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I truly appreciate that you've decided to share part of your day in my world. I hope your time has been well spent and I've made you smile, laugh or think.

Tuesday, December 20, 2016

Holiday Nostalgia

"Country Living" had a post on 30 things people miss from the past for the holidays.

What I thought would be a sweet article annoyed the crap out of me.

The post had a bunch of people waxing nostalgic about how great everything used to be.

Perhaps I'm still a little sensitive from all this "Making America Great Again" crap- (back when women knew their place and black people had separate bathrooms- I'm still not exactly sure when we were better than we are today - none of my family members have polio, for example) but this article made me want to punch Santa.

Here are a few of the items-

Reading the new book we got and ignoring everyone.

Waiting until Christmas to open your gifts.

Matching pajamas.

Christmas morning coffee cake.


Um... aside from tinsel which was a nightmare to clean up and choked dogs and babies- what exactly has changed?

Then the comments "Back when kids didn't stick their face in electronics..." or "Getting the whole extended family together"... "Going to church on Christmas Eve."

If I remember my childhood correctly, adults did not feel compelled to be entertained by children like they are today.  Maybe because we have fewer kids, but I remember quite vividly being ignored by adults at family functions and told to go off and play.

What's the difference if my kids are playing on an electronic toy or a board game?  Nerf guns have been the preferred toy in our house up until the teen years started to kick in.  We weren't especially  any more social back then than my kids are.  They find random relatives that they never see talking to them like they are 2 about as annoying as I did 35 years ago.  I still remember my son, at 10, asking me- quite seriously- if one of our relatives thought he was learning impaired. 

And maybe your family isn't getting together with you because they don't like you.  I don't know about you, but we spend Christmas with about 40 relatives.  In fact, we spend pretty much every single holiday like that.  We also throw in our friends. New Years we have a tradition that started with all our friends with kids who lived in walking distance of our home and felt lame for staying in on New Years.  Now they come over, we have dinner, we celebrate at 9 (east coast midnight) for the younger kids and midnight our time.  It's a blast.

You want to see your family?  Pick up the phone, invite them over, and throw a ham in the oven.  Don't wait to be invited.

And church?  Last time I checked, midnight mass was still going strong.  There's no war on Christmas.  My Jewish friends celebrating Hanukah hasn't exactly impeded my ability to celebrate the birth of Christ.

We still get the family matching pajamas. 

I also give my kids oranges in their stockings. 

We make cookies.

I make a special breakfast Christmas morning.

We try to go caroling.

We look at Christmas lights.

I'm sorry- I guess I just missed it.

And like tinsel, some traditions were annoying.  Like those nasty cookies that someone made from the old country.  They were meant to stay there.

So if your holiday season sucks and you dream of days of yore, maybe you need to evaluate YOUR life. 

If you're lonely for the holidays, my guess is there are other people out there that are as well and you should call them.

You are ultimately responsible for making the holidays what they are.

I'm always fascinated that people bitch about how materialistic the world is these days, yet every Friday after Thanksgiving, it's chaos.

and for some of my friends that IS their family tradition.  They get together with the family, hash out a plan to go shopping, fill their thermoses with cocoa, coffee and if I had to guess some adult beverages, and they hit the malls and have a blast.

Maybe they aren't churning butter but they seem to be having a pretty darn good time.

Granted, you will not catch me any place near a mall then... unless one of my kids asks me one day.

Because to me, the holiday season IS fun.  I love the lights.  I love the music.  I love the food.

A few years ago, pre-recession, my husband and I bitched because we had something like 14 parties to go to in about a 3 week period.  It was nuts.  We seriously complained.

Then the next year, it was like the rug got pulled out and there were 2.


As we sat on our butts, we decided we would never complain about holiday chaos again.  In fact, that was the year we started the New Years Eve party.  And everyone was THRILLED to come because they, too, were sitting home, alone with nothing to do and feeling like losers.

The fun in memories is that you never take pictures of the bad times-- I stole that line from my mother-in-law, by the way.

And our memories often do that.

The old days weren't that great and today isn't that bad.

New traditions are just as fun as old ones.

And no one is stopping you from making Grandma Mary's Nasty Ass Whiskey Ball Cookies.  We renamed them.  I miss Grandma Mary like crazy but not those disgusting cookies.  Her fudge- absolutely.  Thank goodness we have the recipe.  And her dancing Santa is in our house, too.  Which is almost as good as having her with us- because that's one thing we can't get back- the awesome relatives that we miss.

But we can enjoy the new relatives.  The new babies.  The new in-laws that joined the craziness.  And we can tell them stories about the ones that aren't there.

Life moves forward- for good and for bad.

If you miss a tradition, take it off the shelf, dust it off and bring it back.

But most importantly, join in.

And stop bitching.

I'm so tired of people bitching about what they don't have.  Or how great they once had it.

Get over yourself- you weren't that great and never had that much to begin with.

Enjoy what you have. Enjoy the moment. 

Call your friends.

Reach out.

Make the holiday season YOU want.  Don't wait for anyone else to do it for you.

If baking 40 dozen cookies exhausts you, don't do it.  If some relative comments "Gee, I miss your cookies" tell them they are welcome to come over and help you bake them or give them the recipe.  If you LOVE baking cookies, then bake like the wind.

Stop looking back and live.

Tomorrow isn't promised.

And the holidays aren't about tinsel and the tree. It's about the people around it and what's in your heart.

So go out and have a Merry Freaking Christmas and Happy Holidays.

Because I'd hate to have to punch Santa.

Sunday, December 18, 2016

Moments of Clarity

Quite a few years ago, the book club I belonged to went through a World War 2 phase where every book we read seemed to focus on the Holocaust- "The Boy with the Stryped Pajamas," "The Book Thief," "Atonement, " "The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society,""Sarah's Key"- we called it our Nazi phase.

Usually we would come to the discussion on how could good people let something like this happen.  How could they stand idly by?

I remember saying that I understood.

And everyone looked at me like I was crazy.

It wasn't because I thought they could deny that it was happening.  I don't believe those people.  I believe they were in denial.  I believe they didn't initial believe it or fathom what was going.  But by the end... they knew.

I understood because I've had a gun pointed at me.  I understood because I have children.  I understood because as a mother, I feel that it is my responsibility to protect my children.

My very best friend is Jewish.  A number of my closest friends are, in fact. 

At that time, I said I would love to think that I would hide people and stand up to the Nazis, but the reality was I didn't know what I would do. 

My friends were stunned.

I'm not shy about standing up for injustice.

But if my family was at risk and could be killed- I honestly said I didn't know.  I said I would probably do what it took to stay alive and keep my family alive.

So I understood why people stood by.

That apparently made me a terrible person.  Well, not really- we're all still friends- but I could tell my honest response surprised everyone.

Flash ahead to election night.

And yes, I'm going to compare it to Hitler's Nazi Germany.

If this offends you, I'd ask you to stay with me.

If you can't see the correlation it's because you're one of the people it didn't impact.

Maybe you voted for Clinton half heartedly and thought "Oh well, she lost."

Maybe you voted for Trump because you wanted to make a statement with your vote.  Give a middle finger to Washington, DC.  A fuck you to the establishment.

I'm from rural Ohio and I don't think my friends who supported Trump there are racists.  Some people are, but no more than I've experienced in the urban areas.  In fact, to be brutally upfront, I've found racism to be far worse in the the cities where I've lived.

I think people who supported Trump  did so because it didn't impact them.

They aren't Muslim so the fear of being required to register for the simple purpose that a few people of their faith committed crimes- far less frequently than Christians murder in the US, as a side note- they weren't worried.

They didn't have any gay friends or relatives whose  marriages were at risk of being dissolved.  Or if they did have gay friends, they might have even thought it was wrong and a choice. 

They didn't have any friends who were unable to get health insurance for pre-existing conditions and could die or lose everything because of it.

They didn't know anyone whose family could be torn apart by forced deportations.  They think becoming a citizen is easy and have no idea about the how process works- the expense, the time line, the misinformation- because they don't have any friends who are immigrants.

They weren't too terribly impacted by the recession because things were never really as bad in Ohio as it was elsewhere because the jobs in the area weren't impacted as much as other parts of the country.

They never knew anyone who lost their home during the recession.

To them, it was just a regular election.  They saw what some of us saw as hate speech as simply rhetoric to get elected.

They had nothing to lose.

But to me, those consequences were real.  Very real.

And the night of the election, one of the people that I love who has been personally targeted by the PEOTUS and his family, texted me because she knew that I knew the math and that Clinton- her friend- was not going to win.

She was terrified.  Not for just herself, either.  The first words she said, as she stood before me shaking, was asking about what would happen to this 10 year old little girl whose mother could be deported.  She had spoken out against the PEOTUS- the little girl- and we know he reacts to people who stand up to him.

And I looked my friend in the eye and grabbed her hands and told her that the little girl would always be welcome in our home.  We would take care of her, no matter what, for as long as it took.

And my friend said "What about the other children?"

And I said they could all come live with me until it was all straightened out.  I said it would make for an interesting Christmas card next year.

And I would adopt her as well, as an adult.  Which she then explained I couldn't, but thanked me.  I told her I would "gay marry" her- but then joked that that was probably shot to hell, too.

So then I said she could stay with us and I would not let anyone take her or her family.  We could build a bunker.

And then I tried to make her laugh because that's how I handle stress.  And she is one of the strongest people I know and I have no doubt that she will be fine.

But in that moment, I learned something about me.

Something I had been unsure of my entire life.  Something I questioned when I read stories about the Underground Railroad. Something I thought about when studying the Civil Rights movement and Dr. King.

What would I do when faced with injustice?  Would I sit idly by?

When I told my friend she would be okay because I would protect her, it was because I meant it with every ounce of strength in my soul.

So yes, I would have hidden my Jewish friends. And their families.  And as many as I could.

As I will hide my Muslim friends if they are forced to register and leave their homes like the Japanese Americans in the 40s.

As I will help my immigrant friends. 

Without a doubt or second thought.

But what about my family?  My children's safety?

The next day, I spoke with my children about the election.  My daughter was in tears because she was worried for her best friend's grandparents.  My son was confused and concerned for our gay friends. 

My children- the ones that I love more than anything-  were worried for others.

So I told them-

"Listen, I don't know what will happen.  I would like to think the Mr. Trump did not mean the hateful things he said to get elected.  But we're going to assume he did.  Because that's the smart thing to do.

And we are going to fight for the people that may not have a voice in the future.  Because that's the right thing to do.

And here's the thing- I hope you know by agreeing to do this, if I ever put you at risk it is not because I don't love you- it's because I do love you.  And I need you to understand this--

I do not want you to grow up in a world where people aren't treated fairly- where they are discriminated against because of their religion or race or who they love.  That is wrong.  As your mother, it is my job to make sure the world does the right thing.  That is the best way for me to be your mother and you shouldn't expect anything less from me.  We do not cower- if we hid and did nothing- that would be wrong.  That's against everything I ever taught you.  Fighting against injustice is how I will protect you.

I will not have you grow up in a world like that- ever.

And if it ever seems that I am putting another child before you, it's because if there ever was a time when your dad and I weren't around, I would hope that someone would stand up for you.  And if I'm not willing to do that for someone else's child, then I cannot expect someone to do it for you.

So we stand together, as a family and we support our friends.  No matter what. 

And we fight to make things better and safer.  And we hope for the best."

Because I want to believe that the hatred spewed was nothing more than campaign rhetoric.

If it's not, I will do everything I can, in every way that I can, to stop it.

I'm fine with political disagreements and philosophical debates.  Muslim registration- no.  Not on my watch.  Because it doesn't stop there.

And for me, being a good mother means doing the right thing.

These are scary times.  When one post, or one tweet can lead to death threats or personal attacks, it's terrifying. 

So for me, social media and protests aren't going to be method of making the world "better."

I will work quietly, in the background, as I always have.

Because I am a human.

I have an obligation to care for others.

Because I am a mother. 

I have an obligation to make this world better for my children.

But even more importantly, to teach my children to do the same.  By my example.

That is what I learned this year.