Our Christmas Ghosts

The past two weeks have been very life changing for my family. I feel like we have been living in our own Christmas movie. We’ve had several emotional ups and downs that have been framed within the holiday season. It’s as if we have been visited by several Christmas ghosts that have been tasked with reminding us how blessed we are. The first one I’ll tell you about is the visit from the Ghost of Christmas Reality.

The Ghost of Christmas Reality

The holiday season is a time meant to celebrate and to be thankful for friends and family. We start in November with Thanksgiving and finish on January 1st as we begin a new year. The holiday season is fun and full of magical moments with those you love. Depending upon your religious preference, you may celebrate on a different day and with different traditions, but the underlying message is very close to the same. We are thankful for deliverance and freedom. I celebrate Christmas. It is easily my favorite time of the year and I go all out with decorations, gifts, and parties. I spend too much money and eat too much food. It’s all quite grand, if you ask me, but somehow, in the hustle and bustle I tend to lose sight of how fortunate I am. I’ll admit, I’ve done that for many years. I am blessed to be surrounded by family and friends, to have the ability to fulfill my daughter’s wish list, and to splurge on a vacation if I feel like it. In the midst of my privileged life, it is easy to lose sight of those less fortunate. I think the whole “out of sight, out of mind” adage certainly applies. Last week the Ghost of Christmas Reality reminded with a vengeance.

Over the past weekend, I was in a hospital waiting room for several hours. While there, I eavesdropped on a conversation between a group of family members. The group contained both males and females and blacks and whites. Their ages ranged from two years old to some probably in their forties. They all seemed to really like each other and talked easily and comfortably with each other. As I listened, I heard them converse about their friends being murdered and some spending time in jail. I learned that one of them had witnessed the murder of his mother, while another’s mother had gone to jail for trying to kill him when he was a baby. I could tell this is something they discuss on a daily basis and is a part of their everyday life. There was almost a competition in their conversation as to who had experienced the worst life. Then they nonchalantly switched gears and began to talk about food and which restaurants take food stamps. The part that struck me was how normal this conversation was for them. I could tell this is something they discuss often and is a part of their everyday life. As I internalized their reality, I felt so small. The Ghost of Christmas Reality gave me a slap on the wrist or better yet, my heart. I have complained about needing to downsize and lose weight because I have too many possessions and too much food to eat. Meanwhile, a large population of the people in the world are struggling to survive. I have never experienced the struggle they are facing so I cannot understand how they feel. I can say that I am ashamed that I have never taken the time to truly explore the circumstances of those less fortunate than me. The Ghost of Christmas Reality reminded me that I live in a privileged bubble. I have a true passion to help the underprivileged and this gave me a big boost of motivation. Thank you, Christmas Ghost of Reality. If you feel the urge to help others during the holiday season and the whole year through, I’ve listed a few charities that could use your help. They do great work.

The Salvation Army: http://salvationarmyalm.org/tuscaloosa/center-hope/

Tuscaloosa’s One Place: http://www.tuscaloosaoneplace.org/

Big Brother’s Big Sisters of West Alabama: http://bbbswestal.org/

Community Soup Bowl: http://tuscaloosasoupbowl.com/

The Ghost of Christmas Dreams

Our Christmas Ghost visits didn’t appear individually as they did with Scrooge. Ours were present at the same time with overlapping motives that weave together. The Ghost of Christmas Dreams has been lingering with us for some time, probably our whole lives. I hope he stays for the remainder of our lives too. He reminds us to dream and reach for the stars because our dreams give us hope and motivation. My family and I have been dreaming big dreams. My husband and I would love to have multiple children. Our daughter would love a sibling.  Unfortunately, we have had a very hard time achieving this dream. Over the past ten years, we’ve suffered through the loss of our second daughter at 6 months of age, multiple miscarriages, and failed IVF attempts. I no longer have the ability to bear children, but we haven’t given up our dream. A little over a year ago we began the process to try adopt a baby. We’ve been “on the market” for a year waiting and hoping that a birth mother will choose us. Two weeks ago, we received the call we wanted. A birth mother had chosen us and was due in a little over a week. We rushed into action, prepared everything, and drove almost 10 hours to be with her as she gave birth. The poor thing was in labor for over 20 hours. She gave birth to a perfect baby boy. We had the chance to love this boy as if he was ours for almost 24 hours. Unfortunately for us, she changed her mind and decided to keep him. I can’t blame her because he was so adorable. We had to pack up and drive home with an empty car seat. Our daughter was so upset. She is learning lessons about life, love, and loss that I wish would have occurred when she was older. We are very sad and disappointed to say the least. We have gotten so close to having another child and it seems that at the last minute, something happens every time. I can honestly tell you that after this happened last weekend, I was ready to give up on this dream. I began to wonder if fate was trying to let us know that we were meant to have only one child. The Ghost of Christmas Dreams showed up in a big way. He spoke to us thru our daughter. She asked us to please keep trying to adopt. I explained to her that it could mean we have to experience pain again. She immediately said, “So what. It will be worth it eventually.” She’s right. It will be worth it eventually. The Ghost of Christmas Dreams would like for us to tell you that we are back “on the market” and hope to have another opportunity soon. Please keep us in mind if you hear of anything.

The Ghost of Christmas Love

Just in case you haven’t figured it out yet, the family I was eavesdropping on in the hospital waiting room was the birth family of the child we hoped to adopt. We have experienced so many feelings and emotions about the situation. We have been angry, sad, and heartbroken. I believe deep in my heart that we could have given the baby opportunities that they cannot. The Ghost of Christmas Love stepped up to relieve some of our anguish. As I watched this family in the hospital waiting room, it became clear that we live very different lives. The one thing that was the same though was love. They all loved each other very much. They loved the birth mom and new baby too. I can’t be angry with them for wanting to have the baby to love.

We had prepared to spend several weeks in a hotel waiting for the courts to allow the baby to come home with us. My husband and daughter had decorated the room with lights, garland and a small tree. As I looked at the small hotel room with cheap garland around the door and multicolor lights hanging in the window, I was overcome with love for them. The Ghost of Christmas Love reminded me that I have so much to be thankful for right now. I thought back to the moment we had to tell the baby good-bye and leave the hospital. We hugged and held each other tight as we all felt the disappointment of the missed adoption opportunity. We held hands as we left. We cuddled together back in the hotel and enjoyed the Christmas decorations. The Ghost of Christmas Love helped us to experience a deeper level of togetherness and family love. As we packed up and took down the decorations to come home, I was sad but I also have never been more proud of my family.

The Ghost of Christmas Love wasn’t quite finished.  As our family and friends found out about both our possible adoption and the outcome, the outpouring of love and support has been overwhelming.  It is wonderful to be reminded that one is surrounded by a circle of love.

 

This will be a Christmas that my family will never forget.  Our Christmas movie might not have the happy ending that we expected or envisioned, but it still has a happy ending. They say the best movies have twists that result in endings that no one saw coming. We didn’t come home with the baby we were hoping for, but we did return with valuable life lessons and affirmations of love. The Ghost of Christmas Reality taught me to be more thankful and generous. The Ghost of Christmas Dreams taught me to keep dreaming and to not give up when things seem hopeless. The Ghost of Christmas Love showed me how much love surrounds me and is in me. Indeed, this is still a happy ending. Merry Christmas to all!

See No Evil

Last Thursday, I boarded a plane to attend a training conference. This is not a new occurrence for me. I’ve traveled quite a bit for work throughout my career and I’ve attended several training conferences as well. You know how it goes… you have to go to a seminar to get continuing education credits or you have to attend some training that is required by your job. These seminars are typically held in some great location (this is done on purpose to entice you to go!) and you spend the entire time you are in the training daydreaming about what you will do as soon as you bust out of that joint! If you can get away with it, you might even skip some of the sessions. Typically, we are more excited to go wherever we are visiting than we are the actual training conference. As a tourism professional I absolutely condone this behavior and will tell you I engage in it too, but last weekend was different for me. I didn’t go to this training conference because I had to, I went because I wanted to. It was held in Chicago, which is my favorite city, and I never went into downtown. I stayed glued to my hotel and conference for three 10 hour days and I didn’t want it to end. As I was flying home this morning, I kept going over everything I learned and experienced. I can honestly say I feel like today is the first day of my life that I have been totally in control and it’s so empowering. A little over two months ago, I was at rock bottom. I was drained emotionally, physically exhausted, guilt-ridden, and an all-around miserable person. I now realize I had felt that way for several years. I’m a pretty tough gal, so I have the strength to work through a lot of things, but I’m not super human. My strength was completely gone. Today I know it is coming back!! This past weekend I attended a training seminar to begin the process of becoming a certified life and business coach. It is the best thing I have ever done for myself! I learned that I’m not crazy or weak and that my feelings are normal for someone that has gone through the life experiences I’ve had. Most importantly, I learned how to recognize and own my feelings and emotions so that I can control how I let them affect me. Over the years, I’ve developed one hellavu poker face to hide how I truly felt inside. I’m not going to need it as much now. I hate to lose that skill so does anyone want to start playing cards?!

I want to share one of many stories to let you know how great this weekend was for me. Those of you that know me know I used to be an avid cyclist, marathon runner, and triathlete. A result of my sad state of emotional affairs is that I am now over-weight and in the worst physical shape of my life. There is still a vain side to me that doesn’t want anyone to know how I look in work-out clothes or to see me struggle to walk on the treadmill. I want you all to think I can still kick a little butt. So to hide this, I stopped working out at gyms and participating in group athletic events. That eventually led to me not really working out at home either. Of course, this has been fantastic for my self-esteem – NOT! I had made my mind up that while I was at a hotel with a gym, where no one knew me, I was going to work out every day that I was in Chicago. On Friday morning, I headed down and got onto the elliptical. They gym was pretty full and I was self-conscious. I didn’t have a lot of energy but I made myself power through 30 mins of cardio and went 3.1 miles. I tried to do some weights but I saw a couple of hot chicks working out and I was embarrassed, so I left. Not the best results, but day one was accomplished. I showered and headed down to the training conference only to find the two hot chicks were there for the training too. Insert a sarcastic GREAT here. The negative thoughts started and I feared I’d be too embarrassed to go back to the gym in the morning. The training began and one of the things we learned hit me hard. It can be summed up with this quote:  “We do not see things as they are. We see things as we are.” – The Talmud. Hmmm….. I assume everyone sees me in the negative manner I see myself. A little later in the day we broke out with partners to practice coaching. I was paired with one of the hot chicks. Insert another sarcastic GREAT. Much to my surprise, a pretty fabulous thing happened. I got to know her and found out that over the past year she has lost 64 lbs. Wow! She had worked her butt off – literally! Same kind of story for the other hot chick. Let’s get back to that quote now. If I judged them for being fit, what did that say about me? How did it affect me? I had considered not going to the gym the next day. Now, I was determined to go. I took this “seeing thing” pretty seriously. On Saturday morning, I prepared for the gym. I made an upbeat playlist and put on a cap that I pulled way over my eyes. I walked into the gym, did not look around, and went straight to the elliptical. I cranked up my music and started moving, but this time I did something different. I closed my eyes and kept them closed! I got lost in the rhythm of the music and my cadence. I did not “see” anything. It was fantastic and so freeing! After 30 minutes, this time I had covered 3.8 miles. Now that’s more like it! I went over to the weights (beside the hot chicks) and did my work-out without hesitation. Sunday morning, I did the same thing. I spent 30 minutes on the elliptical with my cap pulled down, my music cranking, my eyes closed, and pumped out 4.2 miles. Now I am sure I looked a bit silly with my eyes closed, sweating, smiling, and bobbing my head to Meghan Trainor. I kind of wish I had a picture of it! The See No Evil emoji keeps coming to mind! Seriously though, the truth is that I stopped assuming everyone sees me as I see me and I stopped looking at what I wish I looked like. The results were an improvement of over a mile in just two days!! As I apply the things I’ve learned this past weekend, I know that the improvements I will see in every aspect of my life will be this dramatic. I will no longer say that I look forward to being myself again. Now I’m looking forward to the person I am about to become!

Getting My Groove Back

One of my favorite movies is How Stella Got Her Groove Back. Stella is very successful business woman that is down on herself because of failed romances. A friend talks her into taking a vacation. A series of events forces Stella to take a personal inventory of her life and to try to find a balance between her desires for her personal life, motherhood, and her career. Stella rides a crazy roller coaster of emotions until she finally gets into her groove. I love this movie because while we don’t all have the same circumstances, I feel like most of us are trying to find the same sort of balance in our lives. We all love it when we are in our groove. As I look back on the reasons I began my downsizing journey, they revolve around me not feeling a good balance in my life. I was so off balance that I was downright miserable. All along, I’ve known that my downsizing journey is not just about purging possessions. It is about finding my groove. I’ve been in my groove before, so I know how good it feels. I would wake up every day ready to conquer the world. I’d dance around the bathroom while I got ready. I would own my destiny and face each day in complete control of my life. There are lots of reasons people fall out of their groove. I don’t really feel the need to get into the reasons I lost mine because they don’t deserve my energy or attention anymore. The important thing to focus on is how I get my groove back. One important step is to purge possessions that take too much of my energy. While I enjoy the stuff I’m selling, I realize that I enjoy other things more. Another important step is to purge my negative energy. Pinpointing the areas causing negativity for me and that I want to change in my life is one thing. Understanding the steps to take to make those changes in a productive manner is another. I’m Type A, so I need a plan. I’ve researched ways to do this and decided the best way is to undergo training to be a business and life coach. I’m in Chicago right now doing this. I’m a firm believer that the test of how well we know something is our ability to teach it. I didn’t want to simply hire a coach to help me. I want to be a coach. I want to first help myself and then if the opportunity presents itself, I want to help others. I’m very excited about this too! This morning I found myself dancing in the bathroom. Look out – Gina’s getting her groove back!