Tag Archive | holidays

Holidays are stressful enough, don’t make it worse than you have to

“Don't get your tinsel in a tangle.”

“Don’t get your tinsel in a tangle.”

For many years, each holiday season, we would run down to spend time with a bunch of my in-state relatives for either Thanksgiving or Christmas. When my mom was still working, we would pick which one to come down based on when she had to work. Being a lifelong retail employee, she was used to the stores being open on those holidays, and generally if she had to work one, she got the other one off. This followed about seven years of me not visiting at all because most of the family reacted very badly1 when I came out of the closet, leading me inform them that until they accepted my then-husband as my husband, I wouldn’t visit6.

Now while these relatives all seem to genuinely love my husband7, that doesn’t mean that holidays with them are all happy and gay. There’s a pretty big double-standard we have been expected to swallow most years: they can babble about god, evil liberals, et cetera and ad nauseam but if we bring up any counterpoints, we’re the ones who are shoving our politics down their throats. I did manage to get a few to admit this was a double-standard and maybe we should all refrain, but, well, the Bible-thumping will happen, regardless.

Things got worse and worse during the Obama administration. All of them believe that Obama/Hilary are the anti-Christs and only
Trump can save the world for Christians. Or something.

So last year we did Thanksgiving, but we did the minimum: we drove down that day, and left the same day. No staying overnight at the hotel we usually rent a room at8. And then just before Christmas I drove down on one of my days off to drop off presents and quickly visit several of them.

Interestingly enough, when I drive down for the explicit purpose of just visiting and dropping off presents, no one seems to feel compelled to talk about their latest worry about the destruction of the world by those godless liberals. Clearly there’s something about it also being a holiday that fuels some of that.

So, we didn’t go down for Thanksgiving at all this year. And we aren’t going down for Christmas. I dropped presents off on Friday to mom, my sister’s family, my grown niece’s family, and one aunt. I fixed Mom’s computer and helped her with a couple of things one her iPhone. I helped my aunt with some problems on her computer. I took Mom to dinner.

And yes, it was pretty late when I got home, but it was infinitely less stressful than last Thanksgiving had been. Yeah, there was a little random god talk, but nothing like the pro-Trump cheering of last year.

This weekend is real Christmas for us. We’re hosting the holiday party & writers’ night this year. I’ll get to see many friends, share this year’s ghost story, hear the things other folks have brought to read or perform, eat a lot of good food, chat, laugh, and otherwise have a great time. Then on Christmas Eve/Christmas Day, we plan to just have a quiet Christmas at home, the two of us.

That will go a long way to getting rid of the stress.

It’s been a few years since I quoted Harvey Fierstein’s Torch Song Trilogy, “I don’t need anything from anyone but love and respect. If you can’t give me that, you have no place in my life.”

This year, I’m saying it to myself. Giving myself permission to avoid the people who can’t give both.


Footnotes:

1. One aunt sent me a 28-page handwritten letter listing all of the words and topics that I would not be able to mention in conversation if I visited her house. It also explained that if I brought my friend (the word was underlined every time she used it) we would not me allowed to call each other “honey” or “dear” or any other pet names or display any affection toward each other at all.<sup.2

2. In a follow-up conversation she angrily insisted she just wanted to treat us the same we she did her unmarried children when they brought people over. She didn’t appreciate it when I laughed loudly into the phone and reminded her of the time her middle song brought a young woman with him to Thanksgiving at here house and they kept kissing3 at the table! She asked him to cool it, at that point4, but didn’t say a word about the frequent more restrained kissings on the cheeks and lips and forehead that kept spontaneously happening for the rest of the dinner5.

3. Full tongue and nibbling on ears and such. It was like accidentally stumbling into a porn shoot.

4. I and his older sister were trying to decide if they were high or just drunk.

5. I’m also pretty sure that one of the times they vanished that afternoon that they had sex in the downstairs guest bathroom.

6. Some of the family did come around before Ray died, but barely two months before he did. Fortunately because Ray and I had gotten through that seven year struggle, things have been much better with Michael.

7. I am quite certain that several of them like him more than they like me, but I’m okay with that. It’s a lot better than what we had before.

8. The last few years as the rhetoric in general has heated up, it has been more and more galling on a personal level to pay for the privilege of biting our tongues all day long even during the occasional anti-gay rant of one relative…

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Decorating season is in full swing!

Our artificial tree is almost as tall as the ceilings in the new house. Here was a midway point in the process... © 2017 Gene Breshears

Our artificial tree is almost as tall as the ceilings in the new house. Here was a midway point in the process… (click to embiggen)

I have a tradition of putting up the tree on Thanksgiving weekend. For some people that’s very early. But then, I know (and am related in some cases) to people who never take their trees down. Anyway, the tradition started when I was in the third grade in grammar school. Before that Dad would drag us out into the woods somewhere to pick a tree and cut down. As far as I know he never had a permit or got permission from anyone. The one or two times Mom or Grandpa or someone would ask, he would insist we’d gone out on Bureau of Land Management property, therefore it all belongs to the public1.

Anyway, third grade and fourth grade were the years we moved several times during the same school year. Of the ten elementary schools I attended, five of them where those two grades alone2. Because of the packing, unpacking, moving, and so forth—and while Dad’s job often indicated within a certain window how long we would be in one place, the exact date we’d need to move wasn’t always certain—Dad agreed to let Mom buy an artificial tree in November because we might have to move in the middle of the holiday season. That year was also the first year that we didn’t drive back to my paternal grandparents’ place for Thanksgiving.

I think that at least half the reason Mom decided to set up the tree the day after Thanksgiving was because with deep snow and temps well below zero Farenheit, being trapped in our small house with my sister and I for three days was going to be a nightmare if she didn’t come up with something to keep us occupied for a decent amount of time.

The tree was only four feet tall—short enough that Mom could set it up on top of the console stereo. It still loomed over the room, but there wasn’t enough tree to hold all of the ornaments we owned. This made deciding what to put on where a major undertaking, with more than a little bit of arguing3 between my sister and I. If I’m right about why Mom decided to set up the tree that day, I think her plan backfired.

Twice.

Because here’s the really funny thing: Both that year and the next, about three weeks before Christmas, we had to pack up everything—including undecorating the tree and boxing it back up—and move. In third grade, we moved from Kimball, Nebraska to Opal, Wyoming. In fourth grade the move was from Ft. Morgan, Colorado to Roosevelt, Utah.4

Anyway, the upshot is that for the rest of my childhood, Christmases were celebrated with that same artificial tree. The tree didn’t get retired until I was in my early twenties, after Mom remarried and moved to Arizona with her new husband, while I, still trying to save up money to transfer from community college to university, moved in with my paternal grandparents. As an adult, I’ve bought cut trees for Christmas twice, but otherwise have always had an artificial tree6. Back in 2000 or 2001 Michael and I bought a new 7-foot tall “pencil pine” tree. Unlike other trees we’d had, the body of the tree is very narrow, so it’s easy to fit into a small room, but still tall enough to create the big tree effect, and it holds a lot of ornaments. A couple years ago while we were setting it up, Michael pointed out how some of the branches had lost enough plastic needles to looks scraggly, and some branches were awfully loose. So we used it one more year, and then in an after Christmas sale we bought another, similar tree.

I hung up Christmas lights out on the veranda in the afternoon on the day after Thanksgiving. And then I unboxed our Christmas tree and hauled out the boxes of ornaments. Which is a much smaller collection than we used to own7. The first discovery was that while the tree doesn’t quite touch the ceiling, the two glass spire-style toppers we kept won’t fit atop the tree because of the slightly lower ceiling at this apartment than the old. However, the third topper we kept8, which is a teddy bear dressed as Santa, just barely fit. He is literally touching the ceiling, but he fits!

I got the lights on, which always takes a while, because I’ll string them on, decide they are uneven, unwind them, try again, et cetera. I’ll get myself very dizzy at least once along the way. Then I put a few ornaments on. But I was also doing laundry, and Michael talked me into going on a walk with him at one point, so by bedtime I had started on the tree, but hadn’t finished.

Saturday morning I resumed. This is the first year since 1997 that I didn’t have some kind of theme for the tree. Doing a different color scheme and theme every year is only part of the reason we owned more christmas decorations than any eight normal households could possibly use. And because I got rid of so many, I was feeling an urge to fit as much as possible of what remained on the tree. But I still wanted it to look non-random? Which wasn’t really working.

So… I was having a panic as I hung ornaments because I couldn’t find my Great-grandma’s ornaments. Great-grandma bought a box of mixed-color ornaments on sale in 19579. Great-grandma used them on a little artificial tree at her house until Great-grandpa died in 1974, at which point she moved to the coast to live with Grandma. Great-grandma died about six months after Great-grandpa. The ornaments then spent 30-ish years sitting in the storage shed at Grandma’s house. Apparently Grandma used them only once after Great-grandma died, then boxed them up. So after Grandma died, Mom found them in the shed. When she sent me a picture, I gasped, because even though I hadn’t seen them since I was 13 years old, I immediately recognized them.

Mom split them up. She kept three, then my sister, one cousin who expressed interest, and I got three each. I have put them on my own tree every year, regardless of the theme of the year. So when I couldn’t find them, I was freaking out.

I was afraid I had accidentally mixed them up with others and taken them to Value Village.

I was getting more and more frantic while going through the boxes. By the time my husband woke up I must have been really bad, because moments after coming into the room, he asked, “Do you need to sit down for a minute?”

These three little ornaments may not look like much, but they belonged to my Great-Grandma I, the woman who taught me how to make egg noodles from scratch.

These three little ornaments may not look like much, but they belonged to my Great-Grandma I, the woman who taught me how to make egg noodles from scratch.

As I told him what was wrong, I pointed at the open boxes lined up that I had been taking ornaments from. I paused.

I counted.

There were only seven file-box sized boxes. “Wait! I distinctly remember figuring out that I could fit eight boxes in the closet before I started purging,” I said. I grabbed a flashlight and went back to the walk-in closet. Yes, hiding under the coats was an eighth box. Which of course had Great-grandma’s ornaments. It also contained a few other special ornaments that I had thought we kept, but that I hadn’t been able to find.

Eventually on Saturday evening we declared the tree finished and I put the boxes of unused ornaments back in the closet.

That wasn’t all of the decorating. Partway through Saturday I was feeling a bit of cabin fever. I had unpacked some non-tree decorations and decided we needed a table runner to go with the dark red table cloth. Especially if I was going to put another of Great-grandma’s old decorations (her plastic Santa, sleigh, and reindeer centerpiece) out. And that led to the acquisition of an outdoor decoration that is another story all its own. But I should save that for later, as this post is incredibly long, already.

Our tree is ready to welcome you to celebrate! © 2017 Gene Breshears

Our tree is ready to welcome you to celebrate! (click to embiggen)

We have the tree up now. It doesn’t have an official theme, but as I was picking ornaments out, I realized I was picking mostly red, green, gold, and white ornaments. Michael noted that there was something of an arctic theme, since I started by putting all the C. Alan Johnson ornaments on first (we hadn’t used any of those since the Pole-to-Pole tree a few years ago), along with polar bears, seals, and white owls. Of course, there are also three penguins, so we could think of this as a sequel to Pole-to-Pole. I don’t think I will. I’m perfectly okay with it just being the ornaments I decided to use this year, no theme. It’s just our tree—our Christmas/Solstice tree.


Footnotes:

1. Which prompted Grandpa to say, “Which is why you’re supposed to get a permit.”

2. Also five different states.

3. And there was some crying at at least one point.

4. And if you’re curious: we lived in Opal5 for only about two months, then had to pack up and follow Dad’s oil rig out to Cheyenne Well, Colorado, very close to the Kansas border. In June we moved Healy, Kansas, and we literally were still unpacking when the job shifted to Fort Morgan, and we had to move back to Colorado.

5. Which is pronounced by the residents as “oh, PAL” rather than the way most folks pronounce the gemstone it is named after.

6. Among other advantages of artificial trees are they don’t set off horrible hay fever attacks for me during the one time of the year that it is usually cold enough in the northwest that I’m not dealing with pollen or spores from outside.

7. Achievement unlocked: No Shuttling Weekend! (And we can haz library?), where among other things I hauled three big Subaru loads of Christmas decorations to Value Village.

8. A subset of our old decorations was a collection that was started by my late husband, Ray, which we called The Tacky Tree Topper collection: five or six different kinds of vary garish stars and two different illuminated plastic wreaths. Plus we had those glass spire toppers in just about every color scheme we’ve ever done (purple, red, green, blue, three different pinks, gold, silver…). Then there were the not-tacky stars (one of was bronze, one was silver and white), a thing that looked like a spray of gold glitter… four or five Sants (one with a purple robe, one with a red, one with a green, one with an ice blue… oh, and a burgundy robed one!)… and so on.

9. We know because she kept the box and it had the receipt inside it, I kid you not.

Tea and books and maintaining an even keel

A picture of a teapot, a steaming teacup and a pile of books: “Now that's what I call a hot date!”

“Now that’s what I call a hot date!”

There is something very relaxing about making a cup of tea, then sitting down with a book (or my Kindle or the iBook app on my iPad) and reading. It was especially nice to do that out on the veranda when the weather was warmer. I still go out there with a mug of tea, but I wind up drinking the tea faster because it’s getting cold (and I’m chilled). So I come back inside once the tea is done. Besides, now that we get frequent visitors to the bird feeder, I feel guilty being out there and scaring the little guys off.

I do sometimes sit in front of the window and watch them. Which means I don’t always get much reading done. But it’s all good.

It has only been a few weeks since I changed the format of my Friday round up of links, and I have to say that the much shorter list has made Thursday night feel much more relaxing. I wish that I had been self-aware to realize that the old long form version was such a stressful chore, but that’s okay.

I’ve mentioned that I began questioning how much effort was going into the process because the number of people reading the round up had gone way down. What I didn’t mention was the timeline. If I look at the stats on my blog, I can point to a very specific time when the readership dropped: the first Friday after the Inauguration. They didn’t drop all the way to the recent lows right away, but the drop off was noticeable.

Now, long before then, the round up had always included a stories about unpleasant topics. And I dare say the ratio of bad news to good news was about the same. But I totally understand how exhausting it is to be reminded about this bad stuff since there is now so much of it, and it’s hurting everyone, and it feels as if there’s nothing we can do about.

So, that’s another motive for the change: I don’t want to contribute to other people’s sense of exhaustion or hopelessness, and I don’t need to wear myself out, either.

This doesn’t mean I’m not still reading as much news as before. Nor does it mean that I’ll stop calling my congresscritters and adding my voice to the throng. I’m just not spending as much time aggregating the news for other people.

There are other habits I’m trying to get into to try to limit how often I’m having to think about unpleasant topics. That’s part of the reason there is a lot less activity from me on Twitter, for instance. I still find reading my friends, acquaintances, et al on Twitter useful, I’m just limiting how much time I spend on it.

I’m behind on my writing goals (NaNoWriMo notwithstanding; there are things that I meant to have done before November that I didn’t get done). But there’s a lot of stuff going on, and I just have to accept that some of my energy is going to go into other things. And some of those other things are about taking care of myself and my husband.

Like curling up with a good book and a nice warm cup of tea.

One of those things we’re doing this week specifically along that line is we are not going to drive down to see family for Thanksgiving. I don’t need the stress of the drive each way. Neither of us needs the stress of constantly biting our tongues around my Trump-voting, Bible-thumping relatives. It will do wonders for the blood pressures of several of my relatives, too, truth be told.

Which means that instead of figuring out what dishes I can make in advance and transport down there, we’re doing a whole dinner! So far it’s just the two of us; which will be fine. And since I love talking about food, here’s our current menu:

  • Relish tray (many many olives, pickles, pickled carrots, pickled green beans, pickled asparagus so far…)
  • Turkey (my hubby found a 10-pound one, so not too big!)
  • Stuffing
  • Green bean casserole
  • Creamy sweet potatoes
  • Gravy
  • Sweet potato pie

There will likely be other things added before we’re done.

Also, the official cocktail of our holiday will be a Spicy Manhattan. Based on the recipe suggested at Central Market, this weekend, but after trying it, I have to change it so:

2 oz of your favorite bourbon or rye
1.5 oz of sweet vermouth
Several dashes of orange bitters
Tillen Farms Fire & Spice Organic Maraschino Cherries

Chill your glasses. In a cocktail shaker with ice, mix the vermouth and bourbon, stir at least 45 seconds. Shake a generous number of dashes of bitters into the cocktail glass, strain the contents of the shaker into the glass (turn the glass while he do so to mix the bitters better). Garnish with two of the spicy cherries.

Cheers! And happy holidays!

(Also, feel free to leave your menu or your favorite holiday food in the comments!)

It’s the second most wonderful time of the year!

“Live is sweet, be not too shy!”

“Live is sweet, be not too shy!”

I love Halloween a lot, as I’ve mentioned before. I love handing out candy. I love seeing people in costumes. I love all the spooky stuff. My favorite Halloween movies are either the classic black & white universal films or the more comedic ones (Ghost and Mr. Chicken. Hocus Pocus, Elvira, Mistress of the Dark, Haunted Honeymoon, Young Frankenstein to name a few…).

We have our usual boxes of full size candy bars (my husband’s motto for the season is: “Fun sized isn’t!”). We have picked a couple of movies to watch tonight (Hocus Pocus and Witches of Eastwick). I have some pumpkin spice drinks ready. It will be a night of spooky fun!

I hope yours is a great, spooky All Hallow’s Eve as well!

Donald Duck: Trick Or Treat Folks ☻1952 Halloween Cartoon:

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

What’s not to love about Halloween?

“I love Halloween. I can't wait for that time when the leaves fall, weather is colder, the sun is bright, the decorations are up, scary movies are on, and the hot chocolate is out!”

“I love Halloween. I can’t wait for that time when the leaves fall, weather is colder, the sun is bright, the decorations are up, scary movies are on, and the hot chocolate is out!”

I’ve written a few times before about my love of Halloween and my fondness for a certain type of spooky movie. Some years I have done elaborate decorating for the holiday. I often spend time planning a costume to wear to any Halloween party we might be attending. I always spend at least part of the month of October listening to what I consider Halloween music while planning what kind of movies I might watch on the actual night. And then, of course, there is trying to decide how much candy we will need to hand out that night1.

My love for Halloween began long before I knew that it used to be considered the high holy days of queers everywhere. Which was true at least since the 1920s until the straights co-opted it for Heteroween2. But I recognize that at least some of the reasons I loved Halloween back then are the same reason the holiday appealed to queer people for so long:

  • it was a day I could dress up as silly or weird as I wished without getting strange looks from people;
  • it was a day where other people would show off bits of their personality that weren’t obvious the rest of the year;
  • being closeted cultivated an ability to find humor in the absurdities and misfortunes of life;
  • trying to get along as a queer child in a straight world means that embracing make-believe and pretending to be what we aren’t a survival trait;

…which fits right in with Halloween!

Of course, when I say I could dress as silly as I wished, that wasn’t entirely true. I remember, for instance, the year that I really wanted to dress up as the character of Witchie-Poo from the Saturday morning live action show, H.R. Pufnstuf. Mom didn’t act appalled, but she argued with me until I gave in and let her buy me the really tacky H.R. Pufnstuf costume. Pufnstuf was supposed to be a dragon who was the Mayor of the enchanted island where the show’s action took place, but the store-bought costume was just a weird shaped green mask and a generic green onesie that had a picture of the character printed on the chest. My sister mentioned that I had wanted to dress up as Witchie-Poo within earshot of my dad and I got yelled at quite seriously about how boys don’t dress up as witches!

It wasn’t even that the character of Witchie-Poo appealed to me that much3. My recollection is that the store-bought costume for her had a magic wand prop, and I really wanted the magic wand. Of course, she was the villain of the show and I quite frequently find myself sympathizing with the villains.

Our friends that have been hosting a Halloween party almost every year for about 30 years are skipping this year. So I don’t think either of us will be making a costume. And although they gave us plenty of warning that we could have opted to host our own party, all of the years of going to their themed and wonderfully decorated parties casts a more-than-slightly intimidating shadow over the notion.

Maybe we’ll just try to get together with some people on the Saturday before.

But I have been working on my new Halloween playlist. I spent a lot of the last week listening to every single Halloween playlist I have made in the past4 as I decide what kind of list to put together this year. I have one assembled, I just haven’t decided if it is finished or still needs some tweaking.

Whether there is a party of not, or any dressing up, I still intend to enjoy myself, getting my spook on in various ways for the rest of the month.

Let’s have fun!


Footnotes:

1. My husband and I don’t believe in handing out so-called “fun size” candy. We usually get a few cases of full sized bars in hopes that we will get lots of kids.

2. But that’s okay. Straights need a socially sanctioned night to dress up as sexy nurses or sexy firemen. They’re so reppressed the rest of the year!

3. I mean, I thought she was hilarious, but…

4. Fifteen such lists in my iTunes library, by the way.

Celebrate Indeginenous Peoples Day

Indigenous Peoples Day “Today we celebrate the people who first called this land home. We remember the struggles and tragedies they endured. We honor their place in and contributions to the shared story of America.”

Indigenous Peoples Day “Today we celebrate the people who first called this land home. We remember the struggles and tragedies they endured. We honor their place in and contributions to the shared story of America.” (click to embiggen)

America was inhabited already when Columbus blundered his way into the West Indies. They are called the West Indies, in case you didn’t know, because he thought he had sailed all the way around the world to Japan, China, and India. Seriously. He was convinced that San Salvador was Japan, and Cuba was China.

Columbus wasn’t a great thinker. Contrary to what school teachers were still telling us when I was in grade school, Europeans had known for centuries that the world was round. And Pythagoras and Aristotle had both deduced that the Earth was a sphere because of the shape of the Earth’s shadow on the moon during Lunar eclipses. Eratosthenes calculated the size of the Earth pretty accurately based on shadows at different latitudes more than 200 years before the time of Christ (He also correctly deduced the tilt of the Earth’s axis a bit later).

Columbus thought that Eratosthenes was wrong, that the Earth was much smaller, and that it would take only a short time sailing west to reach Asia. He was very wrong. And not just because there were two continents Europe didn’t know about.

And then there was the abominable way the Columbus and the Europeans that followed treated the people who lived here. It was not, as some of my other teachers used to say, merely that the Europeans had more advanced technology. The Europeans were fond of making written agreements with the people who already lived here, and then when it suited them, ignore the agreements and take, kill, or pillage whatever they wanted.

So, yeah, even though I am a pasty-skinned, blue-eyeed white guy with ancestors from places like Ireland, England, and France, count me as one of the people who celebrates Indigenous Peoples Day.

Tribes of the Indian Nation

Tribes of the Indian Nation (click to embiggen)

The movement to replace Columbus Day with a holiday honoring Native Americans have been around for a long time. In 1989 the state of South Dakota abolished the state observance of Columbus Day and enacted a Native American Day to be observed on the same day as the Federal Observance fo Columbus Day.

Several other states: California, Nevada, and Tennessee all observe a Native American Day in September (the California holiday first called for by then-Governor Ronald Reagan in 1968, though not enacted into law until 1998).

Governors in Alaska and Vermont (and probably others, but I haven’t found them, yet) have issued proclamations to declare and Indigenous Peoples Day, but neither state’s legislature has enacted it into law, and such proclamation tend to be ceremonial, usually assumed only to apply to the year issued.

On the other hand, a rather huge number of cities and towns all over the country have adopted ordinances replacing Columbus Day with Indigenous Peoples Day. Maybe when more follow more states will join South Dakota.

“Columbus didn't discover America, he invaded it!”

“Columbus didn’t discover America, he invaded it!”

Friday Links (favorite ho-ho-ho edition)

Holiday to-do list (click to embiggen)

Holiday to-do list (click to embiggen)

It’s Friday! It’s the day before the day before the night before Christmas! Or the fourth Friday in December if you don’t observe Christmas. I want to point out that I’m taoist, my husband is pagan, and our Christmas tree theme this year is Up In The Air, featuring all of our Star Trek and Star Wars ornaments, plus many different Santas and flying reindeer, pegasi from My Little Pony, birds of many kinds, Marvin the Martian in various space craft, and a big steampunk-ish zeppelin. So when I say Christmas I mean shiny lights, silly ornaments, presents, and time spend with friends.

Thursday was my last working day of the year. And as sometimes happens during these times, my department was up against a ridiculous deadline, so I worked very late. But I’m free for at least a while!

Anyway, here are links to stories I found interesting, sorted by category.

Links of the Week

Tell a different story about Santa this holiday season.

Black Santa And Me – The Rest Is History

10 SOCIAL JUSTICE ORGANIZATIONS THAT ROCKED 2016 — AND NEED YOU IN 2017.

This Week in Holidays

c0bmmrquaaae0gd-jpg-largeNeil Gaiman: Hanukkah with bells on.

How Christmas Songs Help Us Fake It Through the Despair Times.

Fuck The Nutcracker: Why You Should Go See Every Ballet But This One. (Written by the daughter of a Russian Jewish ballet instructor…)

Christmas Ghost Stories: The Ghost of Christmas Past Goes Further Back Than You Might Realize.

News for queers and our allies:

Holiday Self-Care Package By LGBTQ For LGBTQ Encourages Self-Love For The Season.

A Conservative Defense of Transgender Rights.

Drawn to Comics: Queer and Trans Women and Nonbinary Creators To Support This Holigay Season.

Homeless Charities Warn Of ‘Dramatic Rise’ In Number Of LGBT Youth Being Thrown Out Of Home.

Transgender woman shares graphic videos of her facial feminisation surgery.

What Does Lesbian Mean in 2016?

Welcome to The New Queer.

Science!

5 Scientific Myths You Probably Believe About The Universe.

The 10 Weirdest Animal Stories of 2016.

An accelerating river of molten iron has been discovered under Alaska and Siberia.

Physicists have observed the light spectrum of antimatter for first time.

Why don’t we teach Einstein’s theories in school?

‘Blue-eyed Humans’ do not ‘Have A Single, Common Ancestor.

Dwarf planet Ceres is a really icy place, NASA’s Dawn spacecraft shows.

Thundersnow with ‘continuous’ lightning hit Hawaii on Sunday.

Spinning black hole swallows star – And, in the process, surpasses every supernova ever seen in terms of brightness.

How Science Is Helping Us Understand Gender.

Science Fiction, Fantasy and Speculation!

Tabletop Gaming has a White Male Terrorism Problem.

Sci-Fi Tried to Warn Us About Leaders Who Want to ‘Make America Great Again’.

Give Us Back Our Fucking Gods.

‘Rogue One’ had a huge box office opening, which must be really awkward for the alt-right.

A quick rewrite which totally fixes the film Passengers.

Star Wars, In One Chart.

This week in Writing

Q & A with Peter Stampfel, Submissions Editor of DAW Books. “…As a rule, the unso­licited man­u­scripts tend to be of a higher qual­ity, by-​and-​large, than the ones com­ing from agents.”

Five Archetypes That Can Steal the Hero’s Spotlight.

How to Not Waste Your Words: The Secret to Writing a Crappy but Usable First Draft.

First Idea, Best Idea?

You keep using “Write what you know”.

This week in Words

The Dictionary Folk at Merriam-Webster Sum Up 2016: Surreal.

This Week in History

The History You Know Is Wrong – our collective understanding of what happened during the so-called “July Crisis” of 1914 that started WWI is basically wrong.

This Week in Tech

Barnes & Noble’s New $50 Nook Tablet Ships with Bonus Malware. Not just any malware: “the most complete rootkit/malware/spyware packages on the planet”

We’re Getting Rid of Comments on VICE.com.

Culture War and Hate Crimes

Black Santa Claus Is A Hit At Mall Of America, But Faces An Online Backlash

Jewish family leaves Lancaster County in fear after being blamed for cancellation of Hempfield elementary Christmas play.

Sex Shop Owner Receives Threats After Putting “Dildo Nativity Scene” in Window.

Did Southern Baptist and Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminaries Replicate a Hotel California at Heritage? Bible Chapel in Princeton, MA?

After One Woman’s Parents Voted for Donald Trump, She’s Holding Their Pastor Accountable.

Anti-LGBT activists are boycotting 58 different retailers for being gay-inclusive.

Texas Just Topped Itself With Pure Misogynistic, Transphobic Insanity.

This week in Difficult to Classify

LESBIAN TEENS ‘ARRESTED FOR KISSING’ ACQUITTED IN MOROCCAN COURT.

The movie that doesn’t exist and the Redditors who think it does.

This Week in Fighting Back in the Culture War:

The Most Useful Guide to Resisting Donald Trump: It’s the Tea Party playbook, minus the nooses.

This week in Politics:

Obama adds to historic number of federal prisoners granted clemency.

It’s official: Clinton swamps Trump in popular vote.

The Stolen Election: Hillary Clinton should be president; why isn’t she?

First Amendment Defense Act Would Be ‘Devastating’ for LGBTQ Americans.

This Week in Racists, White Nationalists, and the deplorables

Can American Fascism Be Stopped?

Trolling in the name of “free speech”: How Milo Yiannopoulos built an empire off violent harassment.

O’Reilly: Left wants ‘power taken away from the white establishment’. You can’t claim it isn’t racist while literally saying you are defending the white establishment.

GOP lawmaker’s Obamacare alternative: Make kids sleep on broken arms to avoid costly ER visits.

Trump’s Pick For OMB Director Has Vowed To ‘End Medicare As We Know It’.

Six Times Bill O’Reilly Defended The “White Establishment” Against “The Left”.

Trump denies Gingrich claim that he’s dropping ‘drain the swamp’.

Trump Insists He’ll ‘Drain the Swamp’ as Gingrich Walks Back ‘Boo Boo’.

This Week in Delusion

Catholic Exorcist: Here’s How I Know the Difference Between Mental Illness and Demon Possession.

Farewells:

Excerpt from an interview with Ms. Gabor. Don't believe the folks that say she was vapid and only famous for being famous (click to embiggen)

Excerpt from an interview with Ms. Gabor. Don’t believe the folks that say she was vapid and only famous for being famous (click to embiggen)

Zsa Zsa Gabor dead at 99 after reportedly suffering heart attack.

Things I wrote:

Weekend Update: gunman stopped without a gun and other news.

Everyone’s heard of Rudolph, everyone knows his story….

Yuletide, gay and otherwise.

It’s the most wonderful production number.

’Zat you, Santa Claus?

Videos!

Hand Jive Jingle, Christmas 2016, Gay Men’s Chorus San Diego:

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

Eartha Kitt – Santa Baby (1954):

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The Little Drummer Boy – Pink Martini (a friend who used to detest this song told me that this won him over; and it’s a very different and fun version):

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Kay Thompson’s Jingle Bells – The Williams Brothers (a jazzy alternative):

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Sleigh Ride – Christmas Charity Single – Out of the Blue:

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Queer Thanksgiving

“Some of the most poisonous people come disguised as family.” (click to embiggen)

“Some of the most poisonous people come disguised as family.” (click to embiggen)

Not everyone has family to be thankful for. Or should I say, not every family is thanks-worthy? The video I’m linking below focuses particularly on queer people of color, and I don’t want to detract from that message at all—but many of us pale queers have families of origin that are less than welcoming to the point of toxicity. There are reasons that I have severely limited the amount of contact I have with some branches of the family.

This year we came very close to canceling the Thanksgiving trip, because the anti-Hillary/pro-Trump talk in general seems to have encouraged the most bigoted relatives to go all in on the anti-gay talk on social media. Since the big extended family get-together no longer happens, we don’t usually have to deal with any of the actually toxic family members. Instead we’re left with the odd thoughtless/unintentional comments that slowly make your blood boil. We were invited to spend Thanksgiving with wonderful, supportive friends in Seattle, and the invitations were very tempting, but we’ve decided to give the trip to my Mom’s place another go.

We’ve just arranged the trip so we don’t need to stay all day.

Anyway, I hope that you can have a toxin-free holiday. And we may throw a spontaneous Second Thanksgiving later this weekend if we think we need a brain-rinse!

Queer Thanksgiving:

“The holidays are here — which for most people means lots of food and lots of family. But for many queer and trans people of color, the word “family” means something entirely different.”

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

I’d rather be talking about Tricks and Treats!

Michael as a Social Justice Fighter (click to embiggen).

Michael as a Social Justice Fighter (click to embiggen).

It’s Halloween. We attended our friends’ annual Halloween Party on Saturday. Michael and I had a lot of fun over the last couple months planning and assembling our costumes. I went as a Social Justice Necromancer, “Fighting the patriarchy from beyond the grave.” Michael was a Social Justice Fighter, “We’re looking for a Rogue and a Cleric. Someone told us the party was here?” And many other people were there with fabulous costumes. There were games, a piñata-type activity involving a trebuchet, and lots and lots of puns.

Our plans for this evening are to do the usual handing out of candy while we watch some spooky movies. The movie plans are Young Frankenstein and The Three Stooges in Orbit. I usually pick out three movies, but Michael never stays awake for the third. And at midnight I’m supposed to start NaNoWriMo (even if I can’t stay up very far past midnight, since it is a work night), so we’ll probably stick with just the two. We’ll see. It’s not as if it’s very difficult to pick another movie out of the 970-or-so that my hubby has uploaded into our digital library from our vast disc collection…

Myself as a Social Justice Necromancer. You can't see the purple tassel from from hat, nor that I'm wearing 6-inch platform pumps. The bird was not one of my props, it was a party decoration, but everyone wanted me to pose with it. (Click to embiggen)

Myself as a Social Justice Necromancer. You can’t see the purple tassel from from hat, nor that I’m wearing 6-inch platform pumps. The bird was not one of my props, it was a party decoration, but everyone wanted me to pose with it. (Click to embiggen)

Because of the weirdness happening with our building being sold, we had been asked not to do some of the outdoor decorations that we usually do this time of year. This has had a dampening effect on my mood, so I haven’t even put the plastic light-up jack-o-lanterns in the windows, let alone any other decorations. I need to shake the funk soon–at least before Christmas decorating time!

I hope we get a few more trick-or-treaters than last year. I realize I’ll increase the odds if I manage to get at least some decorations up before sundown. I’m currently planning to slip out of the office early to make sure I’m home before then, so there is still hope. Some years we get a lot, but usually it’s a few handfuls. One of the problems is that a lot of other folks on our street don’t do the candy thing and/or their houses have no decorations so our whole block often looks gloomy and deserted.

Though truthfully, as long as we get more than we did the year a neighbor parked a huge U-Haul truck in front of our place and spent the evening trying to get moved out of their apartment (we got exactly one person – my godchild, who doesn’t live in the neighborhood, but would be brought to our place and to the homes of some relatives of their other godparent who lives nearby).

I love handing out the full size candy bars. And I love seeing kids in costumes. Especially the younger ones who get so, so excited when I kneel down and hold out the bowl packed with big candy bars! As my husband likes to say, “Fun size isn’t!”

Anyway, if you celebrate Halloween, All Hallow’s Eve, or the Day of the Dead, I hope that it is a great holiday for you. And if you’re feeling a little down, enjoy this clip from the Woodland Park Zoo of an otter and a jack-o-lantern:

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

The official name of the holiday is Washington’s Birthday Observance

"When a person did his best, do not scold him for his failure" —George Washington

“When a person did his best, do not scold him for his failure” —George Washington

I know I start to sound like Sheldon Cooper from Big Bang Theory when I say this sort of thing, but the holiday we’re celebrating today is not named “Presidents’ Day,” it is “Washington’s Birthday Observance.” I’ve written before about how the myth that the holiday is President’s Day got started and why it is so persistent. I’ve also written about the reasons why there has never been a federal holiday dedicated to Lincoln.

But especially because of those racist reasons that have prevented a Federal holiday recognizing Lincoln, I think it’s important to remember that this holiday is not Presidents’ Day, unless you’re in one of the 10 states that have a state holiday this day which is called President’s Day (my state isn’t one of them). Five states still recognize a state holiday for Lincoln (Illinois, California, Connecticut, Missouri, and New York), though schools and state offices often remain open on that day.

And don’t get me started on the fact that because Washington’s Birthday Observance happens on the third Monday of February, George’s actual birthday, February 22, never lands on his Federal holiday. For shame!

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