Random Saturdays – Welcome Holidays!

The holiday season is here!  If you’re old like me, you find yourself saying, once again, “I can’t believe it’s already November.  Where did the year go?”  If you love the holiday season like me, you are also excited that the holiday season is here.  Canada has already celebrated Thanksgiving, and Halloween and Election Day have just passed in the U.S.  The next big U.S. holiday is, of course, Thanksgiving.

The holiday season is also the birthday season in my world.  From October – March it’s a non-stop birthday celebration.  I used to be one of the few summer birthday people that I knew.  Now that I’m married, half of the family have birthdays during birthday season, and the other half of the family has birthdays in the summer.  I’ve always felt sorry for people who had birthdays around the holidays because their birthdays are overshadowed by the big holidays, especially if you’re born around Christmastime.  That’s why I try to make a point of giving separate Christmas and birthday presents to Christmas babies.  Plus, there are so many great sales during the holiday season that it should be easier to shop for holiday season babies.

Oh and shopping.  There’s the neverending fight between shopping vs. meaningful holidays.  I really don’t think that they are mutually exclusive.  I believe you just have to be aware of the meaning in holidays and you have to try to share that meaning with others when you are giving gifts.  This is especially tricky with kids because they are naturally inclined to just want stuff, lots and lots of stuff.  If we don’t teach them to be grateful for what they have and to think about what they can give and do for others, then they turn into ungrateful adults who have the nerve to think they can actually criticize gifts given to them and favors done for them.  That is the type of attitude that kills the holiday spirit and turns everything into a debate about the “true” meaning of any given holiday in a bad way.

This was our first holiday season together. The kids are about twice the size as they were then. My stomach is about twice the size s it was then. (From left to right: Dora, Lego, Ben, Minecraft)


I am American and I celebrate Thanksgiving.  I love the food.  I love time off from work.  I love spending time with my family and friends. When I plan Thanksgiving at my house, I always try to do it as low key as possible, but then find myself stressing myself out by trying to cook everything perfectly and make the house look immaculate.  I do it to myself.  Not once has anyone ever criticized me for not having enough food, the right food, a dirty home, ugly decorations, etc.  It’s all in my head.  With the kids, I’m trying to be more aware of that and remember that if I stress myself out over this crap that doesn’t matter, then they will learn to stress themselves out over crap that doesn’t matter as well.  Just as bad, they may start stressing others out about crap that doesn’t matter and think they are entitled to criticize the cooking and entertaining abilities of others.  So, I’m trying not to pass stress and judgement on to my kids.

Then there’s Christmas.  Let me say now that I am not Crhstian but I do celebrate Christmas.  I grew up Christian, spent many years in a crisis of faith, and have finally found myself in a good spiritual place, the details of which I am not going to delve into during this post.  I celebrate Christmas because it’s what I grew up with and it represents a time of giving and spending time with loved ones for me.  When I had the Great Santa Claus Crisis around the age of 10, my mother told me that she believed in Santa Claus because he was the spirit of giving.  So, no matter how old you were, you should always believe in Santa Claus.  No matter how much or how little you got in your stocking, you should always believe in Santa Claus.  I decided to adopt that belief as my own.

We just had the kids write their letters to Santa because we won’t see them much in November and we wanted to make sure that Santa had plenty of time to get their letters.  They asked for some surprising gifts, but also had interesting conversations with Santa.  Dora was concerned that Santa might not like the milk and cookies she wants to leave for him.  Minecraft told Santa that if he were lucky, he would get cookies and milk.  Lego just wanted to know if Santa and Mrs. Claus were doing okay up in the North Pole.  They all decorated their letters with colorful pictures and included phrases like, “Santa’s #1!”  Three years ago, their letters to Santa just told Santa what they wanted.  It might not seem like much, but to see their thought processes go from “Here’s what I want,” to “How are you. Here’s what I might do for you.  I think you’re great!” is pretty cool.  They also helped each other write their letters, with no help from Ben or me.  We did have to get onto them once for arguing over marker colors, but they worked together well otherwise.  Now, I can add cooperation, mental growth, and emotional growth to the great things that Santa represents for me.

As I typed this, it was about 6:30 AM and I had been awake for three hours with a terrible headache.  The kids were just picked up for school by their bio-mom and Ben had just left for work.  The cat was running circles around the house, chasing invisible toys.  The Excedrin has moved from making my head a bit numb to making me rather dizzy and the cat has begun her grooming routine, signaling that she is ready to curl up with me for her morning nap.  I’m going to take the cat’s advice to end this post and get some rest.  I hope that you are as excited about the holiday season as I am and that it holds as much meaningful promise for you as it does for me.  Happy Holidays!

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Sunday Reading List

I wanted to write something for Random Saturdays, but was drawing a blank.  All I could think about was office gossip and my To Do list.  I blame this on a combination of coming back to work after a wonderful Christmas vacation and my brain not quite recovering from back-to-back colds.  Other people have written some very entertaining articles this past week, though.  So, allow me to share a few of them with you so that I’ll feel like I’m only 99% lazy bum.

  1. My Year Was Tragic. Facebook Ambushed Me With a Painful Reminder. (Slate) – Yet another reason to dislike Facebook.  I mean, you know, it has it’s uses, but I did wonder if Facebook had considered the fact that not everyone would want to relive the past year via photos.  I’ve heard that Facebook has addressed the issue since this was published, but I also think that in the world of social media and “My Life is Picture Perfect” posts, it’s good to have a reminder that real life is not always represented accurately in social media.
  2. The Sad Truth Behind Those ‘Perfect’ Facebook & Instagram Photos Summed Up In One Comic (Huffington Post) – I can’t bash Facebook without bashing Instagram too, right?  This one’s funny (and short).
  3. christmas is the pits (bitches gotta eat) – Sam’s at it again, describing how anyone not celebrating the holidays Hallmark-style can still avoid jumping off a bridge.
  4. Most Hilarious Food Network Recipes of All Time (Rantings of an Amateur Chef) – This is a blog post inspired by a BuzzFeed article, but it ends with a serious recipe that is simple and healthy.
  5. If You’re Toasting To Health, Reach For Beer, Not (Sparkling) Wine (NPR) – Lucky for me, I prefer beer over wine because it fills me up faster and doesn’t give me headaches.  Maybe you could pair a good beer with the healthy recipe from the previous post.

I hope you all had a good New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day.  Here’s hoping I have something better to write about in 2015!

Random Saturdays – Begin at The End

I’ve been a bit M.I.A. lately, at least as far as this blog is concerned.  Between crazy work stuff, being sick, being depressed, the holidays, Ben, ice storms, and get-togethers with friends that I don’t see often, everything else has been on the back burner.  Having said that, I did want to get at least one real post up before the end of the year.  My one-year blogging anniversary is December 21, 2013, so, I decided to do a sort of year in review post since I’m ending the year in a completely different place in life from where I started in January.

At the beginning of this year, I had a bunch of projects that I wanted to do.  I tried to plan things out and block off my time.  The only things I really did were keep up the blog and learn how to use Inkscape.  I also managed to get into a workout routine until I moved last summer and paid more attention to my daily habits — everything from calorie counting to how often I get headaches and migraines.  It didn’t really help me get healthier, but I did lose weight.

After I started dating Ben, I gained 7 lbs.  I had just started getting back into working out after my summer move, but that stopped, too.  I started slacking on the blog.  I fell behind on email.  I haven’t been reading books or magazines much, either.  I’ve been sick twice in the past two months and think that I’m getting sick again.  In general, it seems like dating Ben did away with the little bit of progress on my goals that I had made, but that’s not really true at all.

Even with tracking my health issues, I wasn’t able to make any improvements in my health before Ben.  Now, I’m paying more attention to how all of my health issues are tied together because they directly affect my emotional and mental well-being, which directly affects Ben and his kids.  Since it’s not just me, my cat, and the t.v., I have more motivation to do something about things that I know need improvement.

When you’re alone and you get sick, it’s easy to just wallow in your self-pity and give up on trying to improve anything.  When I feel like this around Ben and see how worried he gets about me, or when I have to hide from his kids in the bedroom because I don’t want them to see me depressed and get it into their young minds that being mean to yourself is a normal way to think and act, then it suddenly seems more important that I get my crap together.  Granted, I realize that I’ll have to struggle with depression my whole life.  I realize that I can’t change myself overnight.  I realize that when I get sick, things in my body will be thrown off and cause depression on a physiological level that I will just have to learn to handle.

However, I’m trying to be mindful of all of the small things that I still have control over when I’m sick and/or depressed.  When I’m sick, I’m trying to make more of an effort to shake myself out of depression because it directly affects my loved ones.  I’ve always known this, and it’s always been motivating, but Ben and his kids are motivation on a whole different level.  I had no idea that someone like Ben could even exist.  He is a nicer, smarter, better (but not funnier) version of me.  His kids are wonderful – fun, affectionate, smart, and always concerned about how much money I spend on gas and rent.  I don’t want to teach the kids how to hate themselves and I don’t want Ben to have to deal with me hating myself if it can be prevented.  So, even though my projects were all put on the back burner for the last three months of the year, it’s all been for the best.

Furthermore (<- smart word), I’m going to Paris with Cathy for Christmas and New Year’s, a trip that I planned before I started dating Ben.  Since my plane ticket and rental cost of the apartment in Paris are non-refundable, I’m going to suffer through missing Christmas with Ben and his kids and force myself to go to Paris with one of my best friends.  (I’m only half-joking.)  I tell you what, though.  On January 1, 2013, I did not anticipate having a boyfriend with three kids or going to Paris for Christmas.  You never know where life will take you, but you just have to get out of your own way and enjoy what life brings to your table.  I’m trying to be mindful of how lucky I am for my life so that I can fully enjoy the time I spend with my friends and family this year.

I hope you stay mindful this holiday season, too, absorbing all of the joy and love shared between you, your friends, and your family.

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!

Random Saturdays – Greeting Cards

Mother’s Day just passed and Father’s Day is coming soon.  This got me thinking about greeting cards.  Specifically, it got me thinking about the greeting card company that Amanda and I wanted to start over a decade ago.  I’m going to refer to that greeting card company as EP Greeting Cards.  EP was going to be a greeting card company for the real world.  What kind of card do you send to a dad who you barely know when he goes to prison?  How do you tell your mom that you hope she has a great Mother’s Day even though you assume you won’t be seeing her for a few weeks/months because you haven’t heard from her in a few weeks/months?  Where are the birthday cards for estranged siblings?  Why aren’t there cards for people for whom you wish no harm and hope are doing well, but do not want in your life on a daily basis?

Amanda and I always joked about it, but we really felt that we needed cards like these for all the non-traditional relationships that people seem to have.  I’ve seen some similar lines of cards since then, but they are either too funny or too vague to be completely appropriate.  These are the types of cards that Amanda and I end up giving to our friends, families, coworkers, loved ones, etc.  A few years ago, I told some coworkers about EP Greeting Cards.  They loved the idea!  They had more suggestions for us:  your uncle’s anniversary to his husband even though they can’t legally marry (hopefully not for much longer…) and haven’t actually admitted that they’re married because they’re older and society taught them not to proudly admit who they are, your niece in high school that is having a baby, people who are like family but are not related through blood or law, and cards to let people know that they stink without making them cry.

One day, Amanda and I may really follow through on this idea.  Until then, please enjoy (without stealing) some of the ideas below:

Outside:  Congratulations!
Inside:  You finally found a deodorant that works!

Outside:  Dear Valentine,
Even though you have absolutely no interest in me…
Inside:  …I’m happy that I can afford to buy chocolate and booze to dull the pain.  Hope you have a great Valentine’s Day with someone who is the complete opposite of me!

Outside:  You are cordially invited to our White Trash Family Reunion
Inside:  Looking forward to eating so much that we feel like Romans!

Outside:   Sorry I stabbed you,…
Inside:  …but your views on gun control laws really pissed me off. (includes pre-paid prison stamp and coupon for a lawyer)

Outside:  Merry Christmas, Mom & Dad!  Since you won’t allow me in your house…
Inside:  …I figured that sending a card would be appropriate.  Afterall, even Santa has to be inside the house to drop off gifts.