Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Confessional Tuesday on Wednesday

I love the new Looney Toons.  LOVE.  I was not a huge fan when I was a kid, but now, Bugs and Daffy have never been funnier. 

Please don't tell my kids.


Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Eight Questionable Christmas Songs

Christmas is coming, and I have been spending an inordinate amount of time in my car driving from one place to the other, frantically trying to keep ahead of the flurry of activity that always precedes this great and all-consuming holiday.  As I cruise from one place to the next, I do it with the background sounds of Christmas music humming from my radio.

And with almost a month of Christmas music filling my ears, I have come to the conclusion that that some of these songs are really problematic for various reasons.  My short list of questionable songs that I'm listening to this Christmas:

Grandma Got Run Over by a Reindeer.  Not only does this song outline the events that led up to Grandma’s untimely demise that include her wandering outside after too much eggnog, it mentions the fact that her spouse is not so broken up about her death but that he spends the time after her passing playing card games and probably gambling as well.  The bouncy tune belies the fact that we are talking about a bizarre and tragic accident within a family who has obvious alcohol and gambling issues, as well as a callousness that is highlighted by the mere mention about what to do with Grandma’s gifts.  I’m sorry, but if one of my elderly relatives was killed by a reindeer, what to do with her unopened Chantilly powder and new flannel nightie would be the last thing on my mind.  I refuse to sing along no matter how exuberant this song seems.

Another Auld Lang Syne.  This song is admittedly one of my favorites, except for the fact that it paints a picture of two long-ago lovers meeting coincidentally and sharing some beers in her car.  She drives off after half a six-pack, leaving our narrator standing alone reminiscing about the past and reflecting on what might have been.  Hello, drunk driving.  Not cool anytime, but especially not at the holidays.  This song should be called Another DUI.

Baby, It’s Cold Outside.  A portrait of a young romantic couple parting for the evening; she needs to leave, he’s convincing her to stay.  Each time she gives a reason to leave (I’ve got to go home, my mother will start to worry, there’s bound to be talk tomorrow) he tries to trap her using fear, flattery, and guilt tactics (Oh, baby, you’ll freeze out there, your eyes are like starlight now, what’s the sense of hurting my pride?).   More drinks are poured, she wonders if she’s been drugged (say, what’s in this drink?), and I’m left thinking “NO MEANS NO, CREEP!  RUN GIRL, RUN!!!!”

I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus.  Imagine being a child and spying to see what Santa brought you for Christmas, only to see your mother getting it on with ol’ St. Nick. Do you tell Dad?  Confront Mom?  On Christmas morning?  Not likely.  This poor kid probably stayed up all night simultaneously worrying about divorce and thinking about what life will be like at the North Pole, where all his friends would be elves.

It’s the Most Wonderful Time of the Year.  The line I find most problematic is with the telling of scary ghost stories along with the tales of the glories of long-ago Christmas celebrations.  Sorry, but scary ghost stories aren’t really what I’d call Christmas-appropriate.  Who are these people anyway?  How do ghost stories define a good time, let alone the Most Wonderful Time?  Wrong holiday, folks.  It’s Christmas, not Halloween.

Do They Know It’s Christmas?  This song seems to be in the right frame of Christmas spirit-mindedness, with its emphasis on reminding people to still care for those who suffer in the world, even at Christmas.  I imagine the songwriters wanted to establish empathy and a sort of philanthropic feel to this song, what with the urge to pray for those whose holiday is marred by fear and bitterness.  Then they throw in the line “Well tonight thank God it’s them instead of you” and all semblance of charity is thrown out the window.  Is this what celebrities really think of us common folk?  What a bunch of jerks.

Here Comes Santa Claus.  This song ramps up the excitability of Christmastime for kids who anxiously await the presence of Santa in their homes each Christmas Eve.  But I can’t help wonder if the songwriters were having a little spiritual dilemma when writing this song.  Were they having trouble reconciling the fact that the emphasis on Santa might be taking away from celebrating Christ’s birth?  “Hey guys, all this talk about Santa.  Could we throw in something about God too, so we’re not alienating the Christian community? How about adding this line: ‘Santa knows that we’re God’s children, that makes everything right.’  That should appease them.”  What does this make right?  The fact that parents are lying to their children about where their presents come from, the fact that Jesus is often brushed aside to focus on Santa, or that we are teaching our children that one day a year it’s okay if a stranger breaks into our homes?

The 12 Days of Christmas.  If my true love gave all this crap to me, I’d have a hard time finding any use for any of it except for the Five Gold Rings.  The rest is just a bunch of farm animals and servants.  Who’s going to pay these people to do their jobs after the holidays are over?  What a terrible gift.  I need eight maids a-cleaning, not milking, at Christmastime.  I would seriously question if true love was worth it if all these people and animals showed up at my house through the holidays.


Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Saturday Morning Delight

Slowly I open my eyes.  Several slivers of light shine through the openings in the curtains, and I notice that the double doors leading out of my bedroom are closed.  Those doors are rarely closed; we largely operate on an open-door policy.  As I come to a fully conscious state, I smile to myself as I realize the reason behind the closed doors.  I have been allowed to sleep in.

The clock says 8:43.  I lie in my warm bed another two minutes, then swing my legs over the edge, slip into my well-worn slippers, pull on a robe, and make my way out of the cocoon of the room.  The comforting smell of strong coffee greets me.  As I make my way downstairs I notice that I don’t hear any noises that usually accompany the three other people who share this house.  No sports programs blaring, no Spongebob hahahahahaha, no bickering.  I find my husband by himself at the table reading the paper with a cup of coffee and assorted other electronic devices that he gives each a glance before he looks up and smiles his good morning to me.

Good morning, I say as I reach for a coffee cup and fill it.  We kiss hello and I sit at the table and ask him the standards as I sip the coffee which brings the rest of me back to life.  How did you sleep, when did you wake up, what are the kids doing.

I consider my husband, whose early-morning commute to work has conditioned him to wake in the darkness. I don’t think that he minds; he has become a morning person.  The kids are in the basement watching TV and playing with Legos; that is why they are quiet today.  They love Saturdays as much as I do, probably more.  I marvel at the fact that during a week, they ask me to wake them up each day, and I do dutifully, bracing myself for tears or whining about not wanting to go to school, even though that rarely happens anymore.  On Saturdays, they get up by themselves before the sun lights the sky.  

What are your plans for today, my husband asks.  I don’t know.  I point to my coffee cup.  I cannot think about planning right now.  I rarely plan anything, anyway.  He is the planner in our house.  He could schedule the rest of our lives away.  I plan to do things like wake up, get a shower, eat toast for breakfast.  Years of raising children has taught me that even the best-laid plans will succumb to someone vomiting in the car or having a tantrum in the grocery store.  My planning skills have been weakened by the whims of people who need to be taken care of, not controlled by a calendar.

Right now I am enjoying my coffee and the quiet.  I’d like all of us to clean the house this morning, I offer lamely.

He smiles at me.  That sounds like fun, he replies.  I can’t wait to tell the kids.

I smile back.  Me either. 

I have satisfied his inquiry.  We have something to do today.  But as we go back to our coffee, and sit together, reading the paper in the quiet, I think about my warm bed and how nice it would be to be there right now.


This post is inspired by: 

Mama Kat's Writing Workshop 

Writing prompt #5: Saturday morning at your house…

Monday, December 10, 2012


I am not gifted in the art of gift-giving.

Giving gifts gives me anxiety.  The idea that someone will receive something that I chose for them, and the very real possibility that they will hate it, already have it, or worse yet, pretend to love it and then take it home where it disappears forever tweaks me out a little bit.

I am a sensitive sister, I know.  But the fact that each one of these scenarios has happened to me, in addition to the one time I provided a gift that I personally loved to an anonymous gift exchange and that it was received with jeers and laughter – everyone thought it was a gag gift; it wasn’t – leaves me with butterflies when the season of gifting comes around.

Forced gift-giving leaves me cold.  Exchanging names to buy for one person a gift, usually with a specific price point at which only fanatical shoppers with extraordinary couponing skills can find an appropriate and meaningful item, brings me to my knees.  When searching for a specifically priced gift, I scour stores looking for the price tag, and when I find it, I buy it.  No matter that I just bought a pine-scented candle for the friend who is deathly allergic to pine trees.  Look!  It was 50 cents off!  What a bargain.

In my quest for the perfect gift I’ve tried gift-giving websites where you input parameters about the person you are trying to gift, and it gives you an appropriate gift that promises to be perfect for that person.  Usually these gifts cost two hundred and ninety three thousand dollars, and I’m not BeyoncĂ©, even though people say I look a little like her.

 I guess the reason why I am not a very good gift giver is because I am also not a very good shopper.  It takes me forever to find what I want, and I get overwhelmed looking for items that seem to hide in plain view.  I forget what I am looking for, and remember it only when I get home.  Lists don’t help.  The sheer number of objects out there makes my head spin.

I’d rather just give some cash.  It fits everyone, and I’ve never known anyone to not be able to use it.  Yet cash among friends at Christmas is considered tasteless.  When did we decide that cash isn’t an appropriate gift?  My husband and I used the cash we were gifted at our wedding to eat all the meals on our honeymoon.  Without the gift of cash, we might have been reduced to looking in garbage cans for our meals, making it a very different, yet no less memorable trip.    

Gift cards are regarded as thoughtless gifts, yet rare is the time that I receive a gift card and think badly upon the giver – I’m too busy thinking about what I’m going to buy instead of thinking that gift-giver as thoughtless.  After all, when I give gift cards, it is because I have no idea what a person has or needs, but at least I know where they like to shop.  Thoughtful, yes?

People try to help when I whine about my predicament.  They say, “Shop online!  It’s so easy!”  I laugh at this.  If you think going into a mall is overwhelming, think about the internet, with its fifty bajillion websites from which to choose the same item at 790 trazillion different price points.  Plus then you have to wait for delivery, which is not convenient for me since I tend to do all my shopping last minute.  They say “Stockpile gifts that can be given to anyone!”  Not for me – as a rule, I am against hoarding.  They say, “Give practical gifts!”  And I think of stamps and aluminum foil, jars of spices and a pound of good butter, all things that I would love, but that others wrinkle their noses at.  Plus, how do you keep butter from melting as it waits to be opened?

So what do I, the reluctant gift-giver, do?  Stress out about every event that comes where gifts are expected?  So far, this is my strategy.  That and just give gift cards and cash, and once in a while I will buy a gift that I know is weird and inappropriate.  At least it’s better than being the one who doesn’t give any gifts at all.  I've been that person too, and trust me, it stinks.


Thursday, December 6, 2012

Sweetie Sweet

My girlfriends and I play this game once in a while where we rate people as sweet or not sweet.  It’s kind of like a grown-up Mean Girls version of who’s cool and not cool, except we just talk about ourselves, and we call each other out in terms of sweetness.

Because even though we have the sense of humor of a pack of twelve-year-old boys, we’re past all that actual Mean Girls nonsense.  AND YOU SHOULD BE, TOO.

Sweetness is hard to come by these days, because the world is mean and many of us are jaded in response to it.  Sure, you could throw a rock in a crowd and bloody the face of a person who does nice things, but natural sweetness is difficult to find in people, mostly because we are too busy trying to put our best foot forward, Facebook perfection and Life Is Good-isms shining back at the hundreds of individuals we deem our “friends.”

We show what we want to show, and not the real part that has an ugly face in the morning until she’s had her first cup of coffee.

So am I naturally sweet?  No.  I’m not.  (Exhibit A:  The line above where I admonish you to stop being a Mean Girl.  A sweet person might not even go there.  I have to.  Stop being mean already.)

Not all of my friends are sweet, either.  Birds of a feather and all that.  But there are a couple of sweeties in my circle, those who others may scorn and snort at, but who I want to be around and who I wish would rub off on me more.  I almost don’t even care if it’s faked some of the time.

A sweet person sees the bright side of things, is a genuine encouragement, is easy to laugh with and listen to, and makes me feel as if I can say anything and she won’t automatically think what a terrible person I am, even if she doesn’t know me that well.  Someone who listens openly and smiles the whole time, who has hope in her voice and in her perspective.

To me, the unanimously unsweetened, sweetness is a refreshing burst of cool air in the face of smothering worry, inward judgment, and negative contemplation.  Sweetness is living life facing forward.  Sweetness is acknowledging imperfection and terribleness, but not dwelling on these things. 

Sweetness is not telling cruel jokes.  Not using foul language.  Not always losing your cool.  Not picking fights.  Not starting arguments.  Sweetness is living intentionally, choosing to help instead of hinder, acting instead of ignoring.

My sweet friends are flawed, for sure.  They have troubles that I don’t experience.  They dwell on things that don’t bother me.  They care where I don’t.

But still, they are sweet.  And for a sugar-addict like me, they are necessary. 

Are you sweet?  Do you value sweetness in a person?  Do you think sweetness can be genuine? 


Tuesday, December 4, 2012

It's a Wonderful Life FTW

Not much else makes an old movie-loving mother’s heart soar than having a moment where you realize that your kids also love old movies.

Unless that old movie which you realize they love is also one you love.

Unless that old movie you love is special because it is a movie which stars an actor from your hometown, who is the son of that hometown, who streets and museums are named after, and who you remember hearing about when your great-grandmother would describe where his father’s hardware store was located.

And in the moment that you realize your kids love the old movie that defines part of your history, and that they love it as much you do, your heart soars and you love this movie almost as much as you love your kids, and not because it’s just an old movie which they love because it stars an actor who is from your hometown, but because IT IS JUST A DARN GOOD MOVIE.

It's A Wonderful Life, kids. Get it.