Recently, a friend of mine wrote about feeling stuck in “limbo”, as he is between major projects in his life. On one side of the coin, he’s proud of all the hard work he’s put in and all the successful things he’s created and the sense of joy and well-being he’s brought into the lives of others. On the other hand, he writes about feeling ambitious without direction, or struggling with a desire to create and do and be, without any particular ambition.

As the holiday season descends upon us, I can relate to that. Part of me wants to feel rather depressed because since October, I’ve gotten “downsized” from the company I spent the past two years with, and my only other long-term, independent contracting position has come to a conclusion. As is the case when working with start-ups, at some point, they too struggle with money to make their vision come alive, and need to put your creative work on the shelf for awhile. Sometimes, they come back. Other times, the hiatus is permanent. As a result, this has been one of the most financially-challenged holidays I’ve spent in years. Strangely, though, I don’t feel depressed. Perhaps I *should*, but I don’t feel bummed about not visiting my family for the holidays, not buying extravagant gifts, not shopping online for pretty dresses and shoes. Perhaps I’m lacking in holiday spirit, as well as ambition. I’m well aware that December is a crappy time to be job-seeking, and I have a number of friends in a number of industries who are waiting until the New Year to really crank up the job search.

On the other hand, it isn’t as if I haven’t been doing anything productive at all. I’ve been writing rather dull piece work for content mills (which I wish I could get more motivated about, but the lack of creativity just bores me in a way that’s become painful.) I’m releasing/publishing my first book of poetry in December, planning a ton of fabulous events for my Meetup, and spending more time catching up with people in my life that I care about. I only wish I had the financial resources to do so, and not stress out about it. I’ll be celebrating my birthday, Christmas, New Year’s, a good friend’s wedding, and a bunch of other things that remind me “Hey, this is what life is about.”

I’m kind of a conundrum in that I’d like to think, perspective-wise, I have my head on fairly straight. For me, life isn’t so much about accomplishment or achievement or careers or money or accumulating material possessions. In fact, when I get into the head space where I concentrate on those things—the place where most people tell me I should be focused—not only does everything seem to go wrong seemingly out of nowhere, but I am quite unhappy and lonely as a person.

For me, life is about experience. I enjoy creating unforgettable experiences with the people close to me, even if they’re seemingly mundane. As a result, my friendships and relationships are deeper and more intense than what most people experience, and the accumulation of my life experience is fairly impressive for a person my age.

Of course, the conundrum is that a person needs some sense of financial stability, direction, and ambition to have the freedom to engage in these experiences. Especially if you’re me, and a non-driver in a city legendary for inaccessibility and urban sprawl, and live in one of the most non-pedestrian-friendly neighbourhoods possible, you need disposable income in order to leave your house and go somewhere when a friend can’t take you.

I seem to be motivated by unhappiness. When I think about a long-term relationship ending (a situation that almost occurred last week), or moving to another city where I’d essentially be alone, or having to start over again, there is some type of strength and defiance in my personality that emerges and says “I’ll do what I have to do.” However, when I am relatively happy, I often become complacent, wondering why life can’t always just be easy and happy. I like being happy, and yet, happiness does not challenge me. It is the difficult and the unexpected and the apparition of change in what I thought was a stable universe that challenges me. I don’t enjoy the challenge. In fact, I typically have a nervous breakdown, accompanied by vodka, Valium, and lots of crying. But then, I somehow start to see positive changes in my life. When I have nobody and nothing to rely on in life, I am at my strongest, while also being at my weakest.

I don’t write when I am happy. Sometimes, I think the reason I seek out complex love affairs and conflict-filled friendships and take the road less traveled–which is full of speed bumps and potholes—is because the emotional complexity, the good mixed with bad mixed with chaos, is what inspires me to create.

I’ve had my fortune read many times; palm readings, tarot cards, natal charts, numerology, and the like, because part of me believes in those sorts of things (even if another part of me can’t have much faith in anything, and dismisses it as nonsense.) One consistent thing that’s always pointed out to me is that I am supposed to be a person of great wealth. From my birth chart to my palm reading, everyone tells me, “One day, money will be of little concern to you, because you’ll have all you need”. I apparently am meant to have a much harder time with relationships, commitments, reputation, and all those other little details of life.

This always makes me laugh, because I am not practical, not good with money, not particularly ambitious in one specific direction, and not sure what I’m supposed to accomplish with my life. Also, it specifically tells me I will not have money because of an advantageous marriage or an inheritance, and that I will be the financial breadwinner for those in my life. Apparently, I am meant to somehow parlay some gift I have into money, and not just in the paycheck-to-paycheck sense.

This seems ludicrous to me, because money and independence have always been my greatest struggles, and they go hand in hand. I do not have any particular business sense. I remember, as a child, teachers writing “Your daughter is intelligent, creative, and gregarious, but like many gifted people, lacks common sense.”. I am not practical. I am not organized. I rarely make flights on time, I don’t remember to pay my bills when they’re due even if I have the money in the bank, I lose keys and sunglasses and wallets and IDs and credit cards, and then freak out. I’ve had to have my birth certificate replaced 3 times. I need a new copy of my Social Security card. Only recently, did I learn that stock certificates equal money and I should have someone manage that stuff. I wake up in the morning, and take my pills. Some days, I can’t remember if I already took my pills, or that was yesterday, and am not sure what to do. I get lost, everywhere, even with GPS and a map. I caused a kitchen fire and made the apartment smell like there was a gas leak the first time I encountered a gas stove.

I can tell what’s going on with you without anything but a conversation, or observing body language. I sense danger, and get out of the way before it happens. I know there’s someone else in your life or you’re cheating on me long before I ever catch you, and I’ve already cried over it by the time you get around to breaking my heart. Yet, I’m surprised and hurt when someone I trusted talks about me behind my back. I can put a puzzle together in record time. I assemble everything without instructions. However, I can’t hang a picture frame on the wall to save my life.

When I have something I am passionate about, I can work on it for hours and am resentful of interruption. If I don’t care about what I’m doing, even the mailman is a welcome distraction to go pay attention to something else. I seem to have the worst case of adult ADD in history.

When I plan events, I am detail-oriented and Type-A to a fault, because imperfections and “going with the flow” bothers me. Getting stuck in traffic gives me road rage, and I’m not even driving. In my normal life, someone telling me to hurry up stresses me out to no end, and I feel way more relaxed being 30 minutes late.

I am most definitely a conundrum. The things I should be stressing out about right now—money, jobs, my future, what the future holds for me, changes that may be on the horizon—I am not. Instead, I’m looking forward to the next day in my life where something fun and entertaining and amusing is going to happen. This might just be a sign “Oh, the anti-anxiety pills are working”, but wait until the first time I lose something or I can’t fit my gigantic hips into a dress I bought pre-illness-weight-gain. When that happens, World War III erupts.

Maybe it is that, somewhere deep inside, I have this intuitive feeling that in the near future, things are going to work out well for me. This, frankly, is ridiculous. Things never “work out” in my world. When left to fate, fate does not often treat me kindly. Yet, I have this feeling that keeps me from giving up and crying and walking away from things, one that tells me it’s now time to focus on different things in my life, but good things are on the horizon in my life.

I have a feeling 2013 is going to be a good year for me, and I’m not sure why. I have too many obstacles to believe that on any level that doesn’t involve either intuition or faith, and I’m sadly lacking in the second.

So, while the rest of the world is wondering if the world is going to end on December 21st, it’s more like I am preparing for a re-birth, for new beginnings and possibilities. I am not stressed about it, but open to it, and a little afraid of the unanticipated things the future may hold. But I feel like my year of “pause” is coming to an end, and not because I have completely recovered physically, or am suddenly grown-up and independent emotionally. I just feel like a slightly different person, and this person does not need things constantly, all the time, either in the form of other people or in terms of material objects. It’s a little like I’ve rediscovered pieces of someone I used to be, but forgot, because that person fell behind a curtain of illness and depression and insecurity.

I want to have fun again. I want to do things and meet people and live life and take chances without being afraid again. And, yes, I’d like to have a whole bunch of disposable income so that my $14 martinis and unique wardrobe pieces don’t send me reeling into poverty—and I don’t quite know how to get to that point from where I am now—but I don’t stay up at night trying to figure it out anymore.

I have always been extreme. People would tell me there’s this middle ground in life, where things are not either manic happiness and elation and going until you reach a point of physical exhaustion, or cause for losing all hope and feeling like the world would be better without you. I couldn’t relate to that, because I’d mistake not feeling either happy, sad, stressed, or excited with being completely bored.

I have finally learned to have days that are “just OK”, and not subsequently feel depressed because I am bored and lonely. I have learned to be in that “in-between” place in life where you don’t know what will happen next, but to get through that place by living in the present, rather than stressing about the future.

And, all in all, it mostly feels like someone saw me carrying a really heavy suitcase, and decided to help me with it for a little while. I am appreciative for feeling mostly happy, even though I have many reasons to feel other things, and to feel overwhelmed by the struggle.

I have some great people in my life, and it helps a lot. And while the process of being abandoned by the negative ones hurt greatly over the past year, I see what a positive difference it has made in my everyday life. Now, if only I could relocate myself to a place where people can get around freely and independently without a car or $12 taxi rides to the nearest subway stop, it would be a definite improvement.

“What’s hard is simple,
What’s natural comes hard.
Maybe you could show me
How to let go,
Lower my guard,
Learn to be free;
Maybe if you whistle,
Whistle for me. ”

—Stephen Sondheim, “Anyone Can Whistle”

This is the first Christmas that I remember not feeling filled with joy, and thankful for the friends and family and relationships I have with people all over the world, and the bit of money in my pocket, and the small things that make the holidays worth appreciating. It is the first year I am not excited about traveling, seeing loved ones, embracing the lights and the energy of the city…because I’m not able to do any of those things. In fact, I feel an overwhelming depression that’s becoming more difficult to bear as the month drags on.

The beginning of the month didn’t get off to a stellar start. In addition to testing positively for a variety of medical issues, sinking even deeper into debt just trying to find out why I can’t function like a normal human being, and being de-friended by two people I once considered friends and actually cared about, I had struggles with work. Namely, the 9 projects a day I was receiving had been cut down to three a day; sometimes three every other day. The result is that my first paycheck for the month is smaller than if I’d spent my time working for minimum wage at Starbucks. My only hope was that things would improve, and the assignments would start rolling back in for the second half of the month. In the meanwhile, I contacted everyone I’d ever done work for, seeing if they had work for me to handle.

This hope yielded some positive results. I’ve gotten my 9 assignments per day, plus another client that said they’d have some work for me around the 17th of the month. Then, I find out today that I won’t be receiving another paycheck this month. My work won’t be paid until the 27th, due to the office being closed for the holidays, which means it won’t show up in my account until the 30th or 31st…which means it won’t, because weekends and holidays are not banking days. Therefore, not only can I not afford to visit family or do things with friends, even if I could, but I can’t afford to buy presents for anyone, either. I basically can’t afford to leave the house for the next two weeks.

But you always have your health, right? Well, unless you’re me. Then, you’ve spent 6 months being physically and emotionally ill and racked up $50,000 in medical bills that the insurance company won’t cover. Once you pay out of pocket for the tests that can diagnose your issues, you find out that you do have medical problems: one that will supposedly “resolve itself” but I can expect to be extraordinarily painful, and one that will likely require surgery in my ear…that is, after more tests that I can expect to pay for out-of-pocket are done to confirm the diagnosis.

And, if you’re me, you’ve also gained 20 pounds in six months as a result of said medications, and have constant breakouts for not reason…and it’s gotten to the point where you can’t stand to look at yourself in the mirror, much less identify yourself as a person anyone, anywhere would ever be attracted to.

However, since I’m in a relationship with a guy who’s not shallow enough to stop loving me because I’m fat and unattractive and can’t hold the pieces together long enough to have any semblance of a fun social life, at least that should bring me comfort. It doesn’t, though, because I feel like there’s a growing chasm between us. When we spend time together, we sit on our separate computers, play trivia, or watch movies. When I try to talk about serious things, I don’t really get answers. Serious things like: “Why have we been together for three years, but I still spend every holiday alone?”

Yes, The Guy I Am Currently Dating lives 15 minutes away, and I will be spending Christmas alone. I would have spent Thanksgiving alone, too, if not for friends that invited me to be part of their family for the weekend. In fact, I spend as many holidays alone as when I was single, when I was dating a guy who denied my existence in his life to his parents because they wouldn’t accept me, and when I was unwisely keeping company with a married suitor….which by nature of being “the other woman”, means you will spend every holiday alone. The Guy I Am Currently Dating spends every holiday with his mother, the lovely woman who has called me “ugly piece of shit”, pointed out all my undesirable physical and emotional flaws and told me no man would ever want me, told me I was trash, likened me to Casey Anthony, told me her son only settled for me because his self-esteem was too low to chase after pretty girls, called my a psycho, and wished me dead three times, before threatening that something vaguely bad would befall me if I didn’t move out of Georgia and get out of her son’s life.

Yet, that’s who he’s spending the holidays with, the person who treated me that way. Not me. It kind of shows where I rank in the grand scheme of things, and when I asked if any of this would ever change, if we’d ever have a normal life together, I didn’t get an answer. And it’s because I know the answer is “Not until my mother is dead and we can live together”. And I don’t know if I deserve to spend the next two decades of my life alone, waiting for someone who supposedly wants to build a life with me to put me first.

So, when I hear from a good friend of mine all the romantic things he’s doing for a girl he’s been dating for a few months, it makes me terribly, terribly sad. When I hear about my couple friends, who have all, in the same time I’ve been dating The Guy I Am Currently Dating, met, moved in together, gotten married, and had kids or adopted dogs, it makes me terribly, terribly sad. I feel like asking why I’m always the one left behind and alone when holidays and family occasions come around, always “the other woman”, even when I’ve changed my lifestyle to avoid that outcome. Why am I not the person that someone, somewhere moves heaven and earth to be with, travels with, adventures with, and not only *says* he cares about more than anything else, but shows it. I’ve had a lot of lovers and love affairs in my lifetime….too many….and yet, I’ve never been that girl. I’ve always been loved, amused, entertained…but never that girl worth changing everything for. I’ve had diamonds and Dom Perignon and holidays in the Caribbean, but never been treated like a permanent part of anyone’s life, never been anyone’s family. And that hurts me, somewhere deep inside. I guess I understand it, because committment and old-fashioned family values have never been my strong suit, and I don’t even know how to promise monogamy to someone I love….but there’s a hole in my heart that wonders why everyone seems to find this life-altering love and romance thing but me. It’s not that I’ve gone through life alone, but that all the love and romance I’ve ever been offered seems to come with a “but”….and that “but” means I’m not the girl that the men in my life have worked to woo and plan romantic adventures for or desire quiet holidays alone, just the two of us.

And part of me really wants that, feels that, maybe at some point in my life, I should start deserving that…and if I’m with someone who can’t or won’t offer those things, I’m with the wrong person, no matter how loving and supportive he is in other ways. It can’t be “I want to spent my life with you, but…”. :( ((((

In the past, I’ve tried to fight against all these feelings by visiting with my own family, who aren’t exactly paragons of love and support and remind me that I don’t know if I’ve ever really been part of a family, or loved like part of a family, since my first day on Earth. I’ve leaned on my friends, who over the years, have grown up and started their own families and fallen in love with their ideal partners…many of whom learned the hard way that that person turned out not to be me…and they’re happy to be there for me, when they’re not spending time enjoying the families and relationships they’ve built.

I still feel like the “other woman”, always, no matter what choices I make in my life. Maybe at one point, that was a specific road I chose…to be free, alone, unattached, unconventional, up for amusement, even connection, but afraid of love….but I had no idea back in those days that I’d end up at this point, feeling this lonely and isolated.

I don’t even recognise myself anymore. I don’t feel like any of the things that used to make me who I am are still there. Sometimes, I don’t feel like I have anything at all, and life just isn’t a place for people like me, who are always a step or two out of sync, marching to a different drummer, on a path that’s not only isolating, but easily forgotten.

It isn’t a surprise that people aren’t calling to invite me to parties this year, seeking out my company for drinks or celebration. I have another birthday coming up soon, one that puts me at an age where I’m well-past grown up…and I don’t have much to show for it, much less celebrate.

It’s like I’m still waiting for life to happen to me. Once upon a time, I tried to make life happen rather than the other way around…and I live four decades in less than one. Maybe it’s just that I’m done now. I don’t know. I’m what I never wanted to be: an aging party girl that’s lost her health, her looks, her charisma, her self-confidence, and is meant to spend a lot of her life alone, watching others easily find all the things that have never come easily to her.

Some days, you just feel like you’re having the scariest, crappiest day in the history of the world, and then you open your mailbox, and see holiday cards from people you’re really happy to have as a part of your life.

One today was from a long-time friend in Australia, another from a long-time friend who lives much closer, but I don’t see any more frequently than if he lived in Australia. They both contained beautiful and heart-felt messages that made me cry.

My life hasn’t been the most stable this year, and I know I’ve been driving everyone up the wall with my constant issues and neediness and emotional ups and downs. My life and my personality and my relationships and friendships aren’t the most conventional, and not everyone I meet likes me or wishes to be a part of my world, and I’m OK with that….because I know I’m blessed with friends and family that love me and want me to be happy.

My mailbox today made me remember that: that there are people who care, no matter how busy life gets, no matter how hard life gets, no matter how far the distance between old friends and family. Life is bigger than just the here and now, which I tend to forget. There are people who have loved and supported and stood by me through some tough times, and years later, are still there to tell me they’re there for me.

While it might hurt that not everyone is the person you think they are, and you can find yourself abandoned or hurt or betrayed when you put yourself out there, you can also find yourself with some pretty amazing friends.

I hadn’t checked my mail in like three days because I’m lazy, but everything happens for a reason, because today I needed the reminder that I am far from alone in the world…and that was there. In addition, I had some good conversations with people I do get to see on a regular basis, but still reached out and talked to me and cared, without even knowing I was struggling today.

As the Golden Girls would say:

Thank you, all of you who truly have been over the years, for being a friend.

This year, I’m being a little bit of a Grinch when it comes to Christmas. Normally, I’m the first one to be all about the shopping, the carols, the tree, the cards and reminders of love from friends, and of course, the cookies. I don’t like cold weather, but I love the holiday season…particularly since my birthday falls four days after Christmas, and two days before New Year’s Eve. It’s like a whole week of festivities for me.

This year, however, my health issues have put a damper on everything. I am unable to fly due to a potential hole in my ear, and not eating well and sleeping 9 hours a night invariably ends up with me feeling exhausted, and my pulse and BP running on the high side, so I may be spending the holidays here in Atlanta…all by my lonesome. :( Gaining 20 pounds means things I normally love…cookies, Starbucks, shopping for clothes, parties…just make me feel sad and self-conscious. The medicine that’s caused these issues also has significantly lowered my tolerance for alcohol. For some odd reason, I can’t tolerate anything except vodka-based beverages. The cost of the illness I’ve had for nearly half a year means not having money at Christmas, always a sad situation to be in.

Still, I’m trying to remain at least a little cheery and optimistic. I’ll put up the tree, send out Christmas cards and packages, turn on the lights, throw around some tinsel and some jingle bells, and attend a holiday party or two. The Guy I Am Currently Dating even got us a gingerbread house to decorate, and we’re planning to see A Christmas Carol. He’s also in charge of planning my b-day celebration, which I think is fun…usually I do all the event planning.

Some people have asked about holiday shopping for me…really, I’m not a hard person to shop for. I am a hard person to buy items like clothing for, because I’m petite and oddly-shaped, but if you’re adventurous, here are my sizes:

Height: 5’0 (more or less)
Weight: 20 pounds more than this time last year. :(
Shoe size: 6 (6 & 1/2 for boots)
Measurements: 38-27-39 (I’m a very hourglass-shaped person.)
Top size: Medium (I don’t wear fitted tops these days, so anything too clingy will go into the “after I lose 20 lbs. drawer).
Dress size: 8/10, depending on the designer.
Bottoms: Medium for sweatpants, yoga pants, etc. Do not ever buy me jeans. Shopping for jeans is a terrible adventure in my life.
T-shirts, hoodies, sweatshirts, nightshirts, PJs: I like these things oversized. Large or extra-large

Things I don’t need/want for Christmas, birthdays, or other occasions:
-Anything from Bath & Body Works. You have no idea how much stuff I have from that store.
-Shoes with heels. Unless the heels are chunky, I don’t wear them.
-Socks. Again. I hate socks.
-Bottles of wine. Wine makes me dizzy. No beer or spirits except vodka for the time being.
-Headphones or Ipod accessories. Until I get the ear thing situated, I can’t use my Ipod, listen to headphones, etc.
-Cookbooks or cooking utensils. I do not cook.
-Anything yellow or cutesy. (we’re talking hats that are in the shapes of animals, anything country-inspired, or something that has a 1950′s vibe.)

Things I do like:

If you know me, you know I like bizarre, eclectic stuff, from anything that glitters to handmade jewelry to vintage accessories. I like scarves, purses, and jewelry. I have a fashion sense that’s a mix between current day glam girl and 1970′s retro. I have a flair for the theatrical and a thing for costuming.

I also like books, journals, crafty items, gel pens, candles, and pretty much anything that comes from Michael’s. My favourite stores are Charlotte Russe, Amazon, Michael’s, and Modcloth. I eat at Chick-Fil-A and Subway often. I collect martini glasses, bar/cocktail accessories, and basically anything in the shape of a martini glass. I also love butterflies and chocolate truffles. :)

I have a Wishlist on The only big item I’m considering wishing for this year is the Kindle Fire. :)

I need a teapot. You know, the nice kind that goes on the stove.

Mostly, I like things that don’t cost a fortune, but will always remind me of the person who bought it for me. :)

That being said, it’s OK if you totally skip gift giving for this year. It won’t hurt my feelings. But I still might give YOU a gift…I haven’t reached total Grinchdom yet.

Happy holidays! There will be a Turkey Day weekend recap tomorrow. :)

I’m the kind of person that naturally gets bored and feels uninspired if I stay put for too long. I’m not sure why; it isn’t that I don’t have the capacity to be happy or content. Sometimes, I even value the feeling of safety and security that “home” offers me, and there’s nothing I’d rather do than hide out there for awhile. Those phases are often short-lived, however, and then I find myself plagued by restlessness and ready to chase adventure again.

Day #2:

Escape To Your Happy Place

At least for me, half the fun of going somewhere different is looking forward to getting there. Everyone has their own “happy place”, the place they’d much rather be, if there were no boring meetings, dull assignments, crying children, or endless obligations to attend to in life. For most people, it’s the first place you’d be likely to run off and hide out if you won the lottery tomorrow, quit your job, and had the personal freedom to go anywhere you wished.

My happy place is the beach, which is why I try to go at least once a year. Atlanta, being hopelessly landlocked and short on bodies of water, has the misfortune of having beach-worthy weather for at least 7 months out of every year, without any actual beaches nearby. The closest beach getaways are 5 hours away by car, too far for a day trip, and too inconvenient for non-drivers like myself.

It isn’t so bad, if you live in a nice complex with a pool—which, incidentally, I do not. My complex finally re-opened the pool, and it is now filled with screaming kids and angry, angsty teenagers all day long. It’s a far cry from some of the previous places I’ve lived in Atlanta, where I managed to spend an hour each day lying in the sun and shedding my vampire-like complexion for a few months. So, the result is that once March hits, I start looking forward to a trip to the beach.

I didn’t get to Savannah yet, although I’m determined to spend a weekend there at some point this summer. However, I’ll be visiting the Jersey Shore at the end of June, spending a lot of time lying on the beach and tuning out the entire world. In order to accomplish this, I needed a new bathing suit, and this one seemed to say “me”…at least today.

Sometimes, part of appreciating life is reminding yourself that you have freedoms, choices, options. While you might not always have the time, money, or energy to step away from your life and escape to your happy place, remembering that someday you will is motivating and invigorating. And, sometimes, your happy place might turn out to be exactly right where you are.

For as far back as I can remember, Christmas has always been one of my favourite times of the year. Never mind that I’m a summer girl, and that snow, ice, and temperatures below 50 degrees turn me at least 3 even more drastically whiter shades of pale, cause me to catch colds three times in 5 months, and leave me with a perpetual desire to hide underneath my electric blanket with the TV remote and flannel pajamas. Despite that, for the 4 weeks or so that fall between Thanksgiving and New Year’s (and include my birthday!), I’m clearly happy to be alive, prosperous, and enjoying the most festive time of the year.

Each year, I spend the holidays with my family, with the exception of one year involving an ex-boyfriend, snowstorms, and a broken-down car (which left us in a decidedly less urban area over the holidays, but the atmosphere was still warm, spirited, and charming, nevertheless.) Amusingly enough, after the end of my 10-to-14-day visit home, once the warm fuzzies have departed and everyone’s gone back to yelling at one another and pointing out why they’re glad Christmas only happens once a year, I can’t wait to get back to my home, my adopted family, and my normal life. But for the month of December, I’m a child again, one who can’t wait to get home and put up the Christmas tree in front of the fireplace, bake cookies, and listen to my mother’s favourite radio station on a month-long endless loop of sentimental carols and dedications to long-parted lovers, newly engaged couples, and children fighting in wars far away. Eleven months out of the year, it drives me completely insane. But at Christmas, I can’t imagine being anywhere else.

I’m also sentimental in another way, in that I love sending holiday cards, complete with photos and individually-crafted handwritten messages. I know that many people look at it as an outdated tradition, or an obligation, but I love taking the time out to tell someone special to me that I was thinking of him. I love the personal touch that, despite our technological advancements, e-mail just doesn’t quite convey.

So, when Shutterfly offered a promotion on their website, offering 50 free holiday cards to bloggers willing to share their holiday card stories, I was all about it. Each year, holiday cards are a huge part of my December ritual, encouraging me to break through the ice, snow, commercialism, and family squabbles to send a little bit of holiday spirit to those who’ve made my year a special one.

Are you a holiday card fan? Visit Shutterfly, and send one to those you love. And, if you’re a blogger, share your experience, and get 50 free holiday cards from Shutterfly.