My Wish for You This Christmas

Many of us will return to our childhood homes to celebrate the holidays or at the least will be surrounded by aunts, uncles, grandparents, and countless cousins — some of whom we haven’t seen since last Christmas, or if we’re lucky, back before the pandemic took hold.  I always envision these gatherings as being somewhat reminiscent of the movie National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation, a disparate group of individuals thrown together through a random gene pool and forced to celebrate holidays for life.

Of course, if you’re like many families, you always have to keep a sharp eye out for flare-ups throughout the evening due to in-fighting; made worse by close quarters, chit-chat with other family members, and the old reliable: alcohol. Cousin Elle isn’t speaking to Aunt Ida because of something that went down 20 years ago but no-one quite remembers what happened except it had something to do with a silver set or perhaps a dog or maybe it was a chicken.

Uncle Bill, oh good grief, don’t even get him started on the JFK conspiracy (the original conspiracy, that is, not the most recent nonsense) because he’ll never shut up, and he gets quite irate at no one in particular so therefore, everyone. You’d think that something like that just wouldn’t come up in conversation but somehow it always does. It’s uncanny really.

Then of course you have Aunt Joan who lets her children do everything (the word no doesn’t seem to be in her vocabulary) and her polar opposite, Cousin Bette, who doesn’t let her child do anything. Poor Cousin Bette ends up heavy sighing a lot (very dramatically I might add, she should get herself an agent) as Aunt Joan’s children run mad circles around the house in full-on manic mode. I have to give Bette credit though, the “Sweetie, you shouldn’t do that,” she uses to correct Joan’s children as they’re climbing the bookcase with the cat is a lot nicer than the admonishment that would be falling off the tip of my tongue.

Uncle Larry? Well, he knows everything, so if you want to know something, just ask. Or don’t. He’ll probably tell you anyway. Really loudly. More than once. He likes to repeat things. In case you didn’t get it the first time.

Ahhh… family. Just because you’re family doesn’t automatically mean you’re going to get along. I think in some respects family can drive us crazier than anyone else. They’re talented like that. Especially during the holidays.

So. Here’s hoping we all survive our holiday get-togethers with our families…. or at the very least let there be copious amounts of alcohol to help us through with a sense of humor. Or bail money. That’ll work too.

A Cheerful Christmas Story, Or Not

Time for a rant. So, my daughter and I were at the local grocery store the other day and we saw this little girl, maybe 5 years old. Well, first we heard her. We didn’t see her till later. And that would be because she was in the walkway at the end of the cash registers on the floor. You really couldn’t see her unless you looked for her or were say, trying to leave the store (since she was blocking the walkway). You could certainly hear her though.

Being the time of year it is, it was about Christmas. Of course, I mean, it had to be, right? She was repeatedly yelling that she wanted presents for Christmas and for Santa to visit her – all in that whiney little voice that only a child’s own mother can tolerate. I was a little late to the party here, but I gathered from the cashier that this precious little light of mirth had demanded candy or whatever and her mother said no. Not only that, but the mother had chosen to pour a healthy amount of salt in that wound by additionally threatening that Santa wouldn’t visit unless she behaved. Bad move, mommy. That bold-faced lie unleashed the kraken hiding within her doe-eyed daughter turning what may have been a manageable tantrum into full on Krampus fodder displaying itself for all to see on the floor of this grocery store.

We all have our parenting style and I’m not (fully) criticizing what this mother did next. I’m just saying that it’s not something I would do and leave it at that. So, the kid is screaming full blast and this mom, rather than step away from her conversation with the cashier, decided instead to proclaim to the child, “NOW, Santa won’t visit or bring you presents unless you get up off the floor.”  Right.

Well, you would have thought that she’d sent an electric shock straight through the air to this child. The little girl splayed herself across the floor with flailing limbs that resembled an 80’s break-dancer and her voice reached a pitch of whine that I thought only possible in a machine shop. And, almost impossibly (but I swear it’s true), her repeated demand that Santa must visit her and must bring her presents, got even louder. It was truly a sight to behold.

Unfortunately, the first possible collateral damage entered the scene in the form of an elderly woman who had had enough and had decided that no matter how curious she might be to see if this demon girl’s head was going to start spinning she’s got other things to do and tried to make her way out of the store. She had to gingerly make her way past this kid without having a leg taken out from under her and breaking a hip. Wonder what Santa would’ve said about that!?

And the mom of this lovely floor ornament? Well, the mother, to her credit, was not the least bit fazed or concerned, certainly not enough to become a proactive participant in this wild scene. In fact, you’d barely know she had a child at all. Instead of physically removing the child from the aisle so the elderly woman could get by safely (which would have been the LEAST of my kids’ problems had this been them), she simply continued repeating her mantra… “Santa won’t visit unless you get off the floor” from the relative safety of the checkout line. What kind of idiotic bribery is this? Good grief, the parenting skills that people use today! Oh wait…skills imply talent or useful abilities. Scratch that. Good grief, what passes as parenting these days! Is this one of those feral children I’ve heard so much about?

I mean, really? Let’s do a little play-by-play. First the girl misbehaves. Next, mom pulls out the Santa’s Watching card. So of course, the girl’s natural reaction is to throw herself down on the floor. Santa’s watching after all, right? Magically though, now Santa visits tantrum throwing kids just so long as they don’t throw their tantrum while flailing about on the floor or take out the elderly woman trying to exit stage left. Oh wait. Okay, well, just so long as you don’t take out the elderly woman, you’re golden. Talk about a bit of holiday spirit perversion. I think Santa would be appalled if he knew he was being used in this manner. I’ve always had a thing for Krampus and I think this may be why.

I wish I could be a fly on the wall of that household when the natural dynamic of this mother and child hits the teenage years. Now that should be a party! Bet Santa’s invite to that one gets lost in the mail.

Pa Rum Pum Pum Pum

I love Christmas. Ornaments for the tree? I have enough to fill my tree, my neighbor’s tree, your tree, and the National Tree in DC. Who cares if my tree is only 4 feet tall? Do I buy more every year? You bet. Christmas cards? Yup. I have enough to send out to people I don’t even know for the rest of my life. Do I buy more every year? You bet. Lights, snow globes, bells, wreaths, glitter … I’ve got it all. In spades. What’s even more fun is coming up with a gift list. Oh, not for myself, but everyone else. I truly enjoy gift-giving.

Well, ever since Halloween, I’ve been humming “The Little Drummer Boy” to myself and it made me wonder – is it ever too early to be thinking about Christmas? Some of you are rolling your eyes and harrumphing: “Of course, there is a too early for this crap Christmas time-frame!” I couldn’t agree with you more. We all know this. But humming to oneself like a nutcase and throwing up a tree and full-blown decorations are two entirely different things.

I’ve seen and heard so many people get straight up grumpy about Christmas making an early appearance – I’m one of those people, actually, as I gripe about Santa and decorations showing up in stores before Thanksgiving has even reared its fine-feathered head, and yet every year it keeps happening. Earlier and earlier we see the commercial side of this supposedly altruistic holiday.

Back in the day, it was the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade Santa who set the timing for the season. Then the stores got the idea to bolster their profits by having Black Friday which, in reality, starts way before Thanksgiving when you think about all of the advertising, early-bird deals, etc. Now, the stores are like: “Is it almost Halloween!? Dust off last year’s Christmas paraphernalia and throw that out there with the turkey napkin holders, pumpkins, ghosts, and skeletons … let’s get this Hallowthanksmas conglomeration started!”

Consider all the money that goes into Christmas. According to the American Research Group, the average American plans to spend roughly $835 on gifts this year. That doesn’t include holiday travel (pandemic be damned, apparently), decorations, or food, which I’m sure is some astronomical number of dollars. Given the huge investment that the Christmas season is for many people – not to mention, the profit margin for the businesses who have honed their capitalistic holiday campaign, it’s no surprise that they want to get their money’s worth. After all, if I was spending over $800, I’d want to have warm seasonal fuzzies for far longer than a month. “Hey, I bought that singing, blow-up snowman for my yard and I’ll be damned if I don’t get to annoy my neighbors with it for as long as possible!” Okay, fine, so annoying the neighbors is an “all year” treat that I do take advantage of, but that’s just me.

Decorating a house, depending on your commitment level (I’m looking at you Paul), can take some serious time, with the tree alone taking a few hours. Lugging boxes from the garage and carefully putting hooks on every individual ornament isn’t something to take lightly. Getting that just-right Griswold effect on the house is also a feat that is nothing if not time-consuming. I mean, I can totally understand that if people go to all of that effort, they want it to start as early as possible and last until they’re good and ready to take it all down. Even if that means those decorations stay up until Spring.  A friend of mine used to leave her Christmas tree up long enough that it became a Mardi Gras tree around mid-March, just for the sheer fact that it was too pretty and too much work to take it down.

As much as I love Christmas, and I do love Christmas, my tree is up barely in time for the day itself and comes down the day after. Love the holiday, hate the clutter. I always dream of a decorated home worthy of a Home and Gardens cover, or at least, a photo spread on the inside pages … but alas, my anxiety won’t let me. Or rather, it does, but if you blink, you’ll miss it.

Now Christmas songs seem to be a different animal entirely. Songs don’t take much effort (for the listener, that is), but like any song, there can be too much of a good thing after a while. So, should we be listening to Christmas songs as early as we are decorating? Radio stations certainly think so. Literally the day after Halloween there are round the clock Christmas music broadcasts. Maybe that’s why I’ve had vintage pa rum pum pum pums rattling around in my head. Personally, I don’t have a problem with that. Bonus, my not quite under my breath singing annoys my coworkers, so there’s that. In all fairness though, by the time Christmas is over I’m so sick of hearing “Simply Having a Wonderful Christmas Time” that I want to die. I think the secret to success with Christmas music is creating your own playlists. And earplugs when traipsing through the department stores with piped-in music. No-one wants those songs in their head all day.

When it comes right down to it, the Christmas season is whatever you want it to be. Do I hate retailers who put out their inventory before that Thanksgiving turkey even hatches? You better believe it. Am I going to be rifling through that very same inventory as excitedly as a child at um… Christmas? You better believe it.

Scared Straight Redux

I watched the movie Krampus with Adam Scott and Toni Collette again today. Much like The Addams Family at Thanksgiving, this movie is becoming a Christmas tradition in my home.

Anyway, it made me think of this blog entry back from 2014.  Now, to be completely honest, I don’t really condone either Santa bribery or Krampus warnings. Being eaten by Krampus isn’t really something that would have successful follow-thru anyway. Sort of like the Santa incentive, it just falls flat, and would ultimately fail miserably.

I suppose the point of Krampus was to show children there were consequences for bad behavior — a dark moral fairy tale similar to many of the original Grimm fairy tales, or at least, that’s my take on it.

But it does make for entertaining cinema.


Originally  posted 12/5/2014 

Scared Straight

‘Tis the season when we Christmas-lovin’ folk start looking at the world through red and green colored glasses. We’re rushing to buy trees, hoarding the best milk for those cold nights when hot cocoa will be divine, making space on our mantle where fuzzy stockings will be hung, and whispering stories into our children’s ears about an evil demon that will drag them to hell if they don’t behave.

Wait…what!? Did you just hear a record scratch?

That story of Santa?  Boring! What a goodie-goodie that guy is. He rewards the good kids with gifts. Effective enough, I guess. But there’s the lesser known Bizarro Santa known as Krampus, a horned beast concocted by Germanic and Eastern European countries (with original ties to Norse Mythology) to scare kids and keep them on the straight and narrow path throughout the year. How you ask? Well, it’s simple really…Krampus threatened to stuff the bad children into his doggy bag and take them down to the fiery pits of his lair where he would feast on them at his leisure if they dare step out of line. Now that’s what I call problem solving.

Santa is to Superman what Krampus is to Batman. Santa is an out-and-out hero with a seriously naïve outlook on the goodness in the world and caters to that, while Krampus is that creature lurking in the shadows of Gotham inducing terror into any wrong-doers until they straighten themselves out. Superman may get the sponsorships but Batman gets the results.

Just try it. If your kid’s throwing a tantrum in the aisle at Toys R’ Us, use the good ol’ Santa card and see if your howling monster of an offspring snaps to attention. Maybe you’ll get lucky, maybe not.

But if you pull out the Krampus threat, I bet he or she will snap to attention a lot quicker knowing their soul is on the line instead of a 10-speed bike. Put yourself in your kids’ shoes for a second and listen to these two phrases:

1) “Santa won’t give you that train set unless you stop yelling.”

2) “Krampus is going to eat you alive and feast on your bones unless you get yourself under control right now.”

I’m no child psychologist but I’m going to take a wild guess that Option #2 might be a tiny bit more effective. You never know until you try, right?

Eastern Europe might’ve been a harsh place to live back in Krampus’ day, but one thing’s for sure, they knew how to keep their kids under control. Seems like there’s a lesson in there some place.

Holiday Rationale

I got my annual, end-of-the-year fuck you “how ya’ doing” text from the ex today. He just wanted to let me know that everything that has ever gone wrong in the history of the entire world is still my fault. You know, in case you were wondering. Bless his heart. It’s just not the holiday season without this festive assault on my self-esteem.

I keep thinking to myself that one of these days I should write a cathartic, tell-all book, and then wouldn’t all hell break loose?  In the meantime, in a strange sort of way, I look forward to this unsolicited, if not predictable, bitchfest communiqué. It reminds me that all is right with the world.

Until recently, I had a personal trifecta, of sorts, in December … Christmas, my birthday, and my wedding anniversary, all three occurring within a week’s time.  I’m sure that the latter — or memory thereof — is in part responsible for my ex’s strict adherence to his twisted tradition.

I still have my trifecta … only it’s Christmas, my birthday, and New Year’s Eve. And I’m good with that. Great, in fact.

Only now, apparently, I’ve reached the age … or mentality … where going out to celebrate anything is overrated. It’s just not worth navigating the roads or the overcrowded parking lots of bars that are as equally overcrowded, not to mention loud.

I could claim that having attained a certain level of maturity (Remember?? I did mention my birthday right off the top… ) allows me to reflect on the fact that I don’t really need the hustle and bustle of the pub scene or a fancy dinner at a restaurant with cocktails after in order to enjoy this trifecta of holidays. I could say that the exorbitant amount of money I would no doubt throw away on libations and obligatory feast would be better spent elsewhere. I could even explain that drinking followed by the carnival ride that is the commute through my neighborhood is a dangerous and irresponsible thing to do.

There are so many valid reasons for my lack of celebratory motivation.

The fact that there is a week-long Doctor Who marathon currently airing on BBC America is completely irrelevant. Irrelevant, I tell you! Now, where the hell’s my remote!?

the words every nerd girl wants to hear …

 

 

‘Tis the Season to be Grumpy

I hate people. You guys know that. And as much as I hate people, one might also assume I am not a charitable person. I wouldn’t blame you for taking that leap. However, you would be wrong. Ha! Plot twist!  Didn’t see that coming, did you?  You probably thought I was related to Scrooge or something. Nope, nope, and nope.

While I don’t have much, I give back whenever and however I can. I donate my time to animal advocacy and other humanitarian causes, and every year I donate to Toys for Tots and the children’s mitten/hat tree at my local social services.  I do what I can when I can.

But, admittedly, for the most part all I want is to go about my day and be left alone. Like today, for instance. I had to go to the store for some last-minute Christmas odds and ends, and while there, decided to get a coffee. The Salvation Army bell-ringer, who I liken to the Jehovah’s Witnesses in so many ways, was there, as they have been since Thanksgiving.

The most I get from the nice, older woman who rings her holiday bell is Good Evening, Merry Christmas. And me, I say Thank You and Happy Holidays to you as well. Pleasantries exchanged, we go back to our respective business. It’s all very amiable if not standoffish.  I’m fine with that. Happy with that, in fact.

Today, there was a gentleman ringing the bell, and he stood inside the little vestibule where the carts are instead of on the sidewalk outside the door. As I was leaving the grocery store with my bags and latte in hand, I guess he felt the need to share his um… ardent … opinion on my egregious financial – and charitable – decisions.

To make a long rant short, apparently if I have money to buy a latte, I have money to give to the Salvation Army, and by doing otherwise, I should be ashamed of myself. Now, this last bit, if I’m honest, made me smile a little. I mean, I’ve had much better people than him lay a guilt-trip on me, so his repartee fell somewhat flat.

I will interject here to say that if you donate to the Salvation Army, great, good for you — truly. Personally, their beliefs, as an organization, are contrary to mine and because of that, I specifically will not donate to them. Even if I had cash in my pocket (which I never do – I’m a card-carrying consumer) I would rather drop it into the “save the animals” jar at the vet or the “buy coats for kids” bucket at the hardware store than give it to the Salvation Army. But again, that’s just me. To each their own with regards to charity.

Like many things in life, charitable giving is a very personal choice.

However, to be perfectly frank, even if it were an organization I do support, I’d be hard put to dig into my pockets after being confronted in such a manner.

I know the bell ringers are paid, I’ve seen the want-ads. Whether or not they work partly on commission, I have no idea. Maybe that’s what prompted this gentleman to approach me the way he did. Maybe he needed a caffeine boost of his own. Maybe he was just feeling snarky. Who knows. I do wonder, though, if he approached any men in the same way he did me. Would he have had that same desire to belittle and shame a man?

I suppose I could have been a tad more altruistic in my response. Truth be told, I’m just a little tired of greeting rudeness with complacency and a smile. My kids weren’t with me (they never let me do anything), which left my tongue free to wag and wag it did.

Hopefully the conversation went the way of the one I had with the Jehovah’s Witnesses who visited my home way-too-early Christmas morning last year. If so, I’ll either be on their list to never approach again or I will be on their prayer cards until the end of time. I guess either one is fine with me. Though I do fervently hope it is the former.

Bah, humbug.

Winter is Coming

I don’t know what possessed me — possessed probably being the key word here — but, I ventured out into the world today. You know… among people. And not just regular people either. Mall shoppers. Oh yes. In a fit of misplaced optimism, I decided to try my hand at in-person Christmas shopping. I mean, really. What the hell was I thinking? You tell me, I sure don’t know. It did teach me one thing, however. My disdain for people is nothing if not valid.

Which brings me to this recycled blog post. Oh sure, it’s not Black Friday any longer, which is what prompted the original post. In fact, we’re smack-dab in the middle of the yearly free-for-all we euphemistically call holiday shopping. However, the moral of the story, if you can call it that, is just as relevant today as it was last year. BUT, beware, my friends. Winter is not just coming. It is here. It. Is. Here.

Musings from a Tangled Mind

Friends, danger is upon us. We are approaching that time of year when brother will turn against brother, sister will deceive sister, and strangers will come to fisticuffs over dwindling supplies of cherished treasure. There’s only one thing that can bring the madness in our society to such a fever pitch. Yes, my friends, I’m talking about holiday shopping.

Get those elbows ready for pushing people out of the way (I hear a sale on elbow pads starts today!) and start brushing up on your bob-and-weave coordination, it all kicks off today, Black Friday, and soon it will be followed by an all-out Christmas merchandise assault. I don’t know what it is about good deals, but it truly unleashes the beast in some people. Maybe it’s mob mentality that comes from being in large, billowing crowds of shoppers. It overtakes rational thought about how to treat your fellow Man and…

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Midday Revelations

You know, to be fair, the Grinch didn’t hate Christmas. He hated people. And I can completely relate to that, especially as I get older. Oh, who am I kidding … I’ve always been this way. I was, am, and will forever be Team Grinch.  Long live the Grinch. Praise be and pass the eggnog.