Tag Archive | family

A Shameful Cycle of Shaming

These days, it seems like every mom with a computer becomes an immediate motherhood professional. From website to blog and back again, these moms pour out their wisdom and advice.  I find myself marveling at the wealth of information I can find in any one of these sites, and also the ridiculous amount of judgmental bull crap that I read in nearly every one.

On one site, a mother proudly proclaims she let little Junior cry himself to sleep last night; best decision she ever made and just who the hell in their right mind co-sleeps anyway?  In another article on the same site, a mom is complaining praising herself because she slept in a rocking chair all night, soothing her baby to sleep and why on earth would anyone in their right mind let their baby cry it out?  Both are shaming the other in their storytelling, while complaining that they are being shamed for their own choices.

It’s not so much the contradictory advice I constantly see (sometimes in the same damn blog) that bothers me.  It’s the sheer hypocrisy I see from some of these New Age Mothers. This “newer, softer” generation of parents are outraged at anyone who dares to judge them for their parenting techniques. They shame the “mommy shamers,” brutally. They encourage the battle cry “mothers unite!” and push hard against those who have the audacity to judge other parents.  This in and of itself is a very good thing.  Mothers SHOULD stick together.

I guess these writer-moms must be exempt from their own outrage, though, not to mention their own rules, because every other article I’ve seen is a harsh judgement against parents who think differently from whatever parenting protocol they happen to be writing about. When they run out of “their words,” they resort to memes to make their point.

When I’m navigating my way through these “Mom” groups and see memes outright mocking so-called “helicopter” parents or zingy little one-liners criticizing those with only one child (because apparently, they’re not actual “parents”), I think to myself:  For a group who berates mommy-shamers, you guys sure do a lot of shaming of your own. Why do you care how others parent their children so long as they’re loving and caring, and not abusive?  Isn’t mocking someone else’s parenting technique the very thing you get angry about, or is that just when others do it to you? Alas, I get no answers to my questions since the inquiring voice is only in my head.

Now as I’m sure you know, I’ve never been one to say I won’t judge. Hell, I do it all the time. Oh, I won’t judge you on your looks, your education, your job, your religion or anything of that nature, and I won’t judge someone doing the best they can with what they have.  BUT, I will judge you on being a hypocrite. I may judge you for white shoes after Labor Day, not stopping at the crosswalk, or for using the Express Lane with eighteen items, and I will definitely judge you for being a jerk, a bully, or an asshole.  It’s part of my charm. But some of these writer Moms are caught in an endless shaming cycle. While they decry those who judge them on their parenting choices, in the next breath they shame others for choosing a different path for their kids. You can’t have it both ways.

Bottom line, despite the competitive nature of the world, raising kids should not be a game or a contest, and if your child is growing up healthy, polite, and able to function respectfully in society, then congratulations.  You’re doing it right.  It’s a wise mother that knows there is no “right” or “wrong” answer to raising kids; it’s mostly just a hell of a lot of trial and error and making shit up as you go along.

Choose your parenting path, and travel it proudly.  You do need to take ownership, though, and realize that if you choose to judge – those you are judging will be judging you right back.

Grandma Mooney’s Spooky Charades

I’ve been thinking a lot about my Grandma Mooney lately. I’m not sure why. I joined a vintage photo group recently and it’s possible the old-timey photos remind me of her – I mean, many of the “mountain” or rural women from her era all look very similar; hair in a bun, house dress, a wearied expression on their face that makes it look as though they’ve seen it all (and probably have).  Winnie Mooney had a heart of gold underneath her massive bosom, however, there was a twisted edge to her sense of humor that still has me laughing to this day. I’m not sure what that says about me. But it’s probably why my mother always called me Winnie when I was growing up (just to be clear, it was meant as an insult).

If you recall, my Grandmother – great-Grandmother really – loved sending Vinegar Valentines; Valentine’s Day always brings her back to my memory too.  If you are newer to my blog, a Vinegar Valentine was a way of saying “Bless your heart,” that infamous southern loaded phrase.  She agonized over the perfect valentine to send to people she disliked, laughing as she sent it.  Although turnabout is fair play, she would get so mad when she received one.  These anti-Valentine’s Day cards were more popular for a while than regular cards.  I have a few people in mind that I could send some to, but alas, the practice has fallen out of favor…anyway, I digress.

Grandma Mooney and the rest of my Mom’s family lived in a holler.  For those who aren’t from the south, a holler is a small valley between mountains.  There was only one way in and one way out of the holler. Now you know what all those country songs are talking about. You’re welcome.

To digress one again, I got in trouble at school once for saying and writing holler when my northern-born teacher thought it ought to be “hollow.” Apparently, I wasn’t one to back down from a debate despite my young age. Seems my mother was not immune to the dreaded “parent/teacher conference” any more than I was when my kids were growing up.

Now when my mother was younger, about five or six or so, she had a young friend who lived down the dirt road from her, and he would come by her house to play with her. Or at least…he tried. For reasons unknown to anyone but herself, Grandma Mooney loved to prank this poor young boy.   No-one was ever able to figure out why; it was a secret known only to Grandma Mooney.  Knowing her, it started as a joke and was so hilarious to her that she just continued doing it.

At any rate, the whole premise behind the “joke” was, is there a demon haunting the Mooney house or isn’t there a demon haunting the Mooney house?

And it went like this: my Grandma Mooney would pull a hideous Halloween mask over her head (and we’re talking back in the day when they really knew how to make Halloween scary), and would sit lurking…lurking…waiting for the boy to come up the road to the house.  Then, it was show time.

Grandma Mooney, in this creepy as hell mask, would pop her head up at the window just in time to scare this little boy half to death as he walked up on the porch.

The terrified boy would run home crying to his parents about the insanely frightening witch or monster that dwelled in his friend’s house.  The parents would march over immediately to find out exactly what was going on, as any good parent would do.

Grandma Mooney was ever the innocent hostess. I mean butter wouldn’t melt in her mouth when she put on her “who me?” act.  I can imagine her taking the parents in for coffee, all the while claiming she had no idea what the poor little boy was talking about.  She kept her bluff face on the entire time and never once cracked or confessed.

I don’t know if the little boy ever got punished for telling “wild tales.” Given the parenting techniques of the day though, I wouldn’t be surprised if a trip or two to the woodshed had been in order. What I do picture, though, is this child growing up and ending up in therapy, never able to trick or treat or watch a scary movie, or even believe his own eyes for that matter.

Word carries quickly in the usually close-knit communities in the mountains of WV.  I’m sure word got out about the demon? monster? madwoman? who lived in my mother’s house.  Amazingly enough, my mom still had friends who would come visit her.

my great-grandparents (Grandma and Grandpa Mooney)

my great-grandparents (Grandma and Grandpa Mooney)

 

Parenting in the New Age vs My Age

Recently, I was reading a parenting article by a fellow mom.  I refer to her generation of parents as “New Age Mothers.” She’s a bit newer to the whole parenting thing than I am; she has toddlers and young children whereas mine have somehow survived and become productive members of society despite this mother’s misgivings about my parenting style.

This writer mom (who shall forever in my mind be called New Age Mom) describes what she terms “Helicopter Parenting.”  If this is a new phrase to you, I’ll paraphrase it to “Overparenting.”  In her series of articles, she makes the case for what she considers hands-off parenting in a variety of baffling ways.  In one entry, she mocks the mom who stays with her child at the playground and makes sure her spawn doesn’t plummet to her earthly demise from the top of a set of monkey bars. Or *gasp* the mother who chooses to actually play with her children while at the playground.

New Age Mom also judges the perplexed mother who is watching the Abandoned Children of the Playground nervously, trying to make sure they are all safe as they dangle from the roof of the nearby outhouse.  Her commentary on these mothers is both depressing and confusing. Why? Because this is the same New Age Mom who will claim it takes a village to raise a child, among other things…not to mention her harsh judgement against a fellow Mom for another…all while criticizing those who dare to judge her parenting technique. The irony of all this seems to be lost on her.

You see, New Age Mom doesn’t go to the park to play. She has no interest in helping her kids with the “they’re not quite ready for that” tasks or involving herself in games. New Age Mom considers this hovering and relentlessly judges those parents who choose to do it. Personally, I think she’s missing out on a prime opportunity to simply enjoy her kids…you know, those cute little creatures that only stay little for so long.

I was a mother who put the “play” in playground.  I took my kids to the park and not only encouraged them to play with other kids, but also —*big gasp*— played with them myself.  I taught them new tricks and games.  I taught them the valuable lessons learned from climbing the monkey bars that seemed too high, waiting in line for the best slide in the park, and sharing with other kids.  We got to blow off steam in a place with no hard and fast rules.  Most importantly, though, I shared quality time with them. This was a time when we could just enjoy each other, have fun with each other laughing and being crazy, and a time when I could set aside the pressures I faced through the years as both a stay at home mom and a working mom and just be a big kid myself.

It was also a learning time for me; I learned that my kids were caring and fun little people, and more importantly, that the aluminum slides get very, VERY hot in the summer.  I also learned that getting stuck halfway down the slide is embarrassing, but being a plate of scalding metal as it was, you figured out a way to get down pretty darned quick.  These moments were not a chore to me, they are treasured memories for my family. And yes, it was a learning experience for my kids too. They learned that unless we needed to call an ambulance or rush to the hospital, it was possible to shake off skinned knees or elbows and get on with the day.

New Age Mom also wrote that she dislikes Chuck E Cheese’s because she can’t just relax.  She worries that her child will run off, get into trouble, burn the place to the ground and cause World War III.  This is a confusing juxtaposition for me; didn’t she just say she appreciates moms who let their kids run free at the playground?  Chuck E Cheese’s is one of the few places where it is nearly impossible to truly lose your child.  I admire the place’s security checks and open design that allow kids to just have fun and moms to take a breather for a few short hours. It’s a place where kids can just have fun with very few, if any, “no’s.” For a parent who dislikes “hovering” so much, you’d think New Age Mom would be on board for that.

New Age Mom laments the quality of food at Chuck’s, but you know what? Sometimes you just have to eat the bad pizza to truly let your kid be a kid.  However, and I’m just guessing here, but I bet this same blogger mom probably runs to McDonald’s for a quick snack sometimes, and honestly, there is nothing wrong with that in moderation.  I’ve been known to do it *ahem* a time or two.  But if you’re going strictly by quality and taste, I’m not sure which is worse better: McDonald’s or Chuck E Cheese.

The New Age Mom is also worried that Chuck’s has germs.  Seriously.  I wonder how she copes with the copious number of germs in the doctor’s office, breeding all over those toys her kids are currently playing with?  Does she know how many times her kids share straws with sick kids at the daycare center or grab toys from other kids’ snot filled little fingers? Or even the bacteria filled dirt they’re eating at the park where they’re running free? The fact is, you can’t keep them in a bubble.  Germs exist.  It is a proven fact that the more kids are exposed to germs, the more resistance they build against them.  We were never meant to live in a sterile environment.  I’m glad, really, because what fun is bubble life, anyway?

The New Age Mother in question also dislikes taking her kids to non-parent homes for get-togethers. Yeah, I know. She has a list. Anyway, apparently, she feels that her kids would destroy the house, starve to death as picky eaters, poison the water well for the community, stain every cloth surface in reach, and execute the homeowner’s fish.  Her own home is a safe-ground because it is appropriately child proofed and suitably stained and messy, I suppose. Actually, I don’t have to suppose or guess…she went into great detail about just how stained and messy her house was because well, she has kids.  I won’t even get into that today.

I can’t imagine parents not taking their children somewhere because it is simply too much trouble to keep track of them. In fact, some parents even teach their children to behave in social situations.  Honest fact! I swear.

Back in the day, we packed appropriately for the visit, with a bag full of our kids’ favorite toys to occupy them.  We packed snacks just in case they didn’t like the food served, and encouraged them to try the food anyway.  I don’t think I’ve ever met a kid who was NOT a “picky eater.”

It’s not like our childless friends had no idea what to expect from a visit with children involved.  I mean, they knew what kids were – they’d read about them in books at least. They were well aware of how kids acted, pretty much at any rate, and wanted us to visit anyway. Friends. God love ‘em. They didn’t break out the rare 18th century bone china from a remote village in Taiwan or fill every bathtub with water and “play here” signs before we came over, but neither did they expect our kids to daintily lay their napkins across their laps and eat the offerings served up by Chef Gervais, who was standing in the kitchen nervously awaiting my toddler’s approval.

I considered every social event a learning experience.  If we were at a restaurant, grocery store or friend’s house, my kids learned how to act.  We taught our kids from an early age that you behave a certain way in certain places and they “got it.” I’m not sure where we lost that. I took my kids to childless friends’ houses, to nice restaurants, and anywhere else and they behaved. They were taught that, they didn’t learn it by osmosis. They weren’t screaming, running around breaking things, and being soulless demons (at least not outwardly soulless demons). They knew better and they behaved. Even as toddlers.  If there was the start of a tantrum, I cut it off early and walked out from wherever I was to take care of it and then returned — if it couldn’t be calmed down, then we left and bedtime likely came early that evening in retaliation.

Kids are not stupid. They learn quickly. As parents, it’s our job to teach them. Keeping them from social situations or out of other people’s houses because we’re too lazy to teach them to behave better? To the New Age Mom, I have one question. When did we stop being parents? When did parenting become a hands-off occupation (and no, I don’t mean spare the rod and spoil the child – I mean simply, doing our job)?

Parenting is not easy. It’s not always fun. It’s a tough thing to do, probably the toughest thing you will ever do – IF you’re doing it right. Could it be that some of the New Age Mothering techniques are less of a style and more convenience factors?

I’ve raised two kids. Not as many as some and perhaps one more than others. But suffice it to say, I’m not a newbie and I’ve been through it all…with my sanity mostly intact, I’m glad to say. Parenting is one of the most rewarding things anyone can do, but it’s not supposed to be easy. If it is, you’re doing it wrong.

Invasion of the Morning Dog

I hate mornings.  I really do.  This whole “having to get up and be an adult” gig is just not my thing.

Enter Petra, my adorable morning loving dog. She has an almost annoyingly happy morning persona.  If she was human, I’d avoid her until noon. Or drown her in a cup of coffee, lock her in the supply closet, duct tape her mouth shut; you get the point.  I hate perky, annoying morning people.

Petra wasn’t always a shot of energy in the morning. When I rescued her two and a half years ago from our local shelter, she had been abused and neglected.  At age six, she was terrified of everything and everyone.  She was painfully thin, and afraid of loud sounds or even sudden movements; it was as if she was always waiting for the worst to happen to her.  My heart breaks to think what she went through before becoming comfortably ensconced in our household.

After showing this little Chihuahua the love and respect she deserves, she now knows she is safe.  No longer afraid, this tiny giant of a lovebug is comfortable in her surroundings and loves us as much as we love her.  Petra has blossomed under our care and is a completely different dog.  Every day finds her happy to be alive and with us, safe and warm. I know how this must sound and believe me, I’m not trying to “toot my own horn” in the animal care department so much as adequately describe just how annoyingly adorable this dog truly is. She really is just happy to wake up each morning, still here, and shows it.

Now, every couple has their differences.  I get it.  I really do.  But Petra is my polar opposite in the morning.  While I groggily throw shoes at the alarm clock, this petite dynamo seems to just pop out of the covers, every hair in place, with a big welcoming smile on her doggie face. Apart from her morning breath (which is also her afternoon and evening breath, but I digress), she is ready to face the world.  Her little tail wags a mile a minute, and seriously, I have tried to figure out a way to use that wagging tail to stir my coffee.  So far, my only reward for that invention is a coffee cup full of hair.  I don’t think I’ve ever met a human that is so happy to be alive and so eager to greet the day. But this dog has got it covered.

I guess she can’t read my “I Hate Mornings” coffee mug, although I have tried to translate it for her. In sooo many ways I’ve tried to translate it for her.  I suspect she just doesn’t care.  Petra doesn’t wake me up, she is way too smart for that. She doesn’t try to push me out of bed either. If I stay in bed, she stays in bed. She just stays burrowed under the covers next to me until she feels me stir in that “okay, fine, I can’t avoid it any longer and I have to get up now even though I don’t want to” kind of way.  Then, all bets are off.

Bouncing out of bed as if it were a trampoline, my tiny giant is a circle in motion, enthusiastic, tail wagging, smiling bundle of boundless energy.  She is that annoying barista at Starbucks who insists you must pay attention to her as she writes your name on your cup.  “How is your morning?”  Ms. Barista breezes at you, smile plastered on her face as you blink at her in confusion.  “Nice weather, isn’t it?”  Your brain screams “Shut up! Just make the coffee!” but your mouth freezes into the fake smile as you nod and snatch your cup from her overly eager hands.

Petra could be that barista, hands down.  Except for one thing.

No barista was ever this cute.  And engaging.  And infectiously happy.  I can’t help it; I want to be annoyed, I try to be annoyed, but I just can’t.  Instead, her exuberance rubs off on me and I end up smiling myself, like the fool I am.

I’d be a millionaire if I could figure out how to bottle that energy and sell it.  Or, I’d selfishly keep it and sip on it when the cable guy says he’ll be there “between 7am and 8pm.”  One sip, and I’d have the laundry and the housework done in half an hour.

Still, as I brew my coffee and look at my petite dynamo of a dog, I’m glad that her happiness is contagious. I’m glad she’s happy, period. I can’t help but smile at her, no matter how early it is.

The amazing thing is, she always, always smiles back.

 

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Mourning the Loss of Wisdom

I would say I’m sorry for not posting in a couple of days, but frankly, I’m just too tired for guilt. Between working and my caregiver gig the past several days, my usually snarky self is just plain pooped. But this week’s experience has inspired me to write about a subject I’ve had an issue with for a while now. Aren’t ya’ll lucky?

We’ve all seen the posts and videos made of family and friends, all doped up on pain medication after a surgical procedure.  I may be in the minority here, but I’ve never found them funny, and this week it struck me exactly why I don’t.

My daughter had all four wisdom teeth removed this past week.  Hers wasn’t an easy extraction; the way her teeth were placed – she had roots growing into her sinuses among other serious problems – required an oral surgeon.  She was under the influence of some pretty heavy medications during the procedure, and is on more medications now.

My daughter wasn’t exceptionally loopy, just very chatty. Ironic, I know given her mouth was so sore. We had joked about it prior to the procedure – the video blogging I mean. But it didn’t even cross my mind to take footage of her discomfort.  I was too concerned over her wellbeing. Then, it dawned on me; what a spectacular invasion of privacy to video someone on medication and then publish the video.  Granted, my daughter knows I write about her in my blog, but we agree on what I can and cannot publish.

No matter how loopy or goofy she had been, my cell phone would have stayed right in my pocket.  Seriously; who DOES this?  She needed me the most at that moment in time.  She needed to know that she could count on me to take care of her and especially that I would never post anything embarrassing for the world to see, for her friends and complete strangers to make fun of, or even to look back on and remember how uncomfortable – how downright painful – the day had been for her.

I suppose some of the people in these trending videos may have given permission beforehand.  If they didn’t, though, what does that say about the person videotaping?  With friends like that, who needs enemies? What about the parents gleefully posting pics of their small children all doped up?  Is this cute, or creepy? Or worse, does it show an inherent meanstreak?

Now I certainly will make a mental note of my daughter’s ramblings, and maybe even bring them up at a future date to ensure compliance in some matter or the other. (Never said I was perfect, folks!) But to post a video of it on Facebook? No thanks. The only reason to post it would be for laughs or attention. I guess I don’t really find that sort of thing funny. In fact, I find it kind of mean.

What do you all think of the trend of posting these types of videos?  Feel free to comment; as for me, I need to go.  Good old Chipmunk Cheeks is asking for some soup.

The Personalities of Christmas

Christmas is just a day away and the journey through hell to visit beloved family is upon many an innocent soul. This yearly event brings together a mish-mash of individuals from extended family to close personal friends, long-time family friends, to who the hell are these people. Every holiday gathering has them. Those people who you don’t know, those people you don’t like, and those people you would never hang out with if they weren’t related to you.  For your convenience, I have listed the personality types you will find at nearly any get-together this season in one easy go-to guide.  Keep this with you at all times; your survival may depend on early identification of The Personalities of Christmas.

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  1. Aunt Edna: Aunt Edna isn’t really anyone’s aunt.  She is just included in holiday gatherings and drinks egg nog while pinching the cheeks of children (anyone under the age of say 30) and clucking annoyingly.  No one knows exactly where Aunt Edna came from, she just showed up one year and kept coming back.  It’s all good though; Aunt Edna makes the best cookies. Just avoid a full-frontal approach if you prefer your cheeks unpinched.
  1. The Gift Giving Overachiever: This is usually a female.  No matter what you give, she one-ups you.  But not in a good way. I know, sounds weird, right? Buy her a thoughtful gift card to her favorite store?  She will give you a hand knitted king-sized comforter she has been working on since last Christmas, knitted with her own hair that she collected from her hairbrush and shower drain.  By the way, here is a matching pillow sham. Start early after the gift-giving ends the year before in a quest to find the weak link aka the newbie to the family who has no idea about psycho overachiever so you can be sure and talk them into trading her should you draw her name again in Secret Santa. Hey, Cousin Joe did it to you when you married into the family so it’s only fair the torch get passed onto the next sucker new member of the family.
  1. The Gift Giving Underachiever: Sorry, guys, but this is usually male.  He is so stressed at the idea of choosing gifts, facing crowds in stores, and Christmas music piped over loudspeakers that he shuts down.  Finally, on Christmas Eve after the stores are closed, he heads out.  His lucky wife will receive a 7-11 coffee mug (with free refills!), a lotto scratch off ticket, and a Valentine’s Day card with “Be My Valentine scratched off” and “Merry Christmas” handwritten across the top. The gift will be wrapped in a grocery store plastic bag and duct tape.
  1. The Pampered Pets:  There are many pet personalities, and everyone loves to bring them all together during the holidays.  Fluffy the cat will be stuck halfway up the tree, and Rocky the dog will be tangled in the Christmas lights (because he chased Fluffy the cat up the tree).  Great, someone, we’re not sure who…but the Ne’er-do-well is looking particularly frizzy and singed…just chewed through the cord to the Christmas tree light and blew a fuse. Tiny little yappers become irresistible to the larger dogs who will chase them with thoughts of sugar plums cannibalism dancing in their little doggy heads.  One especially bad at his job scent hound will shred half the wrapping on each present searching for that elusive squeaker toy or treat that’s sure to be under the tree but getting only that flannel shirt for Grandpa or slippers for Mom, and his owner will frantically try to avoid re-wrapping them by using Band-Aids, staples and Gorilla Glue to fold the paper back around the gifts. It’s okay, though; the Gift Giving Underachiever still has plenty of duct tape to go around.
  1. The Kid Who Still Believes in Santa: You have to buy different types of wrapping paper to wrap the gifts that “Santa” brought and secretly resent giving Santa the credit for the PlayStation under the tree because Santa’s not the one that worked overtime for months to get the money to pay for that thing, dealing with people you already hate and not sleeping just to work double shifts and…and oh nevermind, it’s the thought that counts, right? You will invest in letters from Santa, and brave the frigid night to go out and place reindeer footprints on the roof and lawn. You may be really dedicated and invest in reindeer poop to throw in your yard. You’ll stay up late at night or else set the alarm for reaaallly early just so you can shake that damned set of sleigh bells ever so slightly to create a buzz of excitement throughout the sleepy house. You threaten vile, murderous acts against the older child and any other family member who feels the truth should be set free for the younger child (and really – how would that look to Santa after all??). And in the end, it’s worth it to see this kid’s face in the morning. After all, you’d do anything to keep him at this innocent age.  But, sadly, he will become:
  1. The Kid Who Finally Realized That Santa Doesn’t Exist: You saw this coming last year when she began to question the logic of a man in a sled pulled by magical flying reindeer breaking into people’s houses to leave gifts in every house across the globe.  Your explanations were getting more and more bizarre as you tried to keep the dream alive by making up stories of Santa having to hire helpers to hang out in malls, using time machines to navigate time zones, and being a millionaire to pay the wages of all the hard-working, unionized elves.  Trying to keep this one away from the Kid Who Still Believes in Santa is a logistical nightmare. Hence the threats of vile, heinous acts against your very own offspring (who, ironically, is doted on the other 11 months of the year). One of these days, you just know Krampus is going to show up on your humble doorstep if not for your lies, then certainly for your threats against a child who simply wants to spill the beans tell the truth.
  1. The Tipsy Sipper: I can identify with this one, just a little bit.  I find that a nice glass, or box, of wine helps holiday parties run a little smoother.  I start my holiday sipping on Labor Day, and usually stop around Valentine’s Day.  Nothing wrong with seeing your friends and family through wine-colored glasses.  The Tipsy Sipper is a lot different from:
  1. Uncle Albert: You already know he snuck a flask into the party, spiked the punch bowl, and is currently telling deep, dark family secrets to the mailman and anyone else who will listen.  You will eventually find him in the shrubbery out front, sprawled out in his Santa boxer shorts and tangled in Christmas lights that used to hang ever so brightly and prettily on the gutters, yelling incoherently at the sky about something that happened to cause Cousin Jack and Cousin Harold to stop talking back in 1956 while the neighbors live stream him in all his glory to Facebook.
  1. Cousin Gertrude: When you hear Cousin Gertrude is coming, you can’t help rolling your eyes. “No! Who invited her?” someone will inevitably say. “Well, she IS family after all,” someone will reply…as if that makes it okay.  If you are lucky, Cousin Gertrude will be on her medication and sitting quietly on the couch, meditating or doing yoga. If she is off her medication, she will be sitting in a corner, mumbling to herself and laughing as she watches the wall while the family pretends not to notice. No one ever wants her to try to reenact what she sees on the wall like she did last year (we’re all still trying to recuperate from that fiasco), so it’s better to just go about your business and not encourage her.
  1. The Crafty One: Pinterest has nothing on this one.  The Crafty One, armed with a glue gun, a piece of felt and a paperclip will MacGyver a multi-cultural animated holiday centerpiece worthy of the White House.  Your construction paper napkin rings never had a chance, no matter how much glitter you put on them.  She also sewed her own Christmas dress and is currently fabricating a sports sedan in the garage out of tin cans and pallets. She is nothing if not perfect and was put on God’s green earth to make all others feel inadequate but what comes out of her mouth is a pseudo-humble “Oh, this thing? It’s just a little something I threw together!” I suggest hitting the punch bowl early.
  1. The Cook: “I just brought a little snack,” says the Cook as she unloads a U-Haul of covered dishes and crock pots into your house. The Cook is usually a sweet great-grandmother who learned to cook southern style.  Her food is stick to your ribs old-fashioned goodness, but everyone will be passed out an hour after eating it.  If she didn’t bring food, she will wander into your kitchen and find a box of stale Ritz crackers, a bag of rice, and a can of mixed vegetables in your cupboard and whip up a little seven-course dinner.
  1. The Opinionator: This unique individual prides himself on being able to single-handedly offend every person at the party.  No subject is taboo to the Opinionator, and he will not back down from a good debate about everything from politics to religion, veganism, child rearing and Star Wars versus Star Trek.  He may be indirectly responsible for creating The Tipsy Sipper. Okay, maybe not so indirectly.
  1. The Gossiper: She will be the one making witty observations about everyone at the party, everyone who didn’t show up, and people she has seen on dog food commercials. She will gossip behind everyone’s back while forming alliances like a Christmas themed Survivor show.  You are always nice to The Gossiper because secretly, you fear her just a little bit.  She filmed your karaoke version of Funky Town, and she isn’t afraid to use it.
  1. The Christmas Cheer Spreader: The Christmas Cheer Spreader put her tree up on Halloween.  She wore candy cane earrings to Thanksgiving dinner, and she is the reason Christmas advertising starts in June.  She finished her Christmas Shopping in August (she was late this year, she’ll have you know) and her presents have been wrapped since Labor Day.   Although we would rather eat dirt than let her (or anyone else) know, we all sort of secretly wish we were the Christmas Cheer Spreader as we stand in a Target line on Christmas Eve with a cart full of clothing that we already know will need to be returned because the only size left was petite and who is anyone kidding?  Petite.  Yeah, right.

Holidays are not stress free, and God knows every holiday function is doomed to failure from the start, if you invite people, that is. Oh, I’m not saying every event is sure to fail in epic proportions – although those are certainly the most exciting. Perhaps it will only fail in small degrees…because nothing can be perfect no matter how much we want it to be. Because people are involved, family is involved. And people, especially family, are simply not perfect.

Still, take a minute to appreciate every friend and family member in all their flawed glory this year; it is the mixture of personalities that makes the season memorable, warm, and usually hilarious.

I’ll drink to that.