. I am happy to be able to say this year my husband will be home for the holiday. I re-dedicate this to him, for all the ones we spent apart, and to all those who will be away from their loved ones this year. Know that you are seen and appreciated!

Fill Your Own Glass

I want to ask him to stay home tomorrow. I would like to tell him to call out sick, or to use a vacation day. Haven’t we already spent too many Christmas Eves and Christmas Days apart? Doesn’t he deserve to spend an actual holiday celebrating with his family and friends?

I could point out that people do not care anymore, that they no longer appreciate him. I could show him an internet flooded with vitriolic comments and threats indirectly directed at him. I might remind him that he leaves the house with an invisible yet glaring target on him now, and how there are evil people who wish to do him harm for no reason other than the uniform he wears. I want to scream that the world has changed, and that I am afraid.

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One Happy Island

We returned home late last night after spending a blissful five days relaxing in Aruba with two of our closest friends.  Aruba, a tiny Dutch island that is a part of the Kingdom of the Netherlands, is billed as one happy island, and it lives up to the name.  From the moment we stepped off of the plane upon arrival until the moment we stepped on a different plane to depart we were welcomed and met with friendly, smiling faces.

We  stayed at the Divi Aruba All Inclusive Resort in Oranjestad which is a short trip from the airport.  We enjoyed the intimate feel of the property, and our beachside rooms were steps from the beach.  Our wristbands also afforded us access to the neighboring Tamarijn resort and its bars and restaurants.

Within minutes of settling in we met on the beach, anxious to relax with drinks in hand and our toes in the sand.  The white sand beach stays cool and does not burn the bottom of your feet even at midday.  We were rewarded with the trade winds offering a cooling breeze and a stunning sunset over the ocean.

While there was free wifi available in the lobby area, we chose to heed the advice offered at a local restaurant, The Paddock, and remain unplugged.  The reward was great face-to-face conversation and much laughter.  We were glad to have opted to tuned out and simply chill for a few days.

 

The days went by quicker than we wished, but they were relaxing and rejuvenating.  We spent time swimming in the gorgeous clear ocean, sipping cocktails, and sampling plentiful food at the two resorts’ restaurants.  We went offsite for a fun sailing and snorkeling excursion where even I stepped out of my comfort zone and snorkeled.  We explored the downtown area and its colorful shops.  We have already started a list of things to do and see upon our return.

We made new friends and strengthened relationships with old friends.  We celebrated our 18th wedding anniversary a few days early.  We hated to leave, but we returned home with memories that will last a lifetime.

Aruba has cemented its place as my favorite island getaway spot.  It is a destination we will revisit in the near future.  There is a native phrase, biba dushi, that roughly translates to living the sweet life, and that is a perfect description of the past five days.  In our eyes Aruba more than lives up to its “one happy island” moniker.

 

 

 

 

Dear Santa (We Could Use Your Help)

I wrote my “grown-up” letter to Santa last December. I think we could still use some help, so I am sharing it again in hopes that the jolly guy in the red suit sees it. My wish for all of you is the same for 2016 as it was for 2015. Cheers! Karen

Fill Your Own Glass

Dear Santa,

We both know that in years past I would not have presumed to write this letter, but I think things are different this year. I think it is safe because I have been good this year, maybe even better than good. I have worked hard to become a better person- a more patient, more tolerant, more respectful person. I have practiced both random and not-so-random acts of kindness. I have been a supporter, a motivator, and an encourager. I have learned to stop and think before speaking. I have walked away from confrontations. I have jumped out of the fray instead of into it. Yes, I know, there is still room for growth and improvement. (I may as well own up to it, seeing as you know when I have been good or bad.) I do believe, though, that I have been good enough to earn a few…

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Sunday Smiles- Holiday Memories

I am sitting here in the quiet early morning, nursing the mother of all head colds and savoring my first pot of White Chocolate Peppermint coffee of the season.  Yes, it is that good, and the peppermint is cooling a throat made scratchy and raw from a night of relentless coughing.  I would love to invite you over for a cup, but it would be hard for you to sip through the surgical mask you might wear to guard against the germs.

As I enjoy a stillness interrupted only by my sniffling, I find my mind wandering to the holiday seasons of my youth.  Was December not the most magical month (and really, isn’t it still) filled with wonder and surprise?  I need only to close my eyes, and I am transported back to my childhood home and Christmases past. Continue reading

Finding Fall (Holiday Road Tripping)

Each fall I find myself longing to be in the mountains.  Here in coastal South Carolina we do not have the change in colors, or in temperatures, that I was accustomed to growing up in New Jersey.  Sensing my need for cooler air and higher elevations, my husband suggested a long weekend in Asheville, NC, and we decided Thanksgiving was the perfect time for a road trip.

We drove up on Thanksgiving and enjoyed a holiday feast of chicken nachos and smoked gouda mac ‘n cheese accompanied by a few local craft beers at The Bier Garden in Asheville.  If you are a craft beer lover I suggest you put this city on your must-visit list as there are several quality breweries in the area.  Our favorite find this trip was the Catawba Valley White Zombie Ale with a fresh orange slice.

On Friday we hit the Blue Ridge Parkway for a scenic trip to Graveyard Fields Falls for our first hike.  We were a few weeks late for the fall foliage, but the air was blissfully humidity-free.   The upside was less traffic and less crowds.  We did not find this area to be the most picturesque, but we did enjoy an active four-plus mile hike that helped us burn off (some) of our meal from the night before.

On Saturday we ventured off to Catawba Falls in Old Fort, NC at the recommendation of a friend.  It was a gorgeous day, and the scenery here did not disappoint.  The trail is basically a three-mile roundtrip up to the falls and back.  You do have to cross the river at the start/ end point, so be prepared with waterproof boots (or wade across sans socks and shoes as some hikers do).

Upon leaving Catawba Falls we decided to drive to Mount Mitchell State Park in Burnsville, NC.  The drive up the Blue Ridge Parkway is breathtaking in its own right.  Upon reaching the park you can climb to the summit and look out from the highest elevation point east of the Mississippi River.  There are different trails to choose from, and due to limited daylight hours left we picked a short three-quarters of a mile Balsam Trail.

We made our way back to the coast this afternoon tired, happy, and with great memories of a wonderful weekend getaway.  It was the perfect opportunity to unplug and tune in to the wonders that nature offers.  If there is one thing I have learned it is that when the mountains are calling I must put down the phone and answer them.

Daily Prompt:  Bloggers, Unplugged

All Photos Copyright @Karen B. Pearce 2015

Thank-full

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My car has a full tank of gas.  It isn’t the latest model, but it gets me where I’m going.

Our pantry is full of food.  It isn’t always as healthy as it should be, but we never go hungry.

Our closets are full of clothes and shoes.  We don’t have any designer couture, but we are warm and comfortable.

We are far from wealthy, but we have enough to spare and enough to share.  My heart is full of thanks that we are in a position to help others.

My gratitude for the amazing people in my life is boundless.  These people have given me a life full of laughter and love.

My glass is full.  I am thankful that I have learned to fill it myself.  I am grateful to the universe for helping me to choose happy.

Yes, I am thankful, and I am thank-full.  From my little space here at Fill Your Own Glass, I wish you & yours a Happy Thanksgiving! Believe, and be love!  Cheers! Karen

Photo credit:  www.pixabay.com

When the World Makes Me Weary

I think it happens to all of us from time to time.  The world comes rushing at us, jabbing us with vicious punches of violence and hatred.  The clamor and outcries climb toward their shattering crescendo.  The feeling of all the feels becomes overwhelming.  The noise goes from grating to unbearable in sixty seconds flat.  Our internal alarms sound, and we know we must seek shelter in our safe places.

This week has been a test for me, and, Im sure, for many of you as well.  The news of the horrid, cowardly attacks in Paris have left us reeling, and they have left us feeling.  The thought of possible pending attacks has left us edgy and guarded.  I have run the spectrum of emotions from sadness, to anger, to hopelessness, and back to hope again.

In addition to the news of the terrorist attacks we have the ongoing onslaught of political debate that will ride our backs until next November.  Social media has become a perilous place laced with opinions and anger.  Oh, how I long for the days when my newsfeed was overrun with pictures of friends’ ridiculously cute little ones doing all manner of ridiculously cute things.

Off internet, I have friends who are struggling through difficult days.  Friends who have lost loved ones or are watching as their loved ones deteriorate.  I want to pull them all into a collective hug so tight it will squeeze the pain away.  If I could chose one superpower it would be to have the ability to heal.

When you are an empath, or even if you have empathetic tendencies, your life is directly and seriously impacted by the feelings of those around you.  You feel others’ emotions as deeply as you feel your own, and your energy is affected by the things that surround you.  You can imagine the sensory overload that can result, and you can see why it leads to a bone-deep fatigue.

It is difficult, at times such as these, to maintain a positive outlook.  It would be far easier to revert back to one’s prior negative tendencies.  Allowing that to happen, though, would be allowing the wrong people and the wrong things to win.  And so we find ways to fight back, to climb out of the darkness, and to continue to look for the good.

When the world makes me weary, I look to each of you.  I pause to think of the amazing traits that you possess that led me to welcome you into my circle.  I recall the pure and kind acts that I have witnessed you perform.  I remember your words – words that changed a day, a week, a life.  I feel the warmth and the safety that radiates from each of you, and I am enveloped by love and compassion.

When the world makes me weary, it is each of you who restores my energy.  It is you who guides me back toward the light and drives me to continue to encourage and motivate those around me.  It is each of you using your collective superpowers to heal a damaged should.  It is you who makes me whole again.

The Most Important Job

I am an insurance agent.  You are a writer.  She is a physical therapist.  He is a stay-at-home dad.

We have jobs to perform.  We have careers to build.  We have schedules to adhere to and meetings to attend.  We meet deadlines, make appointments, and multitask our way through the days.

We navigate the hustle and bustle of society.  We ride out the ebbs and flows of the economic system.  We create trends, and then we buck them in favor of the next latest, greatest thing.

Some struggle to wade through the mundane hours of their workday.  Others strive to climb the ladder and achieve new heights of career elevation.  The luckiest of us grab ahold of that thing that sparks our passion and find a way to make both a living and a life with it.

We make products and sell ideas.  We analyze data and seek ways to make the graphs move in the right direction.  We offer our art and our talent to the world.  We create, teach, and serve.  We provide customer service support, financial advice, and care.

We hold various positions and titles.  We run the gamut from entry-level clerks to sous chefs to CEOs.  We each offer a service that allows society to function as it does.  Yet we collectively, as humans, have a far more important job that we cannot ignore and must not neglect.

We need to remember, as we start each new day, what our primary purpose truly is.  What is, in fact, the very reason for our being.  It has little to do with earning a paycheck.  It has everything to do with love.

The single greatest job we can aspire to is to love the people who surround us.  It is, I believe, our responsibly, our duty, and our destiny.  We can offer nothing better to one another than the love within our hearts.  Live a legacy of love that you may leave a legacy of love.

A moment spent comforting a wounded soul is worth more than countless hours in a boardroom.  A day of fishing and hiking with your children trumps the highest salary.  A romantic getaway strengthening a relationship.  A weekend laughing with friends and making memories.  These are the best ways to build a “resume”.

Love like it is the most important job you will ever have…because it is.

Photo credit:  www.pixabay.com