Monday, January 30, 2012

Mr. Clean is a Lousy Lover

 Mr. Clean is a Lousy Lover

Sweep, dust, mop....
Will the cleaning never stop?
I never get a holiday,
some time for fun, some time for play.

Chores loom 'round every bend.
I fear this work will never end.
A toilet to scrub, a sink to fill.
All this cleaning makes me ill.

I'd like to sit and read a book,
drinking coffee in my breakfast nook.
But I can't do that when dirt is there.
I can't resist the wicked stare.

And so I spend my precious days
on battle lines with cleaning sprays.
Soon, the house will be tidy, I'll be done.
Then I can go and have my fun.

No spots, no dust bunnies, no mildew mired.
But alas, I think I've grown too tired.
I've spent my days keeping neat
and some would say, "An awesome feat!"

But now I think it's a giant waste
when all my dreams I could have chased.
Mr. Clean is a lousy lover, no doubt.
He likes to smother and to snuff out.

All undone ideas are chances missed.
Mr. Clean, I've decided, will soon be dissed.

I think it is funny that I wrote this poem well over ten years ago when I had absolutely no clue regarding the amount of actual housework I would eventually be doing.  At the time, my husband and I lived in a small two-bedroom house with one cat and one tiny dog.  It seems now that I had all the time in the world, plenty of resources, and almost no responsibilities.  Reflecting on those pre-baby years, I can't even begin to imagine what the heck I was bitching about with this particular piece of badly written poetry.

Things have changed drastically over the past decade. I still have one husband whose idea of tidiness never truly meshed with my own, but I now have three children as well.  My beautiful babies make multiple messes at a time, and seem to make more mere seconds after I have finished cleaning up the first batch.  I own one rotten, chewing, trash-eating hound, three cats, and two fish who all require attention, cleaning, and maintenance. I cook homemade meals almost every night and I wash dishes probably three times a day. I also do mountains of laundry each week that would cause Sir Edmund Hillary to hesitate climbing them.  In addition I  clean my father's house once a week and do his laundry too since he had his stroke seven years ago.  Seriously, looking back at my twenty-nine-year-old self from my current perspective of thirty-nine years, I almost don't recognize that carefree girl.

Don't get me wrong...I love my life. I generally don't resent the amount of time I spend on housework because I always try to view my chores as an act of devotion to the well-being of our family.  I see my contribution inside the home as being of the same value as my husband's contribution with his career.  And I fundamentally believe that no matter what task remains before someone, a person has an obligation to complete the job to the best of his or her ability.  Integrity and dignity lie not in the job itself, but in the person completing it well and fully with a heart free from resentment.  Sometimes, like tonight, when it is late and I still have four more loads of laundry to complete, and my hands are dry and itchy from yet one more sink full of dishes just finished, I have to remind myself to keep my heart light, to remember that my role as a homemaker is important and meaningful, and that because I chose this life, I have an obligation to do these tasks well.  Even though my routine has a numbing sameness to certain aspects, and the work can be monotonous and tedious, I wouldn't change a thing at the moment.  I wouldn't trade my thirty-nine me for my twenty-nine self because I know what I am doing and what I am giving to my family and children will last longer and be felt more deeply than anything else I could be engaging in right now.  So even though Mr. Clean is a Lousy Lover, I think he's going to stick around for awhile longer yet.  And on that note....I do believe I just heard the dryer buzz and I am off to fold some more clothes....

Sunday, January 29, 2012

Everyone Loves a Parade

A few days ago a friend of mine invited me to watch the national parade celebrating India's 63rd Republic Day with him.  Republic day commemorates the day the Indian Constitution went into effect with the date of January 26th chosen to honor the Declaration of Independence of 1930. The main parade takes place in the nation's capital, New Delhi, although other celebrations occur in the individual states with varying degrees of formality. The day brings together the diverse population of India and most citizens consider it one of the most popular national holidays.

Through the miracle of computers and the internet, my friend Niraj and I watched the parade as it happened live.  I appreciated his commentary and explanations regarding the different aspects of the parade as well as the information he shared about India in general.  I learned so much I did not know about India just by watching the parade and listening to my friend talk about his country and it's history.  I am pleased that he wanted to share this with me and I appreciated his time in making it happen.  (Thank you, Niraj.)

I like parades as much as the next person and I assumed, based on my knowledge of small town parades and the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade, that this one would be very similar to those.  Much to my surprise, however, this event proved to be quite different.  Prior to the parade, the Prime Minister laid a wreath on the Amar Jawan Jyoti, a memorial to unknown soldiers and then observed two minutes of silence.  The President of India then awarded medals to valorous members of the military, and after unfurling the national flag, the playing of the national anthem, and a twenty-one gun salute, the parade began.

First, various elite units representing the branches of the military marched past followed by a display of weaponry, ordnance, and aircraft.  The uniforms of each of the units amazed me with their colors, designs and the degree of precision in marching technique. My favorite portion of the parade, however, consisted of a display from each state of India.  That particular section of the parade reminded me of the Rose Bowl Parade that occurs in Pasadena, California every New Year's Day in which every state in the U.S. creates a float representing it's unique aspects.  I always knew India, much like the U.S., had a great degree of diversity among its people, but this section of the parade me me realize that diversity in a deeper, truer fashion.  Each display represented the state, it's people and their specific cultures in a vibrant, colorful manner.  The dancing, the music, and the floats themselves drove the idea home that what I thought I knew about India, it's culture and it's people comprised just the very tip of the iceberg of its reality.

My husband teases me that I like to chat online with people who live very far away from me and who have very different backgrounds and cultures.  He thinks my penchant for all things "foreign" makes me "cute."  I have to remind him, however, that if it weren't for my interest in people from countries other than my own, we would never have met and wouldn't have fourteen years of marriage to our credit.  At that point he generally ceases his teasing.  (I've always been good with a comeback.)  It might seem silly to some people, especially those who seek other chatters who enjoy similar mindsets and upbringings, but I have always been fascinated by those little differences in the way people live from one country to the next.  I also appreciate those things that transcend culture, religion, and tradition....those common aspects of humanity that tie us all together.  

My online friends provide me with opportunities to learn something new about this great, big world of ours.  They intrigue me, amuse me, entertain me and enlighten me, and I am ever so grateful to them for those things.  They make my life more interesting, they give me things to contemplate and most of all, regardless of how very  different we may be in the living of our daily existences, they reinforce the idea that all of humanity is connected.  Every sentient being on this earth shares a unique, divine quality with every other human being on the planet.  This idea sustains me.  It gives me hope for a peaceful future, and at the very least, it makes for a very entertaining Thursday night in front of the computer with a very good friend.

Monday, January 23, 2012

Expectation vs. Obligation

Recently I had a conversation with a friend regarding the expectations people have set for him and the ones he holds for himself.  He wants to take one direction for his life, and his family would like him to take another route entirely. I have also been thinking about my own situation.  I have expectations for where I would like my life to go and what I would like to do with it, but the expectations of others often bump abrasively against what I want to happen.  Therefore, I've been thinking about expectations in general, but more so, how one deals with melding personal expectations with familial obligations. 

Sometimes the ideas of the people who love us and worry for us dovetail with the goals or desires we have for ourselves.  The additional support and reinforcement aids in helping individuals achieve their goals or to meet their objectives. A shared outlook mentally and emotionally fortifies a person and often makes achievement easier.  In many instances, however, personal and family expectations don't mesh.  The disparity between the two sets of ideas can cause a great deal of stress and dissonance in relationships.  

Consistently failing to meet the expectations of those we love and who love us causes resentment, guilt, and negative feelings.  Those emotions run both ways and can permanently alter a relationship. It is imperative to come to an early understanding of what you want and on which ideas you are willing to compromise. A person should define clearly what he or she wants and then communicate it meaningfully and concisely to the people who have different ideas for them.  Being open and honest may be difficult, but it goes a long way in reconciling what others want for us and what we want for ourselves.  Once all the cards are on the table, then both parties can discuss how they might meet in the middle.  For me, the most important aspect of all this is the honesty.  Being honest with oneself and with the people in one's life creates an atmosphere which fosters mutual respect, regard and love.

In a perfect world, everyone would be able to enjoy true self-determination without feeling the tug and pull of family obligations.  We would be able to develop and grow into ourselves without having to take detours to meet the expectations of others.  But, we do not live in utopia.  Everything we do impacts someone else and we are impacted by them.  Nothing exists in a vacuum, so we are who we are and we do what we do not only based on our personal drives and desires, but based on fulfilling the needs of family and friends.  So, in my humble opinion, the best way a person can meld personal expectations with family obligations is to be open, honest, communicative and willing to compromise when necessary.  And somehow, if we are lucky and if we work hard, we will all end up where we are supposed to be anyway.

Friday, January 20, 2012

Love Letters to the Universe

I'm Yours
Well open up your eyes and see like me
Open up your plans and damn your free
Look into your heart and you'll find love, love, love love
Listen to the music of the moment people dance and sing
We are one big family 
And it's our God-intended right to be loved, loved, loved, loved, loved
So I won't hesitate, no more no more
It cannot wait I'm sure
There's no need to complicate, our time is short
This is our fate
I'm yours.

I recently watched an interview in which singer, Jason Mraz articulated his thoughts regarding his popular song, "I'm Yours." He wrote the song as his love letter to the universe, committing himself to embracing what the world had in store for him. I already adored this song because of the melody and lyrics, but his explanation managed to make me love it even more. He seemed to express some of the same ideas I hold regarding how life should be lived if one is to live it well. In addition to being a truthful ode to life, the song inspires me when I need motivation to not give into my penchant for over-thinking things, or my tendency to fall prey to mild depression on occasion. As of late, it is my panacea for all things that ail me.

I posted the section of lyrics that speak most me.  "Open up your plans and damn your free." I totally embrace the idea of living freely without the fear of the unknown future, without the fear of unconsummated potential, and without the fear of failure.  I know myself, and I have a good idea of what holds me back in achieving this state of is the fear of these particular things.  I don't want to be confined in the same roles I occupy now. I am far too comfortable and familiar with mediocrity, and yet simultaneously discontent.  I want to have the courage to open up my plans and live freely, expressively, and dynamically.  I am proud to say actually, that I am working towards these changes every day--being more true to myself, more open and expressive, and more confident.

"Listen to the music of the moment people dance and sing/We're just one big family/And it's our God-intended right to be loved, loved, loved, loved, loved."  In these particular lines, lie the truth of our human existence.  Our ability to connect with one another and recognize each other as family, creates joy--a music of the heart that only expands when shared with others.  In that recognition of our divine sparks, we also find that it is our God-intended right to be loved.  We all deserve two things in this life: to love well and to be well-loved, and in order to ensure that we have those things, we need to move from a place of love in all that we do.

"So I won't hesitate no more, no more/It cannot wait I'm sure/There's no need to complicate/Our time is short/This is our fate, I'm yours."   We should not hesitate to take action in our own lives to achieve those things we think important and meaningful.  We humans have about 75 years on this earth, little time to get things done, to understand ourselves, to appreciate the world around us. We shouldn't ever waste a minute of it because it goes so quickly.  We should commit every day to living the best life possible with an open heart and with gratitude for our blessings, and surrender our desires to the universe believing that we can manifest them into existence.  Write your own love letter to the universe, listing the aspects of your life for which you are grateful, defining the parts you wish to change, and those goals you want to attain.

"I'm Yours" by Jason Mraz

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

God Should Keep His Day Job

I count him braver who overcomes his desires than him who conquers his enemies; for the hardest victory is over self.


Today I came across this quote by Aristotle, a 4th century BC Greek philosopher.  Aristotle influenced much of the development of Western philosophy with his ideas regarding logic, science, aesthetics, morality, politics, and metaphysics.  Historians often refer to him as "Master of those who know" due to his comprehensive knowledge in a variety of subjects.  He wrote over four hundred treaties and books and generally one can find something eminently quotable in his works.

I liked this particular quote because it struck me as being incredibly true.  We all have desires  in which we wish to indulge.  Some of these desires enhance our lives.  For instance, the desire to be healthy, to be spiritually-oriented, to be economically secure and to be emotionally stable comprise life-enriching desires.  However, these positive drives have their negative counterparts.  Many of us desire things that inhibit living well and living fully.  Overcoming the impetus to engage in life-inhibiting activities constitutes one of the hardest and most consistent tasks set before us in our lifetimes.  Most of us manage the negative desires well, either through controlling our thoughts, the fear of societal recrimination, or the feeling of personal guilt.  Still, we continue to desire to do these things, even if we don't specifically engage in the accompanying behaviors.  Which begs the question, "Why does being bad feel so damned good?"

In addition to that particular question, I thought about why it takes such intense will power to deny ourselves indulgence in our less-than-healthy behaviors.  For the person who craves alcohol, drugs, cigarettes, junk food, unsafe sex, or whatever the damaging act may be, it is always easier to cave into the craving as opposed to resisting it.  Are we by nature designed to take the easiest route possible in all things, even to our own detriment?  If so, that's seriously messed up! It's proof that God definitely has a wicked sense of humor.   If life were fair, the right things would be the easy things to do.  The wrong things would take much more work to accomplish.

In light of all these questions, then, I have thought quite a bit about will power.  The internal fortitude to accomplish things as well as to resist things can be quite elusive.  Not everyone has a well-developed sense of will power or the ability to follow through with action once a decision has been made.  Most people struggle with it in some aspect of their lives.  I know for certain I do.  I think, though, most of us struggle with will power because human nature genetically stacks the cards against us.  We are born into bodies that seek out experiences that feel good, regardless of whether or not they enhance or inhibit our lives. In conjunction with this default setting, we enter this world with a predisposition to move towards the smoothest, most comfortable path, which generally isn't the best one.  In sum, humanity is kind of screwed in regard to will power.  

Aristotle got it right in this particular instance.  He who overcomes his desires generally has expended more effort, hard work, and strength of will than he would have in vanquishing an enemy.  In order to be the master of our own personal desires, we have to vanquish thousands of years of genetic predisposition.  I believe that's why when we see someone who has attained great heights due to will power, we hold that person in very high regard.  We all recognize, whether consciously or subconsciously, how very difficult it can be to do.  

I hope eventually to be one of those people who taps into her sense of will power and can use it well at any given moment.  It takes practice, it takes forgiveness when you don't do it right the first few times, and it take perseverance.  In essence, it takes will power to achieve will power.  I think God is trying to be humorous again.  He really should keep his day job....this comedian thing isn't working too well.

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

The Perfect Couple: Compassion and Kindness

"Whether one believes in a religion or not, and whether one believes in rebirth or not, there isn't anyone who doesn't appreciate kindness and compassion."
Dalai Lama

"We can live without religion and meditation, but we cannot survive without human affection."
Dalai Lama

"Be kind whenever possible. It is always possible."
Dalai Lama

This morning, I came across these quotes by the 14th Dalai Lama, Tenzin Gyatso, who is the spiritual leader of the Gelugpa branch of Tibetan Buddhism.  Tibetans believe the Dalai Lama to be the reincarnation of the  bodhisattva Avalokitesvara, an enlightened being, who embodies the compassion of all the bodhisattvas.  Traditionally, a bodhisattva is anyone who, motivated by great compassion, has generated bodhicitta, which is a spontaneous wish to attain Buddhahood for the benefit of all sentient beings.

According to Mahāyāna doctrine, Avalokiteśvara is the bodhisattva who has made a great vow to assist sentient beings in times of difficulty. He postpones his own state of perfect enlightenment until he has assisted every being on Earth in achieving Nirvana.  Each Dalai Lama expresses profound compassion for humanity. For me, much of what the current Dalai Lama  says makes perfect sense in regard to how to live one's life.  

Everyone appreciates compassion and kindness, regardless of their religion or even if they have no particular faith. The ability to commiserate with another person's pain transcends all religious and social structures.  It remains present on the most fundamental of psychological and spiritual levels for all people, and when one receives compassion and kindness from another person, it is an acknowledgement of a person's innate worth.  This recognition creates a sense of connectedness with humanity.  

People can live without strictures and dogmas, but all people need the acknowledgement of others and most importantly the affection of another person or living thing.  Aside from the spiritual aspects of sharing affection with others, on a purely psychological level, studies have proven that without affection or regard of some kind people fail to thrive.  Affection on the part of one person or living thing towards another is essential to a healthy life emotionally, physically, and mentally.

Lastly, and with this I agree one hundred percent, there continually exists the possibility for kindness in almost all situations.  Every moment of our lives presents us with an opportunity to engage in kindness, even if only in the form of thoughts, wishes, or prayers.  We make the choices to either act or respond in a kindly nature or to give into our baser instincts and behave cruelly towards one another.  I understand that certain situations require different sets of behaviors such as warfare or self-defense, but even in those instances kindness continues to remain a possibility.  As a member of the human family, we maintain an obligation to keep the idea of being kind at the forefront of our minds in all things that we do.  If we remember to move from love and kindness in all things, then we will go a long way in making not only our personal lives better, but improve the quality of life for humanity as a whole.

Some of the best people I have met in my life possess a perfect blending of compassion and kindness.  They have the ability to recognize and feel another person's suffering or pain as well as having the desire to alleviate it in some fashion.  Coupled with an innate sense of kindness for all living things, they exude a sense of calm, they radiate peace, they definitively make this world a better place in which to reside. All people suffer--it is a fact.  Even someone with the most perfect of lives has at some point experienced pain, anguish, and devastation.  I would argue that it is not the suffering though, that characterizes our humanity.  It is our ability to share someone's pain and attempt to ameliorate it that makes us human.  It is, in my opinion, one of the best qualities human beings possess. 

Sunday, January 8, 2012

Betray and Bolster

Betray and Bolster

I am, in this moment,
aching with goodbye.

I tremble with temptation 
of falling to my knees and begging you to stay.

Invisible tears puddle at my feet
soaking me in so much sentimental salt.

You, stoic and unhurried in your farewell,
torture me with a casual, complacent semblance of grief.

In leaving, you fail to notice you are wet too.
As a prisoner of pride, I melt with desperation.

I hear my voice both betray and bolster me
by wishing you well.


Swift Justice eludes me, sprinting hand in hand 
with Naked Truth, always the hussy.
A dominatrix of fishnet hose and black leather,
she hides her natural beauty from my seeking eyes.
The stitch in time has come undone
and with it, my entire basket of eggs crashed to the ground,
hemorrhaging  the yellows and white of my life.
Before I noticed, my cart evened up with my horse
sneaking off together to beget bastards by the dozens.
I can't help but cry about milk spilled and dripping
in nervous rivulets over all my days.
I need to hit the bricks and leave this cliched party.
Everybody and their brother 
left this place years ago.

Little Bird

Little bird,
where did you go?
Winged away on a midsummer song?
You stole my breath in your flight
and left me with this outrageous longing.

Thinking back,
you weren't so beautiful after all.

Your midnight songs were more drunken revelries
than my epiphanies.

Your whispers were more wasted breeze
than putting my body at ease.

Your words were as empty
as your hollowed heart.

No, looking back,
you weren't so beautiful after all.

One Nickle and Three Times

One nickel and three dimes
hold in their muted silver
covered in grime, dirt, and sweat,
a future not-yet-met and sanguine dreams.

The phone rings.

The years ahead and years behind
are but passing dogs on the street.
Who meet in another time and place.
In a surreal space, he reaches out
and takes the call
existing on a plane, where the pain
of indecision does not endure
his youth.

Codependence  (A Ghazal)

I think I've always been like this--a clinging friend,
yet described myself as a sweet friend.

I know I often stay beyond my welcome
and refuse a needed retreat, friend.

You hint to me that I overtax your calm.
I am superfluous, a repeat friend.

such resentment forces me to leave now
to walk away on frightened feet, friend.

I will fill myself with things that aren't you
so I may become a replete friend.

Borne by independence, I'll soon return.
Then you and I will truly meet, friend.

Friday, January 6, 2012

"I've Got Big Plans! Big Plans, I Say!"

"I got big plans! Big plans I say!"  I love this line.  It is from a children's book that I gave my son Joshua for Christmas.  The book centers around a young boy recently put in time out for being troublesome in class and he imagines himself declaring to the world all of his big plans for power and success.  It makes me laugh out loud every time I read it because it reminds me so much of Joshua.  That is one little four year old boy who has VERY BIG PLANS.  His force of will and his tenacity amaze and impress me on a daily basis.  He will go for what he wants each and every time and he will not stop until his goal has been achieved.

Some people like my son enter the world with an innate sense of internal motivation and drive to accomplish what they want, but even more importantly, they arrive with an uncanny knowing of what it is that they desire.  That is really the key to living fully--to be able to identify what makes you tick, chimes your bells, tickles your fancy, floats your boat, and just plain makes you happy.  Most people struggle to discover what they want to do, or what really pleases and fulfills them.  A rare few, like Joshua, just know.

I admire his certitude, but I also worry about it.  Being certain constitutes both a blessing and a curse.  On one hand, a person with certainty enjoys a clarity and precision regarding his or her life that most people do not have.  On the other hand, people with innate certitude often fail to bend and sway as necessary in regard to interpersonal relationships.  Being firm in your own personal truth can be a tough row to hoe. I've met people like Joshua who abrasively bump up against others in the pursuit of what makes them fulfilled.  They don't intend to be disruptive, thoughtless, or hurtful, but it happens.  I consider it a single-track obliviousness that can be somewhat mitigated by understanding their temperament and personality, but still it is a quality that needs polishing and softening in order for these people to create easier lives for themselves.

Much like a flash flood that overflows gullies and arroyos, my son Joshua will push and pull and tear at whatever blocks his path.   When provoked his determination and passion flow unchecked, which causes me either to laugh with my entire being or to cry in just the same fashion.  His intensity spills over onto whomever is present and you can't help but be carried by his tide.  My daughter and oldest son, however, remind me of  gentle meandering streams, eventually getting to where they need to be in their own sweet times with minimal disruption to those around them.  With Abby and Jack, its more like dipping your toes into their waters, or  wading in them as they eddy and swirl around you.  I don't worry quite as much about their navigation skills as I do about Joshua's.  I think they know how to flow and blend well already.  Life won't be nearly as difficult, but I hope it will be just as passionate as Joshua's life seems like it will be.  Passion with the volume turned down.

My two older children most resemble me in terms of temperaments.  I am nothing if not a great compromiser and mediator. People feel comfortable around me; they enjoy my company and seek my tactful advice. Secretly, however, I envy Joshua.  I would love to be more like him. I wish I had his certainty about things.  I want his internal, unconscious knowledge that, "Hell yeah, I am right!"  He possesses the kind of confidence that will both amaze and charm people as well as annoy the ever-loving crap out them.  In any event, he's going to have a very interesting life ahead of him, because my little dude has got some big plans.  Big plans, I say!

Joshua dreaming of his big plans in the bathtub.

Monday, January 2, 2012

The More Things Change The More They Stay The Same

The entire previous year of 2011 started off oddly and finished much in the same fashion.  In many ways, the year moved along quietly and everything seemed somewhat subdued. All of our holidays have been quieter than normal and even the daily rhythm of my life has been "off" but not necessarily in a bad way--just different. It has been a strange year altogether but while so different from most of the other years in my life, the fundamental aspects have remained the same, and in many cases have even been strengthened.

The recent New Year's celebration followed suit with all our other holidays this year. We spent New Year's Eve at home as a family, just our little five-some. The children built a huge tent in the living room and camped out most of the evening, periodically leaving their dark confines to go watch fireworks outside or snag some snacks.  They finally crashed out around 10:30 pm and my husband and I shared a few drinks before calling it a night ourselves.  The next day, I cooked all day long, making a family traditional meal of Sicilian spaghetti with braised spare ribs. We also enjoyed cabbage and black eyed peas which we have always eaten for luck and prosperity for the upcoming year. ( I think everyone could use a little luck in 2012, wherever they can get it.) My father, sister, and two nephews shared the meal with us, and everyone had a good time. The holiday, like all of the previous holidays for 2011 passed peacefully, pleasantly and quietly.  The quiet aspect to the day marks the biggest change in my extended family structure and the nature of our current family holidays.

That might sound odd, but the lack of chaos, tension, and arguing has profoundly affected the "feeling" that permeates the holidays we share with my family.  I cannot think of a previous holiday that didn't pass without a major fight or sour words being spoken. Changing circumstances in family structures caused that to disappear.  The chronic negativity has ceased to exist.  I am not quite sure what has replaced it, maybe a sense of dissatisfaction or ennui at the moment for some family members, but the tension just isn't there.  It's amazing to get through a holiday where everyone is present and no one argues.  I think it has taken me about this long to figure out what the difference has been, but I am happy to say that I finally understand what has changed.  Things are just plain pleasant at family gatherings now, and it hasn't been that way in a very, very long time.

However, they used to be that way.  I remember the holidays I spent as a child being tension free and happy, and I look forward to the fact that they will be that way again.  This odd quietness I am certain will eventually morph into true happiness for my extended family members.  Once they move beyond their big changes and settle into a new situation entirely, things will be much like they were when I was younger--happy, pleasant, positive, and joyful.  I never realized the extent to which this outside negativity affected our gatherings, but now that it's not there, I can clearly see the differences.  I am hopeful that as more changes come down the pipeline, the more things will return to the same back-in-the-day holiday feelings I once had.

On an intrapersonal level, even though my year has been somewhat affected by outside forces, such as the divorce of my sister and the health of my father, I've undergone many personal changes as well....the majority of them regarding how I view myself, my ideas for my future, and my feelings about the world in general.  I spend my time a little differently than I spent it in past years.  My children have become older and I now have more time for introspection, deeper involvement in my hobbies, and just personal time.  I am taking better care of both my physical and emotional health and I feel good.  Really good.  I am different, but I am also returning to a me I once knew as well.  So, definitely, the more things change the more they stay the same.  I see that everywhere in my life at the moment, and I am ever so happy that I do.