Sunday, December 27, 2009

The down side of a swell

I like equilibrium. I like slow and steady. I like the same pace. All of which is why I don't "do well" at this time of year: too many God-damn swells. I feel like I'm on small boat in the north Atlantic.
Last weekend our family was traveling to and from Pittsburgh for the Packers/Steelers game on Sunday, the 20th. We left on Saturday, the last flight heading east to fly out of O'Hare. We got to the hotel late on Saturday.
Then the game time was changed to 4:15pm EST so we had a nice leisurely tailgate party sponsored by our tour group at a local brew-pub. It was a long game and we took the ferry across the river (don't ask me which one, but it was one of three {if you're familiar with the lay-out of Pittsburgh you'll find that hilarious, trust me.}) The Cleveland Show was on the TVs on the ferry so it was after that when we got back to the hotel. We did a little shopping on Monday morning, then started the trek back west from Pittsburgh, to O'Hare (where we spent a 4 hour lay-over {yes, it would've been faster to DRIVE from Chicago back to Appleton than stay at the airport, we realize that}) then we had to caravan back to Appleton from Green Bay once the plane landed. I don't fly well, so I was comatose for most of our time in the air both ways, but it all seemed like a very long trip. We were in bed by roughly 11:30pm Monday night. That was December 21st. That was a long 3 day swell.
Four days later it was Christmas. Four short days. That's not a lot of recovery time for me, especially when there were still a few Christmas gifts left to purchase.
Did I mention the ice storm on Wednesday the 23rd? As you know I'm currently unemployed so I was waiting for that weeks unemployment check in order to buy those last minute gifts. Usually my check comes on Wednesday, but not this week. This week it came on Thursday, Christmas Eve. So my husband and I sat in the house stressing about the ice that was layering the 14" of snow still on the ground from a couple of weeks ago and those God-damn Christmas presents. That's holiday spirit, isn't it? How did we get related to so many people? When did our Christmas budget get so out of control? When did we decide to go on vacation the last shopping weekend before the holiday? At the time it all sounded like a good idea.
So Christmas came just the same, which was good and wonderful and bright and all of those Christmas-carol adjectives it should be.
But now it's over. It's the down side of a 4 foot swell and I'm losing my footing just the same. Just for kicks I put on Mannheim Steamroller's Silent Night from their first Christmas CD and plugged in the digital picture frame just to see exactly how low I could make myself feel. I stopped after 5 photos or so because I realized I was just being stupid. Why fight the good 300mg of Effexor is trying to do on a daily basis? Oh what I wouldn't give for a little hypo-mania right about now. I've never experienced it, but I've heard good things about it. I get the crushing depression anyway, so you'd think I could get a little pay off for having to plow through that, but no. It's either even-Steven or skidding downhill for this chick; no upsie-daisies allowed. God-damn it.
This week is not going to be easy. It's going to be long and lonely and, quite frankly, sad. This time next week we'll likely be taking down the tree and packing away all of the indoor decorations to spend another moldy year in the basement. Then what happens? Maybe the boat evens out, the waters calm, and I feel just a little bit more like myself again.

Friday, December 25, 2009

The View of "the end"

So it's over. Christmas, I mean. The packages have been torn open, the gifts examined, the holiday ham eaten, the eggnog all gone. Oh sure, the stores will be open at 5 or 6am tomorrow morning waiting for all of those returned items that "just weren't quite right," and for the spending of all those gift cards bought when one just couldn't find that "quite right" gift.
This whole Christmas season had a different feel for me this year. That was likely due to fact that I haven't worked since the end of September so I saw the holidays coming down full bore the minute Halloween was over with. Holiday time starts November 1st and ends abruptly at 12:01am December 26th. The all-Christmas-music-all-the-time radio stations stop. Which makes no sense to me because the week between Christmas and New Years is really the week of the holidays so why put an end to the music just because Christmas is over? It's the holidays remember, not just a holiday. New Year's is coming and I think it's about time it got its due as a part of the official holiday season. I mean really, we don't celebrate any two holidays closer together on the calendar than that whole President's Day/Washington's Birthday/Lincoln's Birthday mess someone decided was a good idea in February. I beg of you: include New Years in your holiday wishes! Play Christmas carols into the new year! Let New Years shine in the glow of the leftovers of Christmas. This is the holiday week after all. This is the holiday week we waited for all fall during the school year. Christmas and New Years go together like apples and oranges, and Whoopi Goldberg and Barbara Walters from The View. Let's not let it all be overwith in one single day. Can't we hold on to the holidays for just seven days more and carry it through to New Years Day?
Can't we enjoy the holiday view for just a few more days? By mid-January, it will be like the whole thing never even happened anyway, so I say we dig in and hold onto these precious seven days as if our happiness depended on it.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

The View of my Christmas Tree

I love plugging in the Christmas tree lights each day and smelling the balsam that still emanates from it. It's ever so subtle now that it's been up for a couple of weeks, but if I am deliberate and sneak in close enough, there it is, wafting up from deep within the dark green needles.
Our lights are gold this year. I change the color of the lights every year because I like something different. This year's "theme" is gold and bronze, in honor of the packages of frankincense, gold, and mir that were carried by the Wise Men to the Christ child in the dessert so many years ago.
You can't really tell that our tree has a color theme though, even though there are plenty of brown, bronze, and gold ornaments. Our tree has become over-run with personal ornaments. Since Mark and I moved in together in 2004 we have gotten a "couples" or "family ornament" from "Our First Christmas Together 2004" to a house with 4 snowmen in front of it with each of our names hand-written on the snowman's stocking caps and 2009 on the chimney. We have many (well, 5 actually) variations of the "couples/family ornament." Plus, Peanut and Angel have each gotten their own individual ornaments since 1995 for Peanut and 1998 for Angel. That's a lot of dog-houses and little fish with names and years stenciled in. Those really throw off the "theme" of a tree, but I wouldn't have it any other way. I would take the craziest, most eclectic, all-animal-ornaments tree any year over a tree that was "perfect": matching, beautiful, elegant and cold and impersonal. My life is a bit chaotic, why shouldn't that be reflected in my tree? I think I try to force the "theme" to create some sense of control or normalcy or "behavior that people expect" from me. I watch White Christmas and want so badly to have the house decorated like a beautiful inn from Vermont every year, but it never is. I've got a bronze-ish tree with gold lights, angel hair over green lights and a collection of Santa Clauses on the entertainment center, and the Nativity scene in 3 snow globes surrounded by red beads on a glass shelf. You don't even want to hear about my husbands outside decorations of lights and wreaths and bells. It's not something I can picture Rose Mary Clooney singing around. But that's what DVDs are for: I can sit back in the golden glow of my eclectic tree and spend my time counting my blessings...or washing my hair with snow.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

The reason for the season?

So the debate has again been about what to wish people during this time of year, "Merry Christmas" or "Happy Holidays." People that use the justification that "Jesus is the reason for the season" are just plain wrong. He may be the reason for the Christmas season, but there's a lot going on during this time of the year, including Hanukkah, which, by the way, was the holiday that Jesus and his family practiced as they were Jewish. I am not familiar with the Islamic New Year which begins at sundown on December 17th (according to my pocket calendar)but that is certainly happening soon, as well as the beginning of Kwanzaa which (again according to my pocket calendar) begins on December 26th. And we can't forget the winter solstice that begins on December 21st. I am a big fan of the winter solstice because that means on December 22nd, the days are getting incrementally longer and there is more daylight than not.
Personally, I'm a "Happy Holidays" person. I don't want to offend anybody and I think this includes just about everyone who is celebrating something during this time of year. Just once I want to turn to someone who says to me, "Merry Christmas" and say, "I'm Jewish." I just REALLY want to see the look on the face of someone wearing a "Jesus is the reason for the season" pin and find out what they have to say to me. Because again, Jesus didn't celebrate Christmas.
Then there's the issue of what type of cards to send. I go for the vanilla "Happy Holidays" because I have Jewish friends I send cards to. I do the photo cards which this year included a separate picture of Peanut, Angel, and then me and Mark at a baseball game this July. It's my understanding that Jewish people do not as a rule send out Hanukkah cards to each other, but mostly get them from their gentile friends who send out cards to everyone. Have you ever seen a box of Hanukkah cards for sale at the Hallmark store? I thought not.
Don't even get me started on buying stamps from the USPS with all of the different holidays on them. I tried to buy some Hanukkah stamps at my local post office and the gentleman behind the counter told me that this particular post office doesn't order them because they don't sell well. Well how about that.
Whatever you want to wish someone at this time of year...

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

They did not live this day

A friend of mine's father died late last week and another friend of mine's father died earlier in the fall and it's got me thinking about loss. That and I'm taking Counseling for Grief and Loss this interim at school along with Peanut's declining health and it seems I can't get away from it. Within the last 2 weeks I've had two dreams that my grandmother died too and today the dream was so real I almost called one of my cousins to make sure that she's still among the living.
When I was younger and read obituaries in the paper it used to drive me crazy when there was wording like, "She went to be with her Heavenly father," or "He was accepted into the Lord's loving arms," and now I don't think those are odd things to write. In my young, logical head, I was screaming, "SHE DIED!" But as I've matured, and if the person who died believed that, now I think it's appropriate. Death is something we try to rationalize, and statements like these go against that human-grain and I like that. When we use phrases like, "you're strong; you'll get through it," we're basically telling the mourner not to grieve, but to rationally think their way out of their grief and that's wrong.
My first serious high school boyfriend died the weekend before Thanksgiving in 1991 and for a long time after that I was conscious of the fact that he did not live this day, he did not see the sunrise nor will he see the sunset. And then I started feeling grateful that I could've seen the sunrise this morning (had I been up early enough) and I will see the sunset tonight. And I pray to God everyday that I get the same opportunity tomorrow. But eventually we all run out of tomorrows. Everyone who knows you is going to die, including yourself. Why are we so afraid of it? Why won't we talk about it? Why do the grieving feel they need to isolate and why does society like it that they do? Because...everyone I know is going to die, including myself.
What are you going to do today that "they" could not?

Tuesday, December 1, 2009


A friend of mine reminded me of this poem a few weeks ago and I found it and decided to post it. Enjoy.

Small Asian children
released paint-filled balloons
last night to paint the sunset.

They bumped the bare canvas and burst.
Hues of apricot, blue, and yellow
Sweetly kissed the sky.