Tag Archive | christmas

Friday Five (stay ho-ho-home edition)

We have reached the fourth and final Friday in December. This is also the final Friday in 2020, and year that I think everyone agrees needs to be over.

It also happens to be Christmas Day. In a normal year that would mean that likely most people wouldn’t be reading things online until later in the day, after much of the festivities are over. But most people should be staying home, opening presents over zoom or facetime or something.

Because it is Christmas Day, I had mixed feeling about what kind of stories I ought to include. In doesn’t help that every day there are worse and worse headlines about the crybaby-in-chief and his latest temper tantrum. But in the end, the news is what it is. So, this Friday Five I bring you: the top five stories of the week, five stories about science, five stories about people who definitely aren’t on Santa’s Nice List, five stories about the pandemic, and five videas (plus things I wrote and a notable obituary).

Stories of the Week:

Crying on the Clock Is the Best WFH Perk.

SolarWinds Adviser Warned of Lax Security Years Before Hack.

Pennsylvania Lt. Gov. Fetterman relentlessly trolls Dan Patrick seeking $1M voter fraud bounty.

Arizona GOP May Face Sanctions for Filing Lawsuit Contradicted by Audit, Judge Suggests.

Secret Service Has No Plan if Trump Refuses to Go, Sources Say. A more accurate headline would be, “Secret Service Will Not Say Whether They Hava a Plan if Trump Refuses to Go”

This Week in Science:

Aliens at Proxima Centauri? A New Radio Signal Raises the Question.

‘Beautiful’ dinosaur tail found preserved in amber.

Ancient wolf cub found ‘perfectly preserved’ in Canadian permafrost. We even know what it ate.

The year 2020 in space discoveries.

The Forest in the City – Researchers are looking for answers to the mysterious die-off of sword ferns in Seattle’s Seward Park..

This Week in People Who Definitely Got Coal In Their Stockings:

Another Blow for QAnon as Voat (aka Alt-Right Reddit Knock-off) Announces a Christmas Shutdown.

NY Attorney General subpoenas pro-Trump troll Jacob Wohl for voter suppression scheme – Wohl and Jack Burkman have been criminally indicted in Ohio and Michigan in connection with the robocall scheme.

How Offshore Oddsmakers Made a Killing off Gullible Trump Supporters – The emotions and strategies behind record-setting bets on a MAGA victory that never came.

FBI: White Supremacists Plotted Attack on US Power Grid – The FBI alleges in an affidavit that white supremacists schemed to attack power stations in the southeastern U.S. and one Ohio teenager wanted the group to be “operational” on a faster timeline if President Donald Trump lost his re-election bid.

Christians Invaded Native American Sacred Space to Pray Away “Dark Energy”.

This Week in the Pandemic:

Misinformation about the vaccine could be worse than disinformation about the elections – The rollout of the Covid-19 vaccines is presenting social media sites with fresh and daunting challenges.

Every US coronavirus death is preventable, health expert says.

U.S. to require all air passengers arriving from U.K. to test negative for COVID-19.

COVID-19: South African variant may be worse than UK variant.

Black doctor dies of COVID-19 weeks after turning to social media to chronicle racist treatment.

In Memoriam:

James E. Gunn, Science Fiction Author and Scholar, Dies at 97.

Things I wrote:

Playing catchup, virtual party, and counting down to Christmas.

A proper Christmas… however you define it.

Unintentional physics lessons, anniversary, and more.

We need a Rainbow Christmas—especially in quarantine.

Videos!

“Twas The Coup Before Christmas” A Late Show Animated Holiday Classic:

(If embedding doesn’t work, click here.)

Top Republican HUMILIATES Sidney Powell ON FOX NEWS:

(If embedding doesn’t work, click here.)

ARE YOU A DOUBLE DIPPER?:

(If embedding doesn’t work, click here.)

Steve Grand – I’ll be home for Christmas (Official Music Video):

(If embedding doesn’t work, click here.)

Tom Goss – Christmas 2020 – not all pandemic-themed holiday songs have to be melancholy (not that there’s anything wrong with that):

(If embedding doesn’t work, click here.)

We need a Rainbow Christmas—especially in quarantine

“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!”

“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!”

Rainbow Xmas 2020
(To the tune of ‘We Need a Little Christmas’ from the musical. Mame)

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

‘Cause we need a rainbow Christmas,
Right this very minute!
Egg nog by the fire,
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,
I’ve got a great big platter 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,
Even over FaceTime,
We need a rainbow Christmas now!

Fill every wine glass,
Then raise a toast to full lives, and each other and
Join in the laughter,
Because our joy can push through masks and distance guides each day!

‘Cause we need a rainbow Christmas,
Right this very minute!
Cocktails in the morning,
With brandied cherries in them!

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

Yes we need a rainbow Christmas now!

Playing catchup, virtual party, and counting down to Christmas

This year’s theme is The Big Gay Christmas Tree™️ (photo by my husband)

I haven’t been posting much all month. November’s semi-hiatus was planned, because I was doing NaNoWriMo1, so I was trying to put all of the time when I wasn’t working to writing for NaNo, rather than blogging. Once November was over I needed to shift gears to try to get the Christmas Ghost Story2 finished before the virtual Christmas Party, but I didn’t expect to almost completely stop blogging!

Part of the issue, I realize, is that things at work went super intense because we had an outlandish3 number of software releases scheduled to push out to customers before everyone goes into holiday hiatus, so I was working late several days of every week, and found myself so exhausted I needed to take naps a couple of nights each week.

I’ve been taking at least one vacation day every week since August because of some draconian changes in vacation policy. Which seems really nice until you realize that part of the draconian bit is that despite forcing most of the work force to take time off, the corporate overlords are insisting that none of the previously committed delivery dates can be adjusted. Which means that we’re still working just as many hours, but squeezing them into four work days a week instead of five.

And no, when you’re classified as a salaried and exempt employee that isn’t illegal, even though it ought to be4. Moving on.

Before the virtual party, my hubby arranged the presents before taking pictures to share.

I had Friday off, and I had worked very late two nights before that, but I managed to get up, moving, and out to do the shopping at a reasonable hour. I finished the Ghost Story in the wee small hours of Saturday morning6, as I almost always do. I always end up in a state where I’m spinning my wheels, ditching scenes and writing replacement scenes no matter how early I start the story.

I got the story finished and practiced and we were both in a good, rested headspace when it was time to log into the virtual party and start being social. I did not finish the story in time where I could both practice reading it aloud a few times and record the performance in advance to upload to either my Patreon or Youtube channel as I hoped7. I may still try to do that. We’ll see9.

Besides not getting to see people in person, another thing that was a bit disappointing about the virtual Christmas party is we didn’t have the usual gift exchange. A couple of people were willing to open presents on camera because they had received presents from some of the people on line, but it’s not the same. I could have, obviously, decided to open any number of the presents that I’ve received. But the truth is that my favorite part isn’t opening presents myself10, it’s seeing other people open presents and react to them. That’s where a lot of the laughter at the party occurs. And you get to thank the person who gave it to you right then. And you can hear the story about how the person who gave you the present found this thing and why they thought of you, when appropriate it.

So I wasn’t really chomping at the bit to open any of mine.

For the last few years Christmas day has been just Michael and I, whereas it used to be like that only on alternate years. We started this after barely getting through the first Thanksgiving after the Grifter-in-Chief was elected without punching certain relatives in the mouth12. It was a very unpleasant holiday, all right?

So for December 2016, ’17, ’18, and ’19 I have driven down to southwest Washington a few days before Christmas to drop off presents with my Mom, one of my aunts, my sister and her family, and my grown niece and her family. It’s always a day that I have off but my husband has to work13. Then we have a day or more to ourselves before the actual holiday plus Christmas Day itself.

I have to admit I kind of miss getting to do that trip this year. I like seeing everyone in person, and for whatever reason17 when we’re not down there on the actual holiday they talk a lot less about the various unpleasant topics. On the other hand, given the way the weather has been this week, which would normally be the time I’m most likely to take the trip, I’m just as happy not being on the freeway.

So I’ll just keep working from home for the next couple of days, enjoy gazing at our Big Gay Christmas Tree™, and keeping counting down until Santa arrives.


Footnotes:

1. I did make my word count goal, though I didn’t exceed the last few years’ word counts as I had managed to do a few years in a row until now.

2. The annual tradition I’ve followed since 1995 is that I write an original Christmas Ghost Story to read at the party, and challenge other folks to read something they’ve written—or otherwise perform something. We’re had people sing, play a musical instruments, all sorts of things.

3. It really is edging up into the impossible at this point…

4. It is amazing how many times when I have mentioned something like this online, how many randos feel obligated to chime in to say this sort of thing is illegal. It just reminds me how many people don’t work in the sorts of industries where everyone qualifies for the IRS’s definition of exempt employee and therefore assume that hourly working regulations apply5.

5. It’s particularly amazing at how many of them don’t understand that virtually every company that has managed to get most of its employees thus classified does these sorts of thing to exploit their employees.

6. Sort of. I mean, I reached an ending by about 3:30am and then promptly crashed for a few hours. After I woke up I kept thinking about it and didn’t like how I’d ended it. I mean the very ending, yes, but the way I’d written the story and the fairy tale tropes I was using had prompted me to write a long denouement that a short story typically has nowadays. So sometime shortly afternoon I deleted most of the denouement, replacing it with a single sentence, and then I was much happier.

7. I need to upload things to both far more often…8

8. Given my activity thus far this year, by “more often” I really mean “at all.”

9. I’m not sure how much appeal there would be to hearing a Christmas Ghost Story after Christmas, so if I don’t manage it in the next few days…

10. Which is not to say I don’t enjoy getting presents. That’s fun. And trying to guess what’s inside and then opening it is also a lot of fun. I particularly love those times when someone finds something I didn’t even know existed, but if I had known I would have put it on my own wishlist11. That’s just amazing.

11. In the realm of books and music, my friend Mark is incredibly good at this.

12. The cliche usually mentions the racist uncle—the problem goes deeper than that. The homophobic relatives who don’t believe they are homophobic, the relatives who repeat white supremacist talking points from Fox News without thinking, et cetera, et cetera. That’s part of the reason we instituted the old rule of we would visit them for one of the big holidays each year, then stay home for the other.

13. I always got asked several times why Michael wasn’t there. They accept that I get more paid time off than he does, but I keep expecting them to start accusing me of keeping him away from them or something14.

14. I’ve mentioned before that I strongly suspect a bunch of my extended family on that side like Michael more than they do me. Which I’m perfectly happy with, because I think he’s awesome, and given how many of the family perceived my late husband, Ray, as some sort of evil person who surely must had done something diabolical to me to turn me gay15, them all enthusiastically liking my husband is a decided improvement16.

15. I have been gay for as long as I can remember, I just didn’t have words for it when I was younger, and then because I feared all the homophobic people around me once I realized what was going on after puberty hit, I hid it from them.

16. One of his reasons for not accompanying me on these trips during those years is that he doesn’t want to use up one of his more limited number of vacation days for that purpose, but also because he winds up biting his tongue a whole lot more than I do when they start parroting Fox News.

17. There are two reasons I can think of. First, there’s something about having a bunch of people together for several hours on a holiday that seems to make some folks feel obligated to fill any moments of silence with something, and so they are just more likely to spout off as the day goes on. Second, since I tend to be dropping off stuff at each individual house, and they know I have other people to get to and so on, they think of it as a visit with me, rather than a general group get-together. So topics remain focused on the social visit and catching up on our personal lives, rather then discussing world events, the coming apocalypse18, and so on.

18. I’m not exaggerating, here. The kind of Bible-thumping evangelical fundamentalism my extended family adheres sees every single world event as either a direct attack by demonic forces, or a sign that Commando Jesus is going to descend from the heavens soon, kill all the unbelievers, and take the true believes back up to rule in heaven.

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):

(If embedding doesn’t work, click here.)

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.

…paper packages tied up with string

Many, many years ago, my late husband Ray found this nifty storage container at a store. It was a Rubbermaid product intended to hold a bunch of rolls of wrapping paper keeping them safe from getting mangled in a closet (which is what tended to happen to leftover rolls when we tried to put them away). It had a special compartment in the lid to hold ribbon and scissors and tape. It seemed like a no-brainer purchase.

When we got it home (this was just after a Christmas and we needed to start putting away all the decorations) we discovered it’s first flaw: it was designed to hold rolls that were 28-inches wide or less. Back when I was a kid, the two standard sizes of wrapping paper sold in all the stores was 24-inch and 28-inch, but even in 1993 or 94 (when we bought this), the most common sizes offered for sale were 28-inch and 30-inch. So a few of the rolls we had wouldn’t fit in the thing.

Which was less than ideal.

Ray simply shrugged and said we’d need to keep an eye out for the shorter rolls. And later that year he found some mail-order sale on 28-inch rolls and bought a bunch and we were set for the next couple years.

The other problems took a bit longer to recognize. The way it was designed, it had almost no flat surfaces, so you couldn’t stack anything on it. The lid was fully one-third of its length and snapped into place, so if you tried to store it on its side the lid would pop off and all the paper would get exposed. It’s widest point was where the lid snapped on, which meant even when stored upright, that was wasted space on each side. And again, you couldn’t pack it in tight, or the lid would pop off.

But, the rolls inside were indeed protected, and it was awfully easy to carry a complete wrapping kit around during the season.

After Ray died, the container became one of the things that made me think of Ray whenever I saw it, so I became even more inclined to ignore any shortcomings.

As time went on, it became more difficult to find 28-inch rolls of wrapping paper. Also, I’ve always had the bad habit of buying wrapping paper during the holiday season just because it’s cute—regardless of how many rolls of paper we may already have. This is a habit that Michael has, too. So the stockpile of rolls of gift wrap that could fit in the container kept growing.

Each year I would pull the container out, but would usually use mostly the rolls that wouldn’t fit in. I rationalized this by telling myself it I didn’t use up the other rolls, more of the leftover would get damaged in storage. I didn’t consciously realize that I was also avoiding using the rolls that did fit in the container because if I used them up, the container wouldn’t be full, any more.

So, three Christmases ago we found out that we would have to move sometime in the following year. So when it was time to pack away Christmas stuff, I set myself a goal of trying to identify a bunch of the Christmas stuff we shouldn’t keep, so there would be fewer things to pack up. The container seemed a good candidate.

This was very early in the purge-and-pack process, so I couldn’t just put the container in the “get rid of” pile without discussing it with Michael. It was while we were discussing it that I realized I had been avoiding using the wrap that would fit in the container on the circle-reasoning basis that I need to keep that paper to justify having held onto the container so long.

Michael made the additional suggestion that all the unused Christmas wrap should be donated, rather than trying to pack and move it. “We always wind up buying new stuff each year, anyway.”

And he was right. Our first Christmas at the new place, we bought new wrapping paper (trying to keep it to a reasonable number of rolls). Shortly after Christmas I found a canvas bag-type container that was advertised for storing wrapping paper, and could take rolls up to I think it’s 40-inches (which I have never bought, but you…). It stores much more easily. It’s a cheery red-and-green, so it’s easy to find in a dark closet.

A few days ago my husband wanted to start wrapping presents. I was still at the office when he got home and started on it. He said after spending a long time looking, he nearly called me to ask where the wrapping paper was. But then he was putting stuff he’d pulled out of the closet and sorted through back in, when he happened to grab the red and green canvas bag by the sides instead of one of its handles—and he realized it was full of rolls of wrapping paper.

“It wasn’t until then that I remembered we’d gotten rid of the plastic container,” he told me later.

I chuckled, teased him, and then thanked him. Because usually I’m the person who is looking right at something (or already holding it in my hand) thinking that I can’t find it.

The silent stars go by…

This is just one of many weird Christmas music albums my parents owned when I was a kid.

This is just one of many weird Christmas music albums my parents owned when I was a kid.

Christmas music is one of my obsessions. I usually start listening to it either the evening of Thanksgiving or the next day and keep listening to it through Epiphany (aka, Three Kings Day, aka 12th Night). Unfortunately, my hubby is one of those people who really dislikes Christmas music, or at least a lot of it. He’s one of many people I know who really can’t stand the Sweet-Baby-Jesus music, for one. I’ve managed to figure out a large collection of Christmas song he doesn’t mind, so the car’s iPod gets loaded with those this time of year. Otherwise, I listen to my Christmas music either when he’s in the other room or use my headphones or AirPods.

As a gay kid growing up in a very conservative and uptight denomination, I understand why a lot of people dislike Christmas music. I understand that what some people hear when those songs play is, “You must conform to this belief system that has oppressed you, or else!” Seriously, some sacred music provokes memories of very bad experiences for me, too, so I get it.

My particular idiosyncrasy is that traditional religious Christmas songs just don’t register that way for me. I can sing “O, Come All Ye Faithful” in more than one language (my Latin’s a bit rusty, but…). I love singing along to “Angels We Have Heard on High” because when I do it bring back memories the many Christmas concerts where I either sang it or played in the orchestra. In my head, I’m singing the tenor, and bass, and alto part (and wishing I could still hit all the notes for the soprano), as well as playing the trumpet and baritone horn parts.

So, while I understand intellectually that those particular Christmas songs are sacred hymns, to me they’re just part of the “Ho! Ho! Ho!” extravaganza. Yes, “O, Holy Night” brings tears to my eyes, but is the wonder I used to experience every night when I lived in tiny towns in the Central Rocky Mountains, where we could walk outside, look up, and see the entire Milky Way, not being washed out by the lights of a city. Which is the same sense of wonder I used to get when I was a very small child laying on the floor in our living room with the Christmas tree lights providing most of the light in the room. It’s why sometimes during this time of the year, my husband will come out of the computer room and find me sitting in the darkened living room, staring at the Christmas tree.

This is another one we had when I was a child.

I think part of the reason is because music was a part of the holiday season for as long as I can remember. Every year Mom would pick up at least one or two new Christmas albums. For a good part of the 1960s every November would signal the arrival of such albums at gas stations and other place that you wouldn’t expect. You could get a whole vinyl album full of song recorded by various people (some names quite famous, others not) for practically nothing when you filled up your gas tank, or made some other purchase. Those made up a rather large part of our collection.

Dad mostly tolerated the music. The only album that I know he actually liked was Elvis’ Christmas Album, because Dad was a bit Elvis fan.

Anyway, while we sang some of the sacred Christmas hymns in church, and some of those Christmas concerts I performed in over the years were at churches or with religious groups, I spent a whole lot more time singing and listening to Christmas music at home. Where “Up on the House Top” or “Sleigh Ride” or “Silver Bells” or “All I Want for Christmas is my Two Front Teeth” or “Snoopy’s Christmas” or “I Wanna Hippopotamus for Christmas” was just as likely to come up as any of the religious songs.

My current iTunes library contains 13.9gigabytes of Christmas music. That’s 2,657 songs which would take about 5¼ days of continuous playing to get through the lot. Which I know is totally bonkers. And the fact that there are Christmas albums still on my wish list that I haven’t acquired, yet, is even more mind-boggling for some.

Then there are albums that aren’t actually on my wishlist, but I wouldn’t mind adding to the collection if I could. I was reminded of some of this this weekend when Mom texted me about find a box of cassette tapes of Christmas music, including some that are kind of my fault. Twenty-two years ago (the first Christmas after Ray died) I spent several days visiting Mom for Christmas, but because Mom was still working in retail at the time, that meant for several of those days I was hanging out at her place by myself.

It just so happened that she had recently found in the back of a closet a box full of old vinyl Christmas albums, including a bunch that—so far as I can tell—have never been re-issued on CD or digital. I went out and bought a bunch of cassette tapes and spent one day recording all my favorites onto cassette. I made two copies of each—one for me and one for Mom (because she liked to listen to music in her car). After I showed her the first day’s work, she asked me to transfer several more.

I wish I could say that, when I had the chance a few years later, I transferred those recordings to compact disc. I’m not sure why I didn’t. But I’m glad to know that Mom still has hers (though I suspect the quality may have degraded a bit by now, and I have no idea the quality of the player she’s listening to them on).

I’m not obsessed with finding those old odd albums. I just wouldn’t mind if I happened to find one had been issued at least once in a more modern format. Just because listening to an old recording that you used to hear often is kind of like running into an old friend you haven’t seen in years, and sharing stories and laughs about things you did together a long time ago.

It’s another sense of wonder, like looking at a twinkling Christmas tree in the dark and remembering the bright starlit skies of yore.

They aren’t even going to let us cook the turkey before they trot out more War on Christmas nonsense

I wasn’t going to write about the so-called War on Christmas until after Thanksgiving. But some people just cannot let a day go by without claiming that they are the victims of wholly fictitious campaigns. I actually entertained the notion that these stories might go away. I mean, Trump said in more than one of his speeches that he, personally, had brought “Merry Christmas” back—I don’t know where he thought it was, but then his sentences are so often just word salad that you start giving up trying to decode him.

But he proclaimed that the War on Christmas was over because he won it! And his supporters, which include the same idiots who scream about the War on Christmas every year usually believe every word he says. Despite overwhelming evidence about each lie he tells. So I thought maybe they’ve give it up.

Nope. If you want a summary of at least a couple of the blow-ups (along with a lot of snarky commentary), check this out: Seems Like The War On Christmas Starts Earlier Every Year!

Of the three incidents they talk about in that story, the one that really pisses me off is scamvangelist Jim Bakker going on his show and talking about that time, just a few years ago, when it was actually illegal to say “Merry Christmas.” Until, he said, his viewers called people and got the law repealed.

At no point during Jim Bakker’s lifetime has it been illegal anywhere in the United States for a person to say “Merry Christmas.” That’s just a fact.

There have been moments in history when celebrating Christmas was against the law—but it was over 300 years ago. The Puritans were quite opposed to Christmas and well, pretty much any fun at all. In Boston, for instance, Christmas was banned from 1659 to 1681.

Celebrations of Christmas had been banned in England for a while, before that, also because of Puritan influence. In 1644 the British Parliament banned seasonal plays, traditional Christmas games, the singing of carols, the hanging of holly, and so forth. Businesses were required by law to be open on December 25. Other forms of merry-making and partying were also legally discouraged year-round, but Christmas seemed to really annoy them. It was not a time when the phrase “Merry Olde England” had much meaning. Those laws were repealed in the year 1660, but that was only in England. Various U.S. colonies kept the laws on the books.

The Puritans were not atheists. They considered themselves very devout Christians. Christmas, they said, was not a religious holiday. In fact, the Puritans objected to the notion of all religious holidays:

“THERE is no day commanded in scripture to be kept holy under the gospel but the Lord’s day, which is the Christian Sabbath.

Festival days, vulgarly called Holy-days, having no warrant in the word of God, are not to be continued.”
—the Westminster Directory of Public Worship

Christians (well, Protestants, anyway) of that time would be horrified to find out that modern day Christians consider the Christmas tree a religious symbol, let alone that Christian leaders would get outraged in a governor referred to such a decoration as anything other than a Christmas tree.

So it was Christians who banned Christmas back in the day, not atheists or pagans or Jews or Muslims. And even the modern so-called War on Christmas was initiated by Christians, not non-Christians.

I’m not old enough to have been around when Christmas was banned in Boston, but I am old enough to remember the campaigns by fundamentalist Christians in the 1960s asking businesses to stop using the word “Christmas” in their advertising and marketing materials. They thought it demeaned the story of Christ to have the “Christmas” applied to things as sordid and mundane as store wide discounts.

Now you have so-called Christian organizations like the Liberty Counsel complaining that that a clothing store chain that made their “nice list” only as some Christmas items in their inventory at Christmas time. Another chain is scolding for saying “Happy Holidays” in one part of its advertising mailer, despite having the “Merry Christmas” and “Christmas” plastered many more times on every single page.

When I was about 10 years old my mom told me that if I wasn’t sure what someone’s religion was, that I should say “Happy Holidays.” At the time she had said, “Because you never know if someone is Jewish.”

There is no law, nor any plot to pass such a law, forbidding people from saying the phrase “Merry Christmas.” We do have a tradition, going all the way back to the Founding Fathers, of a separation of Church and State, so sometimes when citizens sue, the courts have ruled that certain government agencies can’t do things that appear to favor one religion over others. That gets under some people’s skin. It doesn’t matter than every single person who has ever been elected President in this nation has been a person who proclaimed themself a Christian. It doesn’t matter that at least one Christian holiday is an official federal holiday. It doesn’t matter that in many states there are restrictions are what sorts of business activities can take place on Sunday, the Christian sabbath.

They still feel that any recognition of beliefs which differ from theirs is oppression. It’s irrational and paranoid. And I don’t know if any amount of reasoning is going to persuade them away from their delusion of persecution.

"Slow down!! Let's eat the damn turkey first!"

(MemeGenerator.Net Click to embiggen)

%d bloggers like this: