spin cylce

College Station is the land of tradition. I’m not Aggie….but I like to make up my own.

In the middle of town there is a big giant big open Christmas tree made out of lights. Most people just drive through the park. But I always like to get out and go stand under it. Right in the middle.
And spin.
I probably started this self imposed tradition with a good buzz as a teenager and didn’t need to spin to make the lights all run together. And I have to admit it kind of feels like flying.
Spinning, swirling, lights blurring, like one of those speedy action shots in a big city.

I didn’t know this was unusual until I asked some friends to spin right in the middle of the Garylord Texan and they stared at me like I was crazy. One reluctantly put her arms out, the other I am pretty sure prayed that no one would see us.
I didn’t care who was watching, I wanted to feel like that. Like flying. Like I was somehow right in the middle of all that light.
Maybe even a little bit like I was home.

Last Christmas me and one of those rare kinds of friends where you can not talk in months and months and pick right back up where you left off were sitting at my dad’s big kitchen table. Her girls in bed, mine getting their jammies on and after a glass of wine,  I managed to talk her into a little field trip. We hopped into the car and went straight to Central Park. I parked and even though it was wet and cold we got out and stood under the tree.
And spun.
Arms out because that is the only way to do it. (and helps prevent you from busting your rear…although that is likely to happen anyways).
And all I could see were colors spinning.
And I’m heard my friend say she had to stop but I kept spinning.
Eventually I slowed but the lights didn’t stop moving.
I tried to walk and wasn’t very successful.
My friend laughed as I stumbled back to the car.

I don’t like the not being able to walk straight feeling, but I do like the few seconds where everything is still spinning even when I’m not.
Your inner ear is filled with fluid and it is the vibrations in this fluid that helps us to hear. But twirl a glass of water and the fluid inside will continue to circle even after you stop it. Rotational inertia. Things want to maintain motion. To keep going, Even if it is in a circle. Maybe this is why it is so hard for most of us to be still.

This town is never the same to me.
It looks different every time I visit.
It keeps changing, even when I don’t.

And my life is like that too. I keep moving, In all kinds of directions. Even when I try to stop, things keep moving. Blurring together. Just like the lights, leaving me occasionally lost, disoriented and dizzy.
But. if you just take a minute to look up.
All you see is color.
All I see is beautiful.
And it doesn’t seem to matter if I will stumble when it all stops.

This year, I took my kids back to the tree.
We parked the car. Got in the middle and I told them to spin.
There were several other families and groups of teenagers right there in the middle doing the same thing.
Our arms spread wide, looking up rather than at each other, we often hit each other.
We were all strangers spinning under the lights.
Some of us kids, the rest of us giggling like we were.
Stumbling a bit, but no one seemed to mind.
Looking up. Moving in circles. Falling down.
Getting back up and doing it all over again.


Santa brought Owen a go-kart.

Santa was reluctant, despite Mrs. Claus’s pleadings that it is what he asked for and that this might be the last year he believes in him. And doesn't he have any Christmas spirit. Even a little bit.
Santa was caught up in details, like who was going to put it together, how safe it was, how were we going to get it under the tree and the hefty pricetag.
Mrs. Claus only thought of her son excited on Christmas morning or driving little circles around our cul-de-sac and sent him text after text that they were on sale. And to hurry up before they were all gone.

We did Christmas morning a day early at our house. Due to Santa’s demaning travel schedule and things like how impossible it would be a to sneak an entire person sized gokart into my car before heading over the river and through the woods.
He was not as excited as Mrs. Claus had hoped.
His sleepy eyes took it for a few spins around the living room and then we all piled into our real car and headed South.

When we got to my parents house, it was a different story. They live on a circular street, kind of like we do. But instead of ending in a a cul de sac, there street has a parking island in the middle. Their entire street makes for a perfect race loop.

Even before hugging Annie and PawPaw hello, he wanted to put on my old bike helmet Mr. Claus had insisted on and hitting the pavement for a few loops. (clearly, Mrs. Claus is a safety second kind of girl).

The other cousins lined up for there turn, they wore the tires down to the thread and drained the battery in the course of one afternoon.
Tess has happy to watch or chase it for a stretch.
I insisted that she try it out.
I grabbed the bike helmet from whatever 8 year old was next in line for the keys.
She said No! That she was scared as I clipped the buckle under her chin and let the way too big helmet slide over her eyebrows. She told me that she didn’t know how to drive yet.
I told her not to be scared. That it would be fun. Just to try it out.
In retrospect I now realize I sound like a horrible picture of the bad friend in an after school special. I might as well have been trying to give my 5 year old daughter pot. Instead, I was just trying to push her to not let fear win. To stop watching from the sidelines. To literally get in the drivers seat.

I showed her how to push the throttle forward a bit and off zoomed down the driveway.

Screaming. Straight into my already been in too many accidents new car.

I chased after her, but was no match for the now recharged battery. She screamed. My husband kept yelling “let her go”. I thought maybe he knew about some magic go kart air bag or crumple zones.
Instead, he had really been yelling “let it go” to Tess. As in let go of the throttle. Stop giving it gas and it will stop. As usual I misunderstood. And apparently he didn’t realize that he was talking to this little tiny miniature version of me, that even at 5 only knows how to go at one speed.

Tess hit the rear bumber of my car at full speed, and flopped forward a bit. There were no skinned knees. No broken bones. No missing teeth and not even any new dents in my car.

But she cried and carried on like she had just been cut out of the go kart with the jaws of life.I couldn’t believe how foolish I’d been. How I’d pushed her without teaching her the most important things.
How to use the breaks.
How to slow down.
To stop.
To turn.
How to do anything except hit the gas.

She had wrecked for the same exact reason I often do.
For going full speed even when I realize I should slow down.
For jumping in without caution.
For not stopping or bailing even when it is time.
Not knowing how to simply let it go.

Tess isn’t interested in driving for a while. And, lets honest, my driving record is less than stellar. I am literally on defensivedriving.com’s Christmas list.

It might be time we both work on finding our brakes.

 (speaking of driving....last night I drove around the block an extra two times just to hear this song again)

The annual REAL Christmas letter

I started writing REAL Christmas letters about 5 years as ago. As a joke, in response to all the fake and cheesy ones people send out about how perfect their lives appeared on paper. A friend and I laughed about how refreshing it would be if people wrote real Christmas letters. Confessed to filing for bankruptcy or their kids straight C report card. A place where they shared the highs, but didn't ignore the lows. It would be way more honest and a whole lot more entertaining.

Most people don't write Christmas letters any more, and the Christmas cards themselves have even started to dwindle. These days we do not save our perfect lives for yearly updates. We post them in our Facebook status and on Instagram 365 days a year. And I am just as guilty. I post pictures of my kids scoring a soccer goal, not the giant tantrum they threw in the Target checkout line because I refused to buy those little toys they put on the bottom shelf. (Well played Target). I post pics of my perfect cup of coffee, not the 8 cake balls I ate for breakfast with it. I post pics of all the fun places I go and eat, not all the nights I am in pjs before the evening news.

So. Here is my year in review. The highs. The lows and some of the boring stuff in between.

I'll start with the youngest. Tess is in pre-K this year. Again. Had she been born just a few weeks earlier we would have gotten a 700$ a month raise in August. Instead, she is learning to color and stay quiet at nap time for one more year. She does not seem that interested in numbers or letters but is all about "arting" (what she calls coloring, painting or mostly making a mess and drawing on things she shouldn't with a sharpie) and singing Katy Perry songs. She is still taking dance and I can not wait for the day that she can put on her own tights. I swear those things are from the devil. Her hair is finally starting to grow. And she is so damn cute with those freckles except when she says things like "you're not the boss of me" and I send her to her room and dock her allowance or ground her from Taylor Swift tunes or her American girl dolls.
Speaking of American girls, Tess has added to her collection and now Kit has here best friend at her side. Ruthie or as Tess pronounces it, "rufie" and I am thinking she must have slipped us one because over spring break we actually took her to the American Girl store to get her dolls ears pierced. Next time I'll save the 15$ and use the drill in the garage. She started playing soccer this year too. I was afraid she'd hate it. But. She is a natural defender and not afraid to push a girl to the ground. All in all, she got pneumonia twice and has only wet the bed once and has more opinions on makeup shoes and outfits than most teenagers.

Owen is now in the 3rd grade. He is in the chess club and book club and if those things are t dorky enough he spends every spare minute playing minecraft. Or watching videos about playing minecraft. Or watching videos about watching videos about playing minecraft. Unfortunately all this us unmonitored YouTube finally payed its price by Owen dropping some un 8 year old appropriate language at the dinner table. In front of my mother in law. It was hilarious and horrible all at the same time. Thankfully he blamed his dad rather than me, my music or even Tess's Katy Perry obsession for his new vocabulary. We love 3rd grade. He multiplies like crazy, knows all kinds of ridiculous science facts, everything you never wanted to know about Pok√©mon. He has seemed to make more friends and is humiliated by my dancing and singing in public. He also had his first girlfriend. She is the only girl in the third grade who wore a bump it and wanted to sit next to him at lunch. After a long meaningful relationship ( one week) Owen had enough of her bossy ways and big hair and did what any self respecting 8 year old would do. He told a friend to tell her not to sit by him any more. And wise beyond his years he waited until the end of the day on a Friday to do this so he could make a quick drama free exit. It was completely considerate and chicken at the same time. He will make a great teenage boy.
He played baseball in the spring and soccer in the fall clocked some speedy 5K times and was movie goer #3 in his latest school play. Despite the lack of actual title, he had quite a few lines. Most of which he even got right. He loves to fish and hates to shower. He often forgets to turn in his homework and brush his hair but never forgets how much money I borrowed from his allowance.

Shaun, had quite a year too. He ran several races, grew a hideous beard, almost quit his job and  took up coaching owen's soccer team. I couldn't wait to see the beard go. The job decision finally paid off a few days ago with a long over due raise and promotion and he got red carded and kicked out of his first soccer game as a coach.
I also ran several races, unintentionally grew out the hair on my legs did not get promoted or much of a raise and did not take up coaching again...but managed to not forget snack duty even once. I read a lot of books, binge watched all 3 seasons of downton abbey, avoided grading papers and despite many things in my life being exactly the same have managed to learn plenty of lessons. Some of them for about the 10th time.
The highs: getting a new car, days on the beach, Texas wine country and getting the classes I like teaching back.
The lows: Pretty much the entire month of June, backing my new car into a telephone pole and then a few months later backing it into a Porsche.

You see, despite my attempts at an "authentic" and real Christmas letter...I've written considerably less over the last few years because it is harder and harder for me to be exposed. I have to fight the urge to protect and hide and cover up. I've been trying to figure out who deserves the whole story and who doesn't. Because maybe it isn't for everyone. I have learned that being real takes practice. Being real and letting the people around you be real takes an incredible amount of grace. For yourself and for letting the people you love be who they are and not who you want them to be. It is not an excuse to be mean and call that "honesty" or an excuse to say whatever you want. Rather it is a chance to let people see you and love you on the good days as well as the bad. To not count the likes or comments on our Instagram and Facebook feeds but to cherish the ones that check on us when we have had an awful day. The people who say "me too" or "or how can I help". It is hard to do, to be naked and real in a world where so many people are trying so hard to present their most perfect selves.
I'm sure their perfect self didn't go to dinner, the post office and the grocery store with a huge giant rip in the back of their pants yesterday with several inches of my colorful panties on display for the world to see....but I did. And it was embarrassing, but also hilarious. And it is whole lot more fun to laugh about it than to hide in shame.

In summary, I'll leave you with the two most important things I have learned in 2013
Wear good underwear.
Look before you put your car in reverse.

and if you are interested...here is last year's letter
and the year before that
and the year before that
and the original

I'm also feeling a little guilty about not mentioning...jesus at all in my Christmas letter...and turns out it is HIS holiday...so I'll close with the verse I put on my cards

"Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid." John 14:27