Monday, December 30, 2013

Take The Time

We're creeping quickly up on the end of the year, ReaderFriends.

You know what that means...

More food! Yay! New Year's means an extra day of feasting and festivities. As a child, it meant taking down my grandmother's Christmas tree and watching the parade. As an adult, it means a bonus day off from work to recover from staying up all the way until 12:05 to yawn through a "Happy New Year" to Boyfriend of Amazingness before crashing like a toddler in a sugar slump.

(But really...)
New Year's means that I have to come up with a new resolution.

But first, let's take a second to look back at how well last year's resolution served me.

On January 1, I resolved that I would "Take The Time." Here's a snippet:

This was such a busy year. The past holiday season has really highlighted the fact that I've been scrambling through, trying to do everything to the best that it could be done, and failing miserably more than half the time.

In dance, I didn't practice nearly as often as I should have.

In my home, I didn't clean up or do laundry nearly as often as I needed to.

At work, I made more than one mistake because I was rushing through tasks, jumping from one to the next.

My friends, my family and my love spent more time than I care to admit being pushed to the back burner as I worked frantically on other projects instead of spending time with them.

And my own health suffered from time to time, as I neglected to focus on myself.

So, through the coming year, my intent will be to Take The Time.

*  In dance, I will take the time to practice and focus on what I DO know, instead of rushing out to absorb new knowledge at the risk of losing what I've already not focused upon.

*  In my home, I will take the time to tidy up the dishes immediately following a meal, and I'll run a load of laundry as soon as the dirty clothes basket is full. Short bursts of well spent energy will mean more time to lounge in a tidy home.

*  At work, I will focus on each task as it presents itself, in order to complete them thoroughly and not have to waste time returning to them for hastily made mistakes.

*  I'm going to take the time to write. Maybe not every day. Maybe not things that make sense, or words in a recognizable language. But I'll tap my keys, twirl my pen and put thoughts down just as often as I can.

*  My friends and family will find themselves burdened more regularly with my presence for meals together.

*  My Boyfriend of Amazingness will be sick of me after I'm through taking the time to appreciate all that he does.

*  And, damn it all, I'm going to take the time to say "No" once in a while. It's okay to turn down an opportunity if something I love is going to suffer for it.

Even if that means saying "No" to myself and my self-imposed restrictions. Dish-doing comes second to time-spent-with-loved-ones. Sometimes you just have to say no.

What is it that poetical man said about "Best Intentions?" Yeah... whoever he was, he hit that nail on the noggin.

2013 wasn't any less busy than 2012. I rushed, I rallied and I stressed my way through portions of the year.

I danced some, but not as much as I should have.

I cleaned more than I had, but still not enough.

I had about a 65% success rate with seeing family and friends who wanted to be seen, and often they had to do the travelling to get to our rendezvous.

And my writing... well, my writing was pretty abhorrent.

But you know what I did do this year?

I was there for a grieving family as they said goodbye to father/grandfather much too soon.

I moved out of the apartment I hated and into a home that I love - A home that I own with a man who I'm thrilled to get to spend the rest of my life with.

Together with that man, I adopted a young dog and have - so far - managed to impart basic manners upon said beasty and continue making strides together towards being a polite family unit.

I made it through to the other side of a health issue that caused heartache and tears for the past three revolutions around the sun.

I made it through a new health issue that caused me to be a monstrous, angry beast.**1

I worked.

I played.

I ate and drank.

I sang.

I loved and was loved.

And while I didn't Take The Time to do the things I thought I needed to do at the beginning of the year... I lived a wonderfully full year and I'm hopeful that I came out the other side better than I went in (and imparting some good upon the people in my life as well).

So that's that, 2013. We've had our fun, but I look forward to seeing what your newer, younger friend has in store.

To 2014! Hurrah!

**1 Estrogen rage. It's a thing. An angry, sweaty, tearful, high-blood-pressure-causing thing. But it doesn't have to be a thing. And coming through to the other side gives remarkable clarity and knowledge of what's worthwhile, and what's not worth getting cranked up about, and how in-control I really am when I'm healthy versus when I'm not.

Thursday, December 26, 2013

On the First Day of Christmas...

And so, Christmas is over. And with it comes the same sense of loss that I've felt every Boxing Day since I can remember.

Christmas is over. Presents are done, feast is finished, and all that remains of the season is a tree in my living room that's more fire hazard than festivity. I need to tidy the house and make way for the coming year.

But I still feel sad.

At first, I think about what I could have done to make the Christmas Spirit last longer. Maybe if I had gotten that one extra gift, the merriness would have stuck around through today. Maybe if I had saved a slice of pie instead of eating it all with my family. Maybe if I had done one of a zillion things differently that I do every Christmas day, this year would have been different.

But that's not how it works. The idea behind a tradition is that you do some activity or another the same every year, to the same result. I wouldn't trade a single slice of pie or a single gift beneath the tree for the happy faces I see on Christmas with my family. And what I ask for - this extension of Christmas - wouldn't extend their happiness.

So as I sit here, brimming with leftover cheer that would otherwise be wasted, I find myself grateful that my sister, my mother and I have decided upon a new tradition this year:

We will be indulging in the Twelve Days of Christmas.

Specifically, we exchanged stockings and some gifts on Christmas day. We had food, we had merriment and we had naps while the dogs played (and played... and played... One of my gifts was a quiet evening at home while the Young Master snored on my foot. It was adorable.) and it was lovely. But it was over too soon, as it always is.

And so this year, on Twelfth Night, there will be more gifts. There will be more feast. And there will be more spirit.

Because sometimes more is more.

Friday, December 20, 2013

Santa, Baby!

This is a particularly busy time of  year for The Big Guy in Red.

I'm not sure what it is about my  own circumstances this year that have me pondering him so deeply...

Perhaps it's that I picked up a babysitting gig for the season because money has gotten excruciatingly tight. Spending so much time with doe-eyed babes (okay, so they're pre-teens. But they're children, still, and they have that child-like wonder that I cherish...) is bound to make a childless phenomenon such as myself think twice about the glowing eyes of tiny tots playing beneath a tree. It's hard not to think about Santa when you're with little ones at Christmastime.

Perhaps it's the money situation. Knowing that Christmas will be frugal and filled with more cheer than with actual presents for my family has me thinking about a festive benefactor slipping down the chimney and making magic for the people I love.

Perhaps it was the radio ad I heard not too long ago, all throughout which the company eluded to Santa but didn't mention him by name, likely to avoid angering parents of tentative young folk who might hear the ad and ask questions about why Santa needs to use UPS.

Whatever the reason (my heart or my shoes)... I've got Santa on my mind lately.

As a child, I don't remember believing firmly in Santa Claus. I remember leaving him whatever we had available - not usually cookies, but often rum balls or fruitcake and one of my father's favorite beers. I remember leaving carrots out for the raindeer one year. I remember writing him a note, and an unfamiliar hand writing back a response.**1

But what I don't remember is the crushing heartbreak of realization that Santa Claus was a childhood falsehood. I never faced that realization that would thrust me into inconsolable tears, and make me question everything I had previously known, up to and including God and the love of my family. I've witnessed it in other children, but never faced it myself.

This Christmas, the song on my brain-radio is "I Believe in Santa Claus" from the animated Christmas special The Year Without A Santa Claus. In case you haven't heard it, check it out:

And I believe it's my current state of mind about Santa. The big fat man with the long white beard may be a personification... but I believe that there is a tiny piece of Christmas that lives inside each Christmas-Celebrating-Individual**2 waiting to be nurtured or extinguished. Either a child will face that heartbreak and accept that Santa Claus was a childhood dream, or they'll quietly observe and create their own understanding that includes the whisper of hope I still carry myself. Perhaps, in time, that hope will fade and the commercial cynicism will set in. But it is my fondest wish that I can retain just a morsel of my own childlike wonder to brighten my holidays with hope.

Best wishes for the happiest holidays to you, my ReaderFriends. I do hope that they're everything you're wanting and more.

**1 A response that I desperately wish I had kept, by the way, as an echo of a happy childhood Christmas...

**2 I hesitate to say "Everyone" because I wouldn't want my Jewish or Hindu or Pagan or Whatever friends to have to make space for Santa Claus when he isn't part of their tradition.

Wednesday, December 11, 2013


So, troopers - here's a new game. I've been waxing poetic for the past hour, and have cobbled this brief thought. I'd be interested to hear how it inspires you to continue the story! Leave your thoughts in the comments below.

I do not proclaim to practice the Life of a Night Owl. Indeed, to watch the moon creep slowly across the heavens is a sight upon which I rarely indulge but which I do so greatly enjoy. And so I found myself happily blessed last eve - as I trekked slowly homeward whilst tomorrow became today, I gazed fondly across the frigid beauty of vast fields and towering trees dusted lightly with freshly fallen snow twinkling under the light of a pale, waxing moon.. A peaceful revelation thereupon took hold: This beauty and wonder, so pristinely untouched as the snow was as new as the day, was nature's gift for my eyes alone. Not a soul was awake along this road flanked by darkened houses and empty fields. The only luminescence came from the vibrantly colored lights strung around doorways and shrubberies, from the headlights of my car and from the moon hung high in the heavens.

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Holiday Manners

Author's Note: I started this post before Thanksgiving. Well before Thanksgiving, in fact. But then Thanksgiving crept up on me, and I didn't finish this post. So now we're teetering into Christmastime, and I thought it's better to get this out there than to let it rot in the archives. So, here we go! Let's call it an adventure!

I try to give Thanksgiving its due. I really do.

But when there's something as exciting as Christmas on the horizon of a holiday for which the only anticipation is a single song about the fate of the turkey and weeks of preparation for a single day of over-indulgent eating... It's hard not to let the turkey get overshadowed.

So when I realized that a local radio station was already playing Christmas jams in the middle of November, I decided that it's OK to tune in once in a while until the feast is over and I can dive into the Christmas season with both feet.

(Which, of course, means that I'm listening at every available opportunity.)

Fortunately for me, the station playing the holiday music is (at least) focusing their stories and spots on Thanksgiving for now. I was particularly interested when I heard a feature one evening about eleven things holiday hosts do that annoy their guests.

The List (found here):

11. - Being forced to play a board game.

My response: THE NERVE. So your host pulls out Monopoly. If you're dead set against the game, sit off to the side and allow them to play. Interject when you will, and give your host a moment to perhaps fill their home with some holiday merriment. But watch out - if you go around letting your host have fun, you're more likely to be invited over again... or even (gasp!) have a good time yourself.

10. - Being told to take off your shoes.

My response: Do you mop the floor of this home? Did you pay $2,000 to have the living room floor refinished? Do you enjoy stepping in puddles of snow that was tracked in and left to melt in the middle of the floor? If your answer to any of these is "No," please give a moment's pause to the fact that, maybe, your host is simply trying to make her guests feel more comfortable. Or, if you're totally anxious about people seeing your bunions, say "I'm sorry, but I'd feel more comfortable if I left them on - would that be okay with you?" Seriously. How hard is that?

9. - When it's too hot or too cold.

Okay... Yeah, I get that. My home is typically too cold because I can't afford to crank up the thermostat to 80* and burn through the oil it took me two months to save up for over the course of one over-heated evening. Yes, homes that are climate-challenged can be uncomfortable. But, as a guest, you have the potential to come prepared. Wear layers, instead of just the heavy wool sweater that Gramma knit you or the skimpy glitter sequin dress that isn't heavy enough to have a UV value, much less any thermal comfort.

8. - Not being introduced to strangers.

A month ago I held a housewarming party. I was anxious when it started - social circles were going to mix that had never mixed before. But, because my friends and family are fabulous, I had no need to fret. Guests introduced themselves to one another, and conversations were started based upon how each guest knew us. Which is fortunate - I didn't have a moment to spare in between coordinating food and giving tours of my home. Do your host a favor, and try for a moment to take such a simple burden off their shoulders... even if only by asking the awkward guest next to you their name and if they've ever been to such a rude host's home before.

7. - Fighting off pets.

Now, I can absolutely understand that this can be a nuisance. My Young Master can be a handful and a half, especially when he gets over-excited and wants to jump on newcomers in our home. Pets around the holidays can be a hassle. Fido wants to eat your fruitcake. Muffins keeps drinking out of your mug of eggnog. But, chances are, they're at the party because your host feels as though their pets are family. Would they lock their child in a bedroom and listen to it cry for the duration of a festive event? No. While some pet owners might feel comfortable excluding their fur-babies from party occasions, as a guest you don't have the right to expect (or request) that a critter get locked away. If the dog/cat/ferret/gerbil/bird/whatever is bothering you, move yourself to an alternate location and make the best of it.

And, for good measure: If you are a pet owner who's hosting a holiday party, do what you can to meet the needs of your guests and your pets. Provide a safe space for pets to escape overzealous guests, and likewise a separate pet-free room (not the main party space!) for particularly difficult guests. And if Aunty Edna simply cannot tolerate your four-legged little one, invite her over the next morning for a post-party brunch instead.

6. - Getting stuck outside in the cold with no one answering the door.

Maybe I'm super rude, but this seems simple to me. For the guests: Five minute wait, MAX, and that's only if you're the first guest to arrive. That gives time for the possibility that your host is taking a few solitary moments on the necessary or is in the attic/basement getting last-minute supplies. If those five minutes tick by without an answer at the door, you have two options. 1 - Open the door, pop your head in and announce yourself. "Hello? Is anyone home?" This is a party. Your host is expecting a guest. You're not going to take them aback by letting yourself in. But if you simply cannot abide the idea, here's the other option - Ditch the party, and be on your way. Go out for a nice dinner if you've gotten a babysitter. Or go see the lights in a neighborhood you don't frequent. Enjoy your evening instead of standing awkwardly on someone's porch griping about the weather.

For the host: If you know your guests are going to be sticklers for proper party manners, leave a note on the front door inviting them to let themselves in instead of waiting for you to answer the door. Simple as that.

5. - Not being offered a drink.

Again, perhaps I'm oversimplifying... but at most parties I attend, beverages are "serve yourself" instead of "wait impatiently to have service supplied." If you're thirsty, ask your host or hostess where you can find a glass. Either they'll be flushed with embarassment and will scurry to find you a beverage, or they'll point you in the direction of fixings so you can get one yourself. Problem = solved.

4. - Being left alone for too long.

Now, this one I get. It can be frustrating to be invited over for a party only to be left by your onesie. However, try to see things from your host's point of view: They've invited you over, presumably to have a festive holiday shenanigan or two. All of a sudden, Aunty Edna calls and now they're stuck on the phone. Sure, they'll try to hasten back to you promptly. Sometimes that won't be a possibility, because Aunty is stuck in the hospital or has been run over by a reindeer or something. Or maybe your host is just outright rude. But you can either wait until they decide to return, or you can bundle up, thank them for their time and take off into the night. (That would be my course of action if I were left alone on multiple occasions during the same party.)

3. - When the host engages in public displays of affection.

This one really torques my tatas, if you don't mind my saying. You've been invited as a guest in someone's home. Who are you to pass judgment on their actions? Sure, it can be unnerving if your host suddenly disappears into a dark corner and starts making out without ceasing. But in all likelihood, the public display of affection you'll see at a party is a snuggle, a hand-hold, a hug or a brief kiss. And if this is a holiday party, it's likely there will be mistletoe involved. So if you're prudeish, gaze into your eggnog mug while the unpleasantness passes. If you're jealous, grab some willing participant and haul them off for some affection of your own. But if you're just being unreasonable, perhaps it's best that you just stay home.

2. - Not enough toilet paper.

There are two ways this could have come down. 1 - the roll by the toilet has run out. In this case, feel free to pillage through your host's bathroom. Somewhere in there will be a roll to help you in your endeavors. Or, 2 - the entire house is devoid of toilet tissue. In this case, you've got a much bigger problem on your hands. Do what you can with what you have to hand - tissues are an acceptable alternative, as is wrapping paper (which can also play in to the festive atmosphere). And please DO let your host know. They'll want to remedy the situation, instead of blissfully thinking that the bathroom is running itself smoothly.

1. - When the host is texting instead of talking to their guests.

Absolutely. This is abhorrent, and can be due cause for walking out of the party, after a point. In this technological day in age, it's likely that a brief text will be from a partygoer asking what they can bring (and your host asking them for some emergency provisions). So give your host a moment to put the phone away before you get your pheasants ruffled. If it becomes apparent that your host is more interested in their celly than in your presence, try this nifty trick: Text your host. Just a simple "Hey! What's up?" from your phone to theirs, bringing their attention back to the fact that there are people in their home that need attention. If this trick doesn't work, tootle out the door and find yourself a party with a better host.

Monday, December 2, 2013


Yup, I failed.

I lost.

I fell short.

I didn't win NaNoWriMo.

Was I upset?

Well... not really.

Sure, I spent a five-day weekend bingeing on roasted poultry and over-indulging on pie.**1

Sure, I had a brief moment of "Will I ever finish anything that I start? Ever?!"

But that passed pretty quickly.

All in all, I'm proud of myself for trying. I set an interesting goal - 30 poetic works and short stories, 50,000 words, 30 days.

I didn't hit any of those marks.

In the end, I didn't even break 10,000 words. I cobbled together maybe a dozen or so poems and stories, and only half of those were seen through to completion. But I tried.

I do now have a binder of fabulous nuggets that I can wrap up and put out into the void at a later date, once I've polished them and readied them for their debut.

Who knows - Maybe I'll take the world by storm with my rendition of "T'was The Eve Of Thanksgiving."

Or maybe I won't. Maybe I'll just keep plugging along and see if I can't finish my challenge to myself by next November.

For now, I'm focused on Christmas. This is my favorite time of the year, for goodness sake. I'm not going to sully it with frustration and sadness over a dream not realized.

Why would I waste time with that when I could be eating fruitcake and frosting cookies instead?!

**1 Definitely because of the NaNoWriMo loss, and not because of the holiday or anything like that. Definitely.