One Red Feather Christmas Tree, Four Bins and The Four Agreements

I am attempting to simplify my life, Christmas included.
So this year I put a fraction of my Christmas decorations out,  set some aside for our camp and I am giving the rest (of my secret addiction) away.
It is a process I do not take lightly, considering I may have been using Christmas decorations to self medicate. (more on that later)
Last weekend, I took some carefully selected decorations with me to the camp.
Before getting there, we stopped at my in-laws to say hello.
My MIL's home was decorated so-very-beautifully for Christmas.
Just lovely--as my MIL has really good taste.

Previously, she had asked me if I minded if she decorated a little bit for me at our hunting place.
I told her, "sure!"
I was confident that I would love whatever she did, plus, I was lazy to do it myself.
I was surprised  when I arrived at the property and was greeted by a rather u-g-l-y  red feather Christmas tree, and a few other items (not photographed) that I never knew she had.
(even Pax was assaulted)
Cautiously, I asked Steve if the tree and its companions had any sentimental value, or significance to his life.
He said he had never seen them before.
I did not like it.
Suddenly, a range of emotions came over me and
I went against "The Four Agreements."

So I took everything down and started redecorating with the things I brought with me.

Truly there is value in occupational therapy because four large empty bins later,
I felt my anti-agreement sentiments melting away.
I realized while decorating, that it was my ego that was choosing the negative thoughts that I had.
I am betting that there is a story behind some of those things she thought I would enjoy.
So I incorporated them back into my holiday display (for now).
I decided to see my MIL's bequeathing of a funky feather Christmas tree to me as a compliment.
She knows that she has an unconventional daughter-in-law that insists on choosing the crappiest Christmas trees:

and transforming them into beautiful backdrops to the story of Jesus' birth.

And so in honor of her honoring the quirky in me, I am keeping the vintage red feather table top christmas tree.
However, she does not know this  (and she does not read this blog) but some of the other stuff may have to go--
after all in the spirit of simplifying, sometimes less is more.
And, I don't need to self-medicate anymore  (for now).



It has been brought to my attention by SL, (for this is not the sort of information I store in my head)
that today is the last day in my lifetime,  that we will have a sequential number calendar date.
So I searched for the perfect bible verse for today and found this:

Ecclesiastes 12:13-14

"Now all has been heard
here is the conclusion of the matter:
Fear God and keep his commandments,
for this is the duty of all mankind.
For God will bring every deed into judgement,
including every hidden thing, whether it is good or evil."


Kind of 'yikes' but worth a ponder.
I wonder if we will have the ability to feel pride about the good and embarrassment about the evil.
And I wonder how far back God goes...


Yesterday, I Wanted To Jump Out Of My Skin

I was experiencing vague anxiety.
So I meditated not just once, but twice.
Then, I worked out on the treadmill, twice.
And after a brief hiatus from good hygiene, I also showered--twice.

Steve also took a turn on the treadmill for the first time since its repair.
He reported that after soldiering through, he smelled something burning.
This morning I called the repair people:

Service person: "I see your treadmill was just serviced a few weeks ago, are you having another issue with it ?"
Me: "I've used it a couple of times since its repair, and it has worked fine but last night, after my husband used it, it started to smell bad."
Service person: ___ (dead silence)
Me: "like something was burning."
Service person: "Oh the treadmill!"

I've been praying for my friend's niece who is dying of cancer.
As of this week, she has been given one month to live.
Just typing that is making me weak.
And I don't even know her personally.

Celebrating the birth of Christ should be a peaceful time of the year.
We are commemorating the arrival of a little baby born for the sole purpose of saving the world, and yet for many it becomes a time of stress due to the busyness and commerce that have become associated with the holiday.
I can imagine that the panic the little girl's family is going through is completely unrelated to the material aspect of the season.

While I was on the phone with the treadmill service department, we were picking a date for the technician to come out.
As I looked at my calendar, I suddenly realized that exactly 17 years ago today, I lost my best friend.
I remember sitting in her hospital room with a box Christmas cards, thinking that I was going to write on them while she recuperated.
Both did not happen.
For a long time I associated Christmas with the death of Elaine.
Although this is no longer the case, I think on a subconscious level--I still get affected this time of the year.
Maybe that's why I wanted to jump out of my skin yesterday and
for sure that is why I am praying that the little girl and her family enjoy a beautiful Christmas together this year.

While I understand that the Target-frenzied world rarely ponder the significance of Jesus' birth--I am hoping that we are all able to reflect on the importance of time we can gift each other this holiday season.
Jesus had 33 years on earth.
Elaine had 29.
I am praying that my friend's niece gets more than 18 months.


Tree Time 2014

You know what happens when I start decorating my home for Christmas?
I forget to exercise.
You know what happens when I don't exercise?
I neglect to shower.
The last time I exercised was last friday.
Today is tuesday.



On an evening excursion to look for winter weather gear for both growing girls, we spotted 0003.
We were driving on the highway when it passed us.
The girls told me to chase it down so that we could take a picture.
I didn't.


Face Off

Many weeks ago, I caught a glimpse of magazine covers at the end of the grocery checkout line that showed pictures of Renee Zellweger's new face.
My curiosity piqued, I decided to check google to see what the fuss was all about.
There was a lot of chatter and snark on the internet about exactly what procedures she underwent to alter her face.
The thing is, Renee Z. has always been able to change her appearance for movie roles.
'Tis always been one of her gifts.
That she has somehow changed her features, is not so much of a stretch. (no pun intended)
For me, the issue is not whether she had plastic surgery or not.
I am more interested in her decision to change her look.
I was not bothered by the change, just curious.  Humans intrigue me.
I wonder if her decision to change her face was like a rite of passage for her.
Like a shedding of a shell or persona no longer necessary nor desired.
Like a re-set button.  I get that.

Interestingly enough, a few days after Renee Z's story hit the internet, I watched a documentary that aired on ESPN about a woman named Carmen Tarleton who was beaten with a baseball bat by her estranged husband and then doused with industrial strength lye all over her face.  After years of grueling and painful surgeries, she was left with a face  that was very difficult to look at, and even more difficult to live with.
In 2013 Carmen was the recipient of a face transplant. Look this up and read more about this woman.

"When life gives you a big negative situation like I'd been through, if you can get through that, you can really find all of the blessings and all of the positive things that can come out that," she said. "And I found so much that I would not go back. I'm so much more blessed than I was then."
~Carmen Tarleton.

Considering it is the most visible part of the human body, the face is so important to one's personal identity.
Renee Zellweger's decision to change her face is her business.
In her industry, it may even be considered brave.
In my opinion, she is still the same actress, with the same gift for acting.
But the real hero here is Carmen.
Carmen Tarleton's ability to overcome all that she has gone through shows us that our face doesn't have to be important to one's personal identity.
She was willing to keep undergoing procedures and indescribable pain just so she could keep on living for her two daughters.
Some people may have even forgiven her if she chose to die, in which case, she would not have been able to inspire as many people as she is inspiring today. (will save that for another post)

She is an incredibly amazing woman.
She is inspiring.

My current eye-makeup sich is NOTHING.
I know I look different. But I will get over it...and eventually, you will tire of asking me if I am sick.


Lunch Break

Steve came home for 12 hours to visit G and me for our birthdays.
I went to lunch today with him and Ayo. We got sushi in the fish market.
After lunch Steve left to go back to his hunting box, (he is now calling is magic box)
Ayo and I visited some more at home over pecan pie.
CK dropped in with a bottle of chardonnay.
My girls celebrated with me with more sushi, smelts,  letters and a popcorn maker.
JB stopped in with a case of mexican Coke and bulldog pj's.
SL prayed for me.
DZ gave me the gift of her presence.
And then Ayo returned in the evening for more pie and wine.
After he left, I had an hour long phone date with my high school bff from Los Angeles.
Tomorrow I am going to a late lunch with Shazam.
On Friday, MS asked if we could go out--I told her I was not sure if I could.
She asked if my legs were broken.

Steve wrote me a very beautiful birthday card.
He ended it by telling me that the only thing that looked 48 years old on me are the soles of my feet.
And he also gave me a battery operated foot file.
Which I promptly used while on the phone with California.
I am now an inch shorter.
But my soles feel good.
And so do I.

 updated: got a surprise  b-day package in the mail from my a dear friend from high school, Mary Jane--
During a trip to San Francisco a few years ago, my girls met her.
They were amazed when I told them that we were never in the same homeroom or class in high school. MJCY is very thoughtful. She texts inspiring messages and mails me care packages when I least expect it.  I appreciate them so much and it really really hammers in my brain the importance of random acts of kindness (and chocolate).


Praying for "Silly" Things

I recently had a conversation about answered prayers because during the thanksgiving weekend, there were lost and found things that I credited to God.
Then someone said something along the lines of, 'people should pray for only important things.'
I disagreed.
I said that you can pray for anything.
(but you can't pray for bad things...I mean you can, but I can't imagine you will get it.)

Do I consider praying about my recent development of becoming allergic to eye-makeup silly?
From a purely vain standpoint it could be,
but if you knew how dependent I am on makeup, you would understand.
I look ill when I don't have eye makeup on.
While I know that it isn't cancer or my litany of worse things in life, it reminds me of a story.
Maybe even two stories.
When I was in college, I always wore make up to school.
1986. Photo credit: J. Abella 

In fact, my trademark look was dark blue mascara on my eyelashes.
I applied it oh-so-carefully every single day before heading out the door.
I felt quite cute.
There was this guy at school. I normally have a very good memory for names, but this guy's name escapes me--and I think it is because of what happened with him.
We were just starting to get to know each other and it was clear that he thought that I was cute. (must have been the mascara)
He must have been so interested that he asked a common friend where I lived.
One saturday afternoon, I heard someone at the door.
I was surprised to see the guy standing outside my house.
I opened my mouth to say hello as he looked right at my face and spoke to me in tagalog:
"Nan dyan ba si Chesca?" (Is Chesca there?)
I said, "wala!!!" (She isn't here!)
Then I shut the door.
I was so embarrassed that he did not recognize my face without makeup that I distinctly remember leaning behind the closed door with my hand on my chest.
(I also realized that he thought I was a housekeeper, because most English-speaking filipinos address service people in tagalog) <---not there's anything wrong with being hired help.
Anyway just like that I decided that I could not go out with a guy that could not recognize
my face au naturel.
The next monday, he sought me out at school.
He said, "hey, I stopped in to see you last saturday"
I acted like I did not know what he was talking about.
I think I was also unfriendly.
And from that day on I avoided him.
And I conveniently forgot his name too.
A couple of years after Steve and I were married, I was here in my house minding my own business, sans makeup when someone knocked on the door.
I opened the door to a man who was looking for Steve.
He said that he had an appointment to see "the good doctor."
Well, Steve forgot to tell me (not unusual) and so I asked politely if he could tell me what it was
The man (who was there to sell life insurance) said to me,
"I don't know how that is any of your business."
So, even if I would have let him sit in my living room while waiting for Steve, I then said to him--
"okay, then you can wait for my husband out on the porch."
The expression on his face confirmed what I had suspected.
He thought that I was Steve's foreign housekeeper. <--not that there's anything wrong with being hired help.
He did not ever get to sell us life insurance.
And that my friends, is why I never step out of the house without eye make-up.
And that is why my recent allergic reaction to mascara is not something I am taking lightly.
(yes, I have even prayed about it!)
I've tried switching brands, but each time I end up tearing up and wanting to scratch my eyes raw.
I've not exhausted all brands yet, and I ain't giving up that easy.
Tomorrow I shall post two pictures of myself.
A Before and After.
I am going to do this to help me get over my complex about going out without makeup.
After all, it is the face I was born with exactly 48 years ago.

Steve said: "I hope you never become allergic to shampoo"