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Keeps a letter in the pocket of his coat, but he never breaks the seal

The electricity was out that evening, and it was hot and stuffy and dark inside the house. We sat on the porch to enjoy the last bit of light and the slight breeze. We sat in silence in the fading light and rocked while he held my hand. I felt complete contentment in that moment right before his confession.

When he started rubbing my hand with his finger I knew something was wrong. Then he softly blurted something out. I didn’t understand right away. If what he just said was true, then everything else wasn’t. He had been successfully keeping something from me for years. And the remarkably few times I had thought I noticed something off and asked him about it, each denial was a lie. He knew how important the truth is to me, it’s one of the things that drew him to me.

I felt sick and fled to the bathroom where I crumpled to the tile. I sobbed over the loss of my certainty. I had years of memories to replace with the truth. Each new connection brought a different emotion…betrayal, anger, humiliation, and fear.

How could he have done this? Why didn’t he just say something? How could I have missed this? How much damage has he done?

Questions filled my mind, each one unanswered before the next one began. He came into the bathroom and gingerly sat down facing me. My frustration was heightened by his inability to answer any but the most factual questions. He was able to explain the what, but not the why. He didn’t fully understand his motivations.

Unfortunately, I thought I did. The worst of the emotions pounding on me was guilt. I was taking an objective look at myself and imagining the kind of reaction I might have had to learning the truth earlier. I shuddered at how punishing I can be, how punishing I likely would have been. Would I have offered him forgiveness, without really letting it go? Used it against him at the slightest provocation? Oh God, probably.

While not an excuse to lie, I certainly didn’t create an environment in which it would feel safe to tell me truths I didn’t want to hear. I wouldn’t have wanted to tell me this either.

What kind of person was I, so intolerant of weakness in others and in myself, and so oblivious to the struggles of others, even those I love? What could I gain if I stopped the denial of weakness and embraced vulnerability? Providing forgiveness was not a sign of weakness, it was a gift to myself to be a person I could be proud of and to build with him what I believed I already had.

By this point, it was almost completely dark and I struggled to make out his features. He looked sad and worried. He didn’t know what I was going to do. He didn’t know I would not leave him. He didn’t realize that I would forgive him. So I told him these things. And I meant them.


The title of this post comes from the song “Postcards from Hell” by the Wood Brothers, which I interpret to be about the dangers of protecting yourself from things you don’t want to know.

This week’s prompt from the Red Dress Club is about forgiveness.


My childhood best friend lived next door to us. She was three years older than me, three years more creative and more fun. Playing with her was much more fun than playing by myself and those were usually my only options. We were inseparable, especially during the summer. She would come over and make up impossibly sophisticated stories for us to act out with my dolls.

During middle school, she started to tire of having a younger shadow. She and some other girls her age would gang up to play tricks on me and laugh at my confusion. I would blink back tears and go home, only to go back for more at the first invitation. Over time, she stopped being my friend altogether. The next summer extended before me like an eternity of empty time.

The couple who rented her family’s upstairs apartment got a puppy. I discovered the puppy once when I headed out to sit in the backyard to pretend I had something to do and I was overjoyed. I realized I was considerably more excited about this puppy than his owners were because they left him out there alone a lot. I think I learned his name from the yelling his owners’ provided from the back door.

Bear was adorable and sweet and very aptly named. He looked like a little teddy bear and he was desperate for attention. I started engaging him through the chain link fence that separated our backyard from his. I felt sorry for him and I fell in love with him. One day he started digging under the fence. Though I sensed there would be trouble, I encouraged this behavior. I wanted to hold him and pet him and love him without that stupid fence in the way. When he finally squeezed over to my side, being with him was as wonderful as I had imagined. I picked him up and brought him to my face and talked to him and felt his warm puppy tongue on my cheek. I plopped him down on my lap and stroked his soft puppy fur and felt such joy and love.

I wanted to keep him.

The neighbors were paying more attention than I thought and it wasn’t long before I started hearing them calling for Bear. I hid behind out house for awhile in a futile attempt to keep him longer. The longer the search went on when Bear was right next door, the more trouble for me. Eventually I decided to go sit with Bear on our front porch and let his owners find us.

I held Bear on my lap and tried to make peace with giving him back. I watched with dread as Bear’s owners turned the corner and finally noticed us sitting together.

“Didn’t you hear us calling him?” They looked pissed.

I ended up saying I’d found him, that he must’ve dug under the fence and gotten free. I could tell they didn’t believe me. But there was no harm done, so they just took him back from me without another word.

When I went to the backyard after that, Bear would run over and immediately go to the hole he had dug. The owners tried to fill the hole with soil, but that was no match for Bear, so they eventually secured that area of the fence with plywood. I couldn’t go out there anymore because he would still try to dig and it was heartbreaking and I was afraid he’d hurt himself. I also didn’t want to have to see the day that he stopped trying.


The prompt this week was to write about a scene from your life that best illustrates your true self.

A Room Of My Own

I realize this is my second memoir style post in a week. Bear with me…I’m trying a writing exercise, as I have realized since starting this blog that my writing could use some work.


For my first taste of freedom, the amount of space I’m given is a little confining. A tall person could stretch their arms out and touch a wall on both sides of the room. But all 100 square feet is mine. The best of both worlds, a single in a suite. I’m a very lucky freshman.

I complain grumpily that my hall mates only stop by so often to play my Nintendo and watch my TV, but deep down I know that isn’t true. And I love that my room is often filled with people. With a single, all I need to do for privacy is shut the door, but the room feels so much smaller with the door closed.

This closet-sized room is my haven, and there I have long and intense conversations late into the night with the boy I love. He lives just across the hall and I pine for him long after it’s reasonable to hope for anything beyond friendship.

The people on the hall become a kind of family and the arrival of someone new upsets the balance. I have noticed, of course, that new guy has transferred here and is hanging out with us a lot, but he has not made an impression on me. And now, he wants to walk me home from a party.

I only go to the damn party because I hear her voice. The boy I loved was spending more and more time with her and there was her voice, unmistakable, drifting in from the hallway. So I go to the overcrowded party and immediately regret it. New guy does not want to stay either.

“This party is over.”

He decides to leave the others behind and he takes me on a convoluted path back to my building. He believes I am drunk. I insist, accurately, that I am sober.

“I don’t think you would be talking to me so friendly if you were sober.”

I had never really spoken to him before this night and the experience is strange, unlike any other, but not bad, and we say good night in the hallway. At my room, there’s a message from a friend, who I had planned on visiting anyway. Ironically, he likes her too and we bond over the fact that our unrequited love interests seem to be requiting each other. However, new guy is still in the hallway and thwarts my attempt to cross the hall.

“Can I talk to you?”

We go to my room and he closes the door behind us, which makes me immediately uncomfortable. The room is silent and dark, with only a soft glow from the street lights outside coming in through the window. He stops me from turning on the light (“I like the dark”) and asks if he can sit next to me on my bed. I stare straight forward, focused on the darkness of my open closet, while he throws out line after line, trying to gauge my reactions.

“You can tell a lot about a person from their room.”

I’m apparently “sophisticated,” I apparently “look really nice that night,” and he apparently “never thought he would be in my room talking to me.” That makes two of us.

He eventually deems me “too smart to play games with.” He says that he’s never asked a girl if he can kiss her before. What a coincidence, I’ve never been kissed before!

Conflicting thoughts flood my mind:

I’m not really attracted to him, although he is attractive, and his confidence (he is two years older) and flattery is, well, flattering.

But he’s not the boy I love.

But the boy I love is falling in love with someone else. And I’m sick of never having been kissed. Maybe I should just say yes and get this thing done.

I look over at him, I’m taking too long to respond. I’m indecisive, yet honest.

“I don’t know.”

He takes that as a yes, and my first kiss results. I’m frozen and can’t make myself kiss him back, yet he persists for what seems like forever. I pull away. Somehow it does not end as awkwardly as it could and when he leaves I understand that the door is still open if I change my mind.

When he is gone, I lie on the floor of my room and cry a little. I’m sorry that I let him in here and I think I already know I am going to settle for him.

My Name Is…

Dooce is running a contest to celebrate her 10th blogging anniversary and the topic is:  what is your nickname, and why?

My nickname is Satan. I think the why is rather obvious, but since almost everyone who has ever heard my nickname has been dumb enough to ask the why question, I guess you can ask too.

It’s because I am evil.

While it would be cheeky to leave it at that, there is obviously more to the story. In college, one of the first people I met on my hall was the guy who quickly let me know that I was from hell. He stopped by my suite and performed card tricks for me. The tricks really weren’t the mind-blowing feats of magic he had promised. And I told him so–repeatedly and rather obnoxiously. I teased him about it mercilessly, probably at least partially because I was trying to maintain some level of cool in the face of such adorableness. Strangely, even after so many years I still hesitate to share the fact of this unrequited love as if it’s a secret that was or is worth guarding. But that’s silly, because although I told no one of these feelings at the time, I’m sure there was no one who didn’t know, including the other guy I ended up dating the next semester. Awkward!

Apparently nickname-giver couldn’t accept the lack of impression his card tricks made on me, because “everyone had always been amazed by them in the past.” So he told me I was from hell, which eventually led to being called Satan. My entire freshman year (and occasionally beyond) the people I knew from the hall would introduce me to others as Satan. It was both a blessing (ha!) and a curse (ha-ha!). While it got a little old to have everyone think of me as evil (although I think they were kidding!), the nickname was quite the conversation starter. Don’t underestimate the power of a good conversation starter.

Somehow this all morphed into the pseudo-biblical EZ Cheese saga. My lovable hallmates (I believe I called them bastards at the time, see entry #6) decided it would be fun to spray EZ Cheese all over my door and while I thought it was funny I went batshit crazy on them and demanded that they clean it up. Shortly after, the EZ Cheese was replaced with this:

Some of the entries were more clever than others. I particularly liked #2 and #6, which is actually related to the original EZ Cheese incident.

Quite frankly the one that ended up making me laugh the hardest was the following entry, provided by the born again Christian who lived at the end of the hall. Her real concern for me given  the blasphemy of having fake bible passages on my door cracked my shit up. I don’t know God personally, but I can’t imagine he would concern himself with this kind of thing, but her concern was really rather sweet. The other authors wanted to take it down, but I insisted that it remain. The completely earnest addition of the authentic bible passage made the whole thing so much more amusing.

I cannot tell you how many times I heard “Enjoy these days, they will be the best of your life,” before I went off to college. I cannot tell you how many times I rolled my eyes and said, “yeah whatever” in response. I didn’t really understand then, but do now. While life is pretty great right now, there’s something about that first taste of freedom, coupled with a glorious lack of responsibility, that can never be duplicated.

Finally, there’s the Will It Blend EZ Cheese episode, which I can’t resist sharing.

2010: Year In Review

With just a couple of days left in 2010, I thought I’d summarize my year. I found this year-end quiz years ago at Linda’s and have enjoyed reading her recaps ever since. This is the first year I’m filling out the quiz myself–it seems like a good way to reflect on the past year and kick off the new year.

1. What did you do in 2010 that you’d never done before?

I ran a 10-mile race and came in within my time goal. I finally ran a half marathon after many aborted attempts (most ending without even completing the Couch to 5K first step!). In 2009, I completed all but the final two weeks of training for a half marathon in my hometown (had a flight booked and everything) before injuring my knee and having to bail on running the race. I was devastated. The disappointment colored everything for the last half of 2009. Being able to start running again and complete the race in 2010 was a huge accomplishment and a big relief, quite frankly. The constant paranoia and nagging worry about every little twinge was getting exhausting.

I also started wearing my gorgeous engagement ring regularly after stupidly letting it sit in a drawer for 11 years.

I also started this blog, which was something I’ve wanted to do for a while.

2. Did you keep your new year’s resolutions, and will you make more for next year?

Yes, I usually make resolutions. For the first time last year, I set some specific goals rather than more vague resolutions. Here are the goals I set for 2010, along with my assessment of how well I did.

2010 Resolutions

Get back into running without injury

This one is a resounding yes, thank jug of milk. In addition to the two races mentioned above, I also ran a 5K in September (missing my 30 minute time goal by less than 30 seconds) and the 10K associated with the Marine Corps Marathon in October. I’m also pretty proud of running throughout the year, even in some pretty horrific winter weather. The winter running group I joined helped motivate me to get those long runs in during January through March, when I really just wanted to burrow into my bed and hibernate.

Get more sleep

I’ve always had trouble falling asleep and there is no amount of sleep that satisfies me. I have the absolute wrong internal body clock for normal work schedules, to which my employer unfortunately expects me to adhere. Going to bed at a reasonable hour is something I have less willpower to do than abstaining from dessert (this is saying something). No matter how exhausted I am the next morning, I stay up late that night. This is some deep-seated shit–I resent the hell out of what I consider to be inadequate free time, particularly on weekday evenings, so I just take the free time from my sleep. You might think, just go to bed earlier, what the hell is your problem? I sort of agree, but since I’ve been unsuccessfully working on this for about 20 years, I have to acknowledge the depth of the issue. If I could wave a magic wand and change one thing about myself, it would be this. Because I am tired. Last year I had concrete plans for meeting my goal of getting to bed earlier and getting more sleep, which I won’t detail here because this is going to be long enough already and because I didn’t really successfully do any of them. I failed at this one pretty miserably.

Reduce time wasting activities

As I’ve written about in the explanation of this blog, I’d like to be more productive. I’ve done pretty well on this one, although there’s always room for improvement. Using the timer, which I’m sure sounds crazy to most people, has really been helpful for me. If I’m not very intentional about how I use my time, I can end up watching five hours of Law and Order reruns without blinking an eye.

Read a book per month

This one’s really embarrassing, especially given that the friend who gave me the final push and encouragement to start this blog is a voracious reader whose own blog is focused on books. In 2010, I read a grand total of four books. Oops.

Go off birth control

Birth control is certainly effective and convenient, but after 17 years it just felt like the right thing to take a break. Why it was so hard to commit to doing this is now a mystery to me. My doctor insisted it was fine to stay on and we bantered about it for several years. 2010 was finally the year I stopped listening to her and decided to just give stopping a go. While having more frequent (the key thing I miss about Seasonale was being gloriously period-free for 8 months out of the year) and less predictable periods is annoying, I can’t imagine going back now. This decision was a slam dunk.

2011 Resolutions

My goals for 2011 follow. With the exception of the critical sleep goal being first, they aren’t in any particular order.

-Get more sleep (no, seriously)

-Exercise in the morning rather than the evening

-Keep running:  run a 30 minute 5K, join winter running group, run the Cherry Blossom in April, run a 10K or longer race in fall

-Get stronger:  strength train at least twice per week, work up to Cathe Friedrich’s STS by September (and complete STS September through November)

-Be more productive: schedule someday tasks (like closet cleaning, photo organizing) for specific days, write blog posts twice a week, keep using the timer to stay on track and schedule daily tasks

-Become a better photographer: learn how to use my 6-year old camera already (rather than point and hope), finish culling and organizing digital photos, make prints and/or books of good shots, frame a good picture of each place I’ve lived

-Take a French class: I studied French all through high school, minored in it in college, and studied abroad in a French-speaking country, but have almost completely lost it. When we went to Belgium for our tenth anniversary in 2009, I couldn’t really communicate noticeably better than Dave (who studied Latin). So pissed at myself for letting this go.

-Be more social: I’ve been coasting friendship-wise for years and haven’t made much effort to meet new people or reach out to friends. This year, I plan to host at least a couple of get-togethers and just generally make more of an effort to reach out to people.

-Eat dinner in the dining room and not in front of the TV

-Walk Chuck in the evenings: it’s pretty lame that I have to make this an explicit goal, since this is actually supposed to be my job, but I’ve slipped to evening exercise recently and Dave’s been taking up the evening dog walk slack. It’s not fair to him.

-Fucking chill: don’t over schedule, make time for relaxation and Dave, take a real vacation with Dave (even if it’s just a long weekend), leave work on time, do not check work email from home, think/take deep breath before you react in anger

3. Did anyone close to you give birth?
My friend Erin had her second son about 6 months ago. He’s rolly polly and super cute. I hope I’m not forgetting anyone else, because that would be embarrassing.

4. Did anyone close to you die?

5. What countries did you visit?
Holy crap, none.

6. What would you like to have in 2011 that you lacked in 2010?
I’ve been scratching my head over this one long enough that I’m going to go with the only thing that keeps popping up–I’d like to have more peace and clarity of thought.

7. What dates from 2010 will remain etched upon your memory, and why?
Snowpocalypse and the associated snow days in February,  running the Cherry Blossom in April (and being beaten by a juggler) and having brunch with Dave after, finally finishing the Presque Isle half marathon in July and seeing Dave, Chuck, and my nephews Ned and Sam at the finish line, Mom’s back surgery in July, getting all dressed up for our fancy anniversary dinner in October, the Rally to blah, blah, blah, and seeing Dave perform at his first gig (he’s not in any of the currently-posted videos) and the group “Wonderwall” sing-along.

8. What was your biggest achievement of the year?
Completing the half marathon

9. What was your biggest failure?
Allowing myself to be overtired all the damn time, and cranky behavior when tired, and/or frustrated, and/or overwhelmed.

10. Did you suffer illness or injury?
Babied my knee all year like it was fine china, but didn’t re-injure it. No illnesses, not even a cold (knocking on wood as it’s not 2011 yet). I can’t recommend hand washing strongly enough.

11. What was the best thing you bought?
My Garmin GPS running watch. I don’t have to spend runs trying to calculate my own pace anymore. The best thing someone else bought for me was the iPad.

12. Where did most of your money go?
Our single biggest expense is and presumably always will be our mortgage. We also carpeted the stairs to make them easier for Chuck to navigate and put super cool iridescent green tiles in the kitchen.

13. What did you get really excited about?
Running, starting a blog

14. What song will always remind you of 2010?
Interpol’s Success and the Bed Intruder Song

15. Compared to this time last year, are you:
a) happier or sadder?  YES! I actually had changing moods this year. Given that my highs were pretty high, my lows (which were, uh, shall we say monthly) were a little more noticeable
b) thinner or fatter? frustratingly the same, on the bright side I’ve kept the weight I lost in 2009 off
c) richer or poorer? financially a little better off

16. What do you wish you’d done more of?
Read, go to movies, sit on my porch, sleep (I should be in bed right now.)

17. What do you wish you’d done less of?
Worrying, getting bent out of shape, checking work email when not there

18. How did you spend Christmas?
We spent Christmas in Erie with my Mom.

19. What was your favorite TV program?
InfoMania, because it’s one of the few that Dave and I both enjoy watching. In terms of what I looked forward to most, I’d have to say In Treatment and Parenthood (I know, WTF, Tracy? I got sucked into watching the relationships among the adult siblings, not so much the parent/child stuff, but that’s actually kind of compelling too, go figure).

20. What were your favorite books of the year?
I guess I could list all four that I read? Quite frankly, I don’t think any of them really rise to favorite level. Happiness: the Science behind Your Smile was a pretty cool book. I can see how some people could find the research evidence on happiness depressing, but I actually found it helpful, in a ‘you just need to get a grip’ kind of way.

21. What was your favorite music from this year?
It’s been harder to discover new music that I like as I’ve gotten older. This year, we went to several shows and that was fun. I went with Dave to see some of his favorite bands, which is only fair given the number of times he had to go see the Police with me in 2007-8. I discovered that the Wedding Present (one of Dave’s favorite bands) was doing a ‘Bizarro’ anniversary tour. When I emailed Dave to tell him, his response was “What would I do without you?” Saving that email forever.

Dave’s never seen Rush before, so I got tickets for their show for his birthday. I didn’t get tickets earlier because I worried they’d play a lot of newer stuff, and I love Rush, but I don’t love them that much. Then I heard that they were playing Moving Pictures in its entirety on this tour and I felt like a moron for not getting tickets sooner because we were on the lawn.

We also saw Interpol. I don’t like to see shows when I’m not familiar with most of the songs. I thought I only liked a handful of Interpol songs. Surprisingly and happily, in preparing for the concert, I discovered that I like their music a lot. You have to let the songs sneak up on you.

We also saw Dave’s guitar teacher’s band, The Grand Candy, a couple of times. He encouraged us to flip him the bird during his song ‘Birds Are Not Free,” which was the most cathartic concert audience participation experience ever.

22. What were your favorite films of the year?
I have to say Inception since it was the only movie I saw in the theater. Dave and I watched Up on cable and thought it was pretty good, although we both pretty much cried throughout a good deal of it (hello, unwelcome look into my possible future).

23. What did you do on your birthday, and how old were you?
We went out for a nice dinner and to see my one movie of the year (see above). Dave also made me Harvey Wallbanger cake from scratch this year and it turned out that the doctored-up box version is better. I turned 37.

24. What one thing would have made your year immeasurably more satisfying?
More weekday free time

25. How would you describe your personal fashion concept in 2010?
This question kills me. How about ‘not naked?’ Not sure what the question is getting at. Is ‘closet full of clothes that don’t fit right and no initiative to remedy it’ an appropriate answer? If so, then that.

26. What kept you sane?
Running and Dave (and by Dave, I mean sex)

27. Tell us a valuable life lesson you learned in 2010.
I sort of woke up a little this year. This is it, this is my life, and I’m only going to get out of it what I put in (cue ‘The End’). I have to own this thing and I don’t have to agree to do everything that people ask me to do.

This Just In

Mike at Erie Blogs asked today: “what is the first world news story you remember?”

For me, the earliest news story that I remember is the assassination attempt on Ronald Reagan in 1981. I was seven. I wish I could say it was the death of John Lennon, but unfortunately I can’t conjure up any real memory of receiving that news even though it was only a few months earlier than Reagan. Guess I just wasn’t that cool of a seven-year-old (as if that were in question). My love of music, including the Beatles, started a little later.

The Reagan news was memorable for me because of the ubiquitous television coverage. My family didn’t have cable yet, so we had nowhere to go on the television dial to escape seeing the attempt over and over and OVER again. I was so annoyed that I couldn’t watch what I wanted to during the nonstop coverage. Concern over our President, not so much. What do you want, I was seven.

Like Mike, the Challenger explosion in 1986 was striking for me. For that story, I can remember exactly where I was and what I was doing when I first heard about it. I was in seventh grade and learned about it after most of my classmates. Several of us were out in the gifted van, which sounds even more ridiculous now than back then, when the news broke. When we got back inside to our classroom, it was dead quiet and everyone was focused on the TV. It felt like we were interrupting something very private.

I’ll go ahead and ask what your first news memory is, even though I’m not sure this mic is on (anyone out there???). So far it’s buckeye tip seekers and Good Todo researchers–any of you care to comment on your first news memory and be my first commenter who isn’t a friend in real life? I promise I won’t bite (hard).

A Great Big Bundle of Joy

Holy shit, it’s December.

This turn of events is horrifying–where did 2010 go exactly? On the other hand, yesterday I got to open door number one on my Neuhaus advent calendar. Beyond all reason is a good way to describe the way I love Neuhaus chocolate. Look at how adorable this year’s advent calendar is…

So this means it’s Christmas time, and there’s no need to be afraid.  But I am a little afraid of my to do list.

Christmas was magical for me as a child. What’s not to love about Christmas as a kid, with the special events, vacation from school, the cookies, and the much-anticipated presents. Some of my childhood home life was, shall we say, unsatisfying, but at Christmas things seemed different. Christmas somehow lightened my father’s mood and the tension in the house that often permeated our day-to-day existence dissipated during the holidays. The front two rooms of our house were transformed by the tree and the beautiful soft glow of Christmas lights and our ridiculous, but awesome life-size light-up Santa. I can still feel the warmth and coziness of our house at Christmas and remember fondly all the traditions we religiously upheld (cutouts frosted in pink, orange-flavored drop cookies frosted in green, driving around the neighborhood to see light displays–the house with lights that blinked in different colors blew my mind, and even where we all sat to open gifts on Christmas morning). Christmas was like cuddling under a favorite blanket.

I started counting down the days more than a month out and created elaborate color-coded countdown calendars (now I have an electronic countdown timer because I am more mature and sophisticated).

I’m not sure when I turned this corner exactly, but lately I’ve started to see Christmas more as something to get through than something to look forward to and that depresses the crap out of me. Now if I want cookies, guess who’s baking them? Right, that would be me. (Shout out to my Mom for still making the traditional green-frosted orange cookies I loved as a child). Even if I don’t want something, I just might be making it.  Also, as a child, your Mom wraps up shaving soap for your Dad for you and your gift-giving is complete. As an adult, you are expected to put more effort into the giving. When I have a great gift idea for a loved one, usually my Mom or Dave, I get pretty jazzed about the giving. When I don’t have great ideas, or even OK ideas, which seems to happen more and more frequently, I feel gift-giving performance anxiety.

A couple of years ago, I found myself lingering in a surprisingly wistful way on a catalog page depicting a mother and daughter in matching flannel nightgowns sitting by their Christmas tree. Panic-stricken, I thought “am I changing my mind about having children?!?” I started to imagine myself in this catalog scenario and realized that I didn’t see myself as the mother in that picture. Imagining myself as the mother did not replicate the warm and fuzzy feeling. No, I was wistful about being the kid.

As I was writing this post, one that was originally intended to be about my Christmas to do list and trying to rekindle the joy, a possible explanation hit me for the dampening of my enthusiasm (I mean, in addition to having to create the magic myself now rather than my parents being responsible). Christmas used to be more interactive, a shared experience among family and friends. My immediate family was never large,  but through the early years of high school, my Gram was around to celebrate with and now she’s gone. In high school, my music class practiced Christmas songs for weeks and it was so engaging and special. We sang this absolutely hideous yet wonderful song called “Jazzy Jinglin’ Bells” (go ‘head, baby) which I will never forget even though it’s been 23 years (gulp). Our foreign language teachers taught us “Silent Night” and we sang the song in English, French, and Spanish at the Christmas assembly.

Making many different kinds of cookies has felt like such drudgery during recent Christmases. I was in high school when I first started this tradition. My friends used to come over and keep me company while I baked. In fact, there’s a cookie I can’t make without them. Napoleon Hats are almond-flavored cutouts filled with a ball made of almond paste and shaped to look like a tri-cornered hat. I’m too spatially challenged to shape these cookies myself. I get the dough made, rolled out, cut into circles, the almond paste balls placed in the middle and then… Yeah, try as I might to make three equally sized folds on a circular-piece of dough, I cannot do it so that it stays or looks like a Napoleon Hat. Miss you Erin and Sarah and Kristen, come help me make cookies!

In college, the University Choir hosted an annual “Boar’s Head” dinner. As a member of the choir, I helped serve the dinner to my fellow students and prior to each course we sang a festive holiday song. Wassail! In college and the years immediately after, visiting home at Christmas was a chance to catch up with everyone. In more recent years, I’ve lost touch with some friends and others have since moved away from my hometown.

One of my favorite Christmas-related memories is from a visit to Dave’s hometown when we were still dating. I can still make myself crack up thinking about the time we went shopping with Dave’s friend Jim on this visit. Dave and I were looking to spice up our Christmas music collection and Jim offered to buy him a CD for Christmas. Dave selected Acid X-mas. We popped the CD into the car’s player and cranked it up for the drive home. I will NEVER forget the look on Jim’s face as the first strains of “Carol of the Bells (A Demonic Christmas)” washed over us. We laughed so hard I thought I’d be sick. I can’t even remember how long it’s been since we’ve seen Jim.

So adulthood might take some of the shine off Christmas for more than one reason. At this point, I no longer want to provide a boring list of my Christmas to dos. Suffice it to say that it’s long, and that in my new time management spirit, I have created a spreadsheet (I know!) to ensure that completing it all is actually a do-able feat. I’ll probably share the fruits of some of the tasks here, but as for the list, who gives a shit. I’ve thought about cutting back, but I realize there’s a reason I do all this stuff. The tree is pretty. The gifts give people pleasure or at least let people know you care about them. The photo calendars let me use the photographs I’ve taken over the year in a creative way rather than just staying trapped on my computer. People enjoy the cookies and the buckeyes I make. And I’m GLAD that people enjoy the fruits of my labor.

Happy Advent!