Early Morning Coffee

Beautiful Woman Enjoys Coffee This is a special time of year in spite of all its hectic pace, congested traffic, brawls over parking spaces, and time spent waiting in line to have gift wrapping done so you can support your child’s extracurricular organization. In spite of the added awkwardness and possibly uncomfortable and painful moments that arise when children spend their lives in two homes instead of one, this time of year is still something to be relished, cherished, savored, experienced. 

At this time of year, just like every other season throughout the year, I begin my day with my early morning coffee.  In fact, especially at this time of year it is a creature comfort of mine to wake early without the aid of alarm clock, while the house is still dark, pad barefooted out to the living room and turn on the Christmas lights.  All of them.  The lights on the tree, the lights under the tree, the lights on on the speaker, the lights above the piano, the lights on the bookcase and on the sofa table (which is not behind the sofa).

After turning on the lights, I stumble through the kitchen to the garage to let the dog out to the back yard; to her side of the back yard so she can do her morning business.  It is then that I get down to the important business of brewing my morning coffee.  While waiting for the coffee to brew (a task that seemingly takes forever), I start the fire.

There is nothing more wonderful, more peaceful and more serene than sitting on my couch looking at the serene glow of a festively decorated Christmas tree, coffee mug in hand, while the fire crackles and snaps warmly, reassuringly, comfortingly in the fireplace.  Surely, come what may, everything will be okay.

j0430486 In these early morning weekend hours, I build kingdoms, establish a million possible futures, rewrite my past mistakes while retaining all the lessons learned and never, ever do I write the kids out of the picture.  In these early morning hours, I consider how things were just two short years ago when I had to go begging food at the local church food pantries in order to keep food in my progeny’s bellies while paying off, what seemed an overwhelming and insurmountable mountain of debt; most of which wasn’t even mine. In these early morning hours, I reflect on how slowly but surely things have improved.  I appreciate the strength I’ve mustered from somewhere deep within to prune back all to the bare bones, to re-evaluate my life and adapt, adjust, reinvent when needed but mostly to just keep putting one foot in front of the other, one burned meal on the table after another and to simply show up and be counted in the world one more time for one more day, often, when I wished I didn’t have to.

I know I am not alone.  Not in my enjoyment of early morning coffee; not in my surviving divorce and the crushing financial realities that often follow. 

And, so, you see…the moments of this season that are lit with the shining light of gratitude, appreciation and mostly hope are to be treasured above all and enjoyed in quietness and solitude with an early morning cup of the dark, liquid brew we all know as coffee. 

j0441005 Plenty of time for the traffic jams, the long lines, the noise and the piped in holiday music that triggers my gag reflexes better than sticking my finger down my throat.  For now, it is me time.  It is the height of the holiday season here in my quiet little living room, fire warming the house, tree aglow and coffee warmth in my hands and on my tongue.  I’m thinking how bad it was and how far I’ve come. 

I’ve survived.  Till the next big thing anyway, but I’ve survived thus far.  If I can, you can too.  Just keep getting up every morning.  Just keep going to work.  Just keep doing the daily stuff.  Pretty soon it stacks up and things do get better.  They always change.  Misery and pain are never permanent.

Even though I can’t afford even the best deal on a new HDTV or the latest in iPhone technology, even if I can’t afford the latest killer deal on the surround sound theatre system or the family package trip to Mexico for the holidays, even if I’m going to have to continue watching every expenditure like the proverbial hawk for a few more years…I am grateful. 

And in spite of my inability to enter into the spending fray of the season with abandon, I’m still celebrating.  I’m still joyous and maybe even more so because I can’t “spend” on material things.  This situation I’ve found myself in has, as my mother would have once informed me, been a “blessing in disguise”.  I’ve learned to be so much more appreciative of what I have.  I value the little things so much more. 

The little things.  Like a red ornament hanging on a fake tree that was purchased without using a credit card or overdrawing the bank account. The little things like two siblings who usually tear each other down in sibling squabbles playing a board game together with me for hours without one demeaning comment. 

The little things, like a warm cup of coffee on a cold wintery morning with a warm fire blazing.  Coffee, mug and firewood all paid for. Little things.

The joy in my life and the contentment in my heart and my hopeful outlook about the future…not such little things. 

******

j0406570 Coffee Drinker’s Prayer?

Caffeine is my comfort; I shall not doze.
It maketh me to wake on early mornings:
It leadeth me beyond to get up and go to work.
It restoreth my energy:
It leadeth me in the paths of consciousness for its name’s sake.
Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of the weary, overworked and under rested,
I will fear no Equal™ or other sugar substitute:
For thou art with me; thy creamer and thy stir stick, they comfort me.
Thou preparest a 20 oz. venti with an extra shot before me in the presence of  Starbucks:
Thou anointest my day with clarity, at least more than I would have had without you; my mug runneth over.
Surely aroma, flavor and warmth shall follow me all the days of my life:
And I will dwell in the Mocha Mansion forever.

The What If Game

My life these days is incredibly drama free and peaceful.  Well, for the most part it is.  There’s the occasional tense moment that occurs when living with other people in an arrangement designated by most as family, but compared to the past two decades, my life is exceptionally drama free.  In fact, compared to most people, my life is exceptionally drama free. 

This doesn’t mean my life is boring.  Nor is it lackluster. 

Life with me is always very animated, that’s for sure. 

Life with me has a certain bit of comedy and theatrics to it, I’ll warrant, but drama?  Hmmm, not so much. 

 Here’s a typical day in my life these days:

After awakening and the deplorable hour of 9:00 a.m., I head back into the house after picking up the morning paper from the walk and turning on the sprinkler. I flop down on my large overstuffed and very comfy couch to browse through the meaningless empty print that constitutes the local paper. Later, I will spend an hour playing around on Facebook, looking up old tunes and listening to them on Youtube and doing whatever it is I want or nothing at all. It is an amazingly charmed life I live these days. On these days in particular, the ones where the kids are all gone at the other parents’ home and I have no deadlines or obligations except to take care of just me, it is not unlike being retired.  I do what I want when I want.  After running around crazy all school year long and being at the beck and call of four children with active academic and social lives and none of them driving, it is nice to just be able to do nothing at all. It is a luxury most single mothers don’t get.  I am very aware of this and incredibly grateful.  While most single parents (except for the exceptionally wealthy ones) have to get up every day, even during the summer, and rush off to a job only to come home and do the second shift then later fall exhausted into bed only to start the entire exercise wheel process over again, I do not have to do this for nearly 3 months of every year. It’s true I pay for it during the school year when I have no life, but it is worth it because on days like today, life is anything but pressured, harried, exhausting or stressed. 

 Of course, I could and have been caught up in that desire for the crazy lifestyle that rewards one with a penthouse view and status and money in the bank.  I was there many years ago, working in the San Francisco Bay area and commuting into my entry level management position with lots of promotional potential and making big money to cover the relatively low overhead I had at the time. Had I continued down that track, I am certain I would be enjoying a very different life than I am now.  I’d be living in a very different setting, doing very different things with very different people.  Part of me, at times wonders, how might my life have been different?

 Do you ever do this? Wondering how your life might be different if…if?  I call it “The What If Game”.  I suspect everyone spends time on this game show at one time or another. 

If I’d kept that job in the Bay Area instead of staying married and returning to Oregon.

 If I’d gone into journalism instead of teaching. 

 If I’d studied law instead of going to work.

 If I’d stayed single longer.

 If I’d married that boy instead of breaking it off.

If I’d…if I’d…if I’d….

The choice made, a job offer accepted or refused, an apartment rented instead of a home purchased, a family delayed or started unexpectedly or not at all, a relationship passed on, another fully explored and furthered. A vice casually stumbled upon which grips you insidiously till you realize one day it has you beyond your control.  A thought, a glance, a brief and casual encounter….the cumulative effect of the smallest insignificant encounters, like grains of sand on the beach, become strong enough and monumental enough to create a lifetime.  One little tweak in the design and the picture can be drastically altered.

 Choices.  Decisions.  Cause and effect.  Outcomes.  Paths not taken or taken that we can never retrace in order to change directions.  Nope.  Unlike getting lost on a road and simply turning the car around and going back in the direction from whence we came, life doesn’t allow u-turns.  Even if it did, the passage of time, our own maturing and that of others, the births and deaths of those we love, all these events change the path and the scenery along the way.

This is as it should be.  Even if it is not as it should be it is how it is.

When I go down the mental “I wonder” path, I never do this with regret.  I can’t regret.  I’ve learned too much and grown too much down the road I did travel to worry about it. I do it with curious interest and speculation. Yes, my life, had I made different choices at each juncture, would be very, very different.  But would it be better?  Worse?  Who knows?  I don’t care.  What I find important at this point is that I take less and less for granted these days. I’m glad for the paths I’ve traveled, the lessons I’ve learned, the ones I’m trying to master even now and the person I’ve become as the result.  I am so very content in many ways.

While I don’t sit around and dwell over the consequences of every little action, decision or behavior, I do enjoy contemplating the idea that you never know what path you might be heading down next.  Even when you think you know the path, even when you think you are choosing a particular direction to head, what the journey looks like and where you end up can be very, very different than you imagined.  It’s fun to just enjoy the journey rather than stressing out about when, where and how I’m going to get to the blasted destination. Of course, I don’t always feel this peaceful and un-rushed about it all. There are deadlines that loom and more tasks to accomplish than time to accomplish them most of the time, of course.  I know this.  

On summer days like these, though, it just really easy to appreciate the fact that life really is a series of journeys instead of a destination you head for.  With the stress of the daily routine temporarily at bay, it is fun to sit back and speculate about the road behind, the current road and the path(s) ahead.  I do this with just a mild amount of interest and anticipation.  It will be fun to look back a year from now and see how different things look from how they currently appear. 

 Until then, The What If Game holds no interest to me, because I’m too busy playing The What Next Game.  Where are you today?  Are you playing the What If Game and wishing you’d made different choices or are you grateful for the journey you’ve been on and are you looking forward to what’s around the corner?

Starting 2009 Peacefully With A Cuppa Joe In The H.T.

Alright, everybody’s already been up and at ’em and posted their good-byes to 2008 and their hopeful wishes for 2009 on their blogs already.  In spite of my lack of originality on the topic, I’m still going to chime in with my perspectives on the transition from the last to the current year. It will, at very least, help me sort out all the varying and wayward thoughts streaming through my gray matter this morning…which this morning especially…feels particularly gray, like it is socked in under a deep cloak of tangible fog.

I am getting a late start so far on this first day of 2009 due in part to way too much celebratory cheer last night…and not getting to bed till nearly four this morning.  Gads, that’s about the time my friends on the East Coast (should those be capitalized?) were getting up for the day.  I do hope this slow beginning is not indicative of how the year will go.  Unless, of course, slow is to be interpreted as peaceful, which is indeed how my day, particularly my morning progressed.

In spite of the slow, or maybe relaxing is a better word, start to my day, once I awoke at something like 9:30 this morning, I was wide awake, and thanks to lots of water, some ibuprofen and valerian root last night, no headache this morning.  Well, okay, a minor headache due to too much vodka and not enough water or sleep last night.  I should and have felt much worse in the past after drinking such quantities.  I’m glad I feel fine this morning.  What’s a temporary minor “heckake” as my dad used to call them?

I decided that, in spite of feeling particularly regretful about how the family celebrations last night transpired, I would not berate myself for the  choices I made and instead choose differently in the future.  In the spirit of this commitment, I got up and opened up the hot tub, fished out a mismatched two piece swim suit, made some coffee and enjoyed a steamy morning cuppa joe in my HT, completely alone, with the rain falling down around me.  Ahhh, cool mist on my face, embryonically warm water enfolding me  and warm brew inside me.  As I enjoyed these physical sensations,  I contemplated the past year and pondered as much as I could see down the road of the days ahead.

It feels like a different year, same ole stuff to me. Maybe that’s not such a bad thing. 

I’ve gone on and on about the challenges 2008 posed for me. I don’t want to do that anymore.  You can read more about my personal trials in previous posts here or at my other blog at Welcome to CABsPlace! 2008 actually began with the end of 2007 and if that pattern holds true, then 2009 is beginning with the end of 2008.  This is not such a bad thing. 

The end of 2008 is an improvement over 2008’s beginning.  Life after divorce has stabilized.  While the financial picture is still somewhat bleak, there is great improvement each and every month.  My family is settling into the routine of our new life post-divorce.  We are not in danger of foreclosure, bankruptcy, job loss or health issues that plague many, many others.  We are indeed very fortunate and I am very grateful.  We have each other, and we actually enjoy being with each other…most of the time.  So, I guess, when I sort through all the things I’m feeling and thinking at this juncture of my life, I’m thinking I hope that none of these things change for the worse.  Improved circumstances are always welcome but I’d be completely okay with the status quo remaining simply that.  

I’m content to declare, “Out With The Old, In With the Same Ole, Same Ole”.

Yes, I’m going to put my list of hopes, dreams, goals, resolutions up eventually because I’m a believer that a written and spoken goal is far more likely to be achieved than an unspoken or unwritten one.  But, I’ll not do that at this moment.  I’m just pretty glad to enjoy this peaceful day that started with a cup of coffee in a hot tub. I do hope that this is some indication of how my year will be.

Fighting Fires

There is nothing like a toasty warm fire in the woodstove when it is cold outside.  I’m going to go curl up in front of it right now.

Okay, well there are some things that are as nice or maybe better than a warm fire in a woodstove in a cozy living room on a very cold night…but that’s not my reality right now…so the fire is just great as it is in the woodstove.

And that’s all I’m going to say about that!