Happy New Year, Wake Up Ami is Back!

2014 is Going to be Better

Like many people, my 2013 was a roller coaster, and I’m not talking about the fun “that was fun, let’s do it again” thrill ride kind. I’m talking about something more akin to a runaway mine car plunging into dark tunnels full of jagged rocks and scary mine creatures.

Speaking of tracks, I know that some of you may have noticed that I most definitely fell off track on my resolution list for last year.

2013 was a year of big changes in my life, serious transformations occurred in almost all aspects: social, mental, physical, financial and more. What occurred in my life last year was far more than I could have ever put down in a list for myself, and thus, a few months in I decided to see where the year would take me instead of working off of a list. While goals are great, sometimes it’s just best to go with the flow and see where life takes you.

That being said, though, by the end of the year that seemingly endless roller coaster finally started to slow and delivered me to a far more stable (and happy!) place, and on the eve of the new year I decided…I think I’ll celebrate the feat of making it through 2013 alive with a 2014 full of fun and excitement.

I’m back, and more awake than ever. Here’s the resolution list for 2014. Happy New Year!

1. Paint a painting–without brushes
2. Find treasure in a geocache
3. Get some fancy pajamas
4. Invest
5. Go camping
6. Fund a Kickstarter campaign
7. Stay in a hostel
8. Grow and eat my own vegetables
7. Redecorate or paint a room
8. Write a short story
9. Host a holiday dinner at my place
10. Pay for the person behind me in line
11. Pull a prank
12. Start a YouTube channel
13. Sing karaoke
14. Finish P90X
15. Plant a tree
16. Watch an eclipse
17. Make my own costume for faire / a con
18. Learn how to do make-up…well
19. Get a hammock
20. Marathon an awesome movie series (Star Wars, LOTR, James Bond)
21. Fill up a Moleskine
22. Create a sculpture
23. Crash a party
24. Go a week without social media
25. Cook dinner over an open fire
26. Go sledding
27. Learn something from my mom
28. Make a short film
29. Participate in an open mic night
30. Go ghost hunting in a haunted place
31. Visit an abandoned place
32. Learn another language
33. Drive to another state
34. Go out and take photos of beautiful strangers
35. Tell 50 people how they’ve positively affected my life
36. Get a prison pen pal
37. Make art out of something old
38. Go through my high school journals and see how I’ve changed
39. Do something that feels like flying (sky dive, bungee jump, zip line)
40. Build a cat tree
41. Shop for a week’s groceries using only the farmer’s market
42. Try arco yoga
43. Go see a band I love in another city
44. Win something on the radio
45. Go to Burning Man/Flipside
46. Play in a MTG draft
47. Pay off at least one credit card
48. Travel somewhere by train
49. Create self-portrait every month
50. Create a meditation area
51. Take my nephew out for a day of fun
52. Take my family out to dinner and pay the bill
53. Visit an old teacher
54. Make my own infused alcohol
55. Drastically change my hair
56. Buy a wig
57. Do the 21-day meditation challenge
58. Throw a Gatsby party
59. Write a letter to my future self
60. Learn to play a song on guitar
61. Touch a wild animal
62. Have a tea party
63. Take a foreign cooking class
64. Face a fear
65. Find a good hangout spot
66. Celebrate a non-american holiday
67. Start a tradition
68. Do something to help organize my life
69. Fix my car…before it breaks
70. Do something I remember doing as a kid
71. Hand-make a gift for someone’s birthday or a holiday
72. Get new glasses
73. Find another way to get around short distances
74. Go to a city during an event it’s known for (i.e. Mardis Gras in New Orléans)
75. Learn to read tarot cards without a guide-book
76. Go on a night hike at Wild Basin
77. Learn to drive a motorcycle
78. Start going to local coffee shops instead of Starbucks
79. Take a class at a community college
80. Take a trip into the country
81. Find an interesting opportunity on Craigslist
82. Go a week without make-up
83. Explore a very old or big library
84. Go to a religious service for a religion I don’t know much about
85. Cook a delicious vegan meal
86. Play an indie game
87. Reach out to someone I admire
88. Write an article for a website or publication I like
89. Try a water sport
90. Play tennis
91. Go yard sale hopping on a Saturday morning
92. Go tour a really expensive apt/condo or home that I can not afford
93. Personalize my desk at work
94. Go somewhere I learned about on TV (travel channel, discovery, food network)
95. Make a scrapbook for the year by printing iPhone and FB pictures
96. Read a classic novel
97. Create a wish tree in a park
98. Get a Groupon for something I’ve never done, and do it
99. Go to a sporting event
100. Do charity work on a holiday
101. Do something recommended to me by someone else

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In the Face of Great Tragedy

If I’ve learned nothing else, at least one lesson was solidified for me today: One can never be prepared for great tragedy.

In fact, that’s the most tragic part.

The reason that people so often see terrible news and think “that could never happen to me,” is because whatever it is so unimaginable that one simply can’t comprehend or prepare for what it would be like if it were to happen them.  But, the light at the end of that dark tunnel is that the greater the tragedy, the greater the outpouring of love and support.

This morning, in the midst of worrying about getting my hair to straighten correctly and wondering if I’d eaten enough for breakfast I received a call from my mother.  My mom has a certain tone of voice when something bad has happened. There’s fear in it, like she’s scared the news might actually break me, but it also includes an unwavering control at the same time, the one mothers get only from long difficult years of being the pillar of strength for their kids.

“Something terrible has happened,” she said. There no easy or simple way to start a conversation like that.

By the way, it’s amazing how quickly the mind works when adrenaline sets in.  Between that first sentence, and her being able to tell me, I managed to brace myself for anything I could think of from death in the family, to someone being ill, home emergency, anything my mind could attach to ‘something terrible.’  But, like I said, even in that split second, sometimes you can’t prepare.

The news was that my Uncle Scott, my mom’s brother, had taken the lives of his two children, AJ (7 years old) and Jake (4 years old), then turned the gun that he’d used on himself and committed suicide.

I did break.  I am not an overly emotional person, but the news was crushing.  Not only did I lose an uncle, the lives of two precious innocent children had been taken along with him. It was incomprehensible, it was everything that you NEVER think could happen to someone you know.

There was no apparent motive, no warning signs, no indicator whatsoever that this may have happened, even to the three other people living in the house, his wife Cyndi and her parents.

My uncle was sweet, incredibly gentle, and loved his children with every ounce of his heart.  Even looking at his last few posts on Facebook, just days earlier, reveals upload after upload of photos and videos of his kids enjoying a play date at the park, nature photos from a recent fishing trip, and even an exchange of “I love you’s” between he and my mom.  No sadness, hopelessness, just a wonderful father (involved enough to take so many pictures) spending quality time with his wife and kids and enjoying the beauty of nature.  What then could have caused such a 180?

We could only speculate.  He hadn’t had the easiest time lately, he’d been battling pain and illness for quite a while but he finally got a diagnosis and was on the fast track to recovery.  His illness resulted in having to go on disability from work, but he felt lucky that he was allowed to keep his health insurance.  Could it have been a drug interaction with his new medications for his treatment plan?  Could there been some sort of altercation or trigger that we didn’t know of?  None of the pieces we had seemed to fit together, and sometimes that’s worse than knowing the whole story no matter how terrible it might be.

My Uncle Scott and I. I’m around 2 years old here.

Uncle Scott had been a friend and brother figure to me since I was young, and even played almost a father figure to my younger sister after our dad passed away in 2003.  We spent holidays at their home cooking great down-home southern food. He was the first one to introduce me to rock & roll. Nothing but happy memories come to mind.

But, in an instant everything was different.  It wasn’t long before the shock and heartbreak flooded over his wife’s Facebook, and before we knew it, new stories about it started appearing in the local paper.  My family’s tragedy was local news.

I had to make a conscious decision to turn it off.  To turn from the negative comments and the cold emotionless voice of journalism, and turn to what we truly needed at a time of grief: Love.

In fear of the negative judgement that the incident may provoke, I posted a simple plea for prayers and positive thoughts without any details at all.  Love and support was all we needed, and its exactly what we got. Even without knowing what had transpired, the flow love and promises of thoughts and prayers came from all angles, from close friends and old acquaintances, from family, from other countries.  Immediately our hearts were lighter, if even just a little bit.

Slowly I began to explain the whole story to a few close friends, including my boyfriend.  In knowing the story, the outpouring grew further.  My boyfriend jumped into action, doing anything and everything to help me so that  I could stay with and give my undivided attention my family.  My closest friends extended an open offer for “anything I needed.”

Finally, my mom and sister posted the story to their own social networks.  Again, more love.  There was no expression of judgement, there was no criticism, just love and support.

Suddenly the burden felt almost bearable, like the the love came as a physical force to help lift us off the ground and give us the strength to carry ourselves through it, and I believe that’s exactly what it is.  Tragedy truly brings people together, and we all know that when people come together around a common purpose, extraordinary things happen.  They can change the world, and they certainly changed ours.

So, I would like to say a public thank you to all of those who have already lent their hands and hearts to my family.  And to all my readers, I hope that you’ll be willing to reserve judgment and lend yours as well.  I can not possibly express how grateful I am to be surrounded by such phenomenally caring people.  Thank you, all of you, really.

I would also like acknowledge and send my condolences to my Aunt Cyndi.  While I am mourning the death of my uncle, I know that the grief of losing her children is unparalleled and my heart goes out to her at this horrible time.  And may the souls of my uncle, AJ and Jake rest in peace.