The third workday after Christmas vacation, or Three Kings Day and returning to mundania

In Western Christianity, the feast of Epiphany commemorates principally (but not solely) the visit of the Magi to the Christ Child, and thus Jesus' physical manifestation to the Gentiles. It is sometimes called Three Kings' Day, or Twelfth Night, and in some traditions celebrated as Little Christmas or the Twelfth Day of Christmas.

In Western Christianity, the feast of Epiphany commemorates principally (but not solely) the visit of the Magi to the Christ Child, and thus Jesus’ physical manifestation to the Gentiles. It is sometimes called Three Kings’ Day, or Twelfth Night, and in some traditions celebrated as Little Christmas or the Twelfth Day of Christmas.

Most years I try to take down all the Christmas decorations on New Year’s Day. And most years I don’t quite manage it. In those years where I don’t finish the undecorating on New Year’s, my fallback deadline is Epiphany/Three Kings’ Day. This year, I took down the outdoor lights as well as the lights and decorations in the windows on New Year’s Day, but didn’t get to the tree and other decorations until this last Saturday. And even worse, even though I took down the outdoor lights, I didn’t put them away. I did untangle and roll-up the light strings, but they were just stacked up in the living room for the two days that I went back to work last week.

That latter bit is tied to the rest of the undecorating. All the Christmas decorations, including the outdoor lights, are stored away in a set of smallish boxes carefully crammed onto the shelves in the walk-in closet. So the only way to put anything away is to pull out all ten boxes and open them up so things can be packed into the as I unwind the tree.

Since I took the tree down Saturday both Michael and I have commented on feeling a sense of disorientation when we walk past that part of the house. It’s a little worse this year because we also left the card table up much longer after the party this year. The last couple of years we extended the dining room table by putting the card table at the end of it. And while the dining room table had this dark red cloth table cloth, the coffee table got one of those green plastic temporary table cloths. So it look festive enough for the party, but sort of tacky afterward. This year, though, I picked up a long poinsettia and holly table cloth for the dining room table, and a shorter whit and gold snowflake one for the coffee table. So it looked much less tacky after the party… and I just left it there until this last weekend. So two different parts of the living room-dining room-library space that had been occupied by something furniture-ish are now empty. And it just feels weird.

Meanwhile, I’ve discovered what may be a new (and very unwanted) tradition. To explain it takes a bit of background: The first Christmas here in Shoreline, two years ago, was the first time after we downsized from the 20-some much bigger boxes full ornaments (also known as, the cumulative whackiness of 22+ years of choosing a new theme for the following year’s tree, scouring after-Christmas sales for discount ornaments that would match said theme, plus picking up or making new ornaments that following season to complete the theme). Even with the downsizing, we still have way more ornaments than are needed for or 7′ narrow artificial tree. So the decorating still involves choosing maybe not so much a full blown theme as an emphasis. The first year for basic color we put on only the red, green, and gold glass ornaments. Then any ornament that could be called arctic or antarctic (polar bears, penguins, snowy owls, seals, and all the Alaska Snow Babies, for instance). Plus a few faves that always go on no matter what.

That meant that a particular box of 12 red and green ornaments glass ball ornaments had gone on the tree. But when we were undecorating, I could only find 11 of the red and green glass balls. Before I boxed everything up and put them away, got Michael to help me search under furniture and such trying to find either the missing ornament or evidence of broken shards of the ornament. We couldn’t find either. Michael suggested the roomba might have pushed it into a spot in one of the back rooms that we hadn’t so carefully searched. So we put the boxes away, and I made sure that the box containing the other eleven was easy to get to, in hopes that we would eventually find the missing ball in some weird part of the house.

Two years later, still no sign of the 12th red and green ornament.

Last year, our second Christmas here, for basic color I pulled out all the purple and pink glass ornaments, and a lot of the Star Trek and Star Wars ornaments… but also some of our favorites. And again, when I was putting them away, a box set of 9 purple pine cones with silver glitter had gone on the tree, but I could only find 8 purple pine cones when we took the tree down. Again, neither of us could find the ornament underneath furniture or in weird corners of the room. So again we boxed everything and hoped it would turn up.

One year later, still no sign of the 9th purple pine cone.

This year I pulled out the ice and snow colored ornaments, plus anything that could be construed as a character from a story, and our usual favorites. Stories meant that this set of 6 Winnie-the-Pooh themed ornaments that consist of pressed board printed with colored illustrations from the original book, with pink-tinted scalloped edges went on the tree. Ice & snow meant that a set of blown glass ornaments that looking like inverted clear rain drops with hand-painted poinsettias around the “equator” of the broadest part of each drop also went on. When I was undecorating the tree, one of the rain drops broke in my hand (but I didn’t get cut!), which was sad, so the box with its six spots for the ornaments only has five ornaments, now. And I could only find five of the Winnie-the-Pooh ornaments.

So, once again, we have one missing ornament from a set that we can’t seem to find anywhere in the house.

Now, ornaments break and otherwise occasionally get lost, I get that. And maybe during the previous 22 years one ornament a year was the norm, and I just didn’t notice because we had so friggin’ many different sets; I don’t know. But this is beginning to annoy me. I mean, by now we should have found some sign of one of those lost ornaments somewhere in the house, right?

Friday Five (appropriate responses edition)

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I’m not really ready for it to be the first Friday of 2020, and yet, here we are.

New Year’s Day was the last day of my Christmas vacation. Going back to the office on Thursday was not quite as much of a hassle as I thought it would be. Usually when it’s been a while since I went in it takes longer to find things and get out the door… but I was standing at the bus stop earlier than usual. It was very quiet at the office because it seems that about half my co-workers took all of this week as well as last week off, os I spent most of the day just going through my inbox.

Meanwhile, welcome to the Friday Five. This week I bring you: then the top five stories of the week, five stories about science fiction, five stories about science, and five videos (plus notable obituaries and a some things I wrote).

Stories of the Week:

Network Building Anti-Gay Churches Shuttered .

Opinion | Bret Stephens and the Perils of the Tapped-Out Column.

The decade in dumb: Looking back on the silliest of Apple commentary.

John Lewis Diagnosed With Pancreatic Cancer – Civil Rights Icon Needs No Epitaph.

Dispensaries Are Still Not Selling Cannabis to Children.

This Week in Science Fiction:

The New Rude Masters of Fantasy & Science Fiction – and Romance .

A Perfectly Cromulent Review of Books — Every Heart Among Bones Beneath Sugar in a Dream Come Tumbling Down.

[DECEMBER 31, 1964] LOST IN THE DESERT (JANUARY 1965 ANALOG).

The 2019 Darth Vader Parenthood Award for Outstandingly Horrible Fictional Parents.

Jason Sanford – The State of Genre Magazines.

This Week in Science:

Stick-toting puffins offer first evidence of tool use in seabirds.

10 of the wildest discoveries Washington scientists made in 2019.

Bad Astronomy | Happy New Year! … but what exactly is a ‘year’?

500-million-old fossilized brain has totally changed our minds.

How Kepler Invented Science Fiction and Defended His Mother in a Witchcraft Trial While Revolutionizing Our Understanding of the Universe.

In Memoriam:

Jerry Herman, the Broadway composer who wrote ‘Hello, Dolly!’ and ‘La Cage aux Folles,’ is dead at 88.

Commentary: Jerry Herman, composer of ‘Hello, Dolly,’ should also be remembered as an early HIV survivor.

Things I wrote:

Monday Update 12/30/2019: Racist loudmouths, racist enablers, and acts of terror.

My New Year’s Wish for You, 2020.

Videos!

Perry Mason – QUIZ: How Well Do You Know Perry Mason?:

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Harry Styles – Adore You (Official Video):

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Cub Sport – City of Angels (Official Video):

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Billy Porter – Love Yourself (Official Celeb Lip Sync Video):

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Pet Shop Boys – Monkey business (radio edit):

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My New Year’s Wish for You, 2020

Love will save us.

We are told that love should be hidden, or private, or otherwise not talked about in the open. And some of the people who are most likely to repeat this horrible lie are people who claim to be followers of a carpenter from Galilee, who said that loving one another was the essence of his god’s commandments.

Love is love.

Anyone who tells you otherwise is an agent for evil. Don’t listen to them.

Stand up for those who are rejected by society as a whole. Stand up for the defenseless. Stand up and be counted.

Confess your love. There should be no shame in admitting that you love the people who make your life bearable, worth striving for, or better than it would be without then.

Proclaim your love.

And feel no obligation to defend those who are not willing to embrace and promote love—true love, not the empty promise of hypocrits who claim to love while they condemn the love of others and advocate stripping legal rights from others. Not “all sides” are equal, and no one with an actual moral compass thinks so, so don’t be drawn into that trap.

Love will save us.

Real love, not the love of hypocrites.

You will save us. Your love will save us. Embrace that truth and never let it go.

Love will save us.

Monday Update 12/30/2019: Racist loudmouths, racist enablers, and acts of terror

“If Jesus showed up and ran for president in 2020 on the platform that human empathy and compassion is more important than personal wealth, do you think Trump supporters would call him a libtard to his face or just behind his back?” — @littledeekay

“If Jesus showed up and ran for president in 2020 on the platform that human empathy and compassion is more important than personal wealth, do you think Trump supporters would call him a libtard to his face or just behind his back?” — @littledeekay

I had a very busy but very productive Saturday and Sunday. Not all of the household chores I wanted to get to before the end of my vacation got done… but I have a couple more days left. Because I had errands to run in several parts of the region and was driving around a lot, I didn’t have time to do a Weekend Update. And there were a few stories that either broke after I posted this week’s Friday Five or were new developments in stories previously included in a Friday Five or Weekend Update. And I have more than a few words to say about them.

Let’s jump in: I have earlier linked to stories about how Christianity Today, a conservative evangelical publication originally founded by Billy Graham had called for removing Trump from office because of his immoral policies. This led to a lot of other evangelical leaders to chime in to defend Trump. But it has also led a few more to come out and agree with Christianity today: Ex-editor of Christian publication says he had ‘no other choice’ but to quit after pro-Trump editorial.

WATCH: Trump-evangelicals split discussed by Rev. Dr. William Barber. This is a short clip from MSNBC in which Reverend Barber makes that point that the evangelical support for Trump and his racist, anti-worker, anti-immigrant, and pro-wealth policies have never been universal. He focuses primarily on the moneyed interests vs. the poor and struggling, but that’s not the whole issue.

Christianity Today’s split with Trump highlights deeper issue in white evangelical America. This article hits at several of the disputes going on among people who identify as evangelical Christian or were raises in those communities have been engaged in. A lot of younger people raised in those churches are turned off by their elders’ involvement in rightwing politics. They see those politics as violations of Jesus’ teachings about taking care of the poor, loving your neighbors and enemies alike, welcoming strangers, and so forth. The increased focus on anti-gay policies and anti-gay activisim has accellerated that attrition. As the article points out, we have at least one generation who has grown up with queer classmates and friends, or children of queer parents who no longer see queer people as abominations.

People are leaving those churches. The percentage of the U.S. who identify as evangelical as gone down. In 2006, white evangelical Christians made up 23% of the U.S. population, now they make up only 15%. However, a weird thing has been going on electorally in that same period. The percentage of voters who identified as white and evangelical made up about 23% of the electorate in 2006. By 2018 that had grown to 26%. What’s happening is that they have become more energized and determined to show up and vote. Often more energized than other segments of the population.

Evangelicals need to follow Christianity’s morals, not Trump’s. The headline is very true. But you know how else the headline could have been worded and it would be just as true for the last few decades? “Evangelicals need to follow Christianity’s morals, not the Republican Party’s.” And do not try to make a both sides argument on this. One party wants to fight poverty, take care of the sick (make sure people don’t die of preventable diseases), welcome immigrants, and other things which the Bible literally commands Christians to do, and the other party wants to do the exact opposite.

Moving on: 5 people stabbed at Hanukkah party in Rabbi’s home and Cuomo calls machete attack during Hanukkah celebration an ‘act of terrorism’ as other politicians react. Hate crimes are inherently terror attacks. The point is never just to wound or kill the person attacked, or if it’s a property crime to destroy the church/flag/religious symbol/et cetera. The purpose is to remind all members of the targeting group that they are not safe, that they are vulnerable to this sort of attack at any time. In other words, the point is to inspire fear in the targeted group (and often other minorities who are perceived to be allied or otherwise related). And what is terror? Why, it’s the state of extremely frightened or terrified.

There have been a lot of anti-semetic attacks in New York recently, and hate crimes of nearly every type have been on the rise since Trump was elected. It’s not just Trump, of course, but racists and other bigots felt empowered when he was elected. And why shouldn’t they? He keeps referring to them as very fine people?

Finally: The following news absolutely does not belong in the In Memoriam section of the next Friday Five, because this guy should not be memorialized: Foul-Mouthed Radio Host Don Imus Dead at 79 and Don Imus, Racist Radio Show Host, Dead At 79 – Imus was fired from CBS in 2007 after he referred to members of the Rutgers women’s basketball team as “nappy-headed hos” (among other slurs).

It took me a while to find articles with headlines that didn’t refer to him as a “controversial radio personality.” A controversy is a dispute or debate about a matter of opinion. It’s when two or more rival claims exist about a subject, each of which have reasonably equal arguments in their favor.

Being a foul-mouthed racist isn’t controversial, it’s vulgar, ignorant, and deplorable.

There are people who will jump on me and say we should not speak ill of the dead. They are incorrect. The original proverb people always misquote is Greek proverb is more correctly translated, “Of the dead, speak nothing but truth.” Don’t tell lies about the dead is what the admonishment means. And yeah, if you happen to be having a personal conversation with a grieving family member of a deplorable person who has recently died, it is rude to list off all of their relative’s flaws.

But public reporting about a public figure is a different matter. And Imus was racist, anti-semetic, and mispgynist. He used callous, mean, and intentionally offensive terminology to refer to many sorts of people. He sexually harassed many women employed in the stations where we worked. He pulled out his gun several times in the studio to threaten people who were on his show when they disagreed with him.

He wasn’t controversial, he was morally repugnant. And that’s more than enough time spent talking about him.

Friday Five (end of a decade edition)

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And now we have reached the final Friday in 2019. It is also the final Friday in the decade of the twenty-teens.

Today is the eighth day of my Christmas vacation, and I’m finally starting to feel rested. After my husband and I went through our stockings from Santa and opened the presents under the tree, he asked me, “Did you get everything you wanted for Christmas?” so I picked up my phone and called up so news sites. “Trump is still President, so no, I didn’t. But everything I did get was awesome.”

Meanwhile, welcome to the Friday Five. This week I bring you: five stories about the return of one of the most beloved members of an NLF team, then the top five stories of the week, five stories about deplorable people, and five videos (plus notable obituaries and a some things I wrote).

This Week in Beast Mode:

(Those of you who were not Seahawks fans between 2010 and 2105 have no idea why this is a gigantic Christmas miracle… so just skip to the Stories of the Week if the phrase ‘Beast Mode’ doesn’t fill you with excitment…)

DONE — SEAHAWKS HAIL RETURN OF THE BEAST – In a whirlwind 24 hours, the Seahawks made emergency hires of Marshawn Lynch and Robert Turbin..

Seahawks RB Marshawn Lynch: Being back ‘a great feeling’.

Marshawn Lynch will give Seahawks a jolt — and maybe some production, too.

CHRISTMAS FILM THAT TELLS SEAHAWKS TALE – The hype around the return of Marshawn Lynch obscures the fact that the Seahawks’ most critical vulnerability is the wounded, reeling O-line.

What’s old is new again with Seahawks, and Marshawn Lynch will be the one initiating contact.

Stories of the Week:

Archaeologists may have found the remains of a trans man in a Byzantine chapel – The monastery of Mount Athos has forbidden women for 1000 years. Researchers are wondering why they just found “female” bones there.

Lesbian moms adopt 3 brothers to keep them from being split apart.

US spy planes fly over North Korea after ‘Christmas gift’ missile threat.

Public support for Trump conviction at all-time high, poll finds.

Hallmark movies are fascist propaganda. “…with their emphasis on returning home and the pleasures of the small, domestic life, also send a not-at-all subtle signal of disdain for cosmopolitanism and curiosity about the larger world, which is exactly the sort of attitude that helps breed the kind of defensive white nationalism that we see growing in strength in the Donald Trump era.”

This Week in Deplorables and People Fighting Them:

Televangelist Gets 1008 Years For Molesting Boys.

The FBI is asking questions about former Gov. Matt Bevin’s pardons.

Christian Post Editor Quits As Infighting Continues.

Trump Isn’t Playing Chess, He’s Playing Hungry-Hungry Hippos – CNN analyst Josh Rogan points out that the only way Trump benefits from an impeachment trial is if there’s chaos.

Former Hawaii Governor Calls On Tulsi Gabbard To Resign.

In Memoriam:

Legendary Gay Adult Film Director William Higgins Has Died at 77.

Things I wrote:

Everybody knows some turkey….

Carols and Kris Kringle—the fourth day of Christmas vacation.

Another Rainbow Christmas!

It’s Time for Mistletoe and Holly.

Getting Meta and Merry on Boxing Day.

Videos!

Oscar Isaac Says He Lobbied for ‘Finn-Poe’ Romance in ‘Star Wars’ But ‘Disney Overlords Were Not Ready to Do That’ :

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Rachel Maddow says if not for Impeachment, “slow-motion crash” of NRA would be top U.S. story:

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“Once Upon Impeachment,” A Late Show Animated Christmas Classic:

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Adam Lambert Turns Cher’s ‘Believe’ into a Soaring Power Ballad::

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Pet Shop Boys – Decide :

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Getting Meta and Merry on Boxing Day

More gay lights! Hey, it's right there on the box. It must be true!

More gay lights! Hey, it’s right there on the box. It must be true!

When I talked about why we have been avoiding visiting my family on major holidays the last few years, I realized that I haven’t emphasized quite enough a positive outcome of this. When I visit before Christmas to drop off presents, I usually wind up having long and very pleasant conversations with several of the relatives. That those conversations are mostly one-on-one means that I’m never quite sure what we’ll end up talking about.

Last spring, for instance I wrote about one form of gatekeeping that sometimes happens in publishing under the guise of believability. And as an example of things that some people find unbelievable, I went on a rambling discussion of some of the reasons I referred to my late paternal grandmother as Evil: Believability isn’t just about fiction, or Let me tell you about my Evil Grandmother. During two long conversations, one with Mom, and the other with Aunt Silly, we both got onto the subject of my two grandmothers.

And I was a little bit surprised that this Aunt—who had never been the daughter-in-law of my Evil Grandma—had a relevant story to add to Evil Grandma’s saga. I shouldn’t have been, because she had still been a teen-ager and living at home when Mom and Dad had starting dating. Both Mom and Dad had been in her wedding party when Aunt Silly got married. Aunt Silly had still been living in the same tiny town until maybe six months after both I and my almost-twin cousin were born. But for some reason it had never occurred to me that Aunt Silly would have had more than a few casual interactions with my Evil Grandmother.

First, the shortish version of Aunt Silly’s story (which involves a urinary tract infection that I had when I was only two months old). Evil Grandma had been babysitting me for the day, and was certain that the only reason I wouldn’t stop crying was because my Mom coddled me too much. But when the crying reached a point she couldn’t stand, she’d taken me to Nice Grandma’s house, where Aunt Silly happened to be with her own baby.

During the conversation with Nice Grandma, among the weird things Evil Grandma said was that there was no reason to check a baby’s diaper until a certain number of hours after she’d changed it last. And when both Aunt Silly (who admittedly had only been taking care of her first child for a couple of months) and Nice Grandma had expressed disbelief, Evil Grandma insisted that since I refused to eat, there had been no reason to check the diaper. And she had repeated the assertion that the real problem was Mom’s coddling

And whether the diaper was wet or not wasn’t the issue: it was that Evil Grandma had not noticed that parts of a baby’s body that shouldn’t be were bright red, and even when confronted with the evidence (and after a visit to the doctor and trip to the pharmacy), she remained insistent that it had been perfectly reasonable to assume the problem was Mom’s coddling rather than a medical issue.

Second: Mom’s story is an addendum to the tale that I called the Second Coda in the above linked post of the phone call to me from Evil Grandma when she was in a hospital, on a respirator, and thought she was about to die. After that rather dramatic call, I tried to get hold of my younger sister, because I had no idea if anyone had called her to tell her Evil Grandma had had a stroke. The number I had for my sister turned out to be no longer connected, so I’d called Mom.

A few days later, Mom says, she was trying to get an address to send a ‘get well’ card or something to Evil Grandma, and whoever she had gotten hold of at the hospital, instead of giving her the hospital’s mailing address, had transferred the call to Grandma’s room.

Grandma was no longer on the respirator at that point, and was talking a little bit better. Mom had not expected to actually be talking to Evil Grandma. Mom says, “After I told her who I was and she replied that she was surprised to hear from me, I just blurted out that I had heard she wasn’t well and wanted to make sure she knew that I forgave her, and hoped that she could forgive me of my part in our disagreements.” Evil Grandma had replied, “Thank you. I love you.”

And in other developments: As seems to happen every time I visit Mom, she offered me a bunch of odd things that used to belong to one of my grandmothers or great-grandmothers. Which makes me wonder, once more, how so many members of Mom’s side of the family seem to have a kind of Tardis-like ability to store an apparent infinite number of things in a couple of ordinary closets. I wound up saying “yes” to a couple of the things (but also “no” to a bunch of others). So now hanging on my Christmas tree are two pairs of bells that had been crocheted by my paternal great-grandmother.

And while I was hanging them up, I realized that while I have memories of both of my Great-grandmother’s Christmas trees, as well as Nice Grandma’s eclectic ornament collection, I can’t remember what Evil Grandma’s Christmas trees looked like. I have memories of looking through the presents under her tree, sometimes by myself, but also sometimes with Grandpa or Dad. Both of them were world champions at the art of carefully turning a package over and and around to try to figure out what was inside. Please note that I didn’t say shake—shaking is what amatuers do. You tilt is slowly this way and that, your fingers spread wide over the surface, so you can feel how whatever is inside moves. You can identify bits that are heavier. And especially if the package is big enough in comparison to the contents, you can hear the sound it makes as it slides when you tilt it.

Anyway, I know what corner of her living room that Evil Grandma put her tree every year, but I don’t recall what kinds of ornaments she had and so on. Which seems weird given both my life long obsession with Christmas decorations, and that almost ever single Christmas before my parents’ divorce was final (when I was 15 years old), was spent at her house.

But I can’t remember what her trees looked like. I realize that for Great-grandma SJ, Great-grandma I, and my Nice Grandma I happen to have photos of some of their Christmas trees—usually with me standing in front of the tree at various ages. I also own a couple of decorations that originally were owned by one of those three. So I’ve had something to refresh my memory for them.

Finally: my Nice Grandma liked to have all the family get together to celebrate Christmas on Christmas Eve. And once she had moved back to southwest Washington, where a whole lot of extended family members lived nearby, she’d host this big get-together where relatives, in-laws, ex-in-laws, and friends would show up. You never knew who you would run into at Grandma’s Christmas Eve, because she collected strays her whole life.

There was a point when her health started making it difficult to handle all the cooking and such, so we’d shifted to most of the Christmas Eve get-togethers happened at my Aunt Silly’s house. Then Aunt Silly sold her house and moved into a much smaller place, so the next few years a cousin who had a big house hosted instead.

The first Christmas after Grandma died was… odd. Everyone said they wanted to get together for Christmas Eve but it wasn’t clear who would host it. The cousin who had hosted the last few years wanted someone else to do it. Apparently a couple of other cousins weren’t sure they wanted to make the drive. There was a point during the discussion when Aunt Silly apparently angrily said to one of her kids, “…now that Mother’s gone, I’m the matriarch of the family and I’m in charge!” Which eventually led to Aunt Silly inviting folks to her place—but not many showing up.

It happened to be one of the years that Michael and I spent Thanksgiving with Mom but stayed in Seattle for Christmas. So we didn’t show up at anybody’s get-together.

Since then no one has felt the need to make a concerted effort to get all of the cousins together for Christmas. And I get it. Most of my cousins are grandparents themselves, now. Just trying to spend time with most of their own kids and kids-in-law and grandkids is hard enough. When Grandma was alive she actually was the matriarch of this branch of the family, and it wasn’t that she ordered people to get together for Christmas Eve, it’s that at least down to my generation, we all wanted to stop in to see her and get one of her signature hugs. If you wanted to know where most of the family could be found on Christmas Eve, you called to ask Grandma where she was going to be.

I usually call her my Nice Grandma because, certainly by comparison to Evil Grandma, she was. But she was also stubborn and opinionated. Traits I inherited from her in abundance, by the way. Her stubbornness wasn’t about being inflexible—I’ve said before that if you presented a case for why you disagreed with her, she would sometimes change her mind, and even if she didn’t she would acknowledge that you had the right to make your own decisions. She wasn’t focused on always proving that she was right, her priority was simply never to give up on those that she loved.

She would explain why she was giving the advice, and what she thought would go wrong if you did it differently. She wasn’t always right. And she wasn’t always pleasant. But there she didn’t believe in treating anyone with disrespect. She was always trying to be kind. It would never have occurred to Grandma to tell other people that they were supposed to do what she said because she was “the matriarch of the family.”

I mean, if you have to pull rank? You’ve already lost the argument.

It’s Time for Mistletoe and Holly

Whatever holiday you celebrate, and however you celebreate it, I hope this week has been a time of joy and love for you and yours.

Merry Christmas!

Shabbat shalom!

Blessed Yul!

Joyous Kwanza!

Festive Festivus!

Happy Christmas!

Happy Hogswatch!

Feliz Navidad!

God Jul!

Mele Kalikimaka me ka Hauʻoli Makahiki Hou!

Beannachtaí na Nollag!

Buon Natale!

Priecīgus Ziemassvētkus un laimīgu Jauno gadu!

Felix Dies Nativitatus!

BLACK SANTA TRADITION CONTINUES THRIVING IN SOUTH SEATTLE, CENTRAL DISTRICT.

This Children’s Book Is All About a Black, Gay Santa Claus.

Cat-astrophe averted: Longview firefighters resuscitate 4 cats after house fire.

The Pope’s Xmas Message: Don’t Be Such Dicks.

Dance Of The Sugar Plum Lesbians.

Mariah Carey – All I Want for Christmas Is You (Make My Wish Come True Edition):

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Have some more tunes: https://youtu.be/oO851xeYslI

Getting underwear for Christmas doesn’t have to be a bad thing…

Another Rainbow Christmas!

“Merry Christmas! Shabbat shalom! Blessed Yul! Joyous Kwanza! Festive Festivus! Happy Christmas! Happy Hogswatch! Feliz Navidad! God Jul! Merry Impeachment! Mele Kalikimaka me ka Hauʻoli Makahiki Hou! Beannachtaí na Nollag! Buon Natale! Priecīgus Ziemassvētkus un laimīgu Jauno gadu! Felix Dies Nativitatus!”

“Merry Christmas! Shabbat shalom! Blessed Yul! Joyous Kwanza! Festive Festivus! Happy Christmas! Happy Hogswatch! Feliz Navidad! God Jul! Merry Impeachment! Mele Kalikimaka me ka Hauʻoli Makahiki Hou! Beannachtaí na Nollag! Buon Natale! Priecīgus Ziemassvētkus un laimīgu Jauno gadu! Felix Dies Nativitatus!”

Slice the pecan pie,
And don’t be stingy with the homemade whipping cream,
Crank up the music,
We’re gonna sing and laugh to drive the darkness away!

‘Cause we need a rainbow Christmas,
Right this very minute!
Egg nog at the brunch bar
With rum and brandy in it!

Yes we need a rainbow Christmas,
Right this very minute!
My lyrics may be getting slurry,
But Santa dear, we’re in a hurry!

So fling ’round the glitter!
Put up more twinkling lights than the whole Vegas strip!
No need for fruitcake,
We’ve got a great big table of deliciousness, here!

Cause we’ve grown a little rounder,
Grown a little bolder,
Grown a little prouder,
Grown a little wiser,

And we need some loving kindness,
Shared with those around us,
We need a rainbow Christmas now!

Fill every wine glass,
Then raise a toast of full lives, to each other and
Join in the laughter,
Because our joy can push through all the darkness and stife!

‘Cause we need a rainbow Christmas,
Right this very minute!
Cocktails at the brunch bar,
With brandied cherries in it!

And I need a toasty lover,
Snuggling by the fire,
I need a rainbow Christmas now!

Yes we need a rainbow Christmas now!

Carols and Kris Kringle—the fourth day of Christmas vacation

Monday I dashed down to southwest Washington to visit my Mom, drop off Christmas presents for her and other relatives, and generally spread the holiday cheer before coming back to spend Christmas with my husband1. I had a good time. I had a great visit with Mom, got to spend some time with my sister, was able to not-so-subtly make it clear to certain family members that I fully support the announcement my sister’s youngest made last year that they5 are nonbinary asexual without starting a fight, got to hang out with the niece’s two awesome children, and had a nice visit with the silliest aunt in the world6.

It was mostly a good day. I got up without sleeping in too long, I managed to get everything packed into the car close to my target exit time, and the drive down was uneventful.

The drive back was a different matter.

I got onto the freeway a bit after 9pm, and it was intermittently foggy. So I was in the right lane, traveling a teeny bit under the speed limit because visibility wasn’t great (but it also wasn’t bad). There were about about a dozen sets of tail lights ahead of me scattered randomly across the three lanes within the space I could see. And I was only a few miles north of the town where Mom lives when suddenly all of those vehicles started hitting their brakes. And even more disturbingly, starting sort of errtically zigging and zagging!

I hit my brakes and tried to slow way down. Before I’d gotten as slow as I wanted, out of the fog it came: the road was covered in debris as if at least one of the huge logs from the log trucks one frequently sees in that part of the state had be dropped across the road from a great height.

Some of the broken pieces of wood on the road were small enough that you might run them over and only run risk of blowing a tire or scratching the body of the car. Some were big enough that you would seriously damage your bumper and front end. So suddenly I was doing the mad dodging thing.

It was exciting but not at all in a good way!

About half mile further I saw some hazard lights flashing on the side of the road. I expected to see maybe the log truck that had lost the lot, or possibly someone pulled over with a flat. What was there was an ordinary freight truck, with the driver walking along the side with a flashlight looking at his undercarriage.

The car was driving fine, so I kept going, but kept the speed down further than I had before. I pulled over at the first rest stop and walked around the car with a flashlight looking for damage. I didn’t see any. I refilled my coffee mug and got back on the road.

Forty miles later at the next rest stop I pulled over because I’d had a lot of coffee by then, and needed the break. A guy standing outside as if he was waiting for someone in one of the restrooms said, “wild night to be driving, eh?” I asked if he was talking about the debris on the road between Longview and Castle Rock. “That and the fog!”

When he went by, there were state patrol cars and a sheriff’s truck on the scene directly people into one cleared lane, but it was still a bit freaky.

When I got back to the car, I noticed a text message from a friend asking that I call when I had a chance. So I called, and learned that there had been some very bad news8 for this friend. We spent a while talking about it. I hope I was able to be helpful.

I texted my husband to explain the delay, and then I got back on the road.

There was no more fog, and the rest of the trip was a breeze.

When I got home, Michael was still awake. We shared about out days, and found out that he had had a lot of mostly minor annoyances all day long. And that another person of our mutual acquaintance had gotten some bad news not unlike the news of the friend.

I’m always a bit keyed up after driving on the freeway. I seem to be really good at bottling up my anxiety about having an accident until I get home… then it all comes out. It was just a bit worse than usual. So I had to read soothing fanfic for about an hour and a half before I could turn the running hamsters in my head off and go to bed.

Now, it’s Christmas Eve. We have a plan for what we’re cooking tonight and tomorrow. I need to run to the grocery store for a couple of things this morning, but then I should be about to kick back, listen to my Christmas tunes, and be lazy for the rest of the day.

I hope we all have a merry and bright Christmas Eve!

Edited to Add: I gave this post the title I did for two reasons that I then completely forgot to mention: I was running out wearing a Santa hat everywhere I went on Monday, and carried presents into each house in this cool red Santa bag that Michael found somewhere some years ago. And then, during the ride home, there was a point where the shuffle on the iPod full of Christmas music started hitting particular favorites, and I had the sound up singing along to the songs. Even the one song that I used to think was kind of trite, but that always made Ray cry when it came up. Since he died (back in 1997), whenever the song comes up I start sobbing. But after the third or fourth time it happened, I decided to embrace it, so I sing along as loud as I can to it. There I was, driving through south Tacoma, tears streaming down my face, and not always hitting the right notes because it’s hard to control while you’re crying. Even with that song, singing Christmas carols for the last hour was a great way to end the trip.


Notes:

1. Folks have trouble understanding why we don’t come down for the holiday itself. It’s not that my relatives don’t accept my husband, it’s that they do that weird thing where they frequently spout off homophobic pronouncements as if they have forgotten that we are a pair of queer married men2. And if we happen to call them on it, they reply with an affrounted, “You can’t call me homophobic! I’ve told you I love you, right?”4

2. And then there is all the casual racism and mindless parroting of Fox news tropes—accompanied with the attitude that if we disagree we are being rude; or if we say something they disagree with we’re shoving our politics down their throat3 and how dare we compare the evil political thing we said with them simply stating the obvious?

3. As if the constant asserting of all the misogynist, racist, sectarian, anti-science, homophobic, transphobic dogma (along with the insistence that we’re not allowed to disagree) isn’t shoving things down our throats?

4. So to sum up: holidays with the family mean we are required to constantly keep our mouths shut and walk on eggshells, while dodging bullets and accepting the bombs, slings, and arrows with a smile. And that is just a really shitty way to spend a holiday.

5. They are 17 years old, and I am just astounded at the courage they have to come out in that community. I sure as heck was too scared when I lived there and was that age!

6. The weird thing is that if I’m dropping in to visit for a short time and it isn’t the actual holiday, those other topics just never come up. My theory is that because I’m stopping at their house for visit, they just never forget that I’m there. The concept of me, gay son/brother/nephew/uncle never slips into the background of their minds to blend into generic “family.” I think it’s also just a different dynamic when you don’t have the entire family sitting around for several hours7.

7. A very good friend suggested that when it’s more one-on-one they are afraid to bring it up, because they won’t have other people to back them up? And I can certainly see that for a couple of the cousins—but I don’t usually do the one-on-one thing with those particular relatives.

8. I know this is annoyingly vague, but it isn’t my news to share.

Everybody knows some turkey…

For most of the last 20 years I’ve been lucky enough to have the job flexibility (and enough paid-time-off) to take a few long weekends before Christmas and some time off around the holiday itself. The last several years I’ve taken all of the Fridays after Thanksgiving plus the week of Christmas (and usually through New Year’s Day). Now, one of the reasons I do that is because there are always extra tasks to do at this time of year: presents to acquire for those I love; shipping of some of those presents to far away places; food shopping for the get-togethers with friends; decorations to put up; any extra cleaning or repairs around the house that we realize need to happen because we are trying to put up decorations; et cetera. Not to mention that I write a Christmas Ghost Story every year. And then there are family obligations.

For reasons spelled out in some previous blog posts, we’ve been avoiding spending the actual holiday with my relatives. Which means that I pick a day off shortly before the holiday to drive down to my Mom’s house, drop off presents, visit with her, take her to dinner, and stop in briefly to see other family members that live in the same town. Then I come back home to my husband the same day, and we have the actual holiday just to ourselves.

So, even though technically I have been on vacation for several days, I haven’t had a single day that feels like a vacation. The first day I had to do final grocery shopping for the party, wrap presents, drop off Christmas stuff with a friend who was leaving town, do some of the cooking, and finish the ghost story. The next day we both had to finish cleaning the house, cook everything for the party, host the party (including my performance of the ghost story). And then do some of the cleaning before going to bed. The next day I needed to do more cleaning, turn some of the leftovers into soup for us to eat, watch my favorite football team lose a game they should have won handily, and wrap all the presents I’m taking to family. Then the next day I have to get up, pack the car, drive a couple hours down the freeway, do all the errands down there, drive a couple hours back.

And then it will be Christmas Eve. And at a minimum, there will be some cooking for us (and I’ll likely have to run to the store for something). And then on Christmas Day there will at a minimum be more cooking.

Please note: none of the above is meant to be a complaint or venting. These are all things I am choosing to do because I want to spend time with people that I love and so on. But, I have had more than one friend or acquaintance who has heard that I’m on vacation ping me to find out if we could do some fun activity on one of the aforementioned busy days. All four of them have been perfectly understanding of the fact that I’m all booked up for those days, so I am also not complaining about them.

What I am complaining about are the dang brain weasels in my own head that start trying to make me feel guilty and admit I am a total failure because I don’t have time for unplanned things for a few days.

And those weasels usually manifest as either the voice of my late nice grandmother or the voice of my late evil grandmother, each in their own way twisting the screws of guilt to the maximum.

I had a blast at the party. It is wonderful to see these friends, some of whom I have known and loved and been celebrating with for 34 years. I love seeing people enjoy food I have made. I love even more getting to eat wonderful things those friends bring to the party. I love chatting with and hearing those friends. I love the various performances some of them bring to answer the Ghost Story Challenge. I love seeing friend unwrap presents and express delight at their gifts.

I know there are going to be many fun moments while I’m doing my one-day zoom through with family. I know I will enjoy hanging out with my husband on Christmas Eve and whatever we decide to do that night (likely watch some Christmas movies). I know I will enjoy whatever I find in my stocking from Santa on Christmas morning. I will have fun as my husband and I open the presents from under the tree. I will enjoy whatever meals we make on those day.

All of this busyness isn’t without purpose or meaning. But sometimes at least some slices of my brain gets whiney about it. And I know I’m not the only one.

And yes, there will be some more busy days. I skipped our usual laundry day because we were prepping for the party, so one one of these coming vacation days there will be a reckoning for that. There will be more cleaning. There will be attempts to meet up with some of the friends we haven’t gotten to hang out with. There will be at least one trip to a movie theatre.

But there will also be at least a few mornings where I get to sleep in and be lazy for part of the day. I just don’t know exactly which ones, yet.

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