Tag Archive | holiday

No foolin’ — and let’s go to Camp!

“Today is April Fool's Day. Believe nothing and trustt no one... just like any other day.”

“Today is April Fool’s Day. Believe nothing and trust no one… just like any other day.” (A little cynical, but not completely wrong.)

I used to sometimes write April Fool’s posts. My rules were 1) that the joke couldn’t be something that would alarm people if they didn’t realize it was a joke, 2) the butt of the joke always had to be me, 3) nothing related to any disaster or illness or danger to anyone.

But even when I tried to stick to those rules, a couple of times one friend or another wouldn’t realize it was a joke right away and sometimes read something between the lines.

With the world in the middle of a deadly pandemic, with a President fond of spouting false information (and who is more concerned with the TV ratings of his press conferences than the thousands of severely ill citizens), this really isn’t a time to write parodies or satires of current events.

So, no jokes from me. No linking to any parody articles. It’s Wednesday. It happens to be the first day of the fourth month of the year. Which happens to be the day that a writing activity I often participates starts.

Therefore, I wanna talk about Camp NaNoWriMo. That’s right! It’s April, and that means an opportunity to do a writing project with the help, encouragement, and maybe even a little competition with friends near and far!

The non-profit that organizes National Novel Writing Month every November also sponsors two related events, one in April and one in July, called Camp NaNoWriMo. You set your own word count goal, can set up writing groups so you and your writing buddies can cheer each other on, and so forth.

With the goals being self-defined, one might wonder what the point is. I like having the expectation that I’ll publish my word-count (or number of words revised, or whatever) regularly. It is fun having a few people to watching and available to commiserate with, as well.

My previous forays at Camp NaNo have met with varying degree of success. This time around I mostly just need something to motivate me to work on my fiction at all. I’ve been quite bad at it. The last thing that I set out and finished was the Christmas Ghost story.

In these trying times, lots of people turn to the arts (if you’re binge watching shows on line, catching up on those audio books you’ve been meaning to get to, et cetera to get through a shelter-in-place or related ordered lockdown, you’re turning to the arts) in times of crisis. And so some of us should try to make more art, as well.

Wanna give it a whirl?

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?

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.

When you pine for the sunshine of a friendly face…

Some years ago I found myself in a weird conversation, trying to explain what it was about a certain kind of holiday movie that my Mom loves—she records dozens of them off of certain cable channels and likes to re-watch them. They make my skin crawl, and when I was trying to explain why, the friend kept pointing to a lot of Christmas movies I love that, to them, induced the same sort of eye-rolling they experienced when I described the ones I don’t like.

There were a couple of reasons for the communication mismatch, but I’ve since realized that the biggest one was that I hadn’t correctly identified what was fundamentally common to all these movies that bugged me: most of them are built around some variation of the premise that the only place where people who truly love and understand you is the community in which you grew up.

And for a whole lot of us—especially queer people—that is the absolute opposite of truth.

The real truth is that, here in the big city far away from any of the small towns I grew up in, I am far less likely to have a stranger react with obvious disgust if I introduce my husband as my husband—let alone have them immediately correct me that Michael is my friend. But that’s the reaction I often get not from strangers, but from people who claim to be friends back home.

So, I want to be clear: I have a lot of fond memories of my childhood. There are many people I knew back that that I genuinely loved and admired at the time, and many for which I still feel fondness. But for too many of them it is at best a bittersweet fondness. Because when a person who formed a big part of my life refuses to accept that the person I love and have committed my life to is my spouse—when they claim to still love me yett disapprove of the person I love (not because of who he is, but because of his gender), when they vote for politicians who want to take away what legal rights I have, when they openly talk about how legalizing my relationship is going to result in hellfire raining down on the land—it’s more than a little difficult to believe in their love.

I love my mother. I love my sister. I love my aunts and many other relatives. But I also know that to varying degrees they don’t support my right to live my life openly as a queer person. When I visit the small town where many of them live—the place where I graduated from high school and attended the first part of college—I feel on edge and defensive. And it’s not me being paranoid. From the anti-gay bumperstickers to the casual political comments, it is very clear that some of them only tolerate my presence so long as they don’t realize what I am.

For many of us, our families of origin remain what we might generously call a demilitarized zone—a place where a kind of cease-fire is enforced, though a cold war continues, and unmarked minefields abound.

So that’s why certain holiday movies and songs don’t quite resonate with me the way they do to some. The towns where I grew up aren’t where I’m most likely to find the sunshine of a friendly face. Our blood relatives are not where the light of unconditional love gleams.

So for many of us, the home sweet home is the place we went to when we escaped those communities. The people with whom we are happy in a million ways are the friends and found family we have assembled since growing up and leaving behind the narrow-minded denizens of our communities of origin.

I can get as sentimental and schmaltzy as can be about the family I have found and built since learning to be my true self and live openly. And that might induce eye-rolling for some, but it is not, by any means, something that makes one’s skin crawl.

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.

Jingle-janglin’ all the way, with coffee!

I have purchased a lot of Holiday coffee blends, yet again!

Many years ago I started a tradition with my late first husband, Ray. I was fond of Starbuck’s Christmas blend coffee, while he disliked most Starbuck’s beans. He preferred two holiday coffees: Peet’s Holiday Blend, and a regional grocery chain’s store brand called Jingle Java. So every year when I noticed that any of those three coffees were on sale, I would pick them up. Often, Ray would also pick up a bag of the Peet’s and/or the Jingle Java, but that wasn’t a problem, because between the two of us we could easily go through that many bags of coffee beans in about a month.

I don’t remember much about the first Christmas season after Ray died (because he died less than two weeks before Thanksgiving and I was a complete wreck emotionally and mentally for the next few months), but I do remember commenting to friends about the fact that the Christmas coffees lasted well into January that year since I was only making coffee on the days I wasn’t at the office, whereas when Ray had been alive he made coffee every single day of the week.

The next year was the first Christmas season that Michael and I were living together, but since Michael doesn’t drink coffee, again it took me longer than a month to use up all the coffee. A year or two later, I couldn’t find Jingle Java at the local grocery store (and not long after that many grocery stores cut back on how many types of whole bean coffee were offered for sale), and I wound up scouring stores looking for a substitute. Because I’d mentioned it, Michael picked up a second bag of Peet’s for me when he saw it. I found another coffee company’s Christmas blend as well, and again, it took me well into January before I had used up all the Christmas Coffee.

I think it was the next year when, not having been able to find a third brand of Christmas coffee by the second weekend in December, I found a bag of the newly introduced Starbuck’s Thanksgiving Blend, so I grabbed that and it became part of the rotation.

In the years since, I’ve gotten better at looking in stores at the brands I don’t usually buy to find Holiday blends in November and December. I find so many different holiday blends that, since I don’t usually let myself start using them until the week of (U.S.) Thanksgiving, I often don’t finish off all of the Christmas blends until about Valentine’s Day.

The first time that happened, I asked Michael if maybe I was being a big crazy about the Christmas blends. He asked if I thought I’d gather so many that I didn’t get them used up before the following Christmas season, and I said I was pretty sure that wasn’t a problem. He smiled, shrugged, and said, “Seems like a pretty harmless kind of crazy. You shouldn’t worry about it.”

So I don’t.

Mostly.

I have to admit, when I pulled all the bags of Holiday Blends out of the pantry a few weeks ago, I was a bit surprised that there were eight different blends. I honestly thought I’d only gotten five or maybe six.

And I work from home more days each week than I did just a year ago, which means I go through coffee faster—because I still only make coffee at home on those days that I don’t go into the office. So I probably will finish all of these off by some point in February, again.

Assuming I don’t find any new blends for sale somewhere and give into temptation to pick up just one more…

Being thankful for a peaceful day and other things

First, to all my readers who don’t live in the United States: Happy Thursday!

Second, here in the U.S. it’s Thanksgiving, a holiday often observed by stressing out while gathering with family, eating too much, and trying not to get into arguments with your racist uncle. We are told it is to commemorate a feast shared by the pilgrims (who we are assured came to the new world in search of religious freedom) and the Native Americans who welcomed them to these shores; while we sweep under the rug the fact that those pilgrims did not seek freedom, but rather wanted to impose a theocracy where they forced people to abide by their beliefs, that they only survived as long as they did because the Native Americans took pity on this group of malcontents who didn’t know anything about agriculture, and how eventually we stole the native’s land, massacred the women and children, made deals we later refused to keep, and then destroyed a significant amount of carefully curated land (driving many animal and plant species to extinction).

For a lot of us—specifically queer people—it is a doubly-stressful holiday. When we were closeted it was an annual reminder that many (if not all) of our relatives didn’t love us for who we are, but rather they love a facade we wore in self-defense from the homophobic beliefs of society and the self-loathing that society instilled. After we come out of the closet, it is the annual reminder that our queer selves are tolerated at best. We are expected to smile and sit quietly while outrageous and hateful things are said about people like ourselves and those we love. And if we commit the sin of letting that plastered-on smile slip and express an opinion of our own, we’re expected to apologize and agree that our lives, fears, and aspirations are not fit topics for polite conversation.

We used to spend alternating holidays with my Mom and the gaggle of relatives that live near her—Thanksgiving one year, Christmas the next. While then celebrating the other holiday at home. The last time we did that was the Thanksgiving right after the 2016 election. We knew it was going to be more stressful than usual, so we had planned to cut the length of visit shorter than usual.

It was worse than we thought. Instead of just having one or two people casually making racist and related comments, and just about everyone occasionally quoting a Fox News talking point or something a televangelist said, it seemed like everyone had turned into the racist uncle. Since then, we’ve stayed home for both holidays. Several days before Christmas (since I get a ton of paid-time-off from my work, I always have a few extra days in December), I drive down to deliver presents to the relatives there. I spend most of the day with Mom. I visit at least briefly with folks while I drop things off. And something about it not being the actual holiday makes everyone less likely to start spouting off their religious talking points.

So far, no one has come out and asked me if we’re skipping the holidays on purpose. I suspect it’s only a matter of time. But for now, this seems to work.

It will just be the two of us for Thanksgiving again this year. And I know I already have more food planned than we could eat in a single day. My husband keeps pointing out that we’ll just have leftovers for a few days.

Enough about that. Without further ado, here are some of the things I’m thankful for:

  • my smart, kind, sexy, hard-working husband
  • pickled foods
  • people who help other people
  • coffee
  • music
  • purple
  • living in the future
  • storytellers
  • all the hummingbirds, chickadees, juncos, sparrows, finches, and Stellar Jays that visit my veranda a birdfeeder
  • let’s not forget the crows!
  • great ideas suggested by friends, such as the person who told me the secret that a separate squirrel-feeder stocked with pumpkin seeds will keep the squirrels from wasting most of the birdseed while going after the parts they like
  • flowers that decide to bloom again during the coldest week of weather we’ve had this fall
  • friends who will watch football with me and don’t blink an eye at my screaming at the TV during the game
  • modern medical science
  • books
  • science
  • people who fill the world with joy
  • sci fi books and the authors who imagine those many futures
  • misty grey mornings
  • people who know you so well that when they find weird things amazing things (like combination bendy-straws/cocktail umbrellas, for instance) that they realize you would love them
  • cocktails
  • eggnog
  • people who vote
  • stuffing
  • people who make art or stories or music
  • pie
  • NaNoWriMo writing buddies
  • the magical piece of glass I can carry around in my pocket that contains all my friends (you call it an iPhone, I call it magic!)
  • people who love
  • the squirrels that visit our veranda—even that troublemaker that I call Crazy Ivan
  • kittens and puppies and tigers and otters and mousies
  • tea
  • gravy
  • people who fix things
  • my bananas, sometimes infuriating relatives (who I’m sure find me even more bewildering than I ever do them)
  • not having to spend the holiday with (especially) the most infuriating relatives again this year
  • my sweet, clever, ultra-capable, cheerful, long-suffering husband (who definitely deserves to be on this list twice!)
  • fantasy books and the authors who spin such beautiful marvels
  • people who love things so much that they feel compelled create fan works
  • playlists
  • hugs
  • books
  • readers
  • lavender
  • fuzzy socks and warm slippers
  • all my incredible friends—who are talented, giving, kind, funny, accomplished, and clearly the most patient people in the world, because they put up with me!
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