DIY Christmas Greetings

Back in the day, before Shutterfly made fancy photo Christmas cards easy peasy, the one Christmas custom I had was designing and producing a photo card. It was literally a production — one year cutting palm fronds to stage a California beach Christmas or renting Lederhosen another year for a German-themed card. Living far from family and friends, it was a great way to keep in touch through the years and my elderly aunts looked forward to getting them every year.

1991_Christmas-SantaSome years the ideas came easily, like the year my ex had a Harley so we were born to be wild in our black leather.

Other years, not so much…like the year we were doing a routine Christmas shopping trip and a chance photo op with Santa turned into our card. No production, no dress-up, just the crazy mis-matched clothes she was wearing. Of course while we were in line, I dashed off to the nearest Claire’s for a hair accessory to tame the mane.

Turns out, it’s my favorite card of all. The perfect Santa from Central Casting and my sweet baby girl wistfully thinking about what she wants for Christmas.

Wishing you a Very Merry Christmas…and I hope all your wishes come true!

Remembering My First Furlough

The U.S. Government is shut down. Again.

I lived through the furlough of 2013. First during sequestration, I had every Friday off. That sounds nice, but my intern paycheck took a serious hit. With tightened belts and Summer turning to Fall, we hoped our elected leaders would do their jobs and pass a budget or a continuing resolution to keep the doors open and lights on.

In the end, I was one of the 800K federal workers furloughed on October 1st, 2013. After reporting to work to sign paperwork, I had a chance encounter with an older vet that brightened my spirits I described in an old blog post.

furlough_2013

I thought I’d continue blogging through the shutdown but I frankly didn’t handle it well.  Even though I had a job I’d be returning to, all the anxiety, frustration, and feelings of helplessness of being laid off in the 1990s roared back with a vengeance.

The 2013 furlough lasted 16 days and according to Standard & Poor’s, cost the U.S. economy $24 billion. There are no winners in the budget game of political football, and the American tax payers are the inevitable losers after the fumbled Hail Mary.

First Fatherless Christmas

blurred-Christmas-tree.jpgIt hit me like a gut-punch this week. In a year of firsts since my father passed, this would be the first Christmas without him. I crumbled at the thought, but sucked it up, stuffed my emotions, and went to work.

“Guess what I did Pa? I joined the Marines.”

“Guess where I am Pa? I’m in Vegas and I just got married.”

Yup, I was that kid that would turn a parent’s hair prematurely gray. My father was my Rock. No matter what I did or where I was, he’d respond, “You did what?!” and then want to know all the details. He was always a shoulder to cry on and a soft place to land through two divorces and the death of my mother, his first wife.

The cycle of life is inevitable but getting older sucks. I know I’m lucky he was in my life for 63 years but it doesn’t ease the pain of the gaping hole his passing left.

I’m fortunate to have had a lifetime of loving memories with the man I’m proud to call my father. This weekend, I’m taking a stroll down memory lane looking through pictures and watching all the 8mm movies my father took that I had digitized. It will be another first, watching our younger years without being able to call and reminisce with him. Please pass the tissues.

Book Look: The INFJ Writer

MTBIAs a Psychology major studying Jungian personality theory back in the day, taking the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI) was required. I like to know what makes people tick and the personality test developed by Isabel Myers and her mother, Katharine Cook Briggs nailed my type, Introversion iNtuition Feeling Judging (INFJ). I’ve taken the test many times over the years and no matter the circumstances, I’ve always been an INFJ, a rare 1.6% of the population.

41lflrfsfolI explored a lot of paths for personal growth and my bookshelves are lined with writing books, but I never could get back to the page. After Julia Cameron’s nudge at “Creative Reboot“, I began morning pages again. Then in a synchronistic surprise, the next day a new book appeared at the check-out table called “The INFJ Writer“.

Turns out a lot of writers are INFJs. In a brief conversation with author Lauren Sapala, I expressed my struggle to write and she responded that I’d probably have to get my memoir out of my system before I could write anything else. I devoured the book, reading it from cover to cover by the time I got home. Lauren speaks my language.

Soon morning pages morphed into a regular writing habit. I jumped into NaNoWriMo with wild abandon to write a crappy first draft of my memoir. Reading “The INFJ Writer” helped me understand where my potential roadblocks are and what I can do to navigate the emotional writing tides that sometimes threaten to swamp my progress.

I didn’t major in Psychology to practice as a therapist, but the knowledge I gained has served me well throughout my career. While the audience for “The INFJ Writer” seems like a small niche, I’m glad Lauren wrote it. The book inspired me to quit thinking about my writing angst and just start writing. Thank you Lauren.

Reclaiming My Name

In my first blog post, I alluded to my 1990s writing journey. As a professional woman, a mom of an adolescent, and a busy wife, I was working through a lot at the time. I became extraordinarily frustrated when the creative well dried up no matter what I tried. I’ve come to believe the universe was telling me I wasn’t ready.

I spent 31 years being married to two different men. I divorced for the first time after four years, taking back my birth name Sinness. I felt strongly about it at the time, and I didn’t want to be reminded of that failure. After 27 years of marriage to a terrific guy, sharing a daughter, and establishing myself professionally with his surname and my birth name as my middle name, the decision to retain his surname was easy. I had been known as my married name longer than my birth name. Reclaiming

After a third marriage, this time to a woman, we explored changing both our last names to one we could share. After many philosophical ‘why do women change their surname’ discussions, we decided to retain our own names.

After I began writing my memoir in November, I faced the dilemma of whether I should consider a pseudonym or pen name. When my partner suggested using my birth name, I was resistant. Why? I loved my recently passed father dearly. Why was I opposed to using his surname?

I brought up the issue to my writing coach Lauren Sapala, the author of “The INFJ Writer”, and she nailed the reason…to reclaim my birth name. It makes perfect sense. I did not know who I was during my adolescence, early adult years, or even when I wrote one of my first poems in the 1990s. It’s time to make peace with my past and reclaim the surname I was given at birth, Sinness.

51K & Nowhere Near Done

Now that all the excitement has passed and NaNoWriMo 2018 is in the books, I’m left with a 51K word salad. I envy writers who write with wild abandon about their fantasy worlds. Writing about my life is all too real and sometimes sucks.

I’m torn between wanting to tear my work in progress apart and wanting to marinate on the process, learning more about the craft of writing and putting together a memoir.

3-booksDuring NaNo, I ditched both outlines and wrote whatever came into my head. In the week after I finished, I started feeling that the structure I had believed would work wasn’t quite right. Turns out there is such thing as a memoir trilogy, but would anyone really be interested in reading a redemptive coming out story, a story of resilient empowerment, and a mushy love story?

Who knows, but clearly my intuition is telling me I need to tell those stories to myself first to figure it out.