You Don’t Have to Love Christmas {And other truths about December}

tangled xmas lights

It’s the most… complicated time of the year. For plenty of people I know, Christmas time, the holidays, New Year’s… They can be a tidal wave of emotion, reflection, regret and just plain sadness.

The toughest things I’ve ever been through have almost all happened in the month of December. A baby on the 23rd when I was just the tiny age of 19. The loss of my first husband in a car accident on December 28th when we were both just 26. (Only to bury him on New Year’s Eve. If you’re really feeling festive, you can read more about that here  or here. ) And then the final undoing of my second marriage on the darkest Christmas Eve in my history, when we finally could not un-ring the bell.

And all of this among a few other losses and if-onlys and what-ifs.

But enough about me.  There is a pressure to love December and Christmas and all things holly jolly like no other time of year.  You can say you hate summer or the 4th of July or Labor Day, but what kind of a jerk doesn’t like Christmas?  There’s a shame attached to it that’s unmistakable.  Months in advance we’re impressed with how we’re supposed to feel about the holidays. There’s an anticipation that begins around Halloween and doesn’t relent until the final carol has been sung. You’re supposed to be happy. You’re supposed to feel joy. You’re supposed to feel lighthearted and whimsical and ready to party and celebrate and exchange food and gifts and time and affection. So when you don’t feel all these things, the only reasonable conclusion is that there must be something wrong with you.


But the truth is, holiday depression is a real thing and more people feel this way than are willing to admit. For so many, the dramatic emphasis on love, cheer and goodwill only reflects the lack of it in their own lives. Any other time of year, we know how to deal–but December’s over the top expectations have us staring a little too hard and long at all the spaces in our lives that fall short and feel empty.

Just think of the Grinch or Ebenezer Scrooge– both infamous for their dislike of December 25th.  (Although  truthfully, the Grinch never really hated Christmas. He hated people, which is fair.)

If you want cold hard facts, one North American survey reports that 45% of Americans dread the holiday season.  Ouch. Pass the eggnog.

Here’s the good news: December is just another month. The end of one year and the beginning of a new one bringing brand new chances and opportunities for peace and happiness. And although it seems to loom for weeks, Christmas is only one single day. If it turns out to be a good one, hooray for you! But if it ends up going off the rails, clock out early, crawl into bed and wake up renewed on the 26th and move on with your life.

You don’t have to love December. You don’t have to love Christmas. You don’t have to be or do or feel a certain way. About anything. Ever. It doesn’t make you a bad person, a sad person, or a less-than person. It makes you a real person.  And there’s nothing better than being real about yourself, where you’re truly at in life and how things are actually going. If you’re not feeling strong enough to celebrate and socialize, don’t feel bad about telling the people around you, “Thanks, but I’m just not up for that right now.” With no apologies. On the flip side, sometimes getting out of your own head and being with people is exactly what you need if your sadness has you turned a little too far internally.

But the best part? You get to choose.

This is my happiest December in decades. For the first time in a long time, I don’t feel the heaviness I’m usually carrying this time of year. I’m wildly in love with someone who pursues my happiness like it’s his job.  I feel peaceful and grateful and actually, a little bit Christmas-y. But I never forget about my friends who are not. And I still don’t love December or Christmas. Accepting that and not judging myself for it has been, well, a gift.

Cheers to January, friends. We’re almost there.


This Is Why.


_DSC4050-2It’s been 17 years today. Seventeen very long years. Sometimes they feel haunted. And you would think. One would think. I mean, really. What else is there to say or think or write? Have the memories not faded? You were so young. Are there not…new thoughts to be thought? New memories to be made? How is there sadness all these years later. Is…something wrong with you? Will you ever be over this? How come you’re not?

Yes. No. I don’t know.

All of the above.

But this is what I do know: When you lose someone, it’s possible to spend the rest of your life- no matter how good or bad that life is- wondering what it would be like. What it could’ve been like. If they were still here.

And the dangerous part of this is, I know, that every single idea you construct is purely imagination. You don’t know. You can’t know. But somehow you imagine things would somehow be so much different. And better. And easier. Probably, this is not true. But perhaps it is. I want to think that it is. But I’ll never know.

I miss the future I was supposed to have with you.

And it’s such a beautiful indulgence to imagine the way life may have turned out if you were still here. And somehow, in some way, there is still an ache inside me for the life I never got to have with you. It won’t go away. Some days, there is no place I can go to escape from the longing.

Somehow, I still want it.

I think about who I would be. Better. Happier. Easier. Lighter. Not so fucking complicated.


I think about who our kids would be. They would not carry The Empty Space. The heartache of living a life–an entire life– without their dad. I would not also be carrying it for them.


The Big Life Events pass by, the road inevitably paved by loss and a heavier weight than seems fair. But mainly, it’s the dailyness of you I miss for them. For me.

Logically, my brain understands. It may not have been easier. Or better. Or beautiful. Maybe it would’ve been worse? But I’ll never know. And it’s all the not knowing. All the not knowing all these years that won’t let go. And when I’m not being careful, grief is an unrelenting taskmaster.

I still imagine. I’m still left only to imagine and miss what might have been. I don’t need to be reminded that perhaps I’m missing out on what could be. I understand that. I know that. I do.

Tomorrow, I’ll do better.

But for today, I still wonder. And I still miss you. And what might’ve been. 10580065_740205752781930_7690649221112900995_n

Post Script~ When I have big feelings, I write about them. And without fail, people message me to say thank you. And they message me to say, “me too.” And that’s why I write. I know this post is sad. But I don’t write for sympathy. I write about what feels true today. I write for you to read it and feel relief in knowing that if you’ve felt this way too, you’re not alone.



Even When it is So Dark I Cannot See, You Are There {Healing from Grief}

{This post was originally published at Creative and Free as part of a ten day series entitled, Scary Stories. “Some hope only grows in the dark.” Thank you to Christina Hubbard for opening up her space and sharing it with other women to bravely tell our scary stories.

The night Mark died was such an ordinary night, which has always been so strange to me. And sort of curious. How can the night you lose your childhood love, your best friend, your husband, the father of your children be so typical? How can the night he is killed in a one car accident be such an ordinary night? But it was.

December 28th, 1998. We were visiting my parents and by 9:00 that night, my kids were tucked in tight, fast asleep and dreaming. We had even said bedtime prayers including ‘God bless Daddy and keep him safe.’ I would later struggle with that 10 second prayer for years to come.

The details I remember in hindsight are sort of amazing to me. I think maybe our minds take certain snapshots during traumatic events so that eventually, it’s a story we can relive and retell whether we like it or not. My dad was in the next room watching Seinfeld- his nightly ritual- and I was at the kitchen table with my mom, painting my nails Magic Mauve.

But it wasn’t. It wasn’t really Magic mauve. Had it been magic, the phone wouldn’t have rung a few minutes later bringing the news of Mark’s accident and death…

Click HERE to finish reading over at Creative and Free.


Hate is a Strong Word. And it’s Perfect for Physical Therapy.

I hate Physical Therapy.

Today is an anniversary of sorts. It’s been 3 months–12 weeks–90 days since my accident. And I’m so grateful and so relieved and so…relieved.

But it also means I’ve moved into the Physical Therapy phase of recovery. And those of you who have been there– you know. You KNOW. Physical therapy is a bitch.

And I hate it.

I hate it because it hurts.

I hate it because it’s humbling.

I hate it because my arms shake when I use one pound weights. ONE POUND.

I hate it because it’s time consuming.

I hate it because it is the clearest reminder I have of being weak and incapable and different than I was a few months ago. 


In my daily life, I’m learning to adapt. I do things differently to circumvent my weakness and inabilities. But physical therapy moves are specific. And they specifically highlight what I cannot do.

I know. I get it. It’s a means to an end. And that end is to recover strength and mobility. I know. It’s not like I don’t understand. I just don’t like it.

I don’t like wincing from squeezing a handful of Play-Doh or needing a break from palming golf balls.

I hate it because the exercises make it feel like I’m going to break everything all over again, no matter how many times the therapist assures me the titanium plates aren’t going anywhere.

But mostly I hate it because I cry.

To be clear, I don’t SOB, for God’s sake. But it effing hurts and it’s effing hard. And when the therapist pulls my wrist and bends it back and forth and treats my scars, I can’t keep the tears from silently leaking out and running down my face.

I close my eyes because I am in pain.

I close my eyes because I am embarrassed- for me AND for him.

I can’t lie. Before my first PT session, I actually tweeted that I hoped he would be hot and that would make it more fun. But he kind of is. And now I just wish he were a nice little 90 year-old grandpa.

FullSizeRender (10)


When he asks if he should stop, I always say no.

Because the pain is part of the process. Pushing past the limits of what feels comfortable is the only way to make headway. It’s an integral part of the healing.

It’s the only way things will ever be different and better. 

And I have my pride. I want to be tough. And in a weird way, I want the PT to think I’m tough, too. I want the people in my life who are cheering for me to think I’m tough enough to keep going. I have stupid visions of making a Major League comeback, filled with one-handed push-ups and awe-inspiring yoga headstands. (Mind you, I couldn’t do these things pre-accident, just so you understand how truly unrealistic these delusions are.)


But that’s not the point. The point is I want to get better and be strong and feel normal again. And so I have to do things that hurt and test me and make me cry, even though I hate them.

And every single time, there is a moment when I wonder: Would it be okay to stop? Once in a while, would it be okay to stop and just cry openly and meekly whisper to him, ‘You know, I really can’t take this today. Let’s just stop for now and I’ll try again next time.’

Would that be okay? Would that make me weak? A quitter?

And then I snap out of it.

I remember it’s not life. It’s just Physical Therapy.

And I want this wrist and collarbone to be f*cking indestructible. And I keep going.

Tell me about your Physical Therapy. And tell me when it gets better.

broken bones


Winning {and Losing} A Fish from the Fair

fair fish

Before we even got to the fair, she was prepping me. The sun was high overhead and it was a picture-perfect day to roam around the fair eating and laughing in wonderment at everything there was to see.

“You know what game I want to play first, right Mom? You know I want to try and win another fish, right?” she asked smiling, a knowing glimmer in her deep chocolate pudding eyes.

Yes. I knew. And she was prepping me because she knew I would not share her enthusiasm for another fish.

She had won a fish at the fair last year, and for reasons still unclear to me, we went out the next day and bought a ten gallon aquarium, complete with light, filter, and every other accessory fish apparently need to survive. Were the moon and stars aligned just so? Was it the pet store guy convincing me each fish needs a minimum of three gallons of water just for themselves? In any case, we got the whole shebang, with two additional fish in tow.

A few months later, they were all dead.

Correction: A few days later, the Fair Fish was dead. And then at some point, the other two kicked the bucket as well. All unbeknownst to her, because like a crazy good mother, I ran out and replaced them before she ever knew.  At some point, I put an end to the charade (because really) and then shortly after, our dog died. So as you might imagine, I did not share her eagerness.

fair fish 2

And besides. Fair fish have what you might call a reputation.

A big scarlet letter.

And not for longevity.

Quite the opposite. They probably ARRIVE at the fair already weak, swimming in that toxic rainbow water with one fin in the grave. And yet why is the goldfish game the easiest to win? Rationally speaking, it should be the hardest! You’re taking shots at winning a LIVE pet, for God’s sake– not just a 3-foot stuffed purple gorilla. Who makes these rules up?

But there was something about the optimism beaming from her tan golden face that was charming and a little bit contagious. She knew the odds. She knew she would be going home with a fish. And she also knew it might not live that long. Her cheerfulness in the face of terrible odds was inspiring.

I took note. I watched how happy it made her to just try. To go after the challenge. I saw how fearless and nonchalant she was approaching the whole thing. How much she was enjoying it.

If she lands that ping pong ball, we're doomed.

If she lands that ping pong ball, we’re doomed.

Look, I get it. We’re only talking about a stupid fair fish. We’re not talking about, say, LIFE. Or LOVE. Or you know, whatever. But it’s all relative. Risk is relative. It depends on what you’ve already won or lost and what it cost you. The price you paid.

And as luck and skill would have it, she won a fish. 

And she was elated.

And then we lost Gilbert a mere 72 hours later.


But somehow I didn’t feel the panic or worriment this time around to run out and find a body double for him. (And shout out to those who’ve tried. It’s not necessarily an easy thing to do.) It seems a year later we’ve all grown enough to face loss head on- the big ones AND the little ones.

And she was fine. She really was. Actually, she was more than fine. She asked if we could go to the store to buy more fish and start the aquarium all over again. Oh, the optimism, I thought. I have to admire it. And perhaps work on finding mine again.

So you know what?

We’re going to.

We’re going to buy more fish and start the aquarium all over again, even if the odds are against us.

Tell me about your Fair Fish. Everyone has a story and I want to hear yours.


Somehow, You Just Do

just do

Death. Illness. Accidents. Break ups. Broken Hearts. Bankruptcy. Betrayal.

Think of the last REALLY hard thing that went on in your life.

{Or maybe, like me, you’re still in the middle of something really hard.}

But now think back to all the really hard things you’ve already made it through.

And first of all, Bravo, you Bad Ass, you.

Second of all, whichever space you’re in, I’m gonna guess there was a moment–even if it was just a millisecond– when you wondered how you would ever survive. A moment when you thought you never would. A moment when you swore this would be the one hard thing that was TOO hard. Insurmountable. Impossible. Impassable.

Sounds silly now. And maybe a touch dramatic. But it didn’t feel that way at the time.

You didn’t know how you were gonna do it. But somehow. Somehow, you did. Somehow, when it comes down to getting through, a day at a time, you just do.

This morning, I went for a walk. A legitimate walk. I awkwardly strained to wrangle my hair into a messy bun. (An impossible task just a week ago) I couldn’t manage a sports bra, but I pulled up a bandeau bra thingy and leggings. Last night, I asked my daughter to loosely tie my sneakers so I could just pull them on this morning and actually go by myself. (I sound like a toddler. There’s been a lot of that. Not good.)

Side note: Speaking of something else I can’t manage yet: Spanx. Over the weekend, I tried. I really tried. There was a dress I wanted to wear that needed a little…help. And there was a literal moment when I had to choose between potentially damaging my healing wrist with all the pulling and tugging versus the illusion of a flat tummy. I actually had to think about it. Because priorities. But since I  physically could not get them on, the decision was made for me. Dodged a bullet.

As crazy as it may sound, I was kinda scared to venture on this walk alone. (Although not as scared as I felt when I contemplated the idea of having to tell my mom I re-broke my wrist trying to pull on a pair of Spanx. AmIRight??) But there were two things: What if I get too far from my house and I run out of energy and can’t make it home? And the other one was the biggie: What if I fall? What if I trip on a curb or a banana peel or THE SIDEWALK?? Because apparently, these types of things happen to me. But the point is, I wouldn’t be able to catch myself. Then what? It might not sound like a big deal, but for me, it was.

I don’t want to be afraid. I don’t want to feel so fragile. I want to feel fearless. (‘She wants to be fearless. That’s cute’, my mom is thinking. ‘Hire a nurse next time.’) Good news: I went ahead on my walk and made it home just fine.

Today I was thinking about how far I’ve come. A few weeks ago, a three mile walk was unthinkable. I just wouldn’t have had the stamina yet. I was still spending a lot of time crying  resting, which takes up a lot of energy.

And then I got to thinking of all the other things I’ve lived through that I never could’ve imagined. 23 years of parenting. 16 years having lost my first husband. 4 years of being a blonde. 2 years divorced. Lots and lots of heartache and heartbreak. Just life. And most recently, almost 2 months of broken bones and surgeries and depression and recovery.

You can’t really understand at the outset, how you’re going to live through some of these things. But somehow, you just do. And then you kind of look back in awe of yourself. And feel sort of proud. You think,’I did it. I thought for sure, this is how it all goes down, but I’m doing it.’

So what is it for you? What are the things you thought you’d  never live through?

‘Cause guess what? You did it. You’re doing it. And so am I.


Want Some Cheese With That Whine?

wine woman

“You’re like our little pet,” my daughter said, smiling.

As if this were a good, sweet way to be and I should, perhaps, feel happy and loved.

Happy and loved to be fed and bathed and groomed and cared for so gently and meticulously.

And sometimes I do. Sort of. For a minute or two.

Almost 2 weeks after a very scary accident which left me with a broken right collarbone and a broken left wrist, and one week since surgery, I mostly always feel loved. And here and there, I sometimes feel happy. Except for when I don’t. It has been the ongoing paradox of life. The way the worst of times pave and weave together a broken and unsteady well-worn path with the best of times.

It feels very similar to grief– the way one minute feels as though nothing will ever be okay again, and the next minute feels as though everything’s going to be okay after all.

I cry everyday out of both pain and frustration. It’s been the toughest physical challenge I’ve ever faced. To be so helpless. To feel weak and fragile and hurt. And at the constant mercy of others.

And yet that mercy has been holy. And constant. And beautiful. The love and support and strength and generosity from my family and friends.  Mom: No words. Thanks to you, we’ve laughed as much or more than we’ve cried. (Okay that’s a lie. But damn if you’re not trying to make it so) It has felt like a feather bed. Like a soft place to land. Most days. A reassuring and steady rhythm whispering, “you are not alone…you will not bear this by yourself…” And sometimes, I believe it.

Except for when I don’t.

Because there are moments. Days. Nights. Where it is suddenly much more clear. I am alone in this. No one truly bears it but me. When I am cold and unable to pull up the blankets or pull on a pair of socks. When I’m hungry but will have to wait until someone can feed me. When I can’t reach something I need and I can’t adjust my position to get it, either. Just to name a few. Hundred. After days of crying hot tears of humility and embarrassment in the bathroom, I stubbornly figured that out. Because really. A person has their limits.

And I totally get it. People have jobs and events and commitments. Busy lives. They have the luxury of stepping outside of this and stepping back in at their convenience.

But I don’t. And it’s hard.

Please don’t misunderstand me. This is not cancer. It is not terminal. I get it. But it is still a huge, painful, lonely, suck.

Occasionally, well-meaning people will joke that I should enjoy all this lying around, all this being waited on business.


No. I don’t enjoy it at all. I don’t want to work on my tan. I don’t want people at my beck and call. To a fault, perhaps, I do not enjoy being helped and served and on the receiving end. And I know. It’s already been said– how good it is to learn these things- being a gracious recipient. Allowing people the pleasure of helping you.

But it doesn’t feel like a pleasure or a gift. It feels like a burden.

One big gigantic burden. Again.

(God. Seriously. Because the whole widowed/divorced suitcase is also being dragged along as well. Though not by me BECAUSE IT WOULD BE TOO EFFING HEAVY.)

For a person who is a do-er, a self-proclaimed DIY Girl, this is a nightmare. For a person who stubbornly wants to be independent, who loves to be alone, who would much rather figure it all out than have it done for her, this does not feel good.

As I was lying on the gurney, waiting to be wheeled into surgery, my dear, weary mother, looking over at my tear-stained face, said these words:

“You don’t have to keep tap dancing for us. It’s okay. We all love you. You are enough even when you can’t keep performing.”


But when tap dancing is your way of life, all you really want is to get back out on the floor.