Cajun Christmas … On Wheels

Letting my sisters 23-month old daughter test out my derby skates. She's a daring little one!
Letting my sisters 23-month-old daughter test out my derby skates. She’s a daring little one!

Happy holidays, y’all!

I’ve been in Louisiana all week for Christmas this week, which means I haven’t visited the skating rink. However, I couldn’t stand to leave my skates in Maryland and not practice for five whole days, so I packed the big suitcase and made room not only for my skates but also all of our Christmas gifts to my family. I may, however, have skimped on practical things like warm clothing and appropriate shoes.

This week, I had my first chance to really test my hybrid wheels. It’s worth noting that my wheels are the cheapest ones I could find, as I fully intend to damage them in the course of making stupid newbie mistakes. That said, the Radar Zen¬†wheels hold up pretty well to skating on concrete and asphalt.

My first day home, I just had to show Mom my skates (I’m such a dork). Being the supportive person she is, she wanted to see what I could do, so I showed her my handful of tricks, and she ooh’d and ah’d like I was a kindergartener bringing her my first macaroni necklace. I left the skates out in the open one night, and my sister’s daughter Hazel was pretty curious about them, so we took them for a spin around the kitchen. It’s been really nice to get to know the youngest member of our family a little better, and I have loved sharing my new hobby with everyone.

The skating highlight for me has been going fast on the street. I’m too nervous to skate fast at the rink because you never know when a kid is going to faceplant directly in front of you. So, going around the block in my sister’s neighborhood gave me the chance to go as fast I could up and down the street and also practice crossovers at a higher speed than usual. Eventually, I might like to have a second pair of skates so I can keep one for indoor only and really go to down beating up the outdoor ones. I’ve also decided that my next skating goal is to turn around by jumping (rather than one foot at a time like I do now), and I’m going to have to invest in knee pads and wrist guards soon.

I hate to end this abruptly, but it’s now time for me to pay attention to my family for the last day I have in town. We’re heading out to Lake Arthur and getting Cajun food for lunch. Can’t go wrong there. :)

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Ten Tips for End of Year Self-Care

Toe Art...Love & Care So, the year is winding down. You’re making your plans for 2014. Maybe you’ve made a list of 100 cool things to do or set yourself some terrifying yet enticing goals. But it’s also possible that you’re feeling a little anxious about the holidays or down thanks to cold days and long nights. I’ve dealt with depression and anxiety most of my life now, and it’s always been harder in the winter, so I’ve come up with a few ways to help brighten my mood and keep the smile on my face even when navigating the toy section of Target among throngs shoppers. I hope these suggestions will help you get through the holidays with your spirit in tact!

  1. Talk to someone. It’s often tempting to hide your feelings because you don’t want to burden anyone or seem crazy, but sometimes keeping your problems to yourself only makes you feel worse. Meanwhile, the people who love you are wishing they knew how to help, so please let them!
  2. Get a normal amount of sleep. It’s tempting to stay in bed and take a lot of naps when it’s cold out, but don’t. Sleeping too much makes you feel more lethargic. If you’re already feeling depressed, this won’t help.¬†
  3. Indulge moderately. If you don’t allow yourself to enjoy the treats of the season, then it’s not the most wonderful time of the year. Go ahead and have desert, and furthermore, have the slice of pie for a midnight snack. Don’t beat yourself up for enjoying it.
  4. Stay hydrated. Being dehydrated has a bigger impact on your state of mind than you may realize, especially if you tend to drink coffee all day and booze at night as part of your strategy to fight off the cold. Be sure you’re drinking plenty of water, and consider curbing the other stuff.
  5. Schedule time with friends. You need to talk to someone who isn’t going to ask you when you’re having kids or whether you’ll ever move closer to home. Your friends are probably just as stressed out as you are and would love to see your face. Make a coffee date.
  6. Get your vitamins! Vitamin D in particular, but make sure you’re eating well-rounded meals and not just takeout and processed foods, which is for some reason really tempting to do when it’s cold out.
  7. Spoil yourself a little. Take hot baths, bundle up in your coziest clothes, sip on hot tea all day, moisturize your skin lavishly every damn day. Creature comforts help ease the physical discomforts of winter, which also helps boost your mood.
  8. Look for things to be grateful for. Even very little things can change your perspective and make the world seem brighter.
  9. Adjust your exercise routine. If you’re feeling anxious, consider a gentle vinyasa yoga practice which will be both warming and soothing. If you’re feeling depressed and lethargic, a more vigorous vinyasa or maybe Kundalini Yoga class may help lift the clouds.
  10. Look forward to something. Set yourself some little goals or make a list of fun things you hope to do in the new year. Plan your reading list or book a weekend getaway for spring — anything that reminds you sunnier days are on their way.

Take care of yourself, dear.

All the love~

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A Different Gratitude

Homeless_on_bench_stencil_Melbourne

I’ve been feeling unusually grateful lately because I’ve come to realize I have just about the best husband, family, and group of friends a woman could want. But yesterday, I had an experience that humbled me, and made me feel a different kind of gratitude.

My friend Katie and I planned to meet up at Starbucks. I was running early because I expected traffic to be worse than it was. She was running a little behind. So I sat on a couch and fiddled with my phone while I waited for her. An older black woman shuffled in. She moved slowly, carried two reusable grocery bags full of stuff, and wore two hospital bands on her wrists. The weather had been just above freezing and rainy for over 24 hours, and she had clearly been out in it. She asked if the couch across from me was taken, took a seat, and at a fast food sandwich from one of her bags.

When Katie arrived and went to order her coffee, the woman asked me if she could use my phone to make a call. She told me the number, I dialed it for her, and she proceeded to talk on my phone for about 30 minutes while Katie and I sat and talked. She kept saying, “I am sick. I am tired. I need to heal.” She was asking people for money so she could stay in a hotel. When she finally got off the phone, I asked her if she was OK and if I could help her get somewhere like a shelter or a church where she might get assistance. She didn’t want to go to a shelter because they stole her clothes. She didn’t want to go to any churches either. She said they used to sometimes pay for a hotel room for her, but they wouldn’t anymore, and they told her not to come back. But she had a friend up Rt. 2 working at a cell phone store who said he could give her a few dollars. She was sure he wouldn’t give her a place to stay, but “every little bit counts,” she said.

If I were by myself, I probably would have wished her luck and gone on my way, but with Katie there, I felt a little braver. Katie’s a former public defender with the social skills and resources to connect with people in need, like this lady was. I offered the lady a ride to the cell phone store. She said she could’ve waited for the bus, but it would take a really long time and there are no shelters at most of the bus stops here. It was the day before Thanksgiving, and it didn’t seem right for her to be standing around in the rain. So, we drove up Rt. 2 more than half way to Baltimore, and dropped her off at this cell phone store. She didn’t know if the guy there was going to actually give her any money. I did not offer to hang around in case he wasn’t even there or wouldn’t help her.

On the way there, she told us a little about her life. Her name is Linda. She says her mother hates her and stopped her from marrying the love of her life. When Katie asked if she was sick, Linda gave her her hospital release papers, which we didn’t read. We started talking about Christmas movies somehow. Linda’s favorite Christmas movie is the Charlie Brown Christmas Special (mine, too!) and we both hated Scrooge. She and Katie agreed on Miracle on 34th St. I was the standout vote on claymation. It was a silly conversation, but it felt good to find something we could all have in common.

I didn’t really feel good about leaving Linda. I wanted to help her, but all I did was literally move her up the road a bit to an unknown destination. Katie had been going through her mental files thinking of places we could bring her, but if she wouldn’t agree to go to a shelter or church, there wasn’t much we could do but drop her off where she said her friends would be. Her contacts in the court system could only step in if Linda if had been arrested. And although she had just been released from the hospital, she said she had no case worker or social worker to ask for help.

Still, by the end of the ride, Linda was smiling. I have no idea if we helped her, but she certainly made me realize how lucky I am. Today, my family is coming over to celebrate with us, and really, the only thing we’re celebrating is the fact that we’re so lucky. Linda probably won’t have a Thanksgiving dinner. She told us to eat some turkey for her. I don’t normally eat turkey, but what the hell. It seems a little ungrateful not to.

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Monday Night Nonfiction: What I Learned from My Parents

Credit: Paul K on Flickr

What I learned from my parents was to see other people’s suffering.

I didn’t exactly fit in as a kid, and whenever I complained about other kids being jerks, my mom always said, “Poor thing, that person is probably very sad and doesn’t have very many friends.” When I was little, I felt consolled knowing everybody else probably hated the mean kid as much as I did. When I got older, I realized Mom was right. People who were mean were mean to everyone, not just me. Even when a group of kids ganged up on one outsider, they were really the sad ones. Any one of them could be the group’s next target, and they knew it, so they stuck together in their meanness. I felt so sorry for most people that I even tried to be nice to them and occasionally made a friend.

As for my dad, he’s a doctor (still practicing in his late 60s). He loves his patients because they come to him with their problems, they are vulnerable, and all they want is for someone to make them feel better, so he tries. Many nights at the dinner table, Dad would tell us stories about funny things kids would do. Once in a while, the stories would be sad, like the entire family living on nothing but rice. (Of course he told us this without telling the names of patients or any personally identifying information!)

I think Dad was trying to teach us something with those stories. What I took from them was that people can make you laugh and they can make you mad, but they also suffer, so you have to be kind.

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Kindness is Cool

Two Words About Friendship
While working on my post about volunteering, I asked my friends and family via social media to tell me about their favorite ways to volunteer. I received many welcome replies including one from my cousin Lorena, who is one of the sweetest and most thoughtful people I know. She wrote:

It is so much easier to be charitable with people that we do not know. It is much more difficult and much more important, in my opinion, to be charitable with the people that we do know, the ones with whom we have the most contact and on whom we have the greatest impact. It isn’t volunteering per se, but perhaps a name should be given to it and a logo, right?

She makes a great point. Volunteering is easy because it’s an organized activity, usually with a clear beginning and ending. On the other hand, being nice to our friends, family and neighbors isn’t so clear cut. There is no end to being nice to your neighbors, listening to your friends, or remembering to call your relatives.

Because I really love volunteering, I strongly encourage you to try it. Contributing to your community is incredibly rewarding. But remember to look at the people right in front of you, too. The way you treat the people closest to you will shape their lives, so act with love.

 

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