Shine on.

holiday archwayConfession time: My banish-the-bah-humbug project is not going well. My biggest accomplishment most days is to at least not be nasty if I can’t motivate myself to be nice. December 2013 feels like the last six miles of The New Jersey Marathon I completed in 2005: the pain in my right knee had made me want to chew off my leg, and none of the medical tents along the course had aspirin. The last stretch toward the finish line was on the boardwalk in Long Branch, lined by lamp posts on my right-hand side. I focused on each approaching post and thought, “Okay, if I make it to this one, I’ll go to the next one.” I hobbled/jogged/hobbled from post to post until I crossed the finish with a knee the size of a grapefruit and a few less toe nails.

Each day this December has felt like that: “Okay, if I make it through this day, I’ll keep going to the next.”

Last year’s banish-the-bah-humbug project expanded my capacity to be generous and nice. It seems this year’s project is teaching me to appreciate the things in my life that keep me going.

My friend Ed Ramirez posted the following on his Facebook wall, and it moved me for many reasons. Ed’s reflection snapped me out of my pity party; I don’t have a monopoly on hard times. It also reminded me that instead of whining, I should be thankful that I have people in my life who listen to and care that I’m whining. Even when I feel like crap, I’m not alone. There are many people who are.

Thanks Ed, for keeping me stylish, caffeinated, and illuminated.

(If you’d like to contribute your banish-the-bah-humbug thoughts and be featured on la bloga, contact me via email or the Comments section of this post.)

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Holiday Heartache!

Many have a hard time around the holidays because they are alone, feel depressed, have no family by their side, etc. Hopefully this will encourage you to keep fighting because you’re worth it.

Four years ago right after my birthday (Dec 4) and before Christmas, I went away for the weekend. When I returned home, my house had been robbed. That would not have been the worst thing except the thieves stripped the copper plumbing and I couldn’t shower/use water or anything like that. I had spent thousands of dollars trying to restore this property with plans to purchase from the owners. It was a rent-to-own situation. I was heartbroken and forced to leave immediately.

My friend Trish offered me a room in her apartment, which I stayed in for a few days but felt bad because I was SO broke (I was living on the leanest budget of my life, considering the enormity of my monthly bills) and didn’t really have the money to pay her so I stayed with another friend and his family for Christmas and then lived in the back of my shop for 10 months on the hard floor. It was so cold during the winter. I would pull the gate down and pray every night that a fire wouldn’t erupt. I almost certainly would have burned to death.

With an extremely sparse shop income, I tried my best to renegotiate the lease at the Fairmount store. One day, the owner told me he wanted me to sign a document stating that if I ever got money in the future, I would have to pay him back. The pressure felt so incredible that I started to cry. He balled up the paper and hugged me, and told me not to worry about it. I was allowed to stay in the space until the very end of the lease. My rent was cut in half and sometimes I couldn’t even make that. He was an angel.

I did get a job at a restaurant via another friend, Viera. I was 37 and working part-time as a host, earning $11.50 an hour (raises came after). It was honest work and and the money helped. I stayed almost three years trying to make a go of my business and my finances. I left that job at the end of this past August and now spend much of my time working in JC. I am the happiest I have ever been in my life.

I guess what I’m trying to say is that things don’t always go the way we plan. We suffer much in this life due to circumstances beyond our control. But I have also seen the generosity of others who continuously support local businesses and artists in our community. These folks were an integral part of my fighting to keep myself from a broken spirit. I am eternally grateful.

So, as I walked by this archway covered in lights (seen in the accompanying photo), my thought was that somehow, someway, I could be one small twinkle in the life of someone who may be falling into despair. Don’t ever give up! We each have tremendous purpose and meaning. I can’t promise a life of ease, I can tell you that things do change over time.

A Happy & Healthy Holiday to everyone.

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Ed Ramirez is the founder and owner of Ed’s Salvage Co., a unique vintage shop in Jersey City, as well as Harry Street Coffee, located in the garden level of the vintage shop. Check out his locations, like them on Facebook, and banish the bah humbugs.

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