To a New Year. To Hope.

upload_-1-2

I went to bed last night with huge Monday plans. My time in The South is closing in soon and the time seems to speed, the Grinch stole like a week and a half with the holidays it seems, I have had since June, and I have still so much to do. More research at libraries (most of which are closed a lot right now of course) and more museums, etc. And a lot about town, in the city, around it, and in cemeteries and like…all over. I typically do a lot of walking with my camera in a place to A. Enjoy and have fun and marvel at the architecture and gardens, B. To capture my travels C. To capture images for my storyboards and so forth. This how I write. As a writer, photos really do help me. And being around town I also sit and write. I take a notebook typically for the area or for the specific project I have at the moment (currently my DeepSouth5). I listen to people talk, their voices, accents, language, discussions (FYI, being on a bus and listening to peoples new years plans and NY of past and going to church drunk is pretty interesting). And I breath it in. Heck…I can sit and marvel at a tree for hours by itself. I might take a few photos. then sit and just…be. Then write what comes. Then even sketch a little (not a talent of mine at all but something I have begun doing as a different mode of Being, traveling, exploring, and describing, and seeing). This. Is. How. I. Write.

 

I explore and discover as little by internet as possible when I am in a place. I will prefer to walk and find by myself, to talk and ask questions and learn of a place the things that I could likely Google. But then…when you google mayors of certain cities you also see their “image” and not what the people actually feel. And then exploring the demographics of that even deeper can easily take me off track of DeepSouth5 but put me into my articles and writings of politics and social justice, even economy and travel and more. Mostly, I like to meet the people and know them and their thoughts and feelings of places persons and things. I learn things that Google can not teach me. Nuance plays a large role.

This is how I write.

 

Google can paint one entirely different picture of a place. To listen to some…all the good places/businesses/safeness are white. And all of the black people are in the newspapers committing crimes…this is a very sad truth of what image can come across. And a very false truth. I will discuss that more later because it so very deserves the time.

In The south you can’t travel, much less be a writer or photographer, and not see the social part of any city and all that that word might mean. If you’ve managed…then you are truly gifted with blinders. I don’t find all gifts to be virtues.

A recent overheard topic that stands out as I was crossing a street and nearby there was a group of women of color, one woman says to another “No, that’s jaywalking. We can’t jay walk” The other woman says “she’s doing it”, and the first woman says “She’s white. We can’t do what she can do.” She didn’t even mean for me to overhear this. She wasn’t being mean or rude. She was speaking truth to her her friend and protecting a woman who still, in 2018, can not do as I can do with my white skin. And it broke my heart to pieces.

I feel like I have so much more to do. Here. For DeepSouth5. And for everything. For those women wanting to cross the street. In 2018 as it breaths its last breath. More than my 2019 calendar can hold.

Today I had plans to take my camera and walk the streets of an area and my notebook and sit on park benches and write and the library to check a few more things off my list. Writing about a particular time and place and going and seeking that place and learning about it in that time.

…And then I woke up to rain. Heavy rain. Enough to make me lounge a little longer in bed with my pup curled up. (He doesn’t even get out of bed in the morning until I am at the door with his leash in hand.)

And I realized while walking him that this was New Year’s Eve. I hate crowds. I hate drunk drivers. I hate unsafe situations. I hate knowing that this is a heightened night of crowds for those types of terrorist gunmen who go out to kill people in the name on nationality, white skin, sexuality “pureness”, and God.

No thanks. I am staying home. Plus half of the places I need to go will be closed. And the rain falls heavy. And I have enough coffee before I need to head to the store next.

 

~

 

Even with feeling that time is slipping away too quickly and my To Do list grows. I will check off things I can do from home and safety and comfort and dryness and warmth….realizing that not everybody has that. Realizing that as I look toward the new year with my grand plans, my full editorial calendar already set for the entire year with work, and promise, and food, and travel, and love, and fun, and experience….that there are those who don’t even know what day it is…or that it is only one more day to be survived. Those who see no hope,  who held on until they were too tired. Surviving is exhausting. I know that. I still to this day am recovering from a childhood of surviving. There isn’t often energy to work toward…. forward.

I have to work very hard to seek that energy myself even now. I have been saved by many second chances. I hope for second chances (even if it is the 100th second chance) for those who need it this year. Tonight as the calendar page turns. And I hope that in the finishes and accomplishments of my own energy and work that one day I can help give those second chances. Little by little.

I was just discussing role models and mentors. People and things to learn from, admire, and shape after bit by little bit. Lessons in life to learn…and things to learn NOT to do, or to be like, too. How to fix mistakes, not make them, and move on from them, make something of them.

What makes us. Shapes us. Creates us.

And what we do with that is us.

Going into the New Year this is on my mind.

Who we shape ourselves to be…what life shaped us to be.

I feel like the start is the clay you are, the type you come from.

I feel like next is the hands that shape you.

I feel like with that is the power of the wheel that spins you.

I feel next is the shape that the clay takes between all of the hands and the spinning wheel and the type of clay and how much water is added or not and the conditions that still change was what The Plan, what was In Mind. How that even underneath the direction of hands, the clay still finds some of its own form.

There is the hardening, setting parts of life. Those things that set into you. Ingrain into you. Make you who you really are. What is going to stay with you.

There is a glaze that can create a barrier or make you shine, give you strength, or all of  the above.

There is a paint which adds color, design, decor, shape, change, flare, personality, and own self.

There is the shelf upon which it can blend into the background on, or stand out upon.

There are the cracks which form over time to break us down, our weakened moments. Which all add a little of who we are and the character that makes us us.

There are the hands that we pass through, the lives, the mantles, the voices we hear, the places we’ve been, and those places we’ve been put. Not all are places w wish to be. Not all places are near a window where we can feel the sunshine through. Some times we are like within a box stored within a forgotten attic or a cold basement. Sometimes we just kinda move through life not getting the chance to really be US. To show our beauty.

Some hands will throw us, shatter us, break us. Neglect us. Put us in our wrong places. In our not best places. Less prominent less shining places. Hide the best of what we are. Some hands will misuse us. Be careless with us. Move us around like we don’t really matter and have little or no value. Forget about us. Mistreat us. Pack us away.

Some hands will pick up the pieces of us. Repair us. Match our pieces where they belong. Glue us back together. And some even bond our breakage with gold. Some hands will save each and every of our little pieces as if in a jewel box, honoring the memory of us. Some will treat us with love and tenderly and care for us.

Sometimes we collect dust. Sometimes we don’t shine bright. Sometimes we are admired. Sometimes someone knows our worth and sometimes our price.

Sometimes we get broken. And sometimes we get put back together. sometimes perhaps with a little chip left here and there, a wider crack, a little less left to us than what was there before, and sometimes that glue that binds us stands out. And sometimes what binds us is gold.  Sometimes our golden cracks make us shine more pure, more brightly, more beautiful than ever before.

Over time we only become more valuable. Stronger. Beautiful. Colorful. Cracks and all.

 

Here is to New Year’s 2019. 365 new chances. 365 Do Over’s. 365 second chances. 365 First tries. 365 days to shine. 365 possibilities. 365 days to discover. 365 days to start anew. 365 days to wake up and be in awe of what this Earth and Life give us.

 

Building Traditions & Memories.

DSC_6931

Joe and I have been traveling full time for our third Christmas now and before that we were busy working, he was out of town for actual Christmas for work, he was new on the job, and we were settling into our new loft in Galveston at the time as well. I had just done a month of NaNoWriMo and was in my editing process and layering and second draft and preparing for the next year. We just really didn’t do Christmas at home.

We haven’t really been able to decorate much for the holiday. Many times (only once in four Christmases now) we don’t even get to be together on actual Christmas (Joe will be on the boat/work). But we always take Two pre-Christmas vacation weeks together to truly enjoy the holiday to its fullest.

~

With our traveling we realized that decorating (currently in our RV, next in our boat) just didn’t work out for us. We tried it one year in our RV with a brand new kitten but by the next holiday season we’d added a puppy. And even prior to that I discovered that the storage of Christmas decor just didn’t work out in our limited space (it takes space from my books). Even the when-out-decor space was limited and became more cluttered rather than enjoyed. And I hate clutter.

15327239_908518002582085_3131545805895324950_n

If we had a house the decorating would be to the fullest. Joe enjoy’s the outside home decor…I am sure we would have a great time trying to out do each other.

But until that time, we quickly realized that, here we were, two in our 30’s people, sometimes alone on the holiday but still a couple for two weeks somewhere in the holiday season, and no kids…Christmas can be a lonely time, depressing, and Joe isn’t the Go Home For Christmas kind of guy and I might have a very large family but they are a very large and broken and spread out family. And frankly…I don’t really fit in any parts of it.
So we knew that we needed to really be able to make our own traditions, that were fitting to us, both loving the holiday we also did not want to just let it pass us by, and also I realized that being home alone for part of the season and often the days themselves I needed to really make a tradition for myself, by myself, too…I love the holiday and I wanted to be in the spirit.

 

 

So while not decorating our own small moving home (s) for many years we decided to travel a different city (or often many cities) and enjoy the decorations, giant tree’s, and lights wherever we went. We sing carols (ok, I sing, Joe rolls his eye’s) and we will drive around neighborhoods and walk George for the traditional home lights decor. We see large tree’s in city gardens, town squares, and whatever else a city may offer.

 

At home we break out movies for the holidays, hot cocoa, cider, music even while driving (love the classic holiday music), and we always cook and bake something along the lines of the holidays…though I have been tweaking and updating my traditional life long recipes and wow…so much more us today and really fun to do!

 

I even make some cranberry oatmeal cookies…a favorite of Joe’s. So even at home, we still do a lot of Holiday spirit, even if not the decor…then we go out and do a part of a city, or a new city (or section of) each day for two weeks .

 

 

I personally get more holiday time to myself than that and continue on or start beforehand. I like doing my photos when by myself, my writing in parks, coffeeshops, and various park benches. And I have my own thing to make my holidays rich even by myself…and my two stinky pets.

~

I watch old classic versions of the Macy’s Thanksgiving Parade -1981 was my birth year so that I did this year – I watch super traditional to my own childhood nostalgia movies. I listen to a lot of holiday music that reminds me of my grandmothers beautiful tree or happy childhood moments.  And holiday music makes me HAPPY, so I am sure to play it through my day for about a month..from ending Thanksgiving to ending Christmas. I bake a LOT and give away cookies and loaves of breads of many kinds. I walk George through neighborhoods and admire the lights in the evening. I discover other holiday things that weren’t able to be done with Joe. I go to see theater holiday themed shows where ever I am. In San Antonio and New Orleans this is amazing. Sometimes I go if I am not even really interested in the show. And I am always uplifted for the holidays for it and enjoy the architecture of the theater. And more to still enjoy the holiday when…basically alone and single. And honestly? I really do enjoy it.

 

DSC_7317

 

Don’t let the holiday stuff get you down. I don’t understand the being stressed for the holidays…like stressed about being able to buy presents…just don’t stress over that stupid stuff. It isn’t what the holiday is about. Build memories. Not piles of stuff you will throw out later. I enjoy my own time and make the best of it. I enjoy time with Joe and we really have a lot of fun and make memories…way better than presents. And stress about family or get depressed or sad about the things that people get depressed or sad about during the holidays? I just can’t allow it for myself. I did that one year. It was horrible. I hated that black sunken hole in the Earth feel, that feeling of total emptiness it left me. So I know I don’t want to feel like that again and I know to do that I must make an effort.

~

I have some rules I go by.

  • I don’t allow myself to swell on the sad parts but I do enjoy remembering the fond moments. I even spend time listening to music that makes me most remember those times, sip on a warm drink, be all cozy and thankful for that coziness in my home, and write those memories down…and write about them for myself now in life.
  • I don’t watch sad movies. I will watch uplifting things, listen to uplifting music, and even write uplifting writings while setting my usual pretty depressing stuff aside.
  • I walk George and wave to people and end up talking to locals and see the lit up Christmas trees in lit up windows at night and the lit up yards. When Joe was home I made a big deal of yelling out CHRISTMAS every time I saw a good batch or tree or decor. This year nearly got me down because so few people decorated. So few towns seemed to really show the spirit that I remember and know my home towns to do. So little was festive without super searching for it. It seemed that way at times at least. There were a few times when both Joe and I were like “This is it?” So rather than get grumpy…we bought it out and then really allowed ourselves joy at our discoveries.
  • I even put aside much of the news and negative things in the world that can get a person down.
  • I created little rituals and fun days. I super experimented with banana bread (making a super yummy but also WAY healthy version). I got creative with cooking, baking, and in the kitchen. I didn’t stress when things didn’t turn out right.
  • On Facebook I silented negative people for 30 days and payed closer attention to the holiday cheer sharing.
  • I only read happy books. In fact, I read over some old classic Christmas stories and read them out loud…something I had never done and frankly was quite lovely. Doing this by volunteering time at story readings for kids at the local library or nursing home makes that even better. And if there are any open mic readings I could attend…I did this there, too.

 

DSC_7316

We have celebrated in Galveston Island, our last Christmas there for both of us, our first Christmas together as a couple in 2015. Houston was another year when we came back for part of the holiday and ended up with a kitten from Neiman Marcus pet adoption happening with the HSPCA. She wasn’t planned. We had planned for a dog.
And Austin/Fredericksgurg/Marble Falls/San Marcos and other Texas cities on another partial trip. We spent some time in some very small outside of Texas cities. We had a lot of time in the woods that year.

 

 

And then we celebrated in San Antonio last year…when asked where I wanted to go that year (2017)…that was it. I wanted to see SA in Christmas.
I gained ten pounds on tamales alone without regret. We love this city and if it wasn’t land locked we would certainly make it home…but we are both mermmammals at heart. We saw SO many lights there. We love the Pearl and seeing it in Christmas spirit was a whole new experience. The River Walk even more festive was inspiring. The spirit of the city is always dancing there but at Christmas…it came truly alive. Snow that Christmas on the Alamo topped off the magic of the city.

IMG_0096

We drove through neighborhoods of the most beautiful tree filled front yards in front of the most wonderful area of solid Mid-Century homes I have ever experienced, seeing them lit up made me feel like a kid. I sang carols loudly out my open car window.
We drove through the neighborhood of Mansions off of Broadway up past the Central Market (still my favorite grocery ever). And we drove through so many beautiful homes from modern to victorian to mid-can to tiny to huge. The diversity of that city is truly on point. And we had Christmas tree’s…giant…everywhere to see. Lights over other tree’s in the city full of them that transformed them completely from the gardens of the Alamo to the hundreds of lit tree’s at the college off of Broadway. That city knows how to do magic. And I did suffer whiplash when I heard someone yell out TAMALI’S!

 

 

This year has been The Deep South and New Orleans. We have hit every single city and town along the Gulf Coast from Fairhope, AL to New Orleans (and then some). We knew this holiday season we would be in the South still so we chose to say one last goodbye before leaving it for awhile and we certainly wanted more time in New Orleans (my research took me back there anyway). Along the way we celebrated among the Southern hospitality.

It is truly easy to drive through a state full of many cities hugging the Gulf of Mexico all in a day….but we took our time, too. Fairhope and Mobile Alabama. Ocean Springs, Biloxi, Gulfport, Long Beach, Pass Christian, and Bay St. Luis in Mississippi…a state that really has built some memories for me this year. And New Orleans…the grand Jewel. Need I say more?

image-2

Ok, I will, though….I had particular things in mind here…jazz carols in the cathedral concerts every night for free. Gardens decorated. Garland everywhere. And a city that seems decorated when it isn’t. And popping in and out of every single hotel lobby along the way…especially…the grand jewel of them…The Roosevelt. I also had hunted out any bar or restaurant or hotel lobby with a fireplace, hot and cold days flipping back and forth or not, I was determined for the winter spirit, dammit! There are four in particular, one is a grand gay bar…famous…it is a place to go. Another is The Absinth. And still others. With so many trips to the city we had yet to actually do any bars, and even now we didn’t do the “bar scene” but we did do cozy, with a good drink for the city- we are always about old 1920’s-1940’s classic drinks- and fireplaces. We stayed away during the weekends…oh lord do they spill out into the streets! Joe never knew where we were going until we got there…and we joined an old man at the table near the fire of one on a very cold night to share the space nearest and bought him a drink.

 

We listened to non-Christmas jazz in many places but also we had particular tastes in mind. A Muffaletta to split for lunch at Napoleon house. Where their tradition is to hand out bells at Christmas. We jingled the rest of that day. A French Onion soup for a lunch another day…ohhh, we indulged in that bread as well, warm butter over crusty on the outside, oh so soft like a cloud on the inside bread to dip into our soup. The restaurant beautiful, the people ever so kind. A gumbo for lunch before we hit City park on another day…a restaurant on a corner of streets, no one sat inside but one table of two old fat black men and a bar with the three people who worked there and even owned the joint. The server jolly as all to fuck.

 

We had yet to do this so we rode the streetcars all around their full routes and through one portion of The Garden District, which we knew…the homes there cool, quaint, cute, adorable, even large for some, small for others but our kind of place for sure. Then we discovered a portion of another part of The Garden District which we had yet to explore before…the houses, if you can call them…well, they are mansions…but even then…huge mansions…and they kept getting bigger and bigger and they kept going on and on. And I found the most beautiful library to stop at on another day when we came back to enjoy the gardens and some walking around…though to walk one block was only to see one house there. But the library, once a home to a fmaouse silent film acctress, had been transformed and now I was able to enjoy both architecture and books. Otherwise we enjoyed by streetcars the lights of the holidays at night as well. The peeks inside the windows of homes with their Christmas tree’s decorated in the front windows. We also walked through many neighborhoods and saw this a bit closer.

 

Next we plan on New England Christmas and a Miami/Keys Christmas among others in our future. Creating our tradition of enjoying a cities decor for the Holidays when we aren’t doing our own. Eventually perhaps we will have our own house and you will be able to see it from space I am sure.

Here are a few of the photos along the way to share (I have lost most from 2015, our first Christmas together, up until now in 2018,  and even some of those, however. In some places I didn’t even take photos at all. Other photos were non-holiday related so I am only sharing here those that are).

 

But memories live on.

 

You can see the full photo album HERE.

  • What are some of the traditions that you grew up with?
  • What are some that you tweaked and made your own?
  • What are some “Single or No Kid or just a Couple or Spending by yourself” traditions you have created?
  • Favorite Christmas movie?
  • Favorite Christmas song?