So yeah, I suck at Chrismas. :/

Every year.  Every year I think to myself how I just can’t wait till it’s over.  It’s not ‘humbug’.  It’s not for dislike that people are so giddy over the entire next month of the year, the decorating, shopping, songs, food, and festivities.  I just struggle to enjoy it, and have for a lot of years.  To be honest, it can be a little overwhelming and sort of sad.

As a child the holidays were all about the traditions.  We knew what to expect each year; where we would go, when we would go there, and that we would be appreciative for the time and gifts – because the holiday wasn’t about the gifts.   We didn’t always have a lot but we had each other and the love and laughter of the season.

My adult holidays are not quite as full of love and laughter.  I go to work at least five days a week and watch what the holidays have become.  The rush.  The greed.  The physical push and shove of the selfish and self absorbed.  I watch the public’s frothed aggression at taking a deal out of the hands of another, and the retail machine feeding this with Thanksgiving day shopping starting earlier and earlier – pulling low paid (often seasonal) employees away from their families.  I listen to the berating and ill tempered shopper, the parents screaming (often with numerous loud profanities) at their kids, the angry person who didn’t arrive in time to get the limited time/price/quantity item.  I’m cursed at and threatened by people who are more pleased by what their dollar can buy them than the people they share their life with.  Oh, and let’s not forget the canned generic Christmas music on repeat and the people who are offended by “Happy Holidays.”  It makes me sad.  What has happened to us??

Every year.  Every year, shortly after Thanksgiving, I think about pulling out the tree and all the decor because it just might brighten my day.  I just might come home from one of those challenging days and the lights and heirloom decorations will remind me of how fortunate I am…it could happen.  So I fire up Pandora on the bluetooth speaker and pull out the tree.  I’m fluffing branches and singing along until one song comes on…one song is all it took and I’m a blubbering idiot sitting in the dining room floor with the top of a Christmas tree in my lap and tears and snot all over my face.  Flogging Molly singing If I Ever Leave This World Alive ( is all it took for me to be flooded with memories of all the people I don’t share the holiday with anymore.  All the memories made, love and laughter had, and the times in my life when I loved Christmas.

I suck at this.  It’s essentially going through the motions.  When did I stop loving parades and caroling?  When did I stop seeing the world with the joy of a child?  Why does it feel like a burden to me as an adult????  and how do I know I’m not alone in this feeling??  Because if we all enjoyed it we’d be nicer to each other.  We’d take the time to say ‘please’ and ‘thank you’ and it wouldn’t be about the rush and frustration of spending money on things that most of us don’t need.  If we actually took time to enjoy the people in our lives – the people we share the holiday with NOW – maybe we wouldn’t have to sit in the floor and cry because those past holidays don’t exist for us anymore.  Stop and LOVE the people you have in your life.  Stop being jerks to each other over a buck.  Stop being hateful to your kids because you are frustrated with your own situation.  Stop and try to enjoy the holiday….that’s what I’m going to try to do.  Sometimes try is all you’ve got.



Faith in Humanity

This morning, as I was getting ready for work, there was a knock on the door. Dean took care of it, but as I came out I saw the young guy walking toward the road. “What was that about?” Dean said he was asking for food and he figured it was sketchy. We rarely get door knocks, and they’re usually for money, never for food. As I was leaving, I bagged up the stack of pancakes from too much breakfast, and a few vegan granola bars fresh and warm from the oven. He was less than half a mile up the road.

The young man, probably in his mid twenties, wore dark jeans, decent sneakers, a black jacket zipped up to his neck, and a tattered toboggan cap.  Though a high end brand name, his jacket was patched with seam tape, and hand sewn squares of fabric.  His dirty hands held a bowl, specifically  a blue glazed ceramic rice bowl.  He looked as though he’d been on the road a while.  

He called himself a traveling monk.  A young Buddhist, he had decided to go on a pilgrimage of sorts.  He never fully stated where he came from, merely that he decided to give away all his belongings and experience humility and simplicity.  Getting up at dawn, he began his day’s walk and prayer.  Between 11am and 1pm, he would approach homes, politely seeking generosity of food, not money, not supplies, just food.  He would eat what he was given by the first generous home, and seek no more.  He said, “You always get what you NEED.”  The remainder of his day was fasting, prayer, and walking.  He said he prays for the community and it’s residents as he passes through, and asks blessings on passersby – (although I’d imagine not all are polite.)

I didn’t ask where he sleeps, when his last hot shower was, or how how/if his family keeps track of him. As I listened to his explanation, albeit brief and simple, I felt guilty for our initial reaction, and for my lack of faith in humanity.  I had no reason to question anything he said.  My gut, my heart, my intuition….ALL said that he was genuine.  He had given up whatever comfort and routine he had in his former life to “experience ultimate humility”.  If my community didn’t feel gracious he wouldn’t eat today, yet he would still pray for each of us.  Where have we gone wrong as a society??

As I put my vehicle in reverse, he extended his hand for a shake.  We made eye contact and he said “The universe gives you what you need.  I’ve been thinking about pancakes for days. Thanks.  Be well.”

This was not a guy standing at the stop sign with a sign asking for cash.  This wasn’t the person who approaches you in the dimly lit parking lot for a hand out.  This was his journey in faith.  Tonight I will pray for his safe travels, and for humanity – that we can embrace some uncomfortable amount of humility and unease in order to grow and know ourselves and what brings us peace and joy in our lives…because we are fortunate.

My mother’s hands

The dermatologist walked in, gave me the quick once over, face, back, neck, shoulders, arms, and finally my hands.  With both of my hands in hers, her head tilted slightly to one side as she says, “These dark spots on your hands are hereditary.  They’re nothing to worry about, but they’re definitely hereditary.”  At this point I expected her to suggest some lightening cream or cosmetic procedure, some sort of fix to amend the genetic damage. Before she could make any suggestions I interrupted.  I thanked her.

Before I go on, I must share that I have very few crystalline memories from my childhood.  The majority of those years are little more than a blur that time and repeated head injuries have smudged into memory mud.

One of my most lucid memories, however insignificant it might seem, is of a random Sunday morning.  The uncomfortable seafoam green church pew.  The smell of Ivory soap and Jungle Gardenia perfume.  The rice paper thin texture of the hymnal pages as the book was being held for us to sing…being held by my mother’s hands.  I remember studying her hands in detail.  Her long fingers with long natural nails, sometimes stained from summertime berry picking.  Thumbs that flex backward like those red, yellow, and blue flexi straws at Dairy Queen.  Working hands with rough spots, sometimes a bandaid, one nail shorter than the rest, veins visible over the bone and sinew, with a sprinkling of slightly darker spots across the backs from knuckles to wrists.  I’d look down with tightened lips, judging my pale pudgy childish digits, yearning to have her hands.

Now, in my late 30’s, I’ve had my mother’s hands for years.  The long fingers, abnormally tough fingernails, bone, sinew, and veins all visible.  Yesterday, by mere choice of words, the dermatologist gave me the gift of my grandmother’s hands too.  “These dark spots on your hands are hereditary.”  I got them from MY mother.  My mother got them from HER mother, and no cosmetic procedure will EVER take these spots from me.  They are perfect, and I will wear them with humble honor and respect for the women with spotted hands who came before me, whose bodies literally made me, held me, raised me, gave me their skills, provided direction, and gave me gifts of life and knowledge…for those hands I am blessed.

On being offended…

I haven’t said much lately.  Instead, I’ve chosen to sit back and observe society and ponder what facilitates our self appreciation and closed mindedness.  Why are we, as a society, so quick to take offense?

Scrolling through social media, it doesn’t take long to find an argument.  Religion.  Gender issues.  Gender identification. Race.  Economics…..just the tip of an endless list of things that cause animosity and alienation.  WHY?  Why do we feel such a need to be right?  Why are people so eager to disregard and disrespect the opinions and feelings of others?  This is not a conversation about ‘facts’.  It is a conversation about perspective and individual truth, and why it seems to fall into basic human nature to hold our own perspective and truth as more valid and thus more important than another’s.

As I ate my lunch Sunday, I listened to a locally recorded NPR show entitled “Your Weekly Constitutional”.  Though often a bit over my head with the legal speak, this week the show was about first amendment rights vs. a person’s right to be offended.  The host was speaking to a law professor from (if I recall correctly) the Air Force Academy regarding the use of offensive language or actions.  As an example, they discussed use of a racially charged N-word.  It is mutually agreed that there is no context for appropriate use of such words in a grade school environment where the setting is one (primarily) of instruction.  As an individual elects to continue their education to college, gaining a bigger world perspective, there are times when such language is called to context – not used AT people – rather used to demonstrate historical perspective, literature, or social commentary.  As they discussed, it is not unusual for such encounters to be prefaced with a group discussion about the discomfort and disrespect associated with such language, and approved exclusion for those who don’t wish to SAY the word.  I experienced this scenario myself in undergrad, and understood the weight of saying such words out of context – and yet still felt uncomfortable saying them in the classroom.  Because I believe in the first amendment, I never gave thought to the actual banning of a word.

On numerous college campuses across our country, this argument is being made.  The speakers went on to discuss campus as a domicile rather than a student’s actual home, the legal verbage around such decision and sadly I had to clock back in before the end of the show, but this made me think.  Why are so many people so easily offended.  I don’t simply mean by that one word, rather by any subject about which someone disagrees with them.  In the last few weeks I have observed the disintegration of lifelong friendships because someone became offended by something that used to simply be a discussion – albeit often heated ones, but a discussion.

I mulled the subject over for the rest of my work day, considering customer complaints and interactions,  discussions with friends, topics on the news….and I came to a working hypothesis.

Human nature.  It is in our nature to want to be right.  What makes you more right than your feelings?? After all, no one can tell you they are wrong.  So you feel something.  Someone else feels something.  You disagree with their notion, and feel as if their viewpoint lessens your own, thus devaluing or disrespecting you.  It is far more personally rewarding to be offended than to disagree and discuss.  Offense is the adult version of a temper tantrum, when the child screams and yells then runs away.  There is no discourse, no conversation, only an unfriend, a block, and a slander.

Our offense enables us to put ourselves ahead of others, even when we are the only ones keeping score.

I know this fixes nothing.  It changes nothing.  It won’t change minds. It won’t change people.  If you disagree with me, that’s okay.  In fact, it’s wonderful.  I won’t be offended.  I’ll be thrilled that you took the time to read and consider.  I only hope that you’ll reconsider before stating your offense.  After all, it’s only my opinion and glad that you have your own.

Potty talk

I survived.  Today I survived something that, until today, I had only heard to be something potentially life threatening, scandalous, and horrific.  Today I walked into the ladies restroom just ahead of a transgendered person.

What to do??  From our ungracious media and the propaganda folk, all we hear is hatred.  Supposedly these individuals are predators and perverts who only want to peep through the gap in the door and prey on us as we potty.  There I was…in the loo…with a decision to make.   I couldn’t run.  I had to pee!!

I entered the first stall.  She entered the second stall.  I pulled down my britches, sat down, and did what I went in there to do.  Although I didn’t look to see (because that would make ME the pervert), I can only assume that she did the same.  At no point was the sanctity of my stall violated.  We exited our stalls at about the same time, washed our hands, and moved toward the door….but only after I complimented her on the killer heels that I don’t have the balance or style to pull off.

We are a country obsessed with other peoples’ genitalia.  Personally I don’t think it is nearly the problem some people wish it was.  Instead of gender specific facilities, how about unisex toilets, and a second option with deadbolts, slide locks, a chain, and a chair leaned against the knob – just in case – It could be called “The room of delicate sensibilities”.

Not to disregard the concerns some people have for ‘our children’, but if you are concerned that someone might take advantage of your child while they are in the restroom, perhaps they are too young to go alone.  I’ve never heard anyone upset about a 5-6 year old boy in the ladies room.  Perhaps the parent or guardian might stand outside the bathroom of the child’s gender identity, to ‘guard’ as women do in sketchy bar bathrooms on a regular basis.  In any case, if we are teaching children about privacy and manners, then a casual encounter might result in questions, and THAT is where I think a lot of adults have problems with the scenario.  I’d imagine that some parents might be uncomfortable trying to explain the subject, and in my experience, some parents aren’t kind in their explanations.  Hate and fear only propagate more hate and fear.

I have no fear of sharing a bathroom with a transgendered person.  I have peed in the woods with bears and coyotes (and meth heads – who ARE scary), wiped with leaves, and felt no fear.  The only place I have ever felt unsafe using the bathroom was in a frat house full of drunken idiots who DID occasionally burst in wanting to see your bits, and the occasional attempt at other episodes of questionable judgement.  This was NOT okay.  THIS is what gets a reaction from me.  Another human being, occupying the stall next to me, checking their make up in the mirror, making sure there’s no spinach in her teeth….who cares??  Heck, I kind of wish she had spared a moment of her time to advise me on how to do that eyeliner too.

How about this:  How about we behave with respect to other human beings.  How about we behave with courtesy and kindness, even though we may not fully understand or embrace a lifestyle.  How about we just attempt to be better humans, and allow other people to live their lives as long as they aren’t hurting anyone.  The excrement will go down the drain whether you flush in the men’s or women’s potty.

OMG! You have ovaries?? Me too!! We should talk!

Unless they are deeply in tune with their inner feminine, or care deeply for a woman who has faced ‘female’ issues, this topic will not be to the liking of most men.  Consider yourself warned.  Frank talk about woman parts awaits you.

In the beginning, God created man, then woman….and immediately she wrecked the whole arrangement.   We faced our nudity.  Shame followed.  Sex became taboo and as such all of the anatomy associated with it. Ovaries.  Uterus.  Fallopian tubes.  Breasts.  In our current social climate, all are the shameful property of Lillith.  Personally, I place the blame for anatomical shaming squarely on the incorporation of particular faith views into education, both at home and at school.  It is important to understand the human body for it’s function, not merely for it’s lustful tendencies.

Ladies, most of us on genetic team XX have the same parts.  Of course I mean no disrespect to any of you who might have eliminated any of those parts out of need or desire.  This is, in fact, about discussing those situations.  Aside from your physician, who do you turn to when you have those potentially awkward, maybe embarrassing, female questions??  I giggle in my head as I recall those horrible Massengill commercials from the 90’s, yet there’s a great example.  In reality none of us walk barefooted down the beach asking our mother about not feeling fresh.

As I drove home tonight, I began pondering my upcoming yearly appointment.  You all know the one.  “Scoot on down here and put your feet up in the stirrups.”  I am approaching 39 and have been on some sort of birth control well over half my life. For the last few years, I have been considering a change.  Last year I approached the idea with my doctor.  He was adamantly against anything other than status quot.  Maintain and carry on.  I trust him, and see no reason why he would mislead me, but why not either help me consider other options, or explain to me his rationale on staying the course.  At that point it became very clear to me that I had too little female voice in my life.

Why do we not have these conversations with each other, and frequently?  We all know a woman who has had scary real life problems.  Breast cancer.  Cervical cancer.  Fibroids.  Ovarian cysts.  Reproductive difficulties.  Men can walk around adjusting themselves all day and no one flinches.  There are lots of commercials for erectile dysfunction.  No one minds.  When women have problems it is automatically something to be embarrassed by.  It’s hush hush.  We are supposed to be ashamed of the difficulties of our bodies.  Too often our mothers didn’t talk about their difficulties, and their mothers were silent before them.  Do YOU know your full maternal medical history??  Because these situations are held so closed mouth, we are often at a loss in how to approach them, even with our mothers, sisters, and closest friends.

I am the only owner of a never used uterus.  Emotionally, I’m not that attached to it, but physically it’s fairly well glued in.  I’d sell it on eBay if that were legal.  Seriously though.  If someone had suggested what a disaster the IUD could be, I might have reconsidered.  Given my experience, I would welcome the chance to help educate another woman who might be considering one.  This is where the trust factor comes in.  Too often, and in lady-group conversation, these topics become a sort of pissing contest as to who has had the worst time.  “I thought I’d die.” is only an acceptable description if your life was actually in peril.  When finding the woman with whom to have these conversations, it will be important to consider how grounded they are in conversational reality.  You might hear things you weren’t prepared for, but you might NEED to hear those things.  Likewise, they may need your insight too.

Sometimes we simply need the reassurance of someone who has been there before us.   In the long run, this type of honest exchange amongst our ranks can only be a benefit.  If you have sisters (biological or otherwise) talk to them.  If you are fortunate enough to still have a mother, grandmother, or fairy god mother, talk to them.  I am working on this myself.  It isn’t always comfortable, because we weren’t raised for this to be normal conversation.  Let’s make new rules.  It’s 2016.  We shouldn’t have to whisper the anatomical names of our body parts.


Ephemeral things

I was laying in bed.

It was early.  I wasn’t tired, but I was laying in bed.  The fella has to be at work at 4am, so he was turning in early.  Since our work schedules keep us from spending a tremendous amount of time together, it was a good time to (ugh!!  How girly?!?) cuddle.  No ‘adult content’ here, simply laying snuggled up under blankets watching Lord of the Rings.  He dozed off and I laid there noticing the Blu-ray player’s audio favors sound effects over dialog.

A few minutes passed.  The fella is peacefully snoring, and I am soon surrounded by the chorus of the peaceful.  Both dogs, in separate beds but still touching each other, were peacefully snuffling and occasionally making those endearing noises dogs make in their sleep as they must be dreaming of chasing all the squirrels and playing in all the trash cans.  As I laid there, the only one in the room NOT sleeping, it occurred to me that in that moment I was entirely at peace.  I wanted to fold that moment up and keep it forever.

I don’t know if it is due to my approaching early middle age, or a simple sense of seasonal melancholy, but lately I’ve been very appreciative of these ephemeral moments.  Those fleeting things that we have for enchanted seconds.

The welcome home hug that seems to last forever, but just not long enough.  The familiar smell of the person I love.

The elder pup who knows that any time you are sitting on the toilet she will have at least thirty seconds of your undivided attention.  Walking in, she cocks her head sideways as if to say, “Funny meeting you here again.” and positions herself for whatever area she wants scratched…and snorts her delight.

My younger pup who lays her head back against my knee as I sit on the couch.  She looks at me, face nearly upside-down, with a gaze full of unconditional love of which I do not feel deserving.

Watching my mother’s hands as she sews, and her constant expression of serenity no matter how hard the boat is rocking.

The look of intense concentration and dedication as my father shows anyone how to do anything…because he can do anything.

I want to remember all of these moments.  The fleshy warmth and weight of the chicken whose life I watched slip away so that people might eat.  The smell and sound of my favorite creek as the sticky August breeze blows through the thick oak and hemlock forest.  The dirt under my fingernails from planting things, and the joy of watching them grow, fruit, and yield.  The sweat and pain of a hard days work for which the results are visible.

They are too many to list, and yet I beg my brain not to let them go, not to sacrifice them for the sake of a grocery list or the project at work.  Let go of the 90’s song lyrics, but lock these things up and never let them go, because I feel that without them I will lose part of myself.


When I grow up….

This evening I drove home with words pressing the margins of my mind.  It has been a while since I felt the need or inspiration to share words with friends and strangers, yet tonight I am pondering another debate on this life’s successes and shortcomings.  What do I want to be when I grow up??

The curiosities and happiness of childhood dropped many potential interests in my way.  Books, lessons, and even Saturday morning cartoons inspired my inclinations.  I wanted to BE all kinds of things.  For a time nothing seemed as enticing as being an astronaut.  I had boxes of books, posters, pictures, and my very own telescope.  It seemed  insatiable…until the morning I watched the Challenger explode.  Maybe I was better suited for life on Earth.

A close family friend was very kind and encouraging to me.  “You’re a smart girl, and you like to talk.  You should be a lawyer like me.”… I read about laws, law makers, and legislation….and discovered that sometimes I simply found justice more fair than law.  I understood justice and law aren’t always the same thing.  Lawyers follow law.

The library yielded a book about a camp for kids with cancer.  I then needed to become a pediatric endocrinologist – until I babysat a lot and decided that I didn’t really enjoy kids enough, especially the ones who were too young to tell you what was making them cry.  Maybe I’d be better suited for adult oncology.  I began volunteering at a local hospital.  Helping the patients was immensely enjoyable, but it became abundantly clear that I did not care for other people’s functions and fluids.  Medicine was probably not where I needed to be.

Always encouraging, my teachers never said, ‘You should…..”, rather simply said, “You can.”  As I matured, approaching college, it seemed the question “What do you want to do when you grow up?” was one of the few topics adults were comfortable addressing.  Rather than listening to myself, asking myself what would make ME happy, I thought that ‘growing up’ meant using whatever skills my teachers, community members, and family friends thought I should explore.  Doctor.  Lawyer.  Indian chief.  What were all the options I never knew existed?

A number of careers have come and gone since undergrad.  Naturalist.  Lingerie Sales.  Field biologist.  Bat catcher.  Aquatic entomologist.  Grocer of sorts.  Furniture sales.  Retail management.  Where was I happiest?  Teaching kids.  No classroom.  No curriculum requirements.  No common core.  No standardized tests.  Hiking and kayaking every single day.  Living in a one room shack in the woods, never knowing if I’d have electricity when the wind blew.  Why did I leave?  Adulting.  Insurance, benefits, and knowing that if something catastrophic happened (like when my appendix tanked a few years ago) I’d be bankrupt.  I am envious of those who feel free in such a bohemian lifestyle, however, working at a job I loved every day was never going to allow me to ‘adult’.  I’d never buy a house, have insurance, a reliable vehicle, or savings….so I left it for grad school.  It broke my heart.

These days I am good at what I do, and today was a really good day.  It was fun.  We nailed it.  THIS is what my job is about….but then one of my grad school professors shows up expressing his disdain for my life choices in his acidic almost Slavic accent.  “Vhen vill you feenish your degree so you can get a real job?”  Instead of replying, “Probably about the same time that you stop leaning so heavily on spell check to make up for your failing of the English language.”, I simply say that this job pays better than my degree would have.  Although this is MY life and these are MY choices, it still stings a little.

I’m not a gambler or a thrill seeker.  I don’t want to be a millionaire, famous for anything, or in the history books.  So, what am I supposed to BE?  Granted, my job isn’t necessarily always spiritually fulfilling, and people aren’t always kind, it allows me to meet my financial obligations and set aside a bit.  I find my fulfillment in other places – learning things, building things, growing things, and teaching anyone who wants to share in the learning.

Perhaps too much personal definition is derived from a career….from what you DO.  What about what I AM, because I am SO much more than my pay check.  I think Eddie Vedder sums it up simply and beautifully.

“A mind full of questions and a teacher in my soul, and so it goes.”

The 12 days of Christmas past – and present. All the feels wrapped into a day.

So yeah, Christmas is tough.   The exhausted thinking organ between my ears is struggling to ponder.  It’s done.  Another one in the books.  Survived.  The only thing left to drudge through will be the returns tomorrow.

Last night and today were outstanding.  The fella’s brother came to visit.  Star Wars exceeded my skeptical expectations, in 3-D nonetheless.  Good friends, gift exchange, card games, and adult beverages.  Today, after opening gifts with the ‘not brother-in-law’ we spent the day with the rest of my family.  Food, laughter, family, and fun.  I’d thoroughly enjoy if this became a yearly tradition.  It occurs to me that I find a certain solace in tradition.

Sadness, however, seems to loom behind the curtains this time of year.

As we drove home this evening, the fella and I began talking about our childhood Christmases, and at what point the holidays became so emotionally difficult.

My earliest childhood memories of Christmas play on an annual repeat.  Christmas Eve was at my Grandma’s house.  We ate chex mix till we were almost sick.  Our gifts were few, heartfelt, and always included underwear.  I can still smell that house, see the yellow glow of the light over the kitchen table and an either side of the sofa.  My uncle would sit on the far end of the couch watching TV with the closed captioning on.  The grown ups would be around the kitchen table, sometimes having drinks.  We loved our time there, but were always eager to get home.  What if Santa got there before us??  On the way home I would scoot as far down in the seat as I could, lay my head in the bend of the station wagon window, and scan the sky for any movement that might be a sleigh.

As if tuned to acutely recognize the first lights of dawn on Christmas morning, we would leap out of bed.  Our parents required us to eat first, so cereal was sloppily slurped down, and one by one each paper was torn and gift exposed.  We never asked for much, and were appreciative for what we received.  After gifts, showers for everyone, and we would all drive to Nanny’s.

Nanny’s house was a much more formal affair.  Best behavior.  No food on the carpet.  Homemade candy, but don’t eat too much.  At lunch I sat in the back middle of the table we all filled.  Nanny, Aunt, Uncle, and my family – totaling eight.  It was best to keep your head down and be quiet.  Frequently I got in trouble.  One particular year, in order to consolidate space, Nanny had combined two jars of pickles into one.  I love sweet pickles and would quietly gorge myself on them as we ate.  This year however, as I reached into the jar and put the pickle in my mouth, I was met with dill.  Nasty dill.  I had no other choice but to swallow it.  I did.  My sister, sitting on my left, reached for the jar.  I slapped her hand away, still unable to stop gagging.  “Not them!” was all I could get out.  She caught on, started laughing, and then we were BOTH in trouble.  See, it was ungrateful of me to be anything other than compliant and appreciative.

Several years later, after undergrad, we were all sitting around the same table.  After some polite quiet conversation, my Nanny looked at my Aunt, nodded, and announced to the entire table that they had known for a long time that I was a lesbian.  Not that it matters, but I’m not.  It is nice, however, to know that they had accepted their conclusion with open minds.  Apparently a girl in her 20’s is supposed to have a husband and several babies, not be traipsing through the woods in a uniform doing ‘a man’s job’.  Years later, when the fella and I moved in together, her reaction was simply, “Well at least she’s over that lesbian thing.”

You see, they used to refer to me as ‘precocious’, and it wasn’t necessarily meant in the most positive light.  At 5-6 years old I recall asking my mother what that word meant.  She answered that they just thought I was as smart as a lot of grown ups.  How could that be bad??  That solution to my curiosity was probably the only thing that kept me present with that half of the family.   My perception was that I wasn’t who they wanted me to be and also not who they thought I was, yet they didn’t seem interested in getting to know me.

I digress.  The point is that we had a routine.  A set of traditions and time with family.  When Grandma and Grandpa died, that foundation was rocked.  It has never been as clear to me as it became today.

Lunch then gift exchange time.  My nieces opened the things I made for them.  As an adult I certainly enjoy giving gifts more than receiving them.  We laughed a lot and many special things were exchanged, until there were only three left…one in front of each of my siblings and myself.  Momma began telling a story about finding a box she had stored decades ago.  Inside she found three quilt tops.  The stitches, she said, were far from perfect because they were made when Grandpa was teaching Grandma how to quilt.  The fabric squares were made from old clothes.  Momma specifically remembered some of her childhood garments and one of Grandpa’s old suits.

I began to cry, completely embarrassed at the wave of emotion that had taken me.  It’s not them…though I do miss them…it’s the time, the place, and the comfort of it.  It’s a feeling of safety and regularity, and knowing that everything is taken care of and okay.  How frequently do we have that as an adult??  I have a job, a full belly, and a roof over my head.  That makes me more fortunate than many, yet I still find myself sad, yearning for something that cannot be replaced.

It is my hope that the times we create now will give my nieces something to look back on, and perhaps to miss…because things change and grow.  I’ll probably always have a little nugget of sadness in my heart for times gone by, but I have more joy for the times we have and the times we WILL have.  I’ll cherish those moment of sadness because they only mean I’m lucky enough to have had experiences worth missing.

The ___ days of Christmas past – is it over yet??

Yup.  I missed a few days.  No surprise, really.  Work – sleep – work – sleep….lather, rinse, repeat.

I began this holiday blog series as a way to share some holiday cheer with each of you, but also to bolster my own merriment, which has historically been lacking.  We all have our own reasons for finding this season to be tough.  We work to long, are exhausted, feel insufficient in our attempts to gift just right, aren’t able to spend time with friends and family, miss loved ones who can’t be with us due to distance or loss, or simply dislike what the holidays bring out in our neighbors.

In the last few days I have been cursed at, ridiculed, demeaned, and asked if my employer required me to have a degree in dog shit.  I have had TWO near misses as I walked through the parking lot, because people are in too great a hurry to simply look behind their car as they back out.  I’ve seen holiday novice co-workers cry, and even the most jaded of us is ready for this to be over.  Why is this season, when we are supposed to be celebrating the birth of Christ, NOT about humanity and love.  We have broken it.  Rather, we have allowed it to be broken.

This is the point I have to pause and remind myself that if you are reading this, you likely already understand, and might even agree.  I will leave it at that.  Instead I will share this memory of turning the tables on a holiday customer’s bad behavior.


It was Christmas Eve…4 years ago.  I was helping a family select fish.  They had done everything right, preparing the tank and allowing it to become stable for the fish they would pick together as a FAMILY.  As we discussed what groups would be good to start with and what direction they planned to go in their stocking, a middle aged lady approached the cricket podium decked out in head to toe holiday finery.  She approached the podium, and it was clear she was in a hurry.  When I didn’t jump off the ladder as fast as she expected, she cleared her throat, raising her eyebrows and pursing her lips in agitated expectation, tapping her foot anxiously.

I only had one more fish to catch for the family who, noticing the lady’s frustration, had already apologized (unnecessarily) for holding me up.  As I explained that they were no problem and a pleasure to serve, the lady took her bad behavior a leap forward.  Making direct eye contact with me, she snapped her fingers twice and whistled at me as if I were a dog.  Something in my head snapped.  It was Christmas Eve after all.  The edit button in my brain malfunctioned and the words just rolled out of my face.  Touching my neck, I said, “Oh.  I’m sorry.  I must have left my collar and rabies tags at home today.”

Someone else must have helped her, because a few minutes later I noticed her in line being checked out by my supervisor.  I approached jovially and let the manager know that I was sorry if she received a complaint about me tonight.  When she asked what for, I told her the story….right in front of the lady who did it.  She was looking at me with bile in her eyes as my supervisor said, “What kind of jerk does something like that on Christmas Eve??”  She handed her the bags with her purchase and wished her a Merry Christmas.  I simply smiled.

To this very day, I consider that a win.