Home for Christmas

We’re on our way back to Chicago today, but we’ve been in Minnesota since Sunday celebrating Christmas with our families. It’s been a good week. Here are some highlights:

We learned that the coffee shop where we had our first date is closing at the end of the year. We tried to go to say goodbye, but they were closed until Friday, so we went for a selfie outside.

Outside the Dunn Bros. where we had our first date just over nine years ago

We made the questionable decision to go shopping on Christmas Eve. Found this giant moose made of lights at the mall.

Merry Christmoose!

We celebrated with my partner’s extended family, and his aunt made me a stocking like she’s made for everyone else in the family. His family has always been welcoming, but this was an extra sweet reminder that I belong.

A beautifully cross stitched stocking from my partner’s aunt

We celebrated with my family, and my nephew was very excited to see us. We got many hugs, which were the best presents (which is saying something, because the other presents were also lovely)!

My nephew helped us open the present he gave us.

We had a smaller celebration on Christmas Day with my partner’s immediate family. I made the Yorkshire puddings this year from a recipe by Nancy Birtwhistle of Great British Bake-off fame, and they turned out so great!

Gluten-free Yorkshire puds!

It’s been a lovely week. I’m writing this Christmas night and feeling very loved and content. I do NOT want to go back to work on Friday, but that is what it is.

I hope you’re all having your own lovely winter holiday season, whatever that looks like for you. If you’re not, I hope you can take comfort in the fact that we’re slowly returning to the light now that we’re past the Solstice.

Five Good Things

Hello, dear readers. I’m feeling stuck for something to write about this week, so I’m going to default to the five-item list of some happy things from the past week:

  1. The EMG last Thursday went well. I mean, it wasn’t fun, by any stretch of the imagination, but it did at least rule out pinched nerves as the cause of the chronic pain I’m dealing with, so that’s good. The rheumatologist recommended PT (which I still need to follow up on) and some supplements to try, as next steps. I’m not exactly hopeful, but at least we were able to rule something out.
  2. We bought a Harry Potter LEGO advent calendar last month, and it’s been so fun to open it each day and build a tiny thing. (Granted, we have forgotten about half the days, because we’ve not had an advent calendar in past years and also it’s the season where we come home and are tired and not thinking very clearly. But still.) We’ve had a handful of characters, some Christmas trees, a turkey (with legs that pop off so the minis can hold them…it’s adorable), and a few other random things. It’s a nice source of joy.
  3. We’ve made so much soup the past couple of weeks! Since we’ve been under the weather and it’s been cold, soup has seemed like the correct course of action. I’m getting to use the techniques we learned in the knife skills class we took last month, which is making my food prep way more efficient. This is the recipe we’ve liked best so far.
  4. We’re finally both getting over this awful cold. My partner’s a few days ahead of me in recovery, so I’m hopeful that by the weekend I’ll feel much better. I’m already much better than I was last weekend, so we’re moving in the right direction!
  5. I wasn’t sure what class to sign up for at the Old Town School for next session (songwriting filled up suuuuuper early and I missed my chance), but I finally made a decision and signed up last night – I’ll be taking a mountain dulcimer class! My partner’s aunt had given an old dulcimer to my partner’s dad a while back, and he’s not using it much, so he said I could borrow it. I’ll pick it up when we’re there for the holidays. I have felt kind of stuck, musically, and I think learning a new instrument is a great way to get unstuck. So I’m excited about that!

Brief Bright Spots

It feels like it’s been a long week. In reality, I stayed home from work on Monday after waking up feeling feverish, and I’ve been spending a lot of time sleeping as I try to fight off this annoying cold that isn’t awful but just won’t leave. I’m still dealing with anxiety. But there have been some distinct bright spots in the week, so I’m going to focus on those today.

  1. We started putting up holiday decorations in our apartment. We have lights around the windows, and the (fake) tree is up. We still need to get the lights on the tree plugged in (we had to acquire another extension cord first – there’s a paucity of outlets in our apartment), and put the ornaments on, but that should happen in the next few days. I have complicated feelings about Christmas (it no longer holds particular religious significance for me, and the capitalist overtones of the secular side of the holiday are overwhelming and upsetting), but I do like the decorations, especially the lights. So that’s been fun.
  2. I found out my knee is not untreatably messed up. My right knee has been swollen and achy for a few weeks. Finally made it to the doctor last week, and while it looks like I need physical therapy (currently waiting on a referral), it doesn’t appear to be anything irreparable. So that was encouraging.
  3. I scheduled an intake appointment with a new therapist. My last therapist, who I adored, moved to Portland in September. I felt like I was doing mostly okay, but I’m recognizing that I’m still dealing with a lot of anxiety. I’m also finding, as my life in general becomes more stable, that there are areas of my psyche I have avoided dealing with in the past that are now coming to the surface, so it feels like a good time to find someone to process all of that with. I don’t know whether things will work out schedule-wise with this particular person, but I’m optimistic.
  4. I wrote a letter. I have this pen pal in Germany who I’ve been corresponding with off and on since 2013. He is a great pen pal and regularly sends me postcards, interspersed with occasional longer letters and some photographs he’s taken. I have been a horrible pen pal, and have maybe written to him once all this year. But this week, after receiving yet another postcard from him, I finally sat down and wrote him a proper letter. It reminded me that I really enjoy letter writing, when I actually sit down to do it. I am hoping to do more of this in 2018.
  5. Doug Jones beat Roy Moore for the Alabama seat in the Senate. I had not fully processed how much tension I was carrying about this until I got a text from my dad on Tuesday night announcing that Jones had won. It’s restored a little bit of my faith in our collective humanity, and has me feeling tentatively hopeful about next year’s midterm elections. I’m still disgusted that it was a close race and that the majority of white people (including the majority of white women) voted for a pedophile. In fact, 80% of voters who self-identified as white evangelical/born-again Christians voted for Moore. (Stats found at Washington Post and NBC.) White Christians, do better. Call this out. This is not just a southern problem – the whole country was complicit in electing 45. This is a white people problem, and especially a white evangelical problem. I found this opinion piece in the Washington Post really on point – worth a read.

All that to say that while things still feel pretty shaky on a global level, personally, I’m doing okay. Or if I’m not exactly okay, I’m finding ways to get there. And really, that’s about all I can ask for right now.

All the Feelings

In the week since my last post, I feel like I’ve been on a bit of an emotional roller coaster.

Our time in Minnesota went really well. Hamilton was the soundtrack of the weekend, which I didn’t warm up to immediately (despite REALLY wanting to love it), but now I’m pretty totally sold on it.

The drive up was rough – it usually takes about eight hours, but it took ten, six of which were getting to the halfway point, driving about 40 mph for a large stretch due to snow and slick roads. Once we arrived, though, we had a good time.

We saw my family the morning of Christmas Eve. I got to see my dog (she’s an old lady at almost fifteen, but still feisty, and was happy to see me and very tolerant of how affectionate I was being), and my nephew (who was hilarious and chatty, bringing out all of his toys and then all of the dog’s toys to show us), along with my parents, brother, and sister-in-law. It went well.

That evening we hung out with my partner’s dad’s family. Christmas Day was very relaxed; we spent the evening with my partner’s mom’s family. It was late nights all around, but fun to spend time with family. And Monday morning, we got breakfast with one of our dearest friends in Minnesota, which was lovely.

The drive home Monday was, thankfully, totally uneventful compared to the drive there. It was windy, but otherwise was pretty easy going.

Tuesday, I headed back to work. That was hard enough, but then about halfway through the day, we got the news that Carrie Fisher had died. It took me all day to process enough to put coherent thoughts together about it, and I’m still reeling a bit. This is what I wrote about it on Facebook:

I was raised on Star Wars and Disney movies. As much as I love Disney movies, Princess Leia was my first real role model for how a woman could be a kick-ass leader who takes no shit from men (or anyone else). As a young girl, she meant the world to me.

Now, as a Bipolar adult, I still appreciate Princess Leia (and her later iteration as General Organa), but more than that…I appreciate Carrie Fisher. She dealt with her mental illness with a delightful blend of irreverence and grace. She actively fought the stigma against mental illness. She stood up for herself when held to the impossible standards to which we hold female celebrities. She was open about her struggles and her triumphs, even though the public did little to deserve that openness (we just demanded it).

She was witty. She was funny as hell. And I am struggling to accept that she’s gone. I usually feel pretty detached from celebrity deaths (aside from being distantly sad at the loss of life in general). This feels more personal. Still, I am comforted to some degree by the thought that at least in the end, it wasn’t her Bipolar brain that killed her.

Rest In Peace, Carrie Fisher. The world is less bright without you in it. Thank you for everything you were.

Tiny Happy Thoughts

I’m still feeling pretty tired this week, but I think I’m slowly adjusting to the colder weather and darker days, and (hopefully) coming out of the funk I’ve been in for the past few weeks. It’s been a good week, overall, and I have a few things I’m smiling about:

  1. Our new passports arrived on Saturday! My partner and I took last Monday off from work to get passports squared away (we needed to reapply in person since we were both changing names and gender markers). We paid for expedited service, because we wanted to be sure they were done before the end of the month. They estimated the wait time at two or three weeks. Five days later, there they were! We’re still waiting on the passport cards and our old passports to come back to us in the mail, but the actual passport books are here. It’s a huge relief to have that done and to know that our applications were approved, because while we were pretty confident we had everything in order, but you never know what’s going to happen with gender-related changes. Also, my passport was from when I was 16, so it’s nice to have one that’s not expired and that actually looks something like me.
  2. We put our Christmas tree up. I have complicated feelings about Christmas (really, I have complicated feelings about celebrating Christian holidays in general), but the lights and decorations have always been some of my favorite parts. We have a fake tree that I got the first Christmas I was in my first apartment by myself, so it’s been around a few years now, but it’s still in pretty good shape. I have more ornaments than will fit on the tree without even figuring in my partner’s ornaments (I got at least a couple every year growing up), so we had to do some thoughtful curating of what we wanted to actually put up. The end result is quite lovely.
  3. We’re planning Christmas travel. We’re going to take a whirlwind trip north to Minnesota over Christmas weekend. We won’t really get to see friends, but we’re seeing both of our families (something I would not have predicted had you asked me two months ago). So that’ll be an adventure.

Winter Weirdness

I’ve always liked winter. The past two, in all their polar vortexiness, were a bit rough, I’ll admit, and snow is less enjoyable when I have to walk through so much of it on my commute. But as someone who’s always been on the warm-blooded side of things, I always welcome the cooler temperatures, and snow is pretty, and the lights and various holiday decorations often make me smile.

So the fact that it’s been in the 50s Fahrenheit and raining the past couple of weeks is kind of throwing me for a loop. This winter is promising to be much like our first in Chicago – more rain than snow and much, much warmer than a Midwestern winter has any business being.

And then…and then there’s Christmas.

Christmas was, for most of my life, my favorite holiday. The lights, the evergreen everything, the baking, the general feelings of good cheer…I’ve always loved it.

But as I’ve taken steps back from the Christian faith of my upbringing, the holiday no longer holds much personal religious significance. And I am super not into the commercialized business of an American Christmas.

So I’m finding myself feeling a little weird this season, and I think it’s more than the unseasonably warm weather that’s causing it. I’m still exchanging gifts with a handful of people, and I’m enjoying the holiday cards we’re finding in our mailbox. I’m still enjoying the lights, and the evergreens, and I hope to get a little baking done at some point. The good cheer, in light of the current state of things in the United States (bad politics, police violence, denial of climate change, etc.), is a little harder, but I am trying to find hope and to be a little more patient with people. I’m just…not really sure what the purpose of the festivities is. Maybe there doesn’t need to be one aside from looking for a little light in this dark time of year. It’s just a new and still-strange perspective, I guess.