Only Pre-Approved Traditions Allowed

If you’re thinking this is some sort of DIY article on how to enjoy the holidays, you should read the title again. “Pre-Approved Traditions?” What does that even mean? Well, it’s my takeaway from reading this article from Martha Stewart’s magazine and frankly, it’s a little pathetic. To say that the contents of this article rubbed me the wrong way is an understatement.

Now, I don’t celebrate the holiday season the way my parents did when I was little, or even the way I did when my kids were little for that matter. In my older years, I really try to slow things down this time of year and just enjoy it the best I can instead of running myself ragged spending money I don’t have and decorating the entire house just for me to bitch and moan about how I’m too exhausted to put the place back to rights. The fact that the ne’er-do-well (aka Holly the Cat) keeps me from having a tree tends to also hamper the holiday vibe, but oh well. Such is life with a demon.

Don’t get me wrong, I LOVE Christmas… although, the word we throw around in my house is Yule. My favorite thing is the baking. No surprise there. The point is, I don’t decorate these days mainly because I’m lazy, but if I WERE going to decorate, my house would look like the holiday aisle at K-Mart threw up in my living room. And I’d be damned proud of it.

What sparked this rant, you might ask. Well, the article asserts that there are “8 Outdated Holiday Decorating Trends to Skip When You Deck Your Halls This Year,” which is also the name of the write-up, but whatever happened to just letting people celebrate the holidays however the hell they want to celebrate the holidays? Why do people have to suck the joy out of everything, including what is supposed to be the most “joyous time of the year.”

If you want to dress up in ugly sweaters, binge-watch Hallmark Christmas movies, and get smashed on store-bought eggnog, more power to you, just don’t drive. If you want to add a few hundred dollars to your power bill by lighting up the neighborhood with a Christmas lights display that would make Clark Griswold jealous, go for it… your carbon footprint be damned. But yeah, the point is if no one is robbing a bank or hurting anyone, then do whatever you want if it means having a good time and enjoying yourself during this festive season. And to be honest, if you want to rob a bank, just wear a good non-slipping mask and have fun.

Influencers in this article claim that instead of velvet, burlap, or satin tree skirts, we should instead consider a slimline tree collar in painted metal, shimmering metallics, or natural woven fibers. Like what in the actual hell?

It also prompts us to consider “unexpected” shades of holiday colors when decorating, though they mention blues and greens are a cool aesthetic, and I’m not sure how old they are, but blues and greens have been a staple in Christmas decorations ever since… I don’t know, forever. No bright colors, no glitter. No glitter. At Christmas.

No oversized ornaments, as less is more by their standards. I tend to agree that simple is best for me, but if you want a 12-foot inflatable snowman hypnotically dancing in the cool winter breeze as it tries in vain to seduce the giant inflatable Grinch balloon on your roof, then that’s your business. And I guess maybe all your neighbors within eyeshot.

Personally, I have a thing for neon pink metallic flamingos with glittery bright red Santa hats. So, I’m all for “you do you.”

So, instead of telling you the “proper” way to decorate your private space for this holiday season, I offer a little bit of warm friendly advice. At the risk of doing something outdated, cringe, or weird by today’s standard, especially if it’s a long-standing holiday tradition in your home, don’t worry about the judgmental eye of social influencers, and enjoy yourself however you want.

You Don’t Mess with Tradition

It’s that time of year again, folks!  Time for me to share my favorite movie scene, one that embodies the Thanksgiving Day spirit… or at least the spirit that dwells in my house.

So while I wish you all a truly blessed and happy Thanksgiving, without further adieu, may I introduce Ms. Wednesday Addams… at her best. Happy Thanksgiving from me to you — Addams Family style.

It’s Not Easy Being Cheesy

This is weird, right? I can’t imagine that this is a good thing. I mean, are sushi chefs everywhere counting Flamin’ Hot Cheetos as their number one go-to ingredient for the absolute best, most delicious sushi?  Now, I don’t eat sushi… but I’m guessing this dish wouldn’t be found on the menu of most sushi restaurants. It would, however, be found at the local grocery store that swears their sushi is made fresh daily, which I’ve spoken about before. I must say, I will forever be in awe of the American palate. And not in a good way. From deep-fried butter to Flamin’ Hot Cheeto sushi rolls. What will we think of next?

Ukuleles and Airlines, Oh My!

Anyone who knows me is aware that I am an introvert. I make no bones about it. Don’t get me wrong, I still do what I have to do when I have to do it, but generally speaking, I value my private time and my personal space. So naturally, when I have to fly, these things I enjoy are  thrown completely out the window. If you’ve flown before, especially if you do it often, one of the biggest pet peeves you may have is children crying during the entire flight. However, there are a lot of folks out there who have no problem blocking that out with AirPods, a movie, or just a few decades of being a parent. But what if you were just peacefully sitting there on your flight and suddenly a few people got up and started handing out ukuleles to everyone, leading to an impromptu music lesson?

The “magical” ukulele event took place on Southwest Airlines and generated an unusually high response from the community. While there were a bunch of people who weren’t too keen on the idea (such as myself), there were also a lot of folks who somehow enjoyed it. I know, right? I’m not sure what’s wrong with them, but it takes all kinds, I guess. I should also point out that I wasn’t on the flight, I merely read about it, but I feel for any introvert in that situation. Along with the people who wanted nothing more than to catch a quick nap during their flight.

Can you imagine relaxing and leaning back (as much as you can lean back in seats made in hell), closing your eyes, and then BAM! Ukulele music … and not from talented folks, either. From people who had likely never held a ukulele before in their lives. I shudder to think. All I can say is, no. No, thanks. Let me off. I’ll catch the next flight, thank you very much.

These surprise events all started sometime before the pandemic, which is when Southwest became known for these onboard “surprise and delight” programs, but with traveling and the tourist scene slowing down, these little events have drastically slowed down as well.

One Twitter user commented, “If the flight I’m on ever turns into a surprise group music lesson I am going to sue the airline for $50 billion in emotional damages” and I can honestly say that I’m 100% in agreement with that.

Another user commented, “If you aren’t on board or you haven’t experienced it, it’s out of the ordinary, and that’s kind of the point. … It’s something special and uniquely Southwest.” Well, if that’s how Southwest flies, then I’ll be flying with literally anyone else. There could be some guy dressed as the Rocketeer flying people solely on his back to their location, and I’d be more than happy to take him up on the offer to get to my destination as long as he promised not to pull any crap like fucking ukulele lessons.

All kidding aside, this happened on a flight from Long Beach to Honolulu and while you may be wondering if it lasted the entire trip, luckily it was all pretty much over in about 20 minutes. At least the staff took pity on the passengers so they didn’t have to listen to a few dozen people trying to belt out the chords to “Freebird” on ukuleles from Cali all the way to Hawaii. Although, come to think of it, that might’ve just been self-preservation on the staff’s part.

I must admit though, a free ukulele would be kind of cool, but not as cool as a free parachute in that situation. And honestly, if you knew how I felt about jumping out of a perfectly good airplane, you’d realize how serious I am about hating an impromptu amateur ukulele concert.

A Walk Down Halloween Lane

Ah, it’s almost Halloween. One of the best times of the year. Well, it’s one of my favorites at least, but I can’t help but feel that the overall experience has been a little lackluster for the better part of the past decade or so. Now, I’m generally not one to wistfully yearn for those “back in the day” moments because, frankly, back in the day sucked for a whole lot of people.

But the vague “back in the day” Halloween was far superior to current trends when it comes to the horror aspect. The costumes, the candy, the movies, the parties, it was all just very different. The lack of quality horror movies is a constant lament, but truly scary costumes have also all but disappeared. And it’s not just adult Halloween we’re looking at here, either. Grade schools hosted Halloween parties and the choice of costume was generally open to the imagination. If you wanted to be a rotting corpse, you could. If you wanted to dress up as a slain prom queen, more power to you. There was little that was considered “too much” but as time progressed, so did the standards in acceptable costume attire. I’m not talking about costumes that dance all over the boundaries of cultural appropriation, those costumes deserve to be left by the wayside and then some. No, I’m talking about optimizing the scare factor.

Regarding the costumes from back in the day, a lot of them were downright horrifying. Don’t believe me? Check out some old Mickey Mouse costumes on Google from the 50s and 60s and please accept my apologies in advance for the nightmare fuel they possess. Here’s a sneak peek of what you might find:

not all Disney but definitely all terror-inducing

Sure, kids nowadays are still doing the Disney thing and seemingly better than ever, as I’d be hard-pressed to go a year and not see a dozen or so Disney characters parading around the neighborhood for candy. There was one year when literally every other kid who came to my doorstep was dressed up as Elsa from Frozen or some other supporting character from the movie. And that’s great, don’t get me wrong, kids having some innocent fun is always a good thing.

But the thing is, Disney costumes of the past were downright terrifying, even when they weren’t trying to be. Maybe it was because most costumes back then were either cheaply or crudely made, and by today’s standards, it looks like something straight out of a horror film. After you take a look at those nightmare-inducing Mickey Mouse costumes, look up the antagonist from the 2013 horror film called Torment and tell me you don’t see a striking resemblance.

This lackadaisical approach at Halloween scares isn’t contained just to Disney… costumes as a whole just don’t have the eerie ghoulishness  they used to have. And I, for one, think that’s a shame.

The creepy A+ boo element doesn’t end with the costumes though. As you may or not be aware, before carving pumpkins into jack-o-lanterns, the thing to carve was turnips. Yep. Turnips. If you’ve never seen a Halloween turnip before, your first instinct may be to laugh. I mean a turnip, right? I hate to send you to Google Images twice, but it’s worth looking up I’ll just say that. Oh, what the hell, I’ll include some here just to do my part in giving you a little jump scare.

right!??

Like I mentioned at the beginning, I’m not too big on reminiscing on the old days but when it comes to Halloween, it’s an enjoyable walk down horror lane and I terrifyingly love it.

What the hell is wrong with people?

When you ask someone what they do for fun, what are some of the typical answers you receive? If someone were to ask me that very question, I’d say that I enjoy reading books, watching movies, kicking back with some wine, and maybe even taking a nice little quiet vacation to a secluded beach or cabin somewhere. I’ve been known to explore the odd quaint town and even hike (ever so slowly). Some other acceptable answers may be camping, fishing, arts and crafts, or gaming, I mean the list of “what do you do for fun?” is literally endless.

However, one concept I have a hard time getting behind are the folks who put themselves in immediate danger for a little bit of excitement. Yeah, yeah, I get the whole haunted house genre, but I’m talking about real life “you can die” danger and not just the “might pee your pants if that teenaged zombie comes near me” danger. All for a kick.

Sure, virtually anything we do can be considered dangerous in some way, I mean, just watch the news. Even benign hobbies have their risks. You could end up getting mugged or shanked just from wearing the wrong sports jersey to the wrong game. A friend of mine saw this happen firsthand leaving an Eagles game in Philadelphia a few years ago when an elderly man in a Cowboys jersey got stabbed on the subway after the game.

While, yes, danger can be found anywhere, I’m referring to those danger-seeking adrenaline junkies who base jump from skyscrapers, walk along a barely-there ledge on the side of a cliff, surf shark-infested waters, or bungee jump over jagged rocks. Now, don’t get me wrong, I understand the whole adrenaline rush and everything, but still, you have to draw the line somewhere, right? I saw a TikTok video the other day where a person jumped off a boat and into a group of sharks he and friends had just been feeding. What about those people who run and flip from rooftop to rooftop? “Parkour!” in the words of Michael Scott from The Office. If the whole situation goes south, it can mean certain death, permanent maiming, or dismemberment. Okay, yeah, I get that THAT is part of the excitement, but seriously? It begs the simple question… what the hell?

Just recently,  I watched a documentary on people who go “caving” as well, which is exploring the darkest, tightest caves they can find. I don’t know about all of that, but I do know that I’ve seen at least three horror movies that have me strongly convinced that journeying down into these deep, dark, unexplored places is a genuinely bad idea, not to mention anxiety-inducing. I’m already claustrophobic as it is so the last thing I want to do is wedge myself between two slabs of stone a hundred feet down in some pitch-black cavern where mutant wall-hugging monsters may or may not live.

Some of you may be reading this and thinking, “I kind of like some of those dangerous hobbies,” and if so, more power to you and safe travels! Perhaps younger me may have been a bit more adventurous when it comes down to risking my safety for a little bit of excitement, and let’s be honest, the world belongs to the younger generation. I’m reminded of this every time bands like Mötley Crüe, Nirvana, or Red Hot Chili Peppers come up on the classic rock playlist. Just know that some of you have some of us shaking our heads as we watch your antics and wonder what in the hell you were thinking getting into that predicament.

Hobby safely, my friends. And if you need me, I’ll be on the couch with a book, some wine, and a show queued up on Netflix.

that’s a big nope from me, thanks

Spinning in Circles

Since 2022 is about 75% over, I figured it was time to start making progress on my New Years’ resolutions! My first one was to cut down on my alcohol intake, but have you seen what’s happening in the world on any given day? Yikes! Yeah, that one got thrown to the wayside almost immediately.

Next, I wanted to cut down on unnecessary spending. Not usually a problem because I don’t spend much on myself, but still. It’s difficult because “unnecessary” is such a subjective word. Some people might say that buying an iced coffee every time you leave your apartment is unnecessary, but I say it is actually a part of my ethnicity as I discovered recently on Ancestry.com. Iced coffee is in my blood.

So, I settled on my last resolution: exercise more. Don’t get me wrong, it’s not that I hate my body or how I look at all. I’m very much an advocate for body positivity, being comfortable in the skin you’re in, or whatever other Pinterest quote that comes to mind. I’d just like to stop getting handed weight-loss pamphlets when I go to the doctor for a sore throat. And since I’m not giving up the very things that contribute to my cushy padding, I might as well try to work it off.  I mean, it sounds good in theory, right?

Entering gym culture as a newbie is extremely intimidating and overwhelming – there are SO many options: CrossFit, Pilates, Barre, oh my! Or you can just go rogue and walk around the weight room pretending you know what you’re doing until “Chad” who has more muscles than the Hulk, mansplains how to do a bicep curl. Cool, Chad, I thought this was the “judgment free zone.” So, I settled on trying out some classes because at least there, I would be intentionally seeking out advice, unlike the unsolicited variety from the likes of dear old Chad.

Spin classes have always intrigued me because I love the thought of losing weight while sitting down. But they are expensive. Because of my aforementioned iced coffee addiction, I’m not exactly swimming in the cash, so I had to find a reasonably priced option to start my fitness class journey, and this studio near my condo offered one week FREE. Perfect, exactly what I could afford and more importantly, what I was willing to put into my fitness journey.

I signed up for my first class called, “Britney vs. Christina” even though I’m not really a fan of pitting women against each other. Then I realized I had nothing to wear. I don’t think the ratty sweats that are older than my children were going to cut it. So I went online and spent just over $300 on leggings and matching tank tops with sayings on them like, “biker gang,” ”ride and shine,” and “they see me spinnin, they hatin.” I was ready!

When I got to the studio, I quickly learned that my quirky graphic tank top was not enough. These spin people were intense! I saw people velcro strapping on these funky looking shoes and carrying around monogrammed sweat towels… and stretching?! I have never once stretched to just sit down. I mean, what the hell? Who does that?

I tried getting on a bike towards the back of the room, cause, you know, raging introvert.  But apparently that was “Susan’s bike” even though there were no name tags anywhere on that thing, so I ended up having to get on a bike in the front and center of the room. Ugh.

And then, wouldn’t you know it, I couldn’t even get on the damn thing. I’ve ridden a regular bike before, so I know how to mount a bike, in case you’re wondering. But these bikes are well, different. Our overly peppy instructor, Sasha, must have seen the complete and utter confusion across my face because she came and helped me adjust the bike to the appropriate height for me to hop onto the most uncomfortable seat I have ever placed my butt on, and I’ve even flown across the country on Spirit airlines. Seriously, who makes these seats? Someone who has never been handed a weight-loss pamphlet from a doctor, that’s for sure.

Sasha abruptly screamed through her headset that it was time for the class to begin, which almost startled me off the bike, but I didn’t quite fall off and I was able to clamber back on… reminiscent of that time I almost fell off a horse and had to scramble back on, legs and arms flailing, or else be squashed. I’ve also taken a couple of serious tumbles off bikes which are, shall we say, not fun. Now, I don’t think a spin bike would squash me like a 1200-pound Warmblood or toss me head over heels down a shale-lined lane like a mountain bike, but I wasn’t taking any chances.

Then, just as I had settled back into the god-awful seat, Britney Spears, “Toxic” began to blast over the loudspeakers in the too-dark room. For the first two minutes, a song that I have loved for way too many years turned into torture. Every spin class I’ve ever seen online shows folks happily smiling and loving life. This was not my experience. And this was just a warm-up?? For the last chorus of the song, Sasha, in an all-too-happy voice, told the class we could “freestyle” ride and “do whatever we want,” so I got up off my bike and walked over to the snack machine in the lobby.

As I sat on the ground eating a Snickers, I suddenly realized what their slogan “you’re not you when you’re hungry” meant on a spiritual level. I wasn’t me. I was at a spin class for goodness sakes. I could still hear Sasha in the studio encouraging the class to, “do whatever you want!” and I knew that this, right here, was exactly what I wanted to be doing. But, having spent so much money on spin class gear, I realized that it would’ve been cheaper to just sit at home on my couch and eat a Snickers than on the lobby floor of this spin class studio. It was over a $300 candy bar at that point. Who has that kind of money?

Why do they even have candy bars at a gym anyways? I guess that’s the circle of life, and capitalism. So, I left the spin studio to head back to my apartment, stopping on the way home for an iced coffee, because I have priorities. While sipping my drink and listening to the B-52s, I packed up the spin gear and sent it back to Amazon where it belonged. Existential crisis averted.