Thursday, December 29, 2011

Christmas Blahs...

I am normally one of those super annoying people at Christmastime who is too excited about everything.  (at Christmastime? Okay...all the time, but we will focus on Christmas for this blog) This Christmas, however, it  never happened.  I tried a few times to jump start that excited feeling, but it was just out of reach the whole season.  Now, don't get me wrong, the day itself was lovely. The boys and I opened presents and ate wonderful food and hung out together and it was great. My presents this year we outstanding. I accused Brent of going over budget and was informed that technically this year we didn't set one so he was in the clear. So it was a good day, it was a fun day, it was an amazing gift day, but it just never reached that WOO HOO!  It's Christmas Day!

I spent a good part of December trying to figure out what was going on and I think that I have it narrowed down to three things. First off the weather. Now being from New Mexico I don't expect snow for Christmas. It was rare to have snow in December at all and snow on Christmas truly was a miracle. But there was always the chance...and the chance is dreaming and dreaming is part of Christmas. The same sort of thing happens here in Portland.  December is rainy.  Every so often there is snow.  One year there was a LOT of snow. But mostly it's rain with that wishful thought in the back of you head that it might, might snow.  But this year it was dry. Driest December on record until this week when the rain came storming back.  So cold and dry, no shot of snow and not the normal weather for December. Don't get me wrong, dry and sunny was nice, it really was. But it wasn't Christmas weather.

Second guess is the medication I was on. It messed with my hormones and thus my moods a lot. Brent and I both noticed that I was flat about things I was normally up about and reacted to other things much more intensely than I normally would. And the thought of going out and doing anything for Christmas that might involve crowds just didn't appeal to me at all. I am readjusting back to normal now, so I might hit Christmas excitement in time for Valentine's Day. So if you see me wearing my Santa hat in February now you will know why!

The last guess is the sad one. I spent all day yesterday chasing the blues. You know that Tuesday was my anniversary. Well yesterday would have been my parent's. They would have been married 59 years. Going through all of the firsts is hard. Even when we wouldn't normally have spent Thanksgiving or Christmas with my family, knowing that my mother was facing them without Dad for the first time in 6 decades made them hard. Talking to my mother a few weeks ago she asked (as she often does) how my mother-in-law was doing. I told her that she was finally getting back to what we would consider normal for her. Something we hadn't seen since my father-in-law died. Four years ago. She then asked about a friend of mine's mother. She knew he had lost his dad earlier in the year and was checking in there as well. I said as far as I knew she was doing well, traveling with a friend and seemed to be adjusting fine. My mother couldn't wrap her brain around that. At the time we were talking she had just told me she didn't want to leave the house at all.  I told her that his father had been a different type of man than dad and that for the past few years his health had been so bad that she was more of a full time caretaker than a wife. The situation was different and she didn't need to compare her grief to someone else.

I know that my siblings and my niece and nephews had all had a hard time with December as well. Christmas shopping was difficult. You consider what to get for Dad before remembering that you won't be getting him anything. We always send gift cards to Mom and Dad for Christmas so they can go out to dinner for their anniversary. So what do we do now? I didn't want to send her something that I normally would have that would have seemed to emphasize that Dad was gone, but then what do you do? I ended up sending flowers. I considered for a little bit going home for Christmas, but decided that wasn't really the right call. We haven't done a Christmas in New Mexico in years. We have our own family traditions now and it would have put pressure on my niece to come down when she is starting to develop her own family traditions. So I decided to treat it as normally as possible.

Calling Mom Christmas morning I wasn't sure what to expect. She sounded good. The flowers we sent were very pretty and were holding up well. They were busy packing up food and gifts to take to my brother and sister's house.  He had to work so they were doing everything earlier than normal. Things were busy as they always are during the holidays but she was doing well. Neither one of us mentioned Dad, or my anniversary or hers, but did tell each other we loved each other very much before hanging up. I didn't call her yesterday. I thought about it. But then I thought about what I would want if it were me. And I would want to mark the day on my own. So right or wrong I left her alone for that.

We are six months in and through the worst of the firsts. New Year, Valentine's Day, Easter, his birthday and the anniversary of his death left to go. Then we start all over again. And as hard as it is to see from here I know from going through it before it does get easier after that. And every year after it, it is easier still. You don't get to the point where you don't miss them, don't wish there were there, don't feel sad, but you do get to the point where it doesn't stop you in your tracks. We will get there. And next year I will be wearing my Santa hat and skipping through the stores to hear the jingle bells on my socks've been warned...

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Prefrontal Cortex what?

So today is my and Brent's twenty-fifth anniversary. And the first thing you ask is..."What are you going to do?"  Well...Brent went to work, I took the cat to the vet, then C to an eye appointment, I'm doing some laundry and writing this blog, in a little bit I will pick Brent up and the three of us will grab some dinner.  I know, right?  All year long people have been asking us what we were going to do for our "big anniversary" and all year long we have said some sort of "I don't know" answer. We don't generally celebrate anniversaries. We tell each other happy anniversary and we go to dinner, and for the past 19 years we have gone to dinner as a family.

The next thing people ask is, " young! How are you still married?" I try not to take that one personally... anyone who knew us when we got married has every reason to ask. And anyone who can do the math, and anyone who has seen marriage after marriage fail. So I guess this blog is going to be a little bit on how we did it. Keep in mind one of the best pieces of marital advice we got was not to take advice because no matter how helpful Fred and Wilma are trying to be they aren't Brent and Denise and nobody has ever been Brent and Denise so what works for us is unique. So this isn't a "this is how we did it, you can too!" blog, this is just worked for us, blog.

Okay, on to the trying not to take it personally when people are shocked that we have been married as long as we have. First off, even our own son said a few years ago that there was "no good reason that your marriage should have worked."  And he was right.  At the time of his insight he was the age Brent and I were when we got engaged. Seventeen. Let that one sink in for a second.  We decided to get married at 17 in February of 86, after dating for 2 1/2 months, we "officially" got engaged (i.e. I started wearing a ring) a few months after that. We graduated high school in June, got married in December and Brent left for boot camp in January of 87 I joined him in March and C was born in October...of 1992.  I figured I would toss that one in there since probably half of the people at our wedding assumed I was pregnant at the time. I mean, why else would two kids get married that young right?

Oh and incidentally, you just read how Brent proposed to me as well.  He told me, "I am joining the Navy.  I will leave for boot camp in January, we can get married before I go and you can join me when I start my first school." Romantic right? And did I mention it was over the phone? I gave him such a hard time about it that a few weeks later he got down on one knee and asked me again. In the parking lot of the Frontier Restaurant. Which I took to mean he was promising to keep me in baked goods and sweets for as long as we both shall live. And considering he took me out for bagels this morning for our anniversary breakfast I would say he is keeping up his end of the bargain. What Brent will point out, is that even if I gave him a hard time about the how, I still said yes.

Our first year was hard. Most marriages have a rough time of it that first year. You are both figuring out what exactly it means to be married. And that can be very different things for both of you. We were also dealing with him being in the Navy and me working full time and there still being a lot of month left at the end of our money. And we were thousands of miles away from home. Which was hard. And probably the best thing that ever happened to us. If we had a fight, or things weren't going well, or we were out of money, or food, or just bored we didn't have anywhere else to go but home. There was no calling up a friend and hanging out at their place, no going to the parent's house for a time out, we just had each other and our little apartment. So we learned how to depend on each other. And we got in the habit of doing almost everything together. Which we still do. Both the depending on each other and the doing everything together parts.

My mother gave me two pieces of advice before I got married. At the time they seemed in conflict but after a few years of marriage they made more sense. First make sure you like the person you are marrying because this passionate love you feel will fade and second make sure you love the person you are marrying because there will be days you don't like them much. Make sure you like them so when you don't love them you will still love them when you don't like them? After a few years being married this makes total sense. The first year of our marriage I found a greeting card that read on the outside, "I love you more today than yesterday" (open) "Because yesterday you really made me mad." And that first year of marriage we really put both of those things to the test. There were plenty of days where it was good we liked each other (we might have only dated for a few months before getting engaged but we had been friends for years) because we weren't being very lovable. And there were times it was good we loved each other because we weren't very likable.  Make sure you like the person you marry because there will be times when they aren't very lovable.  Make sure you love the person you marry because at times you won't like them very much.  That's from Mom.

I had a horrible temper when we first got married and a lot of built up anger, Brent did a very good job those first few years weathering the storms that would come. And really that's where the best advice I have comes from. I have not been the perfect wife. Far from it in fact. So far from it that I don't know what a perfect wife would be. There were times when I was selfish instead of selfless. Times I acted from a position of fear instead of calm. Times where I have spoken up and should have been quiet and times I was quiet that I should have spoken up. Times when I was bold when I should have been thoughtful, times when I was thoughtful when I should have been bold. Times where I made rash decisions and instantly regretted them. Times where I made thoughtful long term plans and still messed it up. I have said and done things that were hurtful to Brent and to our marriage. Basically I have been human all throughout our time together and we still made it through. Incidentally, Brent would say the same things about himself and less about me.  Learn to see the best in your spouse so you can reflect it back on them when they can't see the best in themselves. That's from me.

Brent gives the advice to newlyweds, "Do you want to be right or do you want to be happy?  Because sometimes you can't be both." Sometimes you just need to put aside what you think, what you KNOW is right and understand that if you keep pushing your point you are going to make your partner very unhappy, and that in turn is going to make you very unhappy.  Learn to let it go. That's from Brent.

When choosing a spouse the real key is to find someone whose brand of crazy doesn't make you nuts.  Brent and I both say this one.  Everyone is crazy.  Each of us in our own ways.  And there are so many varieties of crazy. I am a little excitable and Brent is pretty calm.  Think about the couple from Up! When Ellie and Carl first meet in the movie and she talks his ear off then tells him, "You don't talk much, I like you." C leaned over to me and said, "They are you and Dad." Of course, that movie makes me cry every time I watch it because I see it too.  I say that I show Brent the lighter side of life and he keeps me grounded. We are both nuts in our own ways but we don't make each other nuts.  Find someone whose brand of crazy doesn't make you nuts.  That's from both of us.

Now for the title of this blog.  The prefrontal cortex.  What is that you say?

"This brain region gives an individual the capacity to exercise “good judgment” when presented with difficult life situations. Brain research indicating that brain development is not complete until near the age of 25, refers specifically to the development of the prefrontal cortex." Maturation of the Prefrontal Cortex

Basically what this means is that you really shouldn't try to make the big life decisions before you are 25. (There is a whole other blog on the problems with this and our education system) You know...decisions like who to marry (17) joining the military (18) getting married (18) moving away from home (18) deciding to have kids (23) having a kid (24) because there really is no reason why they should work out.  We did all of the big decisions before we had the capacity to reason and show good judgement.  And yet, here we are.  Twenty five years later, still together, still plugging along.  I wish I had a magic formula to pass along to say, "This is how we did it!" but truth be told, I have no idea how we did it.  I am not even sure how it's possible that it's been 25 years. Because let's face it, we look way too young for it to be 25 years...

My Uncle Denny used to say that when he and Carol got married he only signed on for 50 years.  Well, we are halfway there.  It will be interesting to see how the next 25 go.  I can guarantee I will make some mistakes and forgive some as well. And I will be sitting at 50 years wondering where the time went, and how we made it work.  Or at least that is my wish for an anniversary gift.  Finally I've got an answer for everyone.  "What are you going to do for your anniversary?" We are going to keep going.  Baked goods and sweets for everyone!

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Follow ups...

So you all know I blogged about my skin and my wedding fascination earlier this year, little did I know they might tie together in a nice little wrap up blog! Beware...lots of girl stuff and woman stuff ahead....

So I wrote about the fact that the dermatologist thought the skin issues were hormonal and that I was now on medication.  I even talked about how I hate medicating for issues as a general rule. And I think you all could tell from the post that I was making the exception to this because I wanted it so much. Well right away the side-effects started.  I am getting closer to menopause than I would like to admit and I have had my issues with my cycles and my hormonal shifts, they call it perimenopause. Like the peri makes it cute or something instead of saying..MENOPAUSE IS COMING!  PREPARE YOURSELF! but even through the random shifts I have been pretty regular with my cycle. I am a 28-30 day girl and you can count on it. So imagine my surprise a week into taking my new wonder drugs to find my period, a week and half early. While I was on the pills the first two months I had 3 periods.  My doctor hadn't warned me of this side-effect because it's not "super common". Or at least that's what I was told when I called the office to see if my pills and period issues were related.

And this now begins the part where I say, "I know better. I should have handled it differently, I know better." Part of being on the drug was regular blood testing and a specific diet. These are two giant warning signs you should always heed. If you are on a medication that is affecting your blood and your body so much that you have to eat differently and have to go in for regular testing, this means you are on a heavy duty drug.  Probably not one that you should be taking for vanity issues. But again, I wanted this so badly that when the people who know me best said to me, "Why are you taking this again?" I would rationalize it.  I would discount the symptoms and say, "Oh they told me that it would all level out and I would go back to normal."  This is not like me. Like I said before, I don't medicate. And here I was taking a pill that was causing some serious changes. And I was trusting a doctor to make the choice for me instead of trusting my own body and myself. Not even my regular doctor, who when I saw her this year was a little shocked that I was taking the medication. She asked me if I was aware of the side effects and I told her I was experiencing them, and she was again shocked that I was on the medication. But she let it go.

Not only did my cycle get messed up but my boobs grew. And grew. And grew. They got to the point where I am not sure how I didn't face plant when I walked. Describing them to a girl friend the only word I could find was ridiculous. Now, don't get me wrong, the first few weeks I thought, this is a side-effect I could live with! Well, except for the fact that they were so painful I couldn't even sleep on my stomach.  But then the weight gain started to spread. Not acceptable. I worked really hard to lose my weight and I don't want to have it all undone.

The final straw came when C came home on Thanksgiving break. We both had follow up appointments that week and his skin is doing fabulously. I am so happy for him and his results. It's clearing up and even the scarring is starting to fade. And mine? Not so much. I was still having issues, things still weren't clear and now I had the side effects. The same amount of time has passed for both of us so I would expect to see similar positive changes in both of us. So she increased the dosage on my medication. Yep, increased it.  And I said, "okay." I think I have mentioned how badly I wanted this right? So I upped the dose, scheduled my next blood test and went on my merry way. Only to have my next period start 3 days later. At day 14 in my cycle. So I am at the point where I am strapping my chest into outfits so I can wear my own clothes, I am starting to gain weight in other places, I am having my period every TWO WEEKS and...well that was it. Off to the internet I went to figure out just exactly what it was I had been taking. Yes, had been. I told Brent I was done, I just needed to figure out if I was going to have to taper off or if I could just stop, but either way I was done. He said, "I cannot believe it took you this long to make that decision."

My research was eye opening, enlightening, frightening and made me feel so stupid. Because I know better. I never take anything without knowing what it is. And I had been taking an androgen blocker, which is a really effective treatment in women with poly-cystic ovary symptoms or in women who test higher for testosterone. Which I don't have either one. So I had been taking a pill that was blocking the testosterone levels in my body and letting the estrogen run wild. And wild it ran. A week off of the pills and I lost 4 pounds without making any sort of change to my diet. I could get dressed without biting my lip at how sore my chest was. And my skin...well nothing changed. It's better than it was in July when I went in to the doctor's office. The creams I am on are doing wonders. But the pills? They didn't seem to make any sort of difference in my skin.

Now you are wondering how this ties in to the wedding shows right? Well interesting thing...the week I quit the pills I didn't watch any of the shows I had been watching. I sort of thought that was interesting, once I noticed, but figured I must have been busy during lunch time when I had been watching. Then the next week while I was wrapping Christmas gifts I put on Say Yes to the Dress in the background. I looked up maybe twice to see what they were buying, but I found I didn't really care. This morning I saw that Four Weddings had been a TiVo suggestion and realized that I haven't watched that one since Thanksgiving so I would see what I thought now. I played Angry Birds during it. I can tell you right now about one of the four weddings. And only because she had a peacock color theme and it made me think of a friend who did the same, but better. Now it could be a coincidence. I could have just gotten bored with the concept of these shows, but the timing for me is a little too spot on to believe that. When you take away my testosterone and flood me with estrogen I turn into a girly girl. Indecisive, frilly, wedding obsessed.

Oh my god.

All things considered I guess I would rather have imperfect skin. I'm not giving up on my skin, but I know that this path isn't the right one.

Though I really wanted this.

Which is always an important lesson.  Sometimes just really wanting something isn't enough. There are so many things in life that we might want that aren't good for us, aren't possible for us, aren't right for us. But we want them so badly we force our way to them. Square peg it. And if we aren't careful we might find ourselves watching wedding shows while considering buying a dress you know...just to have....

Saturday, December 17, 2011

I HEARD you....

You know I believe that the Universe talks to you and you just have to be still and listen. People of science will say it's your subconscious mind speaking, people of different religions call it the voice of God. Though lately between the Presidential candidates and the Survivor contestants claiming God told them what to do I think God might just be messing with people...anyway...I really do believe that if you are trying to figure out the answers to big questions you will get them if you just listen.You all also know that at different times in my life even though the Universe was shouting at me to do something different I ignored that and was miserable as a result. So this blog is basically my petulant teenager blog.  Universe, I KNOW...I hear you!  Just back off for a little bit while I finish thinking! Sheesh..

It all started a few months ago. I was having coffee with a friend of mine who was facing her own crossroads. As we talked about choices and what she wanted to do and how to approach things the bells in my head started clanging..."PAY ATTENTION!  YOU ARE TALKING TO YOURSELF HERE!" The bells in my head are not subtle...As I heard myself saying to her, "I'm starting to get uncomfortable not doing anything.  If the uncomfortable starts to outweigh the complacent then I will make a change." I thought well isn't that interesting. See, I had never really verbalized that before, that I was starting to get antsy.  To feel the need to do more. Yes, I have dabbled here and there with things the past few years and that has been enough. But this was the first start of thinking, I need to do more.

Then again last week I had lunch with a girlfriend who is also a recruiter.  As we were talking about her work and my skill set she said, "With your skills and experience you could get a flexible job back in HR someplace I bet.  It might take awhile to find it, but I bet you could do it." And I thought...well, that's interesting.  I hadn't really considered going back into the HR side of things.  I haven't handled that side of the house in over ten years, but it was interesting work.  The flexible part is attractive to me.  See, I like having my own hours and my own schedule. Even when I was last working full time I worked in an industry and for a company that was very flexible.  Probably too flexible, but that doesn't matter now. Okay, do I want to go into HR for a company again? I don't think so...but it was interesting to think about.

Fast forward again to this week. I am having coffee with two more friends. We all went to massage school together. Stacy is now pre-med and Mari is working towards her PT licensing and I am...well...I am. We talked about school and studying, they are both just finished with finals for this term and relieved to be on break. Mari had taken a continuing ed class that I had been interested in but couldn't make work due to some traveling I was doing at the time. I am signing up for a class by the same group and we talked about taking it together. School. Ah, yes, I love learning. Maybe this is what I need to go back and do.  I had already mentioned to Brent that I was thinking about picking up a few classes next term, I just needed to figure out in what. Maybe this is what I need to be doing right now. Stretching my brain a little more.

And then the last pieces, Thursday night Brent and I had dinner with a group of his colleagues. The woman next to me asked if worked for Intel as well, it's pretty common for both people in a couple to work for Intel or Nike or a split of the two. I said I didn't. That I didn't do anything. So last night walking in to dinner Brent told me he had been surprised to hear me say that I don't do anything. I said,"But I don't. Not really."  He said, "You have a massage practice, you write..".and I cut him off and said, "I am working on two people right now and I write but I don't publish so it seems odd to mention it."  He said, "You do those things by your choice though. You are good at so much I am afraid you are selling yourself short when you say that you don't do anything. You do a lot."

Now add that to a conversation I had online with another girlfriend, she was lamenting the fact that she had gone to school with so many overachievers that it wasn't normal. I told her that's why she was friends with a slacker like me, it balanced it out. She replied with this..."I could never put you in such a category. You are far too interesting and have experimented with life in so many fun ways" So now you are seeing a pattern, first off I have surrounded myself with some very incredible people. Secondly, it's time to start doing something. I just don't know what yet.

But I am working towards figuring that out. I will be taking that continuing ed class, I am going to put back out the feelers on getting in to voice over work, I am going to pick up a course catalog for the local community college, I am reconsidering my stance on publishing some of my writing,  I will figure this out. Soon.  But seriously, Universe, it's Christmas and I want to take the next two weeks to think about nothing but that, so hush. I heard you.  I promise. 

Friday, December 16, 2011

It's the most religiously intolerant time of the year...

You know when you are a writer, or one who writes at least, you sometimes read someone else's stuff and think..."damn! I wish I had written that!" And it especially stings if it's on a topic that you were going to write about and now you are pretty sure you couldn't top it so why bother...*sigh*

So I bring you today's blog after debating with myself about writing it for a long time. See this blog did it so well that I pretty much put my own blog back on the shelf in my mind and was going to leave it there. But as it usually happens, once I start writing a blog in my head I have to get it out before I can make room for more.

Every year I get more and more disgusted with the War on Christmas. You know why? Because there is no war.  Not really. People being insulted about how they are wished Christmas is probably as old as the holiday itself. I can remember a song on a Christmas album when I was a child whose lyrics were..."Don't wish me Merry Xmas or Happy Holidays..." I'm 43 years old and that song was an old one when I was a kid so it's been an issue for a long long time. I think it was titled take the X out of Xmas or something like that. Of course the funny part being that X stands for Christ in the Greek abbreviation so if you are telling me to take the X out of Xmas you are basically telling me to take Christ out.

And this is where the arguments tend to lead. You have someone make a stink about Christmas and religion and then the counter argument is that the early church picked the date for Christmas not based on any sort of knowledge of the date of Christ's birth but in an effort to co-opt celebrations already happening and convert more people to Christianity. Sort of..."See? We throw parties too! Come be with us! We will have fun!" Then people get madder and madder and start tossing insults back and forth and it ends up with a lot of anger and general cranky pantsness. I am going to summarize an argument I read online earlier this month that pretty much sealed for me that I would have to write about this topic.

Original Post: I don't care how you wish me well this season, just have a good one.
Poster 1: Well I will say Merry Christmas.
Poster 2: Well I will say Happy Holidays
OP: Thank you both!  And same to you!
Poster 3:  Hey!  OP I know you celebrate Christmas so why do you let people wish you HH instead of MC??
OP: Because I respect the differences...
(and then it gets nuts)
P3:  That's stupid, it's Christmas, it has always been Christmas.
P4: Actually, it hasn't always been Christmas it was...(quotes and links and such things)
P3: Used to be.  Eons ago.  Doesn't matter now, it is Christmas and this is what it represents now.
P4: But not for everyone
P3: YES! FOR EVERYONE!  If you don't like it don't celebrate at all!

And then it got worse.... general name calling and sending people to hell.

And you see this all the time. All.The.Time. Though I have to admit this year has been the first that I have seen the abundance of "if you aren't a Christian don't celebrate Christmas" posts. Which is where I scratch my head. You cannot (in my mind) say that it doesn't matter what the origins are for the holiday on one hand and bemoan the fact that it continues to evolve on the other. And if the early church adopted the date to try and convert more people why are you now saying it's MY holiday you can't share instead's our holiday, come enjoy!

You all know I was raised in the church. I also went to a private Baptist school so we had Christmas programs, and Christmas break and Christmas Cantatas. And on and on. Christmas was a big deal. As one of our ministers explained it one time Christmas is the easy sell holiday. It's about a baby and family and gifts and stars and there are a lot of pretty songs and fun plays. Easter is the harder sell holiday. It's about death and sin and betrayal and forgiveness and resurrection. But Christmas, Christmas is light and fluffy, caroling in the neighborhoods, free concerts at the church, the living Nativity's a recruiting tool basically. So to hear or read people say, "If you aren't Christian you shouldn't celebrate it at all!" makes me shake my head. And of course makes me want to post, "Then if you are Christian you shouldn't celebrate it in any sort of secular way. Only by Biblical rules, which are...oh wait...there are none!" See, the Bible doesn't say to remember the day of Christ's birth and celebrate it every year. The Church came up with that one all on their own. And this is where the traditions you have and hold were taken from other religions and practices.

And the whole, "Kids can't say Merry Christmas in school!" is bullshit and you and I both know it. C went to an Arts School in Portland, Oregon which is like saying he went to the pinnacle of liberal liberalness. The kids wished each other Merry Christmas, Happy Holidays, Happy Hanukkah, Happy Kwanzaa...and on and on...without worry. Nobody took offense at being wished the "wrong" holiday, no one was sent to the principal's office no need for self righteous indignation so stop it.

As I write this blog I am listening to my Christmas music. Right now Joy to the World is playing. Do you find that insulting? An agnostic listening to Christmas carols? Then no worries the next song on the list is Wish Liszt (Toy Shop Madness). But now are you insulted that I am listening to a song by a rock band about toys instead of religious song for Christmas? I enjoyed both of those songs so I am fine either way. In a little bit a nice Jewish woman with a gorgeous voice will sing Christmas carols for me and I will love that as well. Which is where the heart of the argument comes in for me. If you get mad that I wished you Happy Holidays or Merry Christmas instead of the wish you preferred you are saying much more about yourself than you are about me.

I have a Christmas tree but could not care less if you have a holiday tree or if you call my tree a holiday tree. Because....and I know this is hard to grasp....Christmas is a holiday! Oh my gosh! So is Hanukkah. So is Kwanzaa. So is Winter Solstice! They are all holidays! We celebrate Christmas in my house. Not for any real religious reasons, but just because of tradition. C knows the Christmas story but he also knows A Christmas Carol and Elf and National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation. Heat Miser and Snow Miser were as big of a part of his holiday as the Inn Keeper or the Little Drummer Boy. And all of that being said if you wished me Happy Hanukkah I would say thank you.

As the blog above says, the only one who can take Christ out of your Christmas is you. So if you want to celebrate a religious holiday, then Merry Christmas. If you want to celebrate a secular one, then Merry Christmas to you as well! And if you don't celebrate Christmas at all then Happy Holidays and have a wonderful New Year! Enjoy your family. Love your neighbors. Make the day better for some one else. Don't get so wrapped up in the words that you miss the wish behind them.

Have a Cool Yule, y'all!

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Mea Culpa

A few weeks ago I was having a conversation with a friend of mine. He was telling me about something rude his sister did to a friend of his daughter. He had then told his daughter that since it happened at her grandmother's house she should tell her grandmother that she didn't appreciate a guest in her house being treated that way. I told him if my niece went to her grandmother with something like that my mother would say,  "well you know how your aunts are," and that would be that. He was a little taken aback by that and explained that it was rude and inappropriate. I told him that in my house that wouldn't have mattered.  Right, wrong or indifferent the response would be you know how they are. And then I said, but I am sure she did it with the misguided thought that she was being helpful. He didn't buy that, but I know from which I speak on that one as well.

I don't drink a lot. My mother was very clear with all of us growing up that alcoholism was a disease and that we all carried the gene for it. She's right. But it's more than just alcohol, it's addictive personalities in general. I had my first cigarette at age 12.  I can tell you what I was wearing, where I was sitting and how it tasted. I didn't stop smoking until I was 20 and only then because I realized that a 20 year old woman shouldn't be huffing and puffing while trying to do aerobics. In my dreams I am still a smoker.  If they came up with a safe way to smoke I would start again tomorrow. It's been 23 years since I quit and at times I still think to myself..."I need a cigarette." So it's addictions in general that get us in my family.

Now that's not to say that I don't drink because I realized the grand truth that I could get addicted very easily and heeded my mother's warnings to stay away. I don't drink now because I did a lot then. Then being high school and my first few years out of school. I don't drink a lot now because during that stretch I learned two things, the first being I like drinking a little too much and the second being I am a mean drunk. So now when I feel like I want a drink the most is when I will be least likely to have one.  Or if I do have one, that's it. One. It's very rare for anyone to see me have more than two. It happens, but it's rare. And I always try to make sure I stop while I am buzzed and never let myself get drunk. Because nobody needs to be around me when I am drunk.

Now you are wondering how these things tie together aren't you? Okay, here goes. When I was in New Mexico this summer my oldest nephew, my niece and I were talking about drinking. He doesn't drink for his own reasons and I don't drink for mine. I mentioned that one of them is that I am a mean drunk, I will say the most horrible things to people and just eviscerate them with my words. My niece said that I should drink with her husband, I guess he is the same way, and I said that no, I shouldn't because I would have a lot to say to him. My niece, naturally, asked what those things were and I told her. No nice way, no easing in to it, no couching it, just flat out told her what I would say. Which was rude. And insulting. And inappropriate. And offended her deeply.  As it should.

Basically I brought up things from YEARS ago that need to just be laid to rest. My niece told me as much, and I said, yeah, but if I were drunk they would still come up. My aunt tried to smooth it over by saying that was why I didn't drink. But my niece was hurt. And I understand that. Now I am going to give myself a little bit of slack here, just a little though. My father had just died that week and I was operating on grief, no sleep and stress levels that were through the roof. My filter fell off and out came words that needed to stay in my head.  I also sent her an apology and an explanation of what I was trying to say, and had just said very badly. But that's not to say what I did was right, or unprecedented.

There is a significant age difference between my niece and her husband and they started dating when she was much too young, in my opinion. At her high school graduation I met him for the first time and only saw him for a few minutes, which was good because I was not happy with the fact that nobody seemed to be concerned at all with their relationship and I wouldn't have been nice. At all. While they were still dating he got a job transfer to Colorado. She decided to go with him. This time my family freaked the fuck out. All of us. But for very different reasons. I really felt like Ash was going to be giving up her fun teenager/ early 20s years and end up in a much older role. I wanted her to take a year, let him move up there on his own and then follow him if she still wanted to. The rest of the family wanted her to get married. This part I told her in no uncertain terms was NOT my advice. I didn't want her married to him because I wanted her to be able to leave. I was pretty clear with her on why I thought and felt what I did and what my advice was and she listened and thanked me for being honest with her and moved to Colorado to be with him.  But she didn't marry him so for that I was relieved.

A few years went by and as these things happen she got pregnant. It wasn't their plan, but it was still happening. And my family freaked the fuck out. Again it was because they weren't married. This time I saw the logic behind it. But I didn't tell her that she should marry him so that there wouldn't be a baby out of wedlock, I couldn't care less about that, I told her she needed to make sure she was covered by his insurance and to protect herself financially.  Now, just are a young woman who just found out you are pregnant with your first child. It wasn't a planned pregnancy but you are happy none the less. You are in love with the father of your child, you own a house together, you have been together for a few years and the reaction you get from your family is, "marry him so the baby isn't born out of wedlock" and "marry him so you can cover your ass". Not the most loving giving scenario right? To be fair we all also told her that we loved her and we would love the baby as well.

And we did and we do. Now here is where things start to shift for me. A year and half ago we went home to New Mexico for Spring Break to see the whole family. Ash came down from Colorado so we could meet Liam as well.  And he was perfect.  Adorable, sweet, happy, healthy. Everything you could hope for in a child and the only way to get all of that is through good parenting. She is a wonderful mother. But she isn't doing it alone and this wasn't lost on me, though I didn't say anything at the time. Another thing that struck me was that we had family pictures done during that visit and as people would say it was almost the whole family, my sister was away on work, Ash would patiently correct them saying, and Mike and Dylan aren't here.  Her husband and step son. Over and over she said this. It stuck with me. Not just because she heard again and again people that love her not mention her baby's father and her other son, but because she handled it so much more graciously than I ever would have.

Fast forward to this summer. We are past the conversation where I bullheadedly argued with Ashley about things that are over and done with and on to the day of Dad's funeral. Mike had been working and so this was the first day he was in town. Watching how much more relaxed and at ease she was when Mike was around was something to see. Remember I had only seen him once before in all of the years they had been together so this was new to me. Watching them together, with Liam and seeing how their family worked I realized that I had been so wrong to hold on to the past. Yes, in a perfect world they would have started dating later than they did. They would have had Liam at a planned time.  There would have been a wedding that she planned and wanted instead of a judge and a piece of paper.  And in that perfect world they would have been...well....they would have been just what they were right then. A family. Happy to be together. Raising their sons to be good men. Loving each other the best that they can. Being each other's rock and safe spot to be during stressful times. How it began is never as important as how it ends.

So here is the other thing I did wrong that week in New Mexico that I am going to fix now. I fought with her in public but apologized in private. So now I am apologizing again, but this time in public. I am sorry I was horrid. I love you, baby girl, and your husband, and your sons.

I wish I could promise you that I won't ever be a bitch again, but know how your aunt is...