The Best Christmas Gift

During the holidays it is easy to get caught up in all of the commercialism of gifts.  And it is fun to buy gifts for people, it is one of my favorite things about this season, but it is not the main reason to celebrate.  As a Christian, I indeed celebrate the birth of Our savior, but I also celebrate those who are close to me as well.  All to often the holidays are also a reminder of all whom we have lost through out the years.

Last Christmas may not have been the worst, but it was close.  So this year, I was determined to make this holiday season good. No, great.  And sometimes that is what we have to do in life.  We have to make a decision to enjoy ourselves.  We have to make an effort, every day, to smile. to be thankful, to be gracious. Because it could always be worse, which is not a theory I want to test after the last few years.

And when we make that decision to enjoy what is around us, our whole outlook changes.  Last year, as the first Christmas without both parents, there was not too much too enjoy, as grief seemed to not only be at the table, but on the couch, on the bed, and moved in completely.  This year, was going to be different, dammit.

So there was decorations, and a real tree, that leaned a little too far to the right. There were also friends invited over to enjoy. Because the holidays must be spent with those we love and who love us.  So it would be my family of choice, And they did not let me down. And more friends over for Christmas dinner.

And so it was Christmas day, and there was a flurry of activity from the kitchen.  One of my best friends and my man, all prepping and helping get food ready.  And there was a ton of food. All kinds of yummies.  I made some of my mother’s favorite things.

And when it was all ready, and the table was set, I saw how blessed I am.  There, sitting at the family dinner table I have been sitting at since I was a little girl, the table that is now at my house, were my family of choice. My best friends who had come to share in good food, good drinks and lots of love for Christmas.

And after the meal, when the left overs were taken home, and everyone’s had full bellies, and all had left for the night, I looked out again mt my wrecked, messy kitchen and saw the best gift ever – love. There it as, staring back at me through dirty dishes piled up in the sick and all across the kitchen counter. And I loved it.

Life is short. Appreciate all those dirty dishes, because that means you have people who love you with whom to share your meals. And love is the best dish, and gift, of all.

Family Christmas

The holidays are all about family. I tried to outrun that last year, to no avail.  But this year it is my decision to embrace it fully.  This will be the best year of my family – the family I have chosen.  My friends are my family of choice and as such they are the cream of the crop.

There will be dinners and gatherings, wine and laughter.  There will be sharing and loving and toasts and meals and good food and conversations.  The Christmas tree is only half decorated, to make sure that ornaments are hung with those who mean the most. Company is coming and I am excited. And this Christmas will be the first of many happy ones.

There will be no more grief. Because the fact is, even though there has been so much loss, I am not alone. I am surrounded by everything and everyone that I want. The foundation on which my life is built is fertile ground. And it is within my reach to have the life of my dreams, full of love, happiness fulfillment.

Life is short. And it’s what we make it.  We can decide to drown in all the negative that happens, or we can rise above and soar. I will always soar. The view is so much better from up high.

The Phases of Christmas

There are different phases of grief, it is a process. And this year, this Christmas is a big milestone as far as that process goes.  The first holidays without loved ones are especially hard.  This entry is very raw and very vulnerable.  Honestly it makes me a bit uncomfortable, but if you are going to be honest and pour your heart out, then do it with purpose.  I am not the first to be here and I will not be the last.This is the end of this year, the end of all the loss and the end of the sadness. So, here it is, for anyone who might be going through the same:

Phase 1
I woke up for the first time in my life to an empty, quiet house on Christmas morning. I’m still not sure how to feel about that. I walked around and my Christmas lights were beautiful, the Christmas tree was beautiful, but it was so quiet. There was no one in the kitchen making breakfast for hungry eyes. There was no one inspecting the gifts under the tree. There was no Christmas music playing, or the sound of quiet conversation and laughter as people who got up early tried to be quiet and considerate of people who were still sleeping.

How lucky I was and have been, to have had so many wonderful Christmases filled with family. And how many people wake up on Christmas morning alone, like me that morning?
All the sudden I felt so much love for my mother. Every year from the time she had her first child at 27, until the Christmas right before she passed away when she was 74, she made an amazing home where everyone wanted to come and have Christmas morning. I thought of all the years that I woke up, ready to have breakfast and rip open presents. I thought of when I was a child and my sister and I had the tradition of getting up at 5am to play Monopoly until 6, and then would sneak out to see what was in our stockings, and then gently, carefully put everything back in our stockings. We would go back to play Monopoly again until 7am (when Mom and Dad said we could wake them up).
And I remember even after I’d grown up and moved away, making sure that I was home for Christmas, driving sometimes on Christmas Eve then wrapping all the gifts when I got in. Most of the time Mom’s gifts had already been wrapped as she would have bought them months earlier. When I was young and broke, I could afford the gifts but not always the wrapping paper and accessories. So I would wait until I got home to raid Mom’s impressive wrapping paper, ribbon and bow collection.
And wrapping was an art in our family. It wasn’t just wrapping a simple gift, no, it was trying to be mischievous and fool the receiver. A small box would be wrapped and then placed in a larger box and wrapped and placed in another larger box and wrapped again. There would be candy and buttons and things that make noise that would be placed in a box that held a book, so that when the gift with shaken, they would never know that it was just a book.
For many years I was The unofficial photographer of Christmas morning. When everyone got up and started to unwrap the gifts. it was I who would capture it all. All the wonder, and happiness, and family togetherness, and laughter, and surprise, and delight, and love of Christmas morning.
I wonder if my wonderful, sweet, brave mother ever spent a Christmas morning alone? If she had ever woken up on Christmas morning to an empty house? She came from a large family and so did Dad, so did she ever have that experience? She was married at 26, had children by 27. And did Dad ever wake up and spend a Christmas Eve or Christmas Day alone? It’s amazing how many questions you think of to ask your parents after they’re gone. Ask them now. I am acutely aware that they are gone. And I miss them so very much.
I’m blessed to have friends who have become my family with whom to spend Christmas dinner. And even more who have extended wonderful invitations. Life is a balance of appreciating what is gone and accepting and being thankful for what is now.
Phase 2
As I’m getting ready and going around the house, the memory of Last Christmas Creeps in. I was so sad and depressed… it was awful. I showered my Dad with as many gifts as I could possibly afford, getting him everything from new shoes to funny things for his cell phone, to clothes, to socks to everything I could possibly think of. I was trying desperately to make up for the fact that he was so miserable without Mom. I thought that maybe if I gave him enough gifts that he liked, I could make him smile an forget that he was miserable, if only for a second.
I buzzed around smiling and being Jolly, but I think he knew. And I remember my ex, who was so completely disinterested, but who tried to pretend anyway. Looking back he was always on his cell phone, now I know it was talking with strippers and prostitutes even then. I lavished him with gifts too, trying to bury the guilt of having involved him in my ordeal of Mom dying and then having to live with my terminally ill father.
I bought him a huge Craftsman tool box among other expensive things. Looking back I was trying to fill the terrible hold that grief had left inside of me by trying to make those in my life happy.  And trying to make up for the fact that life had imploded with death and being a full time caregiver. I thought that if I could give enough gifts, make enough people smile, try to make enough people happy, then maybe I could forget my grief for just a little while too. It didn’t work.
And last year, after a delicious Christmas dinner, it was time to take Dad back to the rehab center. I picked him up that morning and had to have him back before midnight that night. It was miserable too because he wanted more than anything to just be home. It was heartbreaking to leave him there Christmas night. And even more heartbreaking to go back exhausted to the empty, loveless house that I called home.
And that is why I even if I have sad moments now this Christmas, even when I shed tears and miss my parents so very much, I’m incredibly thankful that no Christmas will be as horrible as last year – hands down the worst holidays of my life. It is why I face this Christmas with an open heart and understand that there will be some heartbreak and that’s okay. Because last Christmas was the most heartbreaking Christmas of all, and I’m glad for all the opportunities for joy this year has given me. And I’m thankful for what the next year seems to hold. There’s been a lot of lost this year, but I’m still here. I still have the ability to love and to trust and to believe in people. And that in itself is a huge gift wrapped in a big bow.
Phase 3
I realized that I had the hang of this. That I could do this. The Yule Log was playing with a pretty fire and Christmas music. The cats were running around with new toys. I heard from many family members and friends exchanging Christmas and holiday wishes. I was feeling lots of love. It still felt really weird and surreal as I looked at pictures of Mom and Dad and thought of Christmas in my childhood.
Phase 4
Christmas dinner with at a friend’s house. There was rushing around to get everything  done and on the table at the same time.  There were people who loved me and who wanted me there.  And that felt really good.  It hurts to have my parents gone.  But I have found my roots, my family of choice.
There is validation and vindication at the same time. It feels good to be back, to have made it through this huge emotional time.  It feels good to have it done, because I feared the unknown of the holidays.  I have lost both parents, three siblings, one boyfriend and all of his family in the past 18 months. And now I have gone through the first Christmas without any of them. And I made it. If I made it through the past 18 months, I can make it through anything.
There is nothing more to dread. No more dates of the unknown, no more huge emotional triggers or timeframes.  New Years will be pretty easy – a celebration of saying goodbye to the bad, and saying hello to the wonderful happiness that is coming. I shed the skin of what has been and step into what will be.
Then the next moment is the first anniversary for Dad.  But since I have been through it with mom, I know what to expect.  That anniversary won’t be easy, but ti also won’t be the unknown.  I know what I am facing, head on. And I have the love of my friends and that love will build this life strong and good and lasting.
Phase 5

I did it. I made it through Christmas without you.

There were some tough and lonely moments, but I am blessed to have amazing friends that got me through. There was also joy and celebration. You guys raised me strong and loved me enough for a lifetime, but it doesn’t make making a life without you any easier. But I will be OK.  I love you Mom and Dad. For so many wonderful things, for so many reasons and for so many wonderful holiday traditions and memories. Most of all, I love you for being the most amazing parents in the whole world. Merry Christmas. Love and miss you always.

The Joy of Grief

We all have times in our lives that are tranistional. The thing about transitions is that they are often uncomfortable, and lonely, and weird.  No one promised that life would always be easy or happy.

This Christmas is such a transition for me. Because I am not sure where life is heading yet, but I have an idea.  This is the holiday that I will experience the joy and heartache of grief. The last several holidays were spent taking care of Mom and Dad, and making sure they had everything they needed for the best holidays they could have. I have always been taking care of someone at Christmas. Or had a huge family celebration to get ready for and attend. But this year, I am not. And from now on the holidays are whatever I want them to be, with whomever I choose.

This year there will be no big fan fare, no big dinners or baking desserts. There will be no big traditions on Christmas Eve or Christmas Day. It makes sense that this would be the quiet year, the introspective holiday, the Christmas of quiet. It’s almost like having to clean your palate after one course of a nice dinner, and before the next.

At first I was terrified of this first Christmas and holiday season alone.  But now I have settled into the acceptance of it.  You cannot outrun grief, or what it brings with it.  So I will face it head on, I will embrace it, invite it in for dinner and drinks and we will have a long conversation. It will be hard this Christmas, and that is OK.  It is the exquisite pain from having loved and been loved. It means that I had my parents for 43 years. Celebrate the love that leads to the grief.

It is a bittersweet right of passage, your first holidays without both of your parents.  You are supposed to miss them, and it is not supposed to be easy.  We were not promised a life that was always easy or happy.  Life happens, and we must experience it all, the good, the bad, the sad and the happy.

And so many people want to skip this part of it, because it’s not pleasant. But it’s just part of the whole process. And if we accept the fact that new, good and wonderful things are coming, that it doesn’t get easier from here, then we must also take time for the transition of grief. It’s the other side of the same coin called life.

It seems to me that this season is the space in between the heartbeats, In Between The Raindrops, in between breaths. It is normal to miss your loved ones who are no longer here at Christmas, it is normal to experience that grief. There is a natural order in nature and this is one of them. I will never have another Christmas like this one (thank God), because after this year, life is going to explode with joy. This holiday season makes the end of an era, and emotionally the end of the grieving period. I live my life for me now.

Many memories this Christmas, as I observe this beautiful holiday.  There will be much love, and friends and faith and prayers.  I will go to Midnight Mass.  I will curl up in a wonderful warm blanket and sleep cozy underneath.  There will be joy as well, as I experience and plan for new love. I will laugh and enjoy times with friends and feel the love they send me.

So let this holiday season wash over me, all of it, all the emotion, all the stillness, sadness, and grief. Because it makes way for all of the joy and happiness and goodness.  I love life, and that means experiencing heartbreak too. You cannot get around it. So experience all of it, and live life out loud to the fullest.  That is more than just the good and wonderful, because life is multilayered and multi faceted.

I will honor my wonderful parents by letting myself feel the grief that comes with this first holiday without them and I will write about it. If you are honest in what you write, you must be willing to spill your guts with purpose. Not only to be cathartic for yourself, but for others who might be going through the same.

Grief is a not a place to live for a long time, it is a place to visit.  But to get through those visits, you must be willing to joyfully feel all the heartache of it, of this part of life. Cry when you need to cry, scream, be mad, be sad, be whatever you need to be…and then you will have that part of it out of you system. And when you go back into the world you will be lighter, happier, better for the experience.


We did it. We survived our first Christmas without you. It was hard. Then it was OK. And there were moments of true joy. And then moments where my heart felt it would burst. Through it all you were in our hearts, and I think whispering around us, in the warm breeze, in the sounds of the birds and in the spirit of Christmas. I could feel you close, even if not able to touch you. We will be OK. You made sure we were strong. We will continue to move forward every day and make you proud by finding beauty in this world and many reasons to smile. Love and miss you always Mom. – Me

We all have hard times that we have to get through.  And some are harder than others. This was a tough one.  This was a big one.  What do you do when these times come about?  I don’t know.  My guess, or at least what seems to work for me, is just putting my head down and get through it.  I am not sure that there is a formula for getting through the hard parts.  I know that is not the popular thing to say, as many writers have made millions writing thousands of books on how to get through it.  The secret – It’s just time.  You put one foot in front of the other and take many, many baby steps.  And after time, a lot of time, you look back and see how many miles further you have traveled.

I received many messages of love and support about how hard this first Christmas without Mom would be,  And it was; there were moments that were brutal. I have always said that my life is like a sitcom, but this Christmas was more like a dramedy…Dad took a bad fall and had to be in a rehab facility building up his strength during Christmas.  But we were allowed to sign him bust him out for Christmas.  Never did I think I would be spring my Dad out of rehab for Christmas, but I live for adventure. And I have never seen anyone so excited to be home.

Christmas Eve, after everyone went to bed, I sat on the couch sobbing while looking at the beautiful Christmas tree, wishing, hoping, aching, for my Mother.  I cried for everything I have lost and would never have again.  I mourned the things that we would never do together, my mother and me.  The gifts not bought, cards not given, and adventures not to be had. And I fell asleep for a bit, there on the couch, by the tree with so many of her ornaments.  And I thought I felt her arms around me, heard her voice whisper on my ear. And I woke up feeling very loved.

And there were moments when Joy came in, like the sun breaking through the clouds.  Christmas morning came and there were gifts and smiles and so much love.  Seeing Dad excited, looking at all wrapping and bows and ribbons.  Unwrapping everything with childlike enthusiasm.  And my wonderful man, our second Christmas together, much different than we thought it would be. Watching them both get gifts that they loved. And there were Christmas carols, and the Christmas movies, and Christmas stockings, and then…Christmas dinner.

And I swear I could hear her laughing and see her smiling.  She loved Christmas. And at that moment I knew.  We were going to be OK.  We had finally turned a corner in this thing called grief.  We got thought it, we survived. We laughed and cried and remembered.  And at the end of the day, we were all OK.  And that’s the thing about love and grief.  Even when you feel like it is going to kill you, it really doesn’t.

Today it has been six months since Mom went into the hospital for her procedure.  I met her at the hospital to stay with her so she wouldn’t be alone.  The time spent with her then in priceless.  And we just had Christmas.  And finally, FINALLY, the sadness is not overwhelming. And I think she would be proud.

I looked at pictures of my mother from several years ago when she was still happy and healthy.  She was so beautiful. Always smiling with that mischievous look in her eye.  I had forgotten what that smile looked like, she had been tired for so long by the time she passed.  I choose to remember her that way – beautiful, happy, smiling, free.

And finally I can smile.

Oh Christmas Tree

In life there are many firsts.  Some of them good, some of them bad, some fall smack dab in the middle.  This first is bittersweet.  It is the first Christmas without my Mom.  Which means many other firsts too – the first Christmas tree without her, the first gift wrapping without her, the first year of my life that I will not be buying Christmas gifts for her.  You never realize just how many gifts that a person would enjoy until you lose them….and you still see gifts around the holidays that they would love. But somewhere along the way, you have to find more sweet than bitter if you are going to survive the holiday season.

This past weekend was time for another first. We went to pick it out, and Dad searched and found just the right tone.  I admit, I have never had a real one.  Growing up we always had an artificial Christmas tree.  This dates back to, what I have been told, the first Christmas that Mom and Dad were married.  They got a real tree, and loved it.  And then the holidays were over, and it was time to take the ornaments off and put the tree, well, whereever real trees go after Christmas.

This is where there was an impasse.  Dad firmly believed that it was the woman’s job to handle the Christmas decorations, including the disposal of the tree.  Mom felt that it was the man’s job to carry the large Christmas tree out the curb.  Both my parents are very stubborn.  Neither one was willing to budge.  And so there the Christmas tree sat, needles brown and falling off- through New Years, past Valentine’s day, and St. Patrick’s Day.  It was the Easter tree, the Maudi Grad tree…

I have been told that late in the spring, when they moved from that house, the movers finally took the tree and put in on the curb.  Thus there were no more live Christmas trees.

Until now.

So we went to the nursery and  found the perfect 8ft Christmas tree. And it does indeed smell wonderful.  And we have been decorating it a little each night.  And that is the hard part.  Because my mother collected Christmas ornaments for over 40 years.   And now I have them.  And they are wonderful and beautiful and amazing and make me feel close to her….but they also make me aware that she is not here. She Loved Christmas

I sobbed while hanging the first few ornaments on the tree. It was surprising how hard it was to see these glistening ornaments, some I remember as a child and was not allowed to touch (Small klutzy child + delicate ornaments = disaster). There were all the angels, and animals and Christmas mice, and even the cute little Christmas Octopus ornament (I bought that one for her).  There was the little sequin drum that she made with my sister and cousin.  There was the ball with the cork oriental building inside. There was the Christmas Skunk ornament (it sounds weird, but is really cute).

And there was putting up her absolute favorite Christmas display – the nativity.  It is a sight to see.  While it is not an ornament on the tree, it is a display that was very close to her heart.

Slowly, as each ornament is hung, and each display or decoration is arranged, and the tree  glistens with its lights, it gets just a tiny bit easier.  Because I do feel like she is near.  And because she did love Christmas.

And so as I smell the scent of the tree, and see her ornaments hanging, I find the sweet in the bitter. I find the comfort in the quiet glow of the lights and the soft sound of Christmas carols…I miss her so very much, but know somehow, someway, she and Santa are having a great conversation. I hope she puts in a good word for me.

The Oposite of Seasons

This is the season for parties, festivities, socializing, seeing old friends, making new friends and just a lot of hustle and bustle. It is a season of extraverts. But this season I am feeling anything but extravert.

This year I am feeling very be cozy and warm mama bearish. I just want to be home, or with a close circle of friends. Yes, the invites have been pouring in for this and that.  And surely these are people whose company I have enjoyed in the past. But my couch is so very comfortable and the fire is warm.

This year, after being terrible displaced from my home due to toxic mold, I am more appreciative of e safe place to hang my hat.  I want to make this space warm and welcoming to all those whom I love and care.

And as the pictures of festive parties, pretty dresses, fixed hair, perfect make up and lots of drinks are posted on Facebook and other social media outlets, I smile and click like from the comfort and warmth of my own hearth, on my flannel PJ’s and fuzzy socks (yes, super sexy, I know).

I sip wine and listen to my favorite music, unpacking, organizing, arranging furniture and getting settled.  And who says you have to be and about on the town seeing and being seen to be social? I have my friends close by, still meeting for dinners and drinks.  I run to theirs or they come to mine. It is nice and quiet and small and quaint.

There is home cooking – soups and sauces, new recipes and old favorite, smells and fragrances filling the house. Putting up and decorating the Christmas tree, with all the old ornaments from childhood that make me smile and love my parents. There is eggnog and mistletoe and kisses and laughter. There is the gentleness of starting over.

And sometimes, in the big world, it is good to be small and close.  It is good to make sure that all of our fingers and toes and accounted for and painted pretty colors, enjoying the small comforts that build the foundation of a good and happy life. Sometimes the small celebrations are even more meaningful than the big ones.

And sometimes, when it is all said and done, it is the building of many of those small moments that make a life worth living and loving. Sometimes being the opposite of the season is what gives it it’s meaning.

My Sitcom Life: American Tashedy Story

We all have those days where everything that can go wrong, will go wrong. Otherwise known as Murphy’s Law. That was my morning yesterday.

I set a pack of chicken out to thaw the night before in preparation of cooking a favorite recipe.  Those who know me know that I foster rescue kitties… So I get up yesterday  morning and what to my wondering eyes does appear? But the sight of pieces of chicken breasts, half eaten and scattered far and near. So the morning was spent tracking down what remained of the chicken. And let me just say that stepping on a piece of chicken early in the morning before even having coffee is not fun.

After the chicken was all cleaned up I got ready and it was time to leave. As I leave I realize it’s trash day. So I lean in to put my things in the car, and put my knee up on the seat. As I try to get out of the car…I notice the heal of my stiletto shoe is caught in the hem of my dress. So there I was, bent over, half way leaning into the car, hopping on one foot while reaching around to unhook my shoe. Finally got untangled.

Then it was time to get the trash can out to the curb. The very heavy trash can. And I tried to walk this very heavy monstrosity down a very steep driveway in 4” heels. And thought several times I might get run over by momentum of said trash can.  Legs can only go down a steep incline so fast in heels…and the trash can was gaining speed. Suddenly I saw my life flash before my eyes as I imagined the headline:

American Trashidy: Death by the Can

Forget Grandma getting run over by a reindeer, try singleton gets run over by the trash… the headlines would find ever clever way possible to frame the events that led to my death.  Thankfully I was able to steer over to the grass where I could dig my heels in (literally) and the trash can did not roll so easy. But it was a close call and I thought the trash can was going to win.

I am sure these events were very entertaining to my neighbors to say the least.  They were probably drinking their coffee and laughing that the new girl was dancing around and trying not to die a trashy death.

The rest of the day went surprisingly smooth, after I actually got out of the driveway. Such is the life of a clutz.

I can hear you laughing.

Merry Christmas!

Christmas Eve. That magic night when all things are possible.

The usual Christmas preparations have commenced- a whirlwind of cooking, cleaning, talking, visiting and planning. And now it all comes together. We all come together.

Two dear friends lost their parents this year recently. And I am acutely aware of how fragile is this thing called life, how precariously it is all balanced. And it makes me so very thankful that everyone is healthy and present via year.

And this is is extra special bcause my wonderful man will be with me. he has already met my entire family, and they all love him. It will be the first I many celebrations with us.

And yet, my thoughts and prayers are wig hose who have lost loved ones or who cannot be home to celebrate.

So Merry Christmas!

Rules for Christmas

I saw this on a friends Facebook Status and had to share!  Please enjoy and get ready to laugh!!
1.Avoid carrot sticks. Anyone who puts carrots on a holiday buffet table knows nothing of the Holiday spirit. In fact, if you see carrots, leave immediately. Go next door, where they’re serving rum balls.
2. Drink as much eggnog as you can. And quickly. It’s rare… You cannot find it any other time of year but now. So drink up! Who cares that it has 10,000 calories in every sip? It’s not as if …you’re going to turn into an eggnog-alcoholic or something. It’s a treat. Enjoy it. Have one for me. Have two. It’s later than you think. It’s Christmas!
3. If something comes with gravy, use it. That’s the whole point of gravy. Gravy does not stand alone. Pour it on. Make a volcano out of your mashed potatoes. Fill it with gravy. Eat the volcano. Repeat.

4. As for mashed potatoes, always ask if they’re made with skim milk or whole milk. If it’s skim, pass. Why bother? It’s like buying a sports car with an automatic transmission.

5. Do not have a snack before going to a party in an effort to control your eating. The whole point of going to a Holiday party is to eat other people’s food for free. Lots of it. Hello?

6. Under no circumstances should you exercise between now and New Year’s. You can do that in January when you have nothing else to do. This is the time for long naps, which you’ll need after circling the buffet table while carrying a 10-pound plate of food and that vat of eggnog.

7. If you come across something really good at a buffet table, like frosted Christmas cookies in the shape and size of Santa, position yourself near them and don’t budge. Have as many as you can before becoming the center of attention. They’re like a beautiful pair of shoes. If you leave them behind, you’re never going to see them again.

8. Same for pies. Apple, Pumpkin, Mincemeat. Have a slice of each. Or if you don’t like mincemeat, have two apples and one pumpkin. Always have three. When else do you get to have more than one dessert? LaborDay?

9. Did someone mention fruitcake? Granted, it’s loaded with the mandatory celebratory calories, but avoid it at all cost. I mean, have some standards.

10. One final tip: If you don’t feel terrible when you leave the party or get up from the table, you haven’t been paying attention. Re-read tips; start over, but hurry, January is just around the corner. Remember this motto to live by:

“Life should NOT be a journey to the grave with the intention of arriving safely in an attractive and well preserved body, but rather to skid in sideways, chocolate in one hand and wine in the other, body thoroughly used up, totally worn out and screaming “YEE-HA!!! WHAT A RIDE!!!”

The Funniest Christmas Ever

There are Christmas Traditions in every family. Whether it’s when to open your gifts, to going to church on Christmas Eve, to that strange dish that always makes it to the table for Christmas dinner, they are what makes the holiday season, well, feel like the holidays. Growing up we has several traditions. One was the Annual Hunt for Presents that was played with my mother. My Mother being the one who went searching for the gifts.

My Mother cannot stand to have gifts under the tree and not know what they are. The curiosity drives her crazy. When we wrapped gifts she would wait until we went to bed, or until we were in school, she would open the gifts and take a peak. When we caught her one day, we decided to make a game of it. From then on, we would tell her when we bought her Christmas gifts and tell her they were hidden somewhere in the house. Her mission, should she choose to accept it, was to find the gifts before Christmas, or she would have to wait until Christmas to open her gifts.

We would go through great lengths to hide the gifts. Every day we would come home from school to see if she found the gifts. But there was one year we outdid ourselves. We just knew that was the year she would not find the gifts and we would win the game. we had bought her some new outfits. My sister, being older and more meticulous, neatly folded the clothes and carefully put the in the back of some pillow shams. Yes, it was brilliant.

And it almost worked.

Mom said she searched all week for our hidden gifts. Finally, out of despoeration, she tore our beds apart. After still not noting the gifts, she started making the beds up when she happened to see a little extra bulk on the back of one of the pilow shams. She was victorious, as she once again found out hiding place. But it is one of the fondest traditons of which I have memory.


The Joys of Christmas

Day 28, Christmas decorations:  Today I am thankful for Christmas decorations.  This past Thanksgiving weekend, my Mother decided to pass her huge collection of Christmas Ornaments on to My sister and I. This was sad and exciting at the same time. Sad because she will not be putting up a Christmas Tree, exciting because the ornaments I have looked at since I was a little girl will now be hanging on my tree.

The decorating has already started and by the time it is all done, it will look like Christmas exploded in my house. Already there is mistletoe, Mr. and Mrs Claus by the front door and big red velvet bows.  There are Christmas place mats and table clothes, bowls, candle holders, stockings and stocking holders. There are Christmas pot holders, mantle decorations, a table top Christmas tree, tinsel, wall hangings and Salt and pepper shakers. And that is just the beginning! 

The Christmas tree will be put up and decorated tonight. My little Charlie Brown tree will be loaded down with Christmas ornaments old and new. There will be lights, balls, crosses, angels, bears, sheep, candy canes, mice, bells, bows, Santas, and even a Christmas Octopus. Oh, it will be wonderful. And the whole time the tree is being decorated, there will be Christmas music playing.

Did I mention I get a little excited and go maybe a little bit overboard with the Christmas  decorations? But it makes me happy to sit at night, with all the lights off, except of the soft glow of my little Christmas tree, lights shining like little diamonds. Once I even kept it up until September. It was the New Years Tree, the St. Pat’s Day Tree, the Easter Tree, the Labor Day Tree…it was great even if all of my friends made fun of me and called me a redneck. I just hated the idea pf taking it down. (note: The ornaments get very dusty when left up that long. Dust often)

The first year I had a cat I made the mistake of putting the pretty tinsel onto the tree…and then I discovered a very colorful litter box. Oh you have not experienced the joys of pet ownership until you have fished multi-colored tinsel out of a little box.

Then there was the cat who loved to get a running start and fly into the Christmas tree. His name was Taz. I came home once and found all but one branch torn off the tree that year. Well, the branches he did d not try to eat anyway. That was also the year he ate my favorite strappy sandals, my iPod and my favorite sweater. Alas, I do not have that very sweet, albeit hungry kitty anymore.

There was the time I got tangled up in my Christmas tree and fell to the floor with a thud. I am sure to the outside public it might have looked as if the tree had come alive and was flailing around the floor. It might have even  looked like a Christmas tree monster. Oddly enough, my cats have been terrified to come near the Christmas tree since then.

And this year will be extra special. I did not put a tree up last year as I was just too busy. That was the first year of my life that there was no Christmas tree, so this year must be extra special to make up for it.

So let the decorating begin!




The Wedding Band

The Wedding Band

It is beautiful. Made of gold and platinum. I have looked at many years, at how it sparkles when the light catches the beveled edges just right. How it shines and how the many years of wearing have only made it shine even more brilliantly.To me it symbolizes love, loyalty, honor and happiness. My Mother gave it to me this past summer when I was to be married. It is her wedding band, the band that symbolizes her 44  years (and counting) with my father. I nearly cried when she gave it to me.

And I kept wearing it even after, as it comforted me to feel it around my finger, letting me know that I am never alone in this world. That there are always those who love and will stand behind me. This ring also symbolizes everything that I have been taught about how to be a good woman to the man you love.  To me it symbolizes the kind of values, relationship and marriage I want when that time comes. It also reminds me that the best love stories are the ones that happen over time, it is evidence of that slow burn. They knew each other and were friends for 5 year before they were married. Theirs is truly a love story of a lifetime.

And mostly because, all because, it reminds me of the love my parents have had and always will have for each other. They are a constant source of inspiration for me.

I remember not so long ago, my parents walking along the banks of the water, holding hands talking and laughing. My sister and I were so mesmerized by their love for each other that we could not take our eyes off of them. We just sat and watched them as they walked around, hand in hand, after so many years. It was truly heartwarming.

I have many beautiful pieces of jewelry, diamond rings, necklaces and bracelets. And yet I do not wear them often. What I do wear every day, is this ring. To me, it is the most beautiful piece of jewelry that I have ever owned. And when I look down at it, on my finger, I know, without a doubt, that I am loved. That they are with me, that I am never alone. It is one word: Connection. It is the physical reminder of the connection of family, and all that my family means to me.

Mom and Dad laughing as I tried to take a picture of them

It reminds me of my fathers voice, and his kind words of advice to me over the years, of working on my car, in the rain. It reminds me of when he would try to read me fairy tales when I was a child and he would always mispronounce the names. It reminds me of the many funny moments I have had with my mother and how she has always supported me, held me as I cried through my teenage, and even adult, heartaches. How she taught me, and teaches me still, how to cook her wonderful recipes. How both of them show me how they love me in their own individual ways.

And it makes me love that wedding band all the more.

Christmas Rush

And so it is…the day before the night before Christmas, and I’m busy, busy!  Working to get the last of projects completed before leaving, rushing to get the last few gifts bought, rushing to see friends before celebrating with family. Oh, but I am having the best time, because it seems this year, that people are having the best time, they are nicer and kinder. Even yesterday, driving to the airport in horrible rainy, tornado warning weather, people let me over when I needed to change lanes. No one was speeding, cutting off, or going to slow. This year there just seems to be a general kindness in the air.

I have seen happy shoppers, happy children and parents at restaurants, happy couples holding hands and snuggling in the cold. I have seen happy grandparents, just a happiness in general. No, not that everything is perfect, not those people not not still struggling, they are. But even those who I have seen struggling are thankful for t=what they do have.

Maybe it’s Christmas? Maybe it is the economy and people being aware that whatever the party, we are all in this together. Maybe it is thankfulness that we have family and friends in a most unsure time. Maybe people are more acutely aware tight now, that we all have things to be thankful for, no matter where we are in life. Whatever it is, i have seen more laughter, kindness and happiness recently. And it is nice. And contagious.

So this year, the Christmas rush is feeling so happy, so thankful and blessed. This year, the Christmas rush is driving and letting that person in, because someone let me in when I needed to change lanes. This year, the rush is putting a little more in the Salvation Army bucket…because I can and I should. And this year, may you have a a lot to be rushed about too.


Sitcom Moment #37…Oh Christmas Tree

Written a few years ago and thought I would share. Enjoy!

This year I could not wait to put up my Christmas tree, so last night I broke out the new artificial one (the cat peed on the one last year, so had to throw it away).  As I weaved the lights in and out of the limbs on the tree, my heart filling with the joy and excitement that only the season can provide, I noticed the light strand was a bit tangled.

Now, if you find yourself in this situation, please, unplug the lights before untangling.  I did not do this and found myself temporarily blinded when finished and looked back up at the tree.  Well, in the true spirit of a Pinktank (my nickname), I tripped over where the lights were plugged into the wall – falling, blindly, flailing, into the Christmas tree.

As the tree and I not so gracefully fell to the floor, I could hear “Chestnuts Roasting…” playing in the background.  When the fall had been completed, I was tangled in a combination of lights, light chords and Christmas tree limbs.  Surely anyone watching would have died laughing, as I clumsily tried to stand up, still attached to the tree; it jerking and moving in ways that are completely unnatural for an artificial tree, and I spitting out plastic needles.  The cats had run into the corner, shaking in fear that this Christmas tree monster might come and eat them (maybe this will be enough to keep them out of it).

I did finish decorating the tree and no ornaments were harmed…can’t say the same for the tree. It is now a little lopsided and leans a bit to the left.

Maybe Santa will put some Grace in my stocking…

A Museum, a Birthday and a Visit

This weekend has been wonderful, full of ripe moments of family, friends, love, laughter and warmth. My Mother, Father, Sister and Nephew all here to visit. My father has his )hopefully last) treatment for liver cancer, my nephew is turning 21 today, and my sis is up to help celebrate. And this entire weekend has been a celebration.

It started Friday as The Man and I spent great time together.Easy, fun and we discussed all that was ahead. This experience has been delicious. We went to dinner and had a good time laughing and listening to live music. When back at my place I cleaned the house getting ready for my family’s visit, as he relaxed and kept me entertained. Time snuggling on the couch after housework was a great reward for everything being done.

The Man on Dad's Boat, Thanksgiving

I find I truly enjoy “playing house” so to speak. It may sound very 1950’s, but I do enjoy cooking, and even cleaning, when someone else is around the house, feeling the happy hum of contentment. I love making my house comfortable and enjoy whipping about while he relaxes.  I have been on my own, self-sufficient, self-reliant and independent for so long, it is nice to do something just for the pleasure of someone else, or just in their company. He seems to delight in watching me too. He smiles when I trip over the cats, or the vacuum cleaner chord, or whatever, as I am so very clumsy. He laughs at the fact that I may already be plotting to steal his socks (as I have previously written, I have a thing for mens socks). He tells me I am adorable and beautiful, which of course, I love to hear. I am enjoying the ease, comfort and trust with which we move. And I trust him.

We talk of the future, how it is to be taken slow, but how we hope it leads to something. He and I have known each other for quite a while. He is patient with me. He knows I am a bit delicate now, and respects it. Somehow he knows how to encourage steps forward without taking advantage of my vulnerability. I hear his words “There is plenty of time,” and feel safe. I feel safe in his presence.

Saturday I picked my up my wonderful nephew for our annual traditional birthday trip to the museum. Every year his birthday

weekend I take him their. We have a great time, talking about the art, what we see in the paintings and sculptures, we laugh sometimes at what passes at art, and stare deeply at other pieces that seems to stir something deep inside. We people watch, and discuss and wonder about the lives of the other guests. We discuss topics of life. It is just a great time to spend with this young man, and it is our own tradition we have carved out and look forward to.

The Picasso
My Favorite
The Warhol

By the time my nephew and I returned home, the rest of my family had arrived. There were many hugs, and they were tight, as this season seems to be so much more meaningful than the ones past. The last time all of my family was together at my house was 4  months ago, when my ex attacked me 2 days before the wedding.

I have since heard from a friend that he has posted a letter to me, saying how he would still be open to talk and move past this…yet mentioned nothing of attacking me, choking me, threatening to kill me, robbing me, running from the police.  If he wanted to get past what happened and he really wanted to heal, he would be honest about what really happened. And he will never heal until he is honest about what happened. It just depends on how bad he wants it. Until he admits what he did – in detail – I will never communicate with him. (on a side note, apparently he threw the ring and earrings he gave, then stole from me in the ocean. Shame, so many could have benefited if he had sold them and given the money to charity. So many are in need this season. At least then others would have benefited from the ugly situation. Toys for Tots, The Salvation Army, The Red Cross…Or he could have simply given them back to me – with an apology.)

Saturday night was a delicious home cooked meal I prepared for my wonderful family. We talked, laughed, ate and drank in fellowship and love, each enjoying the company of all those around the table.  My father even went back for seconds, which is a huge compliment. Saturday night time was spent with The Man and my family and I drifted away to sleep with a warm soul. I am truly blessed to have all that I have in  my life, and the people are what make it wonderful.

Today was spent shopping and shopping. I am surrounded my techies and computer geniuses in my family, and I am the lone creative person. I don’t get computers and technology at all. And we went to Micro Center. And BrandSmart, my three family members like kids in a candy store, walking around wide eyed and with silly grins on their faces. They looking and grinning at all the things hanging in the isle and on the shelves, me wondering if they have a vending machine handy. I did have a nice compliment paid, as a very attractive man asked me if I had anyone special to buy gifts for this season. I blushed, smiled and said yes, I do, but thanked him for the compliment.

Tomorrow is dinner with the nephew and his first (legal) beer. He has finals this week, so he can’t celebrate too hard. Also, Dad’s final appointment and his cancer should be cleared. This Christmas season there is so many reasons to be thankful, so many blessings, so many things that have turned out OK.

Me after the whipped cream fight at Mom's

My Favorite Christmas Traditions

We all have those holiday traditions. And through the years, some change and some keep going. This year is a mixture of both. As my life changes, so do the traditions. A bit untraditional maybe, but I am very much getting rid of old baggage and things not needed. Some traditions may need to be taken out. I decided way back in June that this was the year to grab onto the new and trash what is not needed of the old. Traditions do give us  and consistency in an ever-changing landscape of life. But sometimes it is good to make new traditions, and new memories. And the nominees are:

The Christmas Tree: Every year I have friends and family help put it up. This year is not different, with cheesy Christmas music playing and the eggnog flowing, it is a tradition that must be kept. And my little Charlie Brown Christmas tree? Yes that is staying too, even though many have said I need a better tree. And, in keeping with my tradition, I may just let this years tree stay up past Easter. Again. After all, it is tradition!

The Date:  I typically avoid dating during the holidays. Like the plaque. If I am not already dating someone by the Beginning of November (possibly early October) I typically do not date until after the new year.  This tradition gets rid of the “I don’t want to be alone during the holidays” boys, and the awkward “What do I get someone I have only been dating a month” Christmas gift exchange. This tradition needs to go, obviously. And I am enjoying this year and shopping, which is a very pleasant surprise.

The Mistletoe: This tradition simply needs to be altered a bit. Even thought I do not normally date anyone during the holidays, I do usually engage in some holiday mischief. I hang up mistletoe and insist any man who crosses my threshold must kiss me. This year, that will not be the case, though I do plan to have the same amount of kisses, if not more, under the mistletoe.

The Cheesy Christmas Music: Blasting all the Christmas Carols I can in my car and house is a must. From Celine Dion, to Wilson Philips to Michael Bolton…the cheesier the better. This tradition stays. period.

The Stocking Shuffle: Every year, Christmas Eve, we sneak around each other and put “things” in the stockings. We are so Sneaky, we are Neaky…the S is silent (just an example of how cheesy things can get, and yes you can quote me). They are not expensive, could be pencils, candy and cute hand puzzles, but they are tiny little things that are given for the pure pleasure and enjoyment of it.  Every year my sis brings the stockings to my parents house, along with their hangers, and they are hung by the chimney with care. Yes, this tradition stays.

The Shopping: This defiantly gets changed this year. Usually shopping is done early, except for maybe a few last-minute gifts. This year, the holidays snuck up on me and I have not even started shopping. I may even have to go into a mall this year, which is something that I do try to avoid in a big city around Christmas. Pray for me.

The Socks: Every year, for over 20 years now, I give my father socks. This is more than a tradition, it is a requirement.  When I was about 15, the style was to wear the big, bulky socks. Well, I just went into my fathers sock drawer and took them. This went on for months when my mother finally came to me and said that my father thought is was sweet that I stole his socks, but he was running out. So, would I mind replacing them every now and then? And the tradition was started, that every gift giving opportunity, whether Father’s Day, birthday, anniversary, Christmas, whatever, he was given socks along with his regular gifts. And I still steal mens socks (as all boyfriends know).

The Pictures: Every year I am the photographer for the family.  I don’t see this changing, though I may have some competition as other family members are also very good at snapping those great candid shots.

Monopoly: Growing up, every year my sister and I would get up at the crack of dawn (5am) and play monopoly until 6am. Thenwe would sneak out, and look in or stockings (something we were not supposed to do). We then went back to playing Monopoly until 7, when we were allowed to wake our parents up and start ripping into the gifts. While sis and I have not done this in many, many years, we still have very fond memories.

Decorating Mom’s Tree:  Yes, it is a fake tree. Mom has put up a fake tree since the “Live Tree Incident of 1971’ish”. Mom and Dad were married and put up their first live tree. They had a disagreement about who should take it down – Dad, because it was the man’s job since Mom put it up, or Mom, because she was in charge of the interior of the house. Needless to say, with both my parents being just a tad stubborn, the live tree stayed up until they moved the next April…after it had long died and all of the little needles had all fallen off. Now we do fake trees.

This has been a family tradition every year since I was a child.  And Mom putting up the tree has always been a huge deal. It took Mom several days to put up the tree, shape the branches, and string the lights from the inside of the tree onto each one of the 2,000 tips. Then there are all the ornaments she has been collecting for 30 years. We each get our favorite ones and hang them on the tree. Oh, and the Snitch Baskets – little baskets full of candy that you have to sneak to eat. The tradition has been modified a bit, it is now a prelit tree to help save time and Mom’s back.

The Dinner: This will always be a tradition.  Mom, or one of us girls, cooks a wonderful Christmas dinner. It is usually Polynesian (or however it is spelled) ham. I tried to make it one year, but used too many whole cloves and it turned out to be…less than appetizing. I leave it to the experts, namely my mother, now. There are green beans and corn, and casseroles, and too many wonderful things to even be able to eat.  Then there are all the baked goods. Mom’s traditional Candied peanuts, which everyone goes crazy for. And the Pecan Kisses, than every one loves. Then there is the banana bread, pumpkin bread, sour dough bread. And the fantasy fudge and cheesecakes. YUM!

The Nap: It happens every year, it is just a bet to see who is the first one to fall.  We all end up falling and curling up in a bed, or on one of the world-famous, so comfortable you fall asleep on them couches, and nap. Happy, wonderful deep napping. OK, that tradition isn’t going anywhere either.

There are other new traditions I hope to start this year as well, but I don’t want to give those away yet, I want to savor them first. And these are my favorite Christmas tradtions.

The Best Gift

We all have that one gift that we have been given, that one that just stands out more than any other.  It could be a Red Ryder BB gun, a dollhouse, a whatever that one childhood toy that you always wanted more than anythign else in the world. And throughout the years, it stands out as the best gift. Ever. As I was watching How the Grinch Stole Christmas, because I am a Christmas sap, my mind went back to my childhood and that one gist for me.

I can’t remember how old I was, maybe 8 or 9, but I was very into Barbie Dolls. I loved my Barbie dolls like Ralphie loved his Red Ryder BB gun, maybe even more. My parents have always been craftly people, but that Christmas they surprised even me.  I got up on Christmas morning to the most amazing gift that has been given to me to this day.

There were all these little BArbie clothes laid out…wonderful patterns and modern outfits that were very well made, not like the cheap Barbie clothes you bought in the store…because these clothes, these tiny little clothes hadd been hnad stitched by my mother. Stitches so small a machine could not do them, they had to be done by hand. There were little jumpsuites and dresses made of soft wanderful flowy fabric, wonderful shirts, pants and skirts, all so very well put together and stylish. A thousand stitches by hand, sewn with love.

But that was not all. While some were laid out, others outfits were hung up in a hand made Barbie Doll case taht my father had lovingly made by hand.  This doll case had two drawers, perfect for holding all the shoes, brushes, rings, earrings, purses and whatever other Barbie Doll accessories. It had a litle mirror in it (for the dolls), compartments for storing the dolls, and even a wardrobe area to hang all the hand stitched clothes – and here is the wonderful kicker – the clothes that were hanging in the wardrobe area, were hanging on tiny little hand made wire hangers, that my father had also made for me. And this wonderful hand made with love, one of a kind case had an inscription: To Miss Ada Lamar Burch, with love, from her Daddy.

To this day, after many expensive gifts that have been given to me over the years, this one Christmas, those gifts are the best I have ever recieved. The time and the love it took to make those wonerful things for me make my heart warm every time I see them – and yes, I still have all of the clothes and the case.  I have the best parents in the world. And all my life, that has been the best gift.



Let the Madness Ensue!

It is that time of year again, that mad, mad holiday season.  And the mad dash begins, at least for me, to get everything done in time and on time.  OK, so I am perpetually late for everything, so who am I kidding about the on time part? But one can always hope.

Today I am working. I came in early so I could leave early, and I will make a mad dash to the grocery store, then home to clean and pack for the weekend trip, and get everything ready for my weekend company as well. A I am going out of town, some good friends are coming in to town and will be staying at my place.  Clean sheets and towels need to be placed, as well as instructions for the new security system, along with making sure everything they need is available.

There is vacuuming, dusting, picking up, litter box duty, making sure all dishes are done and a thousand other little details to see to so that there stay is comfortable. Then there is all I need to do to pack and get ready for the trip. The car, the coolers, the plants, the everything else. Getting my nephew situated. Getting to bed early and getting up at the crack of dawn, hitting the Waffle House for coffee and hitting the road.  The crowd at the family homestead will be a large on this year and there will be much laughter, wine, tears, love and memories shared. And lots of pictures.  I am the unofficial family photographer and I will make sure there are plenty of candid shots taken.

After gobbling up all the turkey, there will be the mad dash for the holidays…the shopping, the parties, the dresses, the pictures, the hobnobbing, the traffic, the decorations, the wrapping, the lights, the carols, the music, hot chocolate, the stockings, the stocking stuffers, the family, the cooking, the baking, the eating, wonderful deliciousn everything of it all.

So let the madness ensue!

Oh Christmas Tree!

Oh Christmas Tree, it has been so long since I have seen your wonderful branches!  For those of you who know me, you may or may not know the whole thing I have with Christmas, or my wonderful, beautiful Charlie Brown Christmas tree. IT is called that because it is a bit old (bought in 1992) and it leans a little. Yes, to most it would be time to toss the tree, but I just love it.  I cannot get rid of this little thing. I actually think of it more as the Velveteen Tree…you know, it is so old and loved that most of it’s “fur” is missing.

And decorating my tree, that leans to the side ever so slightly, is a big tradition. I there is much cheese, as in cheesy traditions. Yes, there are Christmas corals that are played, eggnog, hot chocolate, a fie in the fire place…the whole thing.  I put the tree together, put the lights on it, then commence with the decorations.  I have a ridiculous amount of ornaments, especially for a tree that small.  But I can’t help it, decorating the tree was always be big deal in out family. So I dig out all the wonderful, sparkly, ornaments.  There is the Kneeling Santa, The Grinch, a wide assortment of angels, many that my mother gave me or passed on to me from my childhood, there are ornaments that were gifts and others I bought while traveling around the world. All of them are loved.

And my cats do not mess with the tree…except for one cat, Taz the Spaz, but he has since been relocated. He would actually get a running start on his assault of the tree…and fly into it. I have never seen anything like it before.

So tonight, my C will help me put it up, then we will snuggle on the couch and admire it’s awesomeness.