Blog Archives

You Are In Integrity

“You are in integrity when the life you live is an authentic expression of who you are.” — Alan Cohen

 

Advertisements

Christmases Past and Christmas Present

For my entire life I have anticipated the holiday season with joy.  Never have I before felt anything close to a hint of dread when it comes to Christmas.  Every year, my mother would spend literally, weeks, deep cleaning every room of the house, decorating each and every room in the house, trimming the trees; one fettered out completely in Hallmark ornaments, one upstairs trimmed in her prized and ever so delicate hand-blown antique glass ornaments and of course, baking cookies.  My mother would bake countless varieties by the dozens. Especially, her beloved “bird turds” as we called them.

My mother’s children were basically enrolled in a basic training camp for holiday preparation and style just because we lived under the same roof with her.  Each of the four of siblings seemed to have inherited those special genes necessary to pull off a holiday with tradition, whimsy, and flair.  Surely, the world would have to be in its last stage of demise should my mother not carry on her decorating traditions.  That is, until the last Christmas or two that she spent in our world, when she just didn’t have the strength to do it all.  But even still one of her children or in-laws managed to pick up just enough of the slack to make it all seem so seamless.

My last holiday spent “Mom’s way” was in 1994.  That following Thanksgiving, 1995 found me in a Camaro driving to Phoenix, Arizona as that would become my home.  Christmases here in the desert are so much different from what I traditionally experienced in the Midwest.  Sometimes it’s hard to convince yourself that it really is the holiday season; warm sunny weather, lazy lunches eaten outdoors, grilling out on the patio most any night, all trick the mind into an endless Summer.

Dutifully, I would call home on Christmas Day and talk with my Mom mostly, and any of my siblings that happened to be close to the phone.  I carried on my form of guerilla style holiday decorating adapted  to our warm Phoenix climate.  Because both my mother and her mother knew I valued cherished items kept in our family for years, and that I wouldn’t be the type to disrespect the handing down of “heirlooms,” I was given many wonderful decorations, which I still treasure today.  My own decorating style may be influenced by a little Southwest sizzle, but much of my European heritage remains.

The cookies however, never found their way into my traditions, though I must say, my sister put out some very fine efforts of her own!  To this day, those “bird turds” are baked each year by at least one former sister-in-law. What are bird turds?  They are a raspberry meringue with little mini chocolate chips inside.  The recipe is this:

Patricia Schubert’s Raspberry Meringue Kisses aka Bird Turds

3 Egg Whites ¾ Cup Sugar

1/8 tsp Salt 1 tsp Vinegar

3 ½ Tbl Raspberry Gelatin

1 Cup Miniature Chocolate Chips

Beat egg whites with salt until foamy.  Add raspberry gelatin and sugar gradually. Beat until stiff peaks form and sugar is dissolved.  Mix in vinegar; fold in chocolate chips.  Drop from teaspoon onto ungreased cookie sheet covered with parchment paper.  Bake at 250 degrees for 25 minutes.  Turn oven off and allow cookies to bake an additional 20 minutes longer.  Makes 9 dozen. (Originally adapted by Patty Schubert from “The Electric Company Cookbook”)

This cookie recipe has always seemed to be one of those constants in life, when everything around us was changing.  For me, the end of relationships and the beginning of new relationships created different though just as special traditions.  Retro, vintage 1950’s, 1960’s, mid-century design brought me back to my earliest memories of Christmas as a child.  eBay held the same adorable angel decorations my mother had, and today I coveted!  My grandmother had one of those spectacular, head-turning aluminum Christmas trees.  Of course the stand rotated, played Christmas carols, and the tree itself was lit by a rotating color wheel.  Within weeks I had new traditions and new treasures delivered to my door via UPS.

Christmas Eve dinners spent away from the family back home evolved from lasagna to chili and cornbread, to today’s tradition in our home; a variety of cheese and crackers, peel and eat shrimp with cocktail sauce, grilled tenderloin and gourmet style baked potatoes with a green salad.  The later menu is of course the priciest of the presentations made over the years, but one nonetheless carried out.  I am on a fixed income, and there have been several lean years when I thought it impossible to keep up tradition and that surely I would have to lower my expectations.

My past three partners found out early in the relationship that holidays and traditions were so very important to me.  I was delighted to know my most recent partner’s mother, Dorothy enjoyed tradition as well.  She enjoyed learning about and experiencing for herself, the traditions maintained by other families.  For our own traditions, if ever it I had to stretch too far to make the necessary purchases, Dorothy would either join me on shopping day to pick up the tab directly, or sometimes offer the cash needed to make up the shortfall.  She may have turned up her nose that first year to the thought of eating cold, cooked shrimp that weren’t even removed from the shell at the store. “Imagine that the store would think that all that work of cooking and cleaning should be left to the customer!” Dorothy complained.  Eventually, she grew to love and appreciate my traditions as much as I did, no matter how it tasted!

Christmas, 2007 was the last I enjoyed with Dorothy.  She transitioned into her next life on January 23, 2008.  Thinking back to that series of “holiday firsts without Dorothy” still brings about huge waves and channels of emotion for me.  First, the feeling of impossibility; that there was in no way I could sustain myself through a holiday without her.  There are sometimes oceans of tears and my throat can hurt from crying so hard.  Each decoration of hers I bring out to display, imagine was still maybe last touched by her, giving me a quick and close connection I crave.  As I march through my tears and maneuver my way through the days that approach Christmas, I find myself reminiscing in my mind and even laughing out loud over past holidays we shared. Finally, if even for a moment, I begin to feel my holiday space is once again shared with me by loved ones, even if departed.

Space is always opened for others to contribute to my traditions and I find enjoyment in sharing in my celebration if even from a distance.   Today, I had some thoughts in my mind and I found myself allowing me to “free-fall” into a cavern of depression, all the while fantasizing about taking every last holiday decoration I have put up, down. I would vow that, “Christmas will live here, in this house no more!”  But things change so quickly, and again appear brighter.  I decided today to rework this blog post from an earlier version, updating it and then will share it with my new friend, Dorothy’s sister, Betty.

After I finish this post and see that it looks nice on my weblog, I will play more holiday music, send a copy of this post directly to Betty with an email and then begin making dinner.  Perhaps a friend or two will stop by for a visit tonight, or maybe I will just turn off all the lights except for the color wheel beneath the tree and watch my beautiful 1961 aluminum tree dance and glow for hours.

I wish you and yours the safest and most joyous holiday season, and thank you all for the many gifts that have been given and received by me this year: gifts of love, feedback, patience, understanding, a safe space and openness making it OK for me to share my fear and confusions and any other thought in my head I have needed to get out, and our unified goals of bringing more peace and joy to all of our lives.

Love,

Mark Schmitz

 

How Can I Ever Recover From My Addictions?

 

 

Some days I wonder, “How am I ever going to recover from my addictions?” “What more must I do to get well?” These are the basic questions I ask myself, as I struggle with my illness: an addiction to Crystal Meth.

The questions I ask in my mind are obvious, once I have taken time to really think about what is going on in my life. And the answers are just as simple – stop acting out, stop using, stay busy, and work my plan of personal growth through the SMART Recovery program, whose logical approach works best for me.

I know however, that it’s not enough to just go to those meetings once each week and putting in my time. Easy solutions may seem plausible, but just mouthing the words isn’t going to do the job. I have been a sick person, very sick at times, and I am going to struggle sometimes to see things straight again; to get back on course. The route is charted by the people who support me.

 

 

Counselors and good friends have become my guides. But when all is said and done, I have to make the choice to accept the answers and the help that will bring me renewal and health. I know the way forward to health isn’t easy, but I have confidence in myself that I will come through. Like the elegant Phoenix, I too shall rise from the ashes and be beautiful!

 

 

 

Hello World!

My first blog on Blogger! I am so excited to be able to share my blogs with a whole new audience. I’ve been blogging for almost two years now on my 360 page on Yahoo! as well as to an even larger audience on WordPress.com (http://christophersmark/wordpress.com). My experience blogging has been very positive. I started blogging on Yahoo! after my partner, Christopher created my 360 page as a surprise to me. He did all the initial “setting up” of the page, and added as much of his own creativity as he possibly could. I had been telling him for months how intrigued I was by the concept of blogging. I’ve always been a conscientious one to journal on a daily basis. For my journal, I must have the most luxurious of bound papers and I treat myself to the most expensive pen I can afford. Journaling to me, is a release. It’s a way for me to look back on feelings, experiences and emotions. It’s a valuable way for me to review the lessons I’ve learned, and a chance to discern what I could have done differently in a given situation. When I journal, I write as though no one will ever see those pages but me. Honesty comes forth easily.

Honesty has become a theme in my life. I haven’t always been a person of integrity or honesty. It’s taken me a long time and its been a very difficult journey to get to the point where I am today. My blogs are all about honesty. My honesty. The lessons I am learning in this life, the fears I face, about my willingness for greater spirituality in my life, about my addiction to methamphetamines, my experience with mental illness and much more. There are individuals who may read this and find the level of honesty to which I subscribe well, unbelievable! Unfortunately, I have either run out of chances with them to prove myself, or they are unwilling to let go of the resentments they hold on to so tightly. To them, I shall always be “guilty until proven innocent”. I know the commitment I make each and every day when I first get out of bed; I commit to being rigorously honest in this new day, honest in every thought, word and action. I realize of course that I am human and prone to error, but by making this simple promise each and every day, I have grown into making honesty a habit and part of the under girding of my life.

The sharing of my honesty and my path of personal growth began on Yahoo! I quickly began making “friends” around the globe, all of whom were sharing such valuable feedback regarding my blogs. Eventually, I realized that I was nearing 700 “hits” per day on my 360 page! I yearn for ways to be more creative with my blogs and take my writing more seriously. I began taking a look at my options, and none seemed better than WordPress and now Blogger. Blogging has helped me grow in my writing, as I have even stretched a bit through my first attempts at writing poetry and short stories. Through WordPress and Blogger I have an even greater audience, still from around the world, and still offering that valuable feedback. I look forward to building a following of readers who are perhaps on the same path as I am, or maybe considering making changes in their life. I don’t set out to change anyone with my blogs, but rather show myself for who I really am. I’m no different than you…