I’ll Eat When The Cheer Is Complete

At the beginning of this long holiday weekend, I was all I’m gonna turn a corner in my life. We’re gonna bring in some Christmas cheer and I’m gonna stop watching scary movies that prevent me from sleeping and I’m gonna get gift shopping done early sos I can kick back and enjoy watching this yule log of a year burn, baby, burn. Or something like that.

To kick off the holiday season right, but also so I could move on with my life, my husband and I watched our last 3 hours of The Haunting of Hill House right after the kids went to bed on Thanksgiving. Tis the season!! This show scared us so badly that we were dragging out the time between watching each episode and I just needed to rip this bandaid off right quick. Overall, I did enjoy the season even though I felt like it stole a few days from my life and they are now residing in the Red Room with everyone else.

The next day I asked my husband if he wanted to watch this one random movie I got from the library and he said foolishly said sure. I picked it up and showed it to him, and I have a disease, you guys. True to form, I had chosen a zombie flick because it had the word pandemic on it. It was called Alone, and it came out this year – how did I manage to miss this?! The movie was just okay, and it involved an interesting take on the classic zombie genre. Because my nerves were still fried from Hill House, I jumped way more than I should have, but I persevered, my friends. I don’t expect my family and friends to associate with a quitter.

So today – today – was for sure the day. We were gonna create some motherfucking cheer, goddamnit. We got up and had pancakes, which never fail to make my kids happy. We attended a surprise birthday car parade which was lovely and joyful. To continue the cheerful momentum, I hesitantly asked my husband not to freak out, but that I wanted to decorate for Christmas aaaaaand – gasp – play Christmas music. This, this is simply not done in our house. My husband has this thing where he won’t celebrate a holiday until the first of the month of said holiday. Lately, I’ve been asking him ever so sweetly to stop CRUSHING MY JOY when we see Christmas lights go up in the neighborhood or hear sleighbells on the television. Today, he graciously allowed me to usher in some gaiety after I shouted at him that THIS WAS ALL THE HOPE WE HAD LEFT.

I started getting the bins out and my kids actually helped put up some decorations. I left the fake, lit garlands I usually wrap around the banisters until last. I was getting a little peckish but I was determined to finish the job and so I pranced over and decided to plug them in – just to make sure they worked, you know, as a formality – before I strung them up. First one lit up the room. Excellent. The second – crap. Suddenly, my empty stomach felt cavernous. The dull, annoying headache I’d had pounded up my brainstem and beat me behind the eyes. Oh yeah, was it that time of the month too? WHY THE FUCK NOT?!

Not to be deterred in the slightest, I proceeded to expertly wiggle and jiggle each and every bulb, all while muttering devil-words under my breath. My husband could sense a change in the atmosphere in the house, and gingerly suggested I take a break and get something to eat. I’LL EAT WHEN THE CHEER IS COMPLETE was my rabid response.

Knowing my limits as a rational human being, I screamed at allowed my husband to take over to troubleshoot the light issue. Then, for reasons still unknown to me, I decided that only fools eat food or take breaks, and I proceeded to organize the liquor cabinet. This only enraged me more when I: 1) couldn’t reach the back of the cabinet and had to ask for help, and 2) couldn’t open a jar of 10 year old homemade booze that we’d never drink and had to ask for help, and 3) banged my head so hard on the open cabinet door that I had to stand there for a good 30 seconds to let the pain pass. Sigh.

After I Marie Kondo-ed the booze (it all sparked joy, save for the 10 year old Baileys that had chunks floating in it, may you rest in peace), I had enough good sense to make and eat some noodles. By that time, my husband had exhausted all options with the lights and he promptly ordered some new ones on the internet because he loves me and he effectively saved Christmas!!


Day 28

Far Away Thanksgiving

Happy Thanksgiving, y’all!

Today I’m using an idea I got from reading Steven’s blog about spending Thanksgiving as an American overseas.

In the Fall of 2005, I studied abroad in The Netherlands through a program run by the University of California system. My destination was University College Utrecht in The Netherlands, which is an international university that, at the time, housed and educated roughly two-thirds Dutch students and the other third students from all over the world (of around a total of 750 students). My personal circle of friends included Americans, Dutchies, Australians, Germans, a Swede, and a few assorted others. It was one of the best, richest, most exciting experiences of my entire life.

For Thanksgiving, the UC program people put on a traditional holiday dinner for all the American students, who each got to bring a plus one. My boyfriend (now husband) was visiting me that week, and so he got to come and join in the merriment. For most others, that meant a non-American student got invited to their very first Thanksgiving dinner.

I honestly don’t remember much about the food at all, but the experience was so much more than what we were eating. At that point in the semester, we’d been away from home for four months. The days were growing short and cold, and many of us were starting to feel twinges of homesickness. Having the familiarity of tradition, familiar foods, and my boyfriend there by my side made me feel comforted and joyful.

I found a blurry picture I took of the food!

What I enjoyed most was the exchange of culture that took place. The non-Americans had so many questions about why we ate certain things and why this custom and compared it to their own. It was an invitation for me to stop and think about customs and traditions I had always taken for granted. To see myself, my country, my culture through the eyes of foreigners is an incredible experience. I highly recommend it.

When the dinner was over, we went outside for the short walk back to our units (dorms), and upon setting foot outside we found that it had started snowing. The Californians, me included, promptly lost their shit and started playing in it, not ready for the night to be over. It was a special dusting on top of a very special evening.

Frolicking in the snow!

Now that I think about it, that Thanksgiving feels similar to this year in that I’m separated from family. At least in 2005 it was by choice.

I’ve often stuck my nose up at the American tradition to celebrate gratitude by wallowing in excess. Doesn’t it make more sense that you’ll better appreciate what you have by going without? With that in mind, this year I’m making a special point to be grateful for my family and friends, especially those I haven’t seen in far too long. I’m not on the other side of the world this year, even though it often feels that way. Hopefully, we’ll be together again sooner rather than later.

Counting my blessings, and I’m hoping you have many to count as well.


Day 26

Sit with the ache in your heart

This Thanksgiving marks the one year mark since I have seen my parents in person.

This is the longest I have ever – EVER – been away from them and it sucks.

Last year was the first year my husband and I decided to host Thanksgiving. In years past, we traveled to California from Oregon to spend Thanksgiving with both our families (my husband and I are from the same hometown, so going home means we get to see everyone in one trip) and we made it a point to stay as long as we could. Travel is expensive, and since having one and then two kids, it’s a huuuuge pain in the ass. If we were gonna go anywhere, we were gonna stay and make the trip super worthwhile.

We opted to host last year because my son had started kindergarten and we couldn’t take the 2 week trip without him missing school. We invited a bunch of family, knowing we were deviating from the norm and that most would probably have other plans already. My parents were the ones who chose to fly up and join us. We had a fun visit and a pretty chill Thanksgiving meal. My mom helped out by making her amazingly cheesy shredded potato casserole. I struggled to take a selfie of everyone sitting around the table, but somehow I managed. We had no idea it would be the last holiday we’d spend together for a very long time.

My parents had another visit planned around…I wanna say…April? We all mutually decided to cancel; it wasn’t worth the risk of anyone getting sick. My mom has a preexisting condition and so her health is at a higher risk than most. Also, both of them are over 65.

Ever since, we’ve been FaceTiming but y’all know that’s not the same. My son is able to write real letters now, and we do that from time to time too. My daughter would contribute her spirited artwork. There’s just no way to write enough or color enough to fit yourself into an envelope and mail all of you to where you need to be.

For me, this Thanksgiving will be one to grieve a benchmark of time spent apart. We’ll be grieving the loss of safety, normalcy, etc. I’ll also be giving thanks that, although apart, my family is all in good health. Our sacrifice, and the sacrifice of everyone around us, is for good reason. It’s so that we can all be together again in the future to celebrate and share our lives and swap germs and not take that closeness for granted ever again.

I know this lockdown is hard, probably one of the hardest things we’ll do as a global community in our generation, but resist the temptation to let down your guard and get too close to those not in your household this holiday season. Think about the long-term consequences. Think about how you’d feel if a social gathering landed a person you love in the hospital. The risk is not worth it. I encourage you to sit with the loss. Sit with the ache in your heart. I feel it too. The good news is that it won’t last forever.

This Thanksgiving, I’ll be thinking about my parents and making plans for the future. Because if everyone does their part, then we’ll all have a future to celebrate together.


Day 24

I Want Them to Remember

I want my kids to remember the little things.

I want my kids to remember that I carried a junky old towel to the park after it rained and I’d wipe down all three slides so they could play and not get their cute little butts soaking wet.

I want them to remember how, when they were each 2-3 years old, I’d lay out their clothes exactly how they’d go on their cute little bodies: pants front-side-up and shirts front-side-down.

I want them to remember how I’d set out a morning snack the night before weekend mornings, so they could munch on cereal and raisins while their daddy and I got to sleep in as long as we could.

I want my kids to remember how when I got home from the library I’d casually display new books on the coffee table and walk away, knowing they’d dive into them in their own time.

I want my daughter to remember me going through her preschool flashcards with her, and celebrating her learning victories with high fives and giggles.

I want my son to remember how I taught him to use a paintbrush, with soft brushstrokes that feel like feathers on the skin.

In reality, they may not remember any of these things. That’s okay, because I will.

Mostly, I just want them to remember feeling loved.


Day 23

Sorry About What I Said When I Was Working Out

The weather has been cold and rainy lately and my energy level went way down. I wasn’t moving my body very much, and I’ve felt tired…but not a good tired. A yucky, blah, haven’t-used-my-body-so-I-feel-like-a-lump-tired.

So today I forced myself to put on my workout gear first thing. After breakfast, and after helping my son cut out 8465526289 paper geometric shapes for a school assignment, I put an exercise video up on the TV and got shit done.

And by got shit done, I mean I powered through amidst everyone and their mom trying to interrupt me with noise and feelings.

Instructor: C’mon ladies, let’s power through! Gimme more lift, and lift, and lift…

Me: Uuggghhhh lift…lift…keep lifting…

Daughter, who comes to sit down right next to me, almost touching: IMA DO YOGA TOO MOMMY! MOMMY WATCH! I’M DOING IT LOOOOOK!

Me, grunting: Y-yup. I see you. Good. job. Hey, could you scoot? I’d like some personal space.

Now side…to side…side…to side. C’mon!

Son: MOM! I’M STUCK! HOW DO I DOOOOOO THIIIIIS?!

Me: Figure it out, dude! Take a deep belly breath and try it again!

Son: BUT MOOOOOOOM!

Me: You got this, dude. I know you can do it all by yourself. This is my time right now.

Now crunch UP left, center, right, AND DOWN. Left! Center! Right! And down!

Daughter: Mommy, I’m tired. I want to be a ballerina INSTEAD!

Me: Cool. You do that. Fuck, I’m tired too.

Son: LOOK MOM I DID IT!!!!!

Me, without even looking: Great job, man! See I knew you could.

Now balance and lunge and pulse it and keep your core tight! Don’t stop now!

Me, (I turn to lunge and my daughter ballet-prances right into me, pushing me over as I lose my balance): Hey Little Miss, PLEASE give me some personal space, okay?

Daughter: OKAAAAY! She spin-dances away.

Now I want you to kick up and back but don’t sway those hips! You’ve got this ladies! Woo!

Me, huffing: You want us to do what?

Daughter, who shoots a nerf dart right past my torso: WEEEEEEE!

Me: Could you please stop shooting that in here? GO IN THE OTHER ROOM AND GIVE ME SOME SPACE!

Ten more reps, ladies! I can start to feel it now, I hope you can, too!

Me: Oh I can feel something, you chipper ass bitch.

Son: MOOOOM! I NEED HEEEELP!

Daughter: MOOOOM! WHEN ARE YOU GONNA BE DOOONE?!

The Cat, who walks underneath my body in a downward facing dog, looks up at my face: HOOOWL!!!!

Me: sonofabitch.


Day 20

That’s What She Shed

My house is plenty big enough for 4 people and a cat under normal circumstances. But decidedly not during a pandemic.

My husband has been working from home since March, and he set up his workspace in our master bedroom. It’s really the only space in the house that makes sense for him to work and get anything done.

My son does his distance learning at the dining table in our open-plan ground floor. This also makes the most sense, as I need to be within earshot if he needs help.

My kids pretty much rule the entire ground floor during waking hours. They’re either doing school or pulling toys out of the playroom or running around screaming like banshees or using the TV so they’ll stay still and quiet for more than 10 seconds at a time.

Which means…I’ve lost any personal space in this house that I may have had at one time. Since we’ve been home for this pandemic, I’ve taken to using my son’s room for zoom yoga or privacy in the afternoons if I need to nap or read or sneak snacks or ugly cry in relative peace. I guess it beats hiding in the bathroom…but now that I think about it, at least I can lock the bathroom door. Sigh.

I’ve started fantasizing both in my head and to my husband about wanting a room all to myself in our next house, whenever that may happen.

Me: …you know, kinda like a She Shed, only it’d be a room in the house where I can paint. You could build it for me like Noah did in The Notebook!

H: I might grow a beard, but I’m not taking off my shirt. What’s a She Shed?

Me: You know! Like a man cave, only for the lady of the house. I need a room where I can paint or read or watch a movie that’s just mine.

H: Sounds doable.

Me: Yeah! I’d need a TV and storage for my crafts, and a couch and shelves for all my books. And a table to paint. It would be great to have like a little sink so I don’t have to leave to wash brushes and OOH A MINI FRIDGE FOR MY SNACKS. Maybe a microwave?

H: This doesn’t sound like a room anymore.

Me: Perhaps a tiny water closet with a toilet so then I wouldn’t have to leave the room AT ALL and INTERRUPT MY FLOW.

H: Let’s not talk about your flow.

Me: Doesn’t that sound NICE?!

H: …are you asking to move out?

Me: No!

H: …

Me: Well…maybe we should just look for a place with a detached guest suite, you know, just in case.

H: Just in case.

Me: And I’m gonna need a door that locks. Thanks!


Day 18

Christmas Gift List Negotiation

Y’all know my preference for Halloween over most things, and that’s just my personality. Contrary to popular belief, I do genuinely enjoy the Christmas season. I do. I love the decorations and the fun, cheesy movies and I love Christmas carols even though I’m not religious. I love spending quality time with friends and family and the giving spirit.

What I do not like is how gift giving has morphed into a really robotic rat race in my family. I don’t entirely know how it got this way and I don’t know how to undo it. It irks me every year and this year it’s irking me even earlier.

What happens is this: in my family and extended family, it’s customary for each person to send out their Christmas list to everyone else. Excellent, nice. Then what happens is that some family members go out and buy up all (or almost all. or a good chunk.) of the items on said list immediately, leaving little else for others to get. What also happens is that there is this flurry of a million emails from various family members calling dibs on items or just informing us that items have already been bought for so-and-so. There is often another flurry of emails from folks asking if such-and-such was already bought for so-and-so? and if not, can I buy it? thaaaanks. This leaves me with an inbox full of emails from family and a whole hell of a lot of anxiety.

Once all of this happens in rapid succession, I have some choices to make. I have to decide if I want to try and open family members’ lists right away in an effort to beat other people to the “good gifts,” whatever that means. I have to decide if I want to send those emails asking if this gift has already been bought or not, and to do that I’d have to wait for responses before being able to just buy the damn thing. I have to decide if I want to then be the sender of the email saying hey I just bought such-and-such for so-and-so FYI ok byeeeee. And once I start getting those emails from others, I have to decide if I am going to go through them all so I can keep track of what has already been bought and what is still available.

Do you see how quickly the innocent sending out of Christmas lists has morphed into something so…yucky? It’s ridiculous and it stresses me the fuck out every. damn. year.

I struggle with it because I don’t see my extended family very often and I want to get them gifts that they want and will genuinely enjoy, and so we tend to rely on lists for those reasons. I, in turn, enjoy getting gifts from my list. Do they all need to be from my list? No. But some I’d really like.

I’ve experimented with opting out of different aspects of this Christmas gift list negotiation over the years. I’ve tried completely ignoring the flurries of emails and just bought from the lists what I wanted. That meant that some people got duplicate gifts and I included return info just in case. Less than ideal, but okay. There’s been a few years now where I’ve gone completely off the reservation and – gasp – got gifts for people that, gulp, weren’t on their lists! Did they enjoy them? I honestly don’t know. Was that Christmas season way less stressful for me? Hell yes. Were those gifts given from the heart with each recipient in mind? You bet they were.

A part of me would like to just do completely away with the gift giving. Just get rid of it. While that would definitely be easier, I do enjoy giving gifts and I’m not gonna lie, I like getting them as well. Just not this way. Not like this. Somehow the Christmas spirit got lost and I have no idea how to find it again. What’s the number for Hallmark?!

Soooooo here I find myself at the dawn of a new fa-la-la-ucking Christmas season and I have those same decisions to make. Maybe, for 2020, we can all agree that the adults get booze (their favorite kind of booze!) and the kids get candy (again, their favorite!). Or maybe we could all just take a fucking peppermint chill pill and settle down with the damn emails.


Day 16

Here’s Something

Today is going to be a hodgepodge of a blog post.

  1. Here’s something that annoyed me but I did not allow to ruin my day.

We went hiking today. The weather app on my phone did not predict rain. I live in Oregon. I’ve lived here for almost exactly 7 years now. Fricknfrack, I should know better to carry rain gear with me wherever I go after Labor Day, whatever the app may or may not say. I’m just so tired of lugging my entire household with me whenever we go on an outing. Jackets aaaaaand rain jackets, hats, snacks, water, plastic bags for when things get wet and/or dirty, extra snacks, and now I’ve included masks and hand sanitizer, plus the toddler potty in case the restrooms are closed due to Covid. Ugh.

At any rate, we got rained on. In true form, the kids complained at first that we weren’t going on the long hike. And then later on, they complained that they were “wet” and “tired.” We didn’t get completely drenched and we didn’t have any complete meltdowns so that’s considered a success in our book. The kids reported that their favorite part was the snack. Parenting high-five!

2. Here’s something that brought tears to my eyes and made my heart happy

We watched the SpaceX launch today. A multicultural, international team of three men and one woman got catapulted into space today and they’re headed to the ISS!! My eyes teared up as soon as they reached max q, a few minutes after launch.

What made me even MORE happy was to see a panel OF THREE WICKED SMART LADIES giving us commentary after the launch. I can’t remember a time where I have ever watched any sort of big, important science endeavor be presented and interpreted for the public via a panel of womenfolk. Moving forward, I’d like to get to a place where I am no longer astounded by this. But for now, good on you, NASA and SpaceX.

3. Here’s something that tickled my funny bone.

Yesterday, a lonely, lonely person with a sexual affinity for clowns stumbled across my blog and I feel like I owe that person a heartfelt apology.

I’m so sorry you didn’t find what you were looking for here. I hope you enjoyed a post or two before moving onto…more edgy entertainment…but if not, I understand too. The heart wants what the heart wants. Good luck to you!


Day 15 – we’re halfway, folks!

Luck Has Nothing to do With It

When I’m chatting with ladies who don’t know me all that well, who are only acquaintances, sometimes the topic of household duties comes up.

Oh, I’m so tired of cooking! Say, what are your favorite recipes to make for your family?

Internally, my eyes roll back in their sockets before I respond.

Actually…my husband cooks in our house.

And then I brace myself for the two-pronged response that I almost always get:

First is SHOCK: Whoa! What?!

Second is: Wow, you’re so lucky! I wish my husband would do that!

I have so many issues with this. First of all, just because I’m female and I’m a wife and a mom does not mean that I like to cook, or that I cook at all. That bias is still present for me, hence the jolt of weird guilt that goes through me when I end up confessing shirking my domestic womanly duties.

Second of all, luck has nothing to do with this arrangement. I chose a dude who doesn’t adhere to rigid gender roles, just like me. I find that attractive in a partner. Also, the way we negotiate the household duties is based on practicality and it’s on a fluid, ongoing basis. We do what we’re good at, what we like, and what works better for our family. Why the frick should I cook simply because I’m female? Doesn’t make any horsesense to me.

Third, it makes me so mad that it’s flippin 2020 and we’re still having these conversations. And the pandemic is only making things worse, as I saw a headline recently that reported several million American women left the workforce since March. As for me, I didn’t leave it, but it sure as heck delayed my entry back into it. Because, while other countries have social/government run safety nets, the United States has women.

I recently saw the interview Melinda Gates did with Dave Letterman on his Netflix show. In it, she said that when her oldest kid was in preschool, her husband Bill and her decided that he would drive their kid to school two days a week. That’s how they negotiated the household duties that would work for their family. As the school year went on, Melinda noticed that more and more dads were also driving their kids. When she spoke to the other moms, they said that once they saw Bill driving his daughter, they went home and told their husbands that if Bill fucking Gates could drive his kid to school, those husbands could, too.

And so. If my husband can cook dinner like a boss, yours can too. Let’s show each other that gender roles are bogus and all they do is hold us back, men and women both.

Luck has nothing to do with it.


Day 14

A Full Day

There are some random things that tend to stick in one’s mind for whatever reason. Yesterday, I shared one of those things with my husband and it was the first time he’d heard this story even though we’ve been together for 17 years.

My family of origin is heavily into sports – mainly basketball and football. I don’t remember the context in which this came up, but my brother introduced me, directly or indirectly, to a clip from the ESPY Awards from 1993. It was an acceptance speech from the recipient of the Arthur Ashe Courage Award, given to people whose contributions to society transcend sports. That year’s recipient was someone whom I’d never heard of – he was a basketball coach named Jim Valvano, or more affectionately called Jimmy V, and he was dying of cancer. I had no idea what he had done to deserve the award, but the words he said in the first part of his speech really moved me and stuck with me all these years.

He said, and I’ll paraphrase here, that if you do three things each day, you’ll have a full life. If you laugh, if you spend some time in thought, and if you find yourself being moved to tears – that’s a full day. That’s a great day. Do that everyday, he said, and it’ll equal a full life.

If you laugh, you think, and you cry, that’s a full day. That’s a heck of a day. You do that seven days a week, you’re gonna have something special.

Jimmy V, 1993

For me, it’s not everyday that I do those three things, but when I do, I take note. I mark it in my mind as a full day, a great day.

Last night, my husband and I were getting ready for bed, brushing our teeth in our bathroom. I looked at him in the mirror, my eyes still a little puffy from crying all the way through Kamala’s speech and even during part of Biden’s. “Today was a full day.” I said. He looked at my quizzically, probably because we hadn’t even left the house that day. I told him how much it meant to me to see a woman up there on that stage, especially four years after a devastating loss. I can barely put it into words. I also told him the story of the Jimmy V speech, and how it had stuck with me through all these years.

“…so today I laughed, and I spent some time in thought, and I was just moved to tears.” My eyes welled up as I said the words.

“And so today was a full day.”


Day 8