Category Archives: Christmas

Jack with a Rack

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Jack with a Rack

Heard of Elf on the Shelf? The popular tiny toy spy that has parents shouting “Oh shit!” most mornings in December when they realize they forgot to move him the night before. Maybe slow down on the eggnog Susan so you can make those magical Christmas memories.

Here’s a rundown in case you aren’t familiar….Elf on the Shelf is basically an overpriced toy that comes with a backstory and a high probability of some minor childhood trauma. The elf is supposed to “watch” your children and return each night to the North Pole to help Santa determine if each kid makes the naughty or nice list.

The elf typically lands in a different spot from the previous day and sometimes it gets into some shenanigans (Photo Exhibit A) – if parents forget to move the elf, eventually kids start to question the legitimacy of the stew of lies you’ve been feeding them.

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Well this is Jack with a Rack (JR). Jack with a Rack is made for adults. He/She/They (your Jack, your rules) is here to get you through the stresses of the holiday season. Jack doesn’t care if you celebrate Christmas, Hanukkah, Kwanzaa, Winter Solstice, Las Posadas, Diwali or Chinese New Year. Jack is down to be your drinking pal, bed buddy or silent partner in crime. So get jacked with your new friend this December, we won’t tell Santa!

 

Don’t Stop Believin’

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Don’t Stop Believin’

My regular readers may recall that my father died this past September. We had a complicated relationship and I was mostly on the losing end of that situation. We’ve gone from childhood abandonment – to awkward random sightings – to being able to socialize and converse about superficial stuff. We weren’t close, we weren’t estranged, we were in some weird limbo state that we were never able to breakthrough.

Everyone goes through emotions when their parents die, even if you aren’t close. I didn’t know what to expect in this situation. My father in-law whom I adored died this past May, that was heartbreaking. I miss him every day, I carry that with me daily. With my own father it was different, like our history, it was complicated. I didn’t know how to “unpack” this complex variety of emotions. I even went to see a Medium about it, I wasn’t impressed.

So now I refer to my father as “Ghost Dad” and we chat. Mostly I chat, he’s a pretty good listener. The Medium I saw said I could ask him questions (simple yes or no questions) and if the answer was yes I would be granted a yellow rose of some sort. Well that sounded like some basic bullsh*t to me. Our relationship wasn’t generic it was a kaleidoscope of dysfunction, not something a yellow rose could handle. I came up with my own sign and I told Ghost Dad about it several times, dozens of times. I wanted, no demanded, a unicorn on a unicycle farting rainbows.

Pretty outrageous sure, but the guy owed me. Here are the links to digital bits of my soul that I have thrown out to the universe in an effort to exorcise the demons:

Broken

Less Than

I’ll Buy My Own Flowers

Anyhow, if you actually clicked on the links and read through that mess, apologies. I know it’s awful and maybe it made you cry…I want you to know that I’m doing well. On Christmas, I got a present from a good friend who did not know about the very specific sign. Here’s a picture:

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Socks which feature a unicorn farting rainbows with “Don’t Stop Believin'” on them. Sure there isn’t a unicycle but I’m still taking it as a sign from Ghost Dad. He heard my expletive laden rants and he has repented in his own way. Today I choose forgiveness.

I have felt so much lighter since I received these socks. So much so that I told the practical side of my brain to sit this one out, Don’t Stop Believin’!

 

 

*The featured photo is of a mug that my outstanding friend Katie gifted me. I’m pretty sure she knew about the unicorn sign thing, she just gets me. Thanks Katie!

 

 

 

Je’taime Montreal

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Je’taime Montreal

Just got back from a family vacation which included 4 nights in Mont-Tremblant and one night in Montreal. The hubs and kids snowboard, I don’t. I prefer a more moderate indoor climate with all of my body parts intact. This was our annual holiday trip which we take with another family (the other family includes my husband’s childhood friend). Since I don’t participate in the sport, my husband does most of the trip planning and basically has to keep both our kids alive on an icy mountain.

I read books, watched Holmes & Holmes and set a goal to walk 5 miles each day. That last bit gets a little weird around 10pm when I realize I’m 2/10 of a mile below my goal. Then I wander the hotel halls in a frenzy trying to get my steps in. Luckily it was a big property although I did bump into a maintenance guy twice within 20 minutes, he gave me a puzzled look. Speaking of oddities, while watching Holmes & Holmes, I saw an advertisement for a Cannabis Summit which featured former Speaker of the House, John Boehner. At first I thought it was some Canadian version of SNL making fun of the USA but nope, that sh*t is real friends. I don’t watch much daytime TV so the whole cannabis summit was news to me, I Googled it when I got home to be sure – The American Cannabis Summit It’s about as weird as when Bob Dole started doing ads for Viagra (apologies if that is new information). Bob Dole ED commercial (warned ya)

My favorite part of our holiday was hands down Montreal. What a fun quirky city that isn’t afraid to let her freak flag fly, I fell in love. We stayed in the Old City section and the boutique hotel had a lot going for it – spacious room, nicely appointed (two sofa beds and a separate bedroom), great location and plenty of hot water. Downside – no elevator (not so bad 4th floor, getting my daily steps goal wasn’t a problem), no onsite parking (hubs saw a cop next to our car when we parked briefly to unload the bags, he ran down to avoid getting a ticket or whatever they do to you in Montreal when you illegally park) and across the street from train tracks (uh-oh, foreshadowing).

Within an hour of checking in, 8 of us were out wandering Old Montreal in search of lunch. We found a place that looked great but didn’t open until 4pm so we went to look for an alternative. La Cage lured us in with their popcorn machine. Baskets and popcorn were in hand before we were seated. The service was slow and I was restless to explore. My husband said why don’t you go out and we’ll catch up later (I love that man). I catapulted from my seat before he could change his mind. I quickly asked my kids if they wanted to go, they chose food over me, I didn’t try to change their minds. Before I left I got the single hotel key and bid au revoir and sprinted for the door.

I have to mention that my family had crappy cell service during our trip. We were dependent on WiFi because our cell phone plan sucks (Consumer Cellular). It’s great when we are home but outside of the USA, it’s pitiful. So I was off the leash in Montreal with no consistent means of communication, like in the olden days before cell phones. It was glorious.

I went to Victoria Square in an attempt to find the underground city. I was distracted by Starbucks and an interesting Santa exhibit. There were several displays and each featured a variation of Santa from different times and locations. This is going to sound odd but, if I was going to toss names around for a round of who would you rather, I’d definitely pick Black Peter. He was in charge of “persuading” the naughty children to change their ways, the henchman for St. Nicholas. Bad boys, bad boys, whatcha gonna do…

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Black Peter, Henchman for St. Nicholas

Sadly the Starbucks didn’t have Chai which is my beverage of choice at that establishment. So I got a regular coffee and used the WiFi long enough to agree to meet at Notre Dame. I was the first to arrive so I got in line. It was a long line which snaked halfway down the block when I hopped on. I didn’t think the hubs would be up for waiting but I decided to stick around until we caught up. I chatted with my line mates the gentleman ahead of me was from Texas and the group of guys behind me were from New York. I overheard my NY friends say that the entrance fee was $6, cash only (uh-oh no Canadian cash on me).

About 20 minutes into my wait I spied the family and shouted my husband’s name. He has an unusual name so that did the trick. The line was still too long for him and everyone else in our group so they didn’t want to go in. At this point I was committed and asked him to get me some Canadian money for entry. He did and we agreed to meet at the hotel at 5pm (I kept the key). Notre Dame is gorgeous, it was worth the 40 minute wait in frigid temps. While I was in there, I lit two candles and said a prayer for my father and father in-law who each passed away in 2018.

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On my way back to the hotel I noticed the dogs of Montreal because they were all dressed better than me. I got my North Face coat for $39.99 at Marshalls two years ago and then it was marked past season, it probably stopped being fashionable 6 months before I bought it. I swear I saw a Chihuahua wearing Patagonia and a Boxer, Oh FFS, it is he in Canada Goose? For the unfamiliar, Canada Goose is the Holy Grail of outerwear the median price point is a grand. My first car was $450., I can’t abide. Of course if I lived in a freezer for 6 months a year and spent significant time outside, I might sing a different tune. Certainly that tune would involve sobbing of some kind.

Later that night we had a great meal a Bevo. We were seated near the kitchen (basically the restaurant version of the kiddie table, thanks Mom). We watched a constant stream of servers exit the kitchen at the intersection of funeral procession meets high fashion. Everyone was wearing black with trays of food which housed various shades of crimson. Is this a nightclub or a restaurant? Even the bathroom made me feel shabby. It featured a wall which is cooler than I could ever hope to be (featured photo).

After dinner we wandered Old Montreal some more. Went to a square where a woman was in a life sized snow globe, people were skating on the pavement and music was being played, very festive. On the way back to the hotel we found an alley which had lights projected onto the street which were interactive, a green blob of a spotlight trailed my daughter, it was fun. It was a lot packed into one day and we were ready to call it a night.

We were all tucked in by midnight, about 3am a metal screeching sound woke the hubs and I up. At first I thought it was a garbage truck in need of some serious repair, 5 minutes into it I looked out the window and saw an endless stream of cargo train cars loudly lumbering by. That slow loud parade lasted 15 solid minutes. The next one came around 5am and was brief in comparison. It reminded me of an I Love Lucy episode –

Aside from the disrupted sleep, Montreal was wonderful and I’d love to go back.

Big Love

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Big Love

The next week or so will get nuts with holidays and travel so I probably won’t get a chance to post until 2019. I just wanted to take a minute to say thank you. I have such a deep appreciation for this community of strangers who have turned into friends I just haven’t met in person yet (I did get to meet a few at EBWW). I marvel at the variety of flags I see on my stats page, some days it’s like Epcot in here. To quote an incredibly overused phrase, I feel #Blessed.

Anyway, we are living in some weird times right now. The world seems more insane than usual and the pace of technological advances is staggering. Artificial intelligence, where’s that going to be in twenty years, thinking about that one thing can warp you. Some of my followers write and others are consistent readers. I see you and I appreciate you. Thank you for taking time from your busy lives to visit my blog and comment. If you celebrate Christmas, I hope it’s the best one yet.

I wish each and every one a new year that is filled with good health, surrounded by people you love with a belly sore from laughing.

XO,

Bryce

 

‘Tis the Mofo Season…

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‘Tis the Mofo Season…

It’s been a morning straight out of the children’s horror section, made me think of this –

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My bad morning started last night when I received this email from the school district Superintendent :

I am communicating at this time to inform you that we were notified by the XXXXX Borough Police Department that a potential threat was made to our schools. We are taking direction from the police department with regard to this threat as they continue to investigate the situation. We are going to have police presence at all of our schools tomorrow. We will also increase staff vigilance with regards to this potential threat to our schools. This is all the information we have at this time. We will keep you updated as we receive more information.​

I told my kids about it and said we would make a decision about school in the morning (this morning). I was up at 6am and my daughter was awake already wanting to know the answer. She had a doctor appointment at 7am so we both needed to be up and out. I was still on the fence with school, so I asked for a few minutes to see if there were updates. This is now part of parenting in 21st century America. Parents doing the mental gymnastics to sort out if it is worth sending our kids to school the last day before winter break when there is an unspecified threat.

The initial response is hell no, keep them home. Then you wonder if this starts to happen on the regular, do you just home school or pick and chose which days to send them in if there has been a non-specific threat? If it’s finals week do you roll the dice and hope it’s just a hoax, knowing you will never forgive yourself if they get harmed at school? We got lucky because the school district decided to close in an “abundance of caution” and I felt my small town breath a collective sigh of relief.

One of my friends who doesn’t have kids commented that she can’t imagine what it is like to parent in 2018. This is how I responded:

It’s like diving off of a cliff in the dark and you don’t know what you’re diving into – it could be a soft fluffy mattress, shark invested waters or rocks, no one knows. #Parenting2018

School was closed and I got my daughter to her appointment. At 8am I received a panicked call from my new client who insisted he had a doctor appointment to get to at 8:45am. I immediately left my house to fetch him and his wife who are both in their 90s. Did I mention that it is pouring out, because of course it is. I get my clients to the doctor and was informed that Rob’s appointment is on Monday (sure, why not).

Rob (embarrassed): I hope you are counting your hours.

Me: I am Rob, this though, this never happened. Consider it a test run. I’ll see you at 12:30 to go to Physical Therapy (that’s confirmed).

I get my new friends tucked in their house and head to the grocery store to tick some things off my to do list which is the length of a CVS receipt. I stop at the pet store first, the register isn’t working properly. It’s fine, I’m smiling at this nonsense by now.

 

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This is a CVS receipt well over 5 feet long, he purchased 3 items. My to do list is just as long with no “extra bucks” (well except for the extra bucks I spend).

When I leave the pet store, I notice I have a voice mail from my mother. Her cat needs to be put down, she’s 18 and has been sick, can’t pee or poop. Her vet is 45 minutes away and my mom got lost the last time she went. I called my local vet and got her in for this afternoon when I can go. So yes, this day may very well end with a dead cat because, of course it f*cking will.

I’ve now finished at the dermatologist, doctor’s office and the pet store (it’s barely 9am). Next stop is the grocery store. I can’t buy everything I need for Christmas Eve yet because I need fresh fish for the 7 fishes feast. I go to get bread in the bakery and realize – holy sh*t I need to order a birthday cake for my sister in-law. The lady behind the counter looks at me like I’m on fire – what idiot orders a cake 2 days ahead at the busiest time of the year (guilty as charged). I apologize profusely and explain it can be any chocolate cake with happy birthday on it. She obliges me (she’s a mom, she knows how nuts life is for us).

Then I wander around the store trying to go through the mental list of what I can buy now and what needs to wait until Sunday. At one point I found myself staring at the beef broth, overwhelmed. My brand wasn’t there which threw me into a quandary. I went back and forth a few times before I settled on something unfamiliar.

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Finished at the grocery store, I’ve moved on to Chick-fil-A where I beg for high quantities of chicken nuggets before 10am. My daughter is hosting a gift exchange party tonight (because of course she is). They take pity on me and I get 60 nuggets at the crack of 10am. While I’m waiting my friend texts me pics of her beautiful dinning room table which is set for a Christmas Dinner. I note that I will never be that much of an adult and that I would love to use paper plates – compostable ones because I’m not a monster (yet).

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A Christmas Tag

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A Christmas Tag

The Huntress 915 tagged me so now you all must suffer the consequences. I’m a Christmas tag virgin so apologies if I botch this. Thank you Huntress for the selecting me. If you guys aren’t following her blog yet you should, she has interesting tales to tell. OK here’s the business:

 

The Rules

You must thank the person who nominated you.

Link back to the original post (the one on this blog) and use the graphic provided.

Answer the questions given.

Nominate at least 3 people. (or more if your feeling like a nice person)

Give the nominees 10 questions to answer (or use the ones previously given)

Questions

Do you celebrate Christmas? Yes

Which one of Santa’s Reindeer is your favorite? Blitzen, cool name.

Do you like snow? Meh, I like the first snowfall each season then my fondness decreases as winter drags on.

Do you have a favorite Christmas tradition? I make 7 fishes for my family on Christmas Eve. I married into an Italian family and I have become very attached to this tradition.

Least favorite part of Christmas? The stress of getting everything done.

What is your favorite Christmas memory? Not one memory stands out but it sure is fun to be around little people when they get excited about Christmas.

If you could take a paid two-week break for Christmas this year, what would you do, and why? I would love to spend a Christmas in London.

Elf on the Shelf – Yay, Never or thank Gawd that is over? Thank Gawd that’s over although we did have some laughs with Dash.

Favorite thing about Christmas when you were a kid? The anticipation and listening to Elvis sing Blue Christmas – my uncle had that albumn on a continuous loop.

Do you have a favorite Christmas special? I’m partial to the Miser brothers in A Year Without A Santa Clause.

 My Nominees are….

Free Thinkers Anonymous

Redneck Latte

The Bag Lady

 

I Blame My White Hetero Nondenominational Privilege for this Rant

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I Blame My White Hetero Nondenominational Privilege for this Rant

‘Tis the season for getting offended. It seems like this snowballs each year and now we have an avalanche of nostalgia to get pissed off at. Maybe I’m just cranky because of the Shingles (don’t ask) but can we collectively dial it back a notch? My family life sucked as a kid so I’d like to cling to a few happy childhood memories that aren’t tainted by rapey winter songs, hetero normative propaganda and straight up bullying. Can we all just calm the f*ck down already (someone is reading this right now blaming my white hetero nondenominational privilege for this rant).

Happy Holidays is not code for f*ck off you Jesus loving freak. It means have a nice holiday whatever you celebrate or I’m not sure what day it is in December so I’m just going to cover my ass and say happy holidays. Happy New Year is the cousin of Happy Holidays, this is used when someone is afraid to say “Happy Holidays” because they don’t want to take an organic peppermint shank in the kidney while waiting in line at Whole Foods. Whole Foods is where the really progressive people go to over pay for groceries and hold meetings about the next thing to get offended about. They used to have meetings at Starbucks but those @ssholes ruined themselves when a SB in Philadelphia kicked a black dude out for being well, black.

Baby it’s Cold Outside is now a rape anthem. This song was on a slippery slope the last few years with the #MeToo movement pushing it right off the hetero normative cliff. Men, if you hint at liking this song, you might be a rapist. If you are a female who likes this song, feminists don’t know what to do with you. Personally my favorite version of this song is by the Holderness Family, Baby Just GO Outside.

 

 

Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer is chock full of f*cked up messaging. Can we agree that Rudolph’s parents were horrible? Because really, who makes their kid wear a strictly cosmetic nose prosthetic which compromises one’s ability to speak clearly and breath properly. Whenever I feel like a bad parent I just sigh and think well, at least I didn’t pull a Donner.And let’s be honest, Santa is kind of a jerk in that show. He shuns Rudolph until he finds a use for him then he’s all like “Hey Rudolph, won’t you guide my sleigh tonight?!” If I rewrote this it would have a different ending.

Santa: (Head hung in shame, struggling to make eye contact, shoulders slumped) Hey Rudolph, I’ve done some soul searching and I realize I was wrong for shunning you over your nose.

Rudolph: (Standing on hind legs, arms crossed with a some serious side eye pointed at Santa): Um, hmmm.

Santa: (starts to sway nervously from side to side) You know the weather forecast is looking pretty grim for Christmas Eve…you know, that nose of yours could help cut through the fog. Would you like to be the lead reindeer?

Rudolph: (Still standing on hind legs, one leg gets placed on his hip with a definite “Oh no you didn’t” air about him) So let me get this straight fat man…you bench my red-nose-brown-ass, keep me off the team, talk sh*t to my parents about me and now you want me to save your ass. Ain’t that just like an old privileged white dude. Oh hell no.

Santa: (begging) Please Rudolph, we can’t have Christmas without you!

Rudolph: (Gets down on all fours and turns to walk away) You should have thought of that before you racist bastard. Stick a flashlight on Comet’s nose and figure it out. I got plans that night – me, Yukon and Hermey are starting a band we have a gig on Misfit Island, those are my people. I’m outa here.

 

 

 

Merry Whatever

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Merry Whatever

Here is my holiday rant in no particular order of importance. I started this list around Thanksgiving and it’s building momentum:

1. Turkey Log, Day 5 – For the love of Gawd make it stop. The delicious novelty of mashed potatoes in turkey soup wore off two days ago, even gravy can’t save us now.

2. Keep thinking of the people I didn’t see on Thanksgiving because they died (no punchline just the sad truth).

3. My teenage kids fought over how to decorate the Christmas tree. One kid wanted Trump-esque borders, the other kid wanted free-range decorations…I wanted to scream into a pillow in a dark room by myself. The husband busied himself in a different room (that man is a damn genius).

4. Took a day trip to NYC and one kid didn’t want to go so we let her stay home alone for 6 hours. She binge watched tv, face-timed her friends, ate Nutella on the couch and did zero chores. Slacker level: Master – Jealousy level: Master

5. Saturday I stayed in PJs all day long, as in the entire day. This isn’t a rant, it’s a confession. Apple-Tree (see above).

6. I am sick of the political pontificating in America. The mindset of – if you don’t agree with me, you are an ignorant racist person drowning in your own white privilege. The flip side is pro-life all the way but let’s use tear gas to keep brown moms and their kids out of ‘Murica. Any attempt at a rational conversation with extremists is exhausting and I am so f*cking tired.

7. Avoided political talk at Thanksgiving until the subject of the environment came up. No minds were changed, shocking.

8. Have to see all the same people again on Christmas Eve. Perhaps I’ll play “Baby It’s Cold Outside” on a continuous loop until everyone’s brain explodes onto the dinning room table. That’ll liven up the 7 fishes.

9. Went to three parties this weekend. There are 52 weekends each year – we get invited to about 7 parties in the entire year, half of them occur on the same weekend….why???!

10. I feel guilty for shopping on Amazon so much. The alternative is to go out to physical stores where people are…actual people (cue the horror music). I still go to independent bookstores to buy books. There aren’t many lines there because most people don’t read anymore.

11. My kid sucks the candy cane down into a sharp point and I visualize it being used as some kind of Christmas shank. (See item 3)

12. I want to do a reboot of Home Alone where I get to play the part of Kevin McCallister. I don’t mean making an actual movie…I just want to be home alone for a few hours, maybe a day…..two weeks, tops.

13. Went to a party last weekend with my husband’s childhood friends. Three hours in they started to drunk order stuff from Amazon on the host’s Alexa. I can’t wait to see how Charlie accessorizes his new sequin dress.

14. I attempted to make Christmas cookies to bring to a friend’s house. I made the rookie mistake of putting the cookies in plastic containers before they cooled properly. My daughter (AKA: Peppermint Shank) made a valiant effort at trying to pry the clumps apart alas, it was not to be. So I tossed the chunks of cookie into a bowl of melted chocolate and then sprinkled the crushed candy cane bits on top of the mess because this chick doesn’t throw out butter and cocoa just for being ugly.

Merry Whatever.

 

 

 

 

That’s Not Appropriate

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That’s Not Appropriate

Recently the hubs and I went to a holiday party. A majority of the party was a group of friends known as the car guys and their wives. The car guys met through their love of cars and somehow, despite this seemingly shallow connection, have created meaningful friendships.

For a handful of years we have socialized  – parties, annual beach getaways, vacations and weddings. It’s an interesting group of friends (the book writes itself). This party is one of the group traditions. There is always an “adult” gift exchange, some naughty variation of the white elephant. I always aim for funny with potential for mildly offensive, it’s my comfort zone. I brought a “People of Walmart” desk calendar, who wouldn’t love that! I also brought a book with stickers for adulting.

The sticker book is a bit of a rub because I was actively brainstorming this idea a few years ago. I got sick of sewing (OK my father in-law sewed) badges on my daughter’s brownie sash. Throughout the process (basically, when I had to safety pin badges on 3 minutes before an event, because, that’s what I do) I would think, damn there should be adulting badges. But badges are such @ssholes with their need to be sewn on, they’re a bit of a commitment. Badges are the tattoo of the sewing world. No, I thought to myself, stickers would be better – cheaper, less hassle. Wouldn’t you know, someone else thought it was a good idea and bippity, boppity, boop – –

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Available here – Adulted Sticker Book

So back to the party. The hubs and I brought two gifts – the People of Walmart desk calendar and the adult sticker book. Oh and the party had a plaid theme. Most of the guys looked like lumberjack wannabes wearing some variation of red & black checkered shirts. The ladies hit Victoria’s Secret hard and got the same pattern in sexy PJs. I wore normal clothes with a plaid scarf because I’m a chicken sh*t. I tried to find something plaid, I really did. I ordered a plaid skirt from Amazon and honestly, when I looked at it, I heard the sound of bagpipes in my mind, I couldn’t pull it off.

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Sketch by Lisa McMillen http://www.cicalisadesigns.com/

The sad part is I didn’t even win the “Least Festive” category (oh yes there are contests too). Some b*tch in a pink sweater dress won. I can’t even win at losing. Hey wait, I think that means I did win at losing. Screw you pink dress lady, I’m a bigger loser than you. I feel better now.

Back to the gift exchange. It was some variation of a white elephant except there was a board and you had to pull instructions from it…for example, find a brunette and exchange gifts. This was confusing to me because I have highlights, am I blonde or brunette? I don’t freaking’ know anymore, the bleach has gotten to me. So I went up to some lady who looked like Velma Dinkley (she may have been wearing a pink sweater dress, the details are fuzzy, like that damn dress) and exchanged gifts. Did I mention that I did this out of turn and it was completely inappropriate? Oh and I’m the sober one at these events which makes it all the more laughable.

I slithered back into the kitchen after that awkward moment and Shelly (wife of a car guy) says “keep that bag, don’t let them get it.” So I basically hid in the kitchen area with a few of the guests, protecting my gift like a momma bear with her cub.

At the end of the exchange we all opened our gifts. Shelly gifted us with “marital aids” which would have been the highlight gift of the evening if this didn’t show up. It was a really cute bottle holder, dressed like Santa. It looked innocent enough, sigh.

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Crocheted Santa Bottle Holder…what could possibly go wrong?

Oh My!!! Inside was something I had never seen before, I didn’t know products like this existed. I’m not a prude. I’ve had a Brazilian Wax or two in my day but (butt) really…I don’t even want to go to the trouble of whitening my teeth.

 

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The End.

 

 

Say “Uncle”

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Say “Uncle”

When I was a kid saying “uncle” to someone was the verbal equivalent of waving the white flag of surrender. My actual uncle took great pride in hearing the kids in his life scream or giggle cry that in the middle of a tickling frenzy. The tickling got way out of hand. It turned into a battle of wills between the victim and their own bladder. Many of us lost the internal conflict, there’s only so much tickling a kid can take before they spring a leak.

Similar games were played in my uncle’s pool. This added a whole other level of danger to the activities. There were multiple near drownings. Then there was that time when my cousin got chased by an angry swarm of hornet’s after he disrupted their nest. That wasn’t actually my uncle’s fault, it just happened in his yard. Joey had more than 30 reminders of that calamitous event. Eventually the swelling went down and the pain subsided. It was most unfortunate that some of the hornets found their way into his swim trunks. I bet he still can’t pass a nest without a flashback.

My Uncle was a loud, gregarious, larger than life personality. I remember childhood holidays spent at his house with a heady cocktail of emotions. Angst and wonderment were abundant in equal measure. We were amazed by the gourmet chef inspired meals and horrified by the table topics at dinner. It was a hazing ritual with elements of cannibalism and we all wanted to avoid the hot seat.

For the bulk of my childhood, Uncle Jack was married to Aunt Dolly. That marriage went off the rails some 30 years ago but the memories remain. Aunt Dolly was from the South and her mother Mimi made the trip North at least twice a year. I loved their accents and their sweet smiles. I had never heard of ambrosia until they came along. Who doesn’t love tiny marshmallows in a salad that doesn’t even pretend to be healthy.

Aunt Dolly told me I had a face like Venus, the Goddess of Love. She said that when I was in the height of my awkward ugly stage and no one was sure if it would all work out. She gifted me with a ray of hope that I would not always be an unattractive lanky tween with buck teeth and stringy hair. She saw my potential and it wasn’t just looks. She noticed when I did more weeding than the other kids and argued with my uncle to better compensate me. She paid attention to me when no one else did and I will always cherish her for that.

We spent a lot of holidays at my uncle’s house growing up. He had the big house with the pool and plenty of space. They had an Atari gaming system which was the sh*t in the early 80s (Breakout and Space Invaders, the best). I was usually by myself because the other kids divided into two groups of two. My brother with our cousin Joey and my cousin Jenny with Tammy, Dolly’s daughter from a prior marriage. They weren’t particularly mean, it was just clear that I wasn’t in the mix. By this point, I learned to read people and saw myself out before anyone else could make the suggestion. I split my time between Atari and my grandparents.

Meal times were the absolute worst. It was like a twisted family style version of Survivor minus the camera crew (or the exotic location). Most of the adults were inebriated by the time dinner was on the table. Dinner time always got pushed back to some ridiculous time like 9 or 10 O’clock, apparently drunk people are lousy at keeping track of time. My uncle was a fantastic cook so that offered some redemption.

While we ate, the topics would vary between politics and religion. If those topics got stale then someone at the table would be fodder for the discussion. This was awful. My uncle would spew merciless hateful nasty comments at whomever had the bulls eye. It was usually, Tammy. We were all too scared to speak out against him. This was his house, his food, his f*cked up show. I wish I could go back to 10 year old me at Christmas Dinner and say “what is your problem man, why do you need to pick on a 12 year old every damn holiday”. No one did that, that girl was verbally abused at 90% of holiday meals. I’m ashamed for all of us.

Like most people, my uncle wasn’t all bad. He was always thoughtful when it came to gifts for my brother and I. One year he gave us 10 speed bikes for Christmas. For our birthday, he gave us season passes to Great Adventure. Those gifts meant the world to us and gave us experiences and mobility that we would not have had without his generosity. I know he helped my mother financially from time to time, despite their thinly veiled animosity.

My mother hated my uncle. She would lash out from time to time but not enough to stop taking us there for holidays. They would often spar in alcohol/dysfunctional family fueled debates that were horrendous to witness. My mother stopped drinking in the 80’s and our trips there stopped a couple of years later. They disagreed on everything from politics, money and the best nursing home for Nana. They have remained on non-speaking terms since my grandmother died in the early 90s.

I haven’t talked to Uncle Jack in years. After his second marriage dissolved we lost touch and eventually he moved to Florida with his third wife. I have some contact with my cousins and his daughter contacted me this past weekend to tell me Uncle Jack was asking about our side of the family.

Turns out the third wife was on an information gathering mission. Honestly, I’m not sure if my uncle even inquired about us. When we spoke on the phone she cautioned me that my uncle is “forgetful”, that is code for dementia. My grandmother (his mother) had dementia and his wife wanted to know if my mother showed any signs. I haven’t noticed any at this point and I passed that along.

My uncle definitely has some dementia, it was evident to me in the few minutes that we spoke. His wife told me that they plan to move from Florida to Delaware in about 6 months. I cautioned her that a move would be disruptive to him. I work with people that have dementia and change is a real struggle for that population. He will likely decline from that move and he won’t bounce back, they never do. She has family near where they are moving so I understand the practical points.

In the handful of minutes I had with my uncle, I told him things that I thought would be meaningful for him. Like how I always think of him when I hear “Blue Christmas” by Elvis Presley. He wore that record out every December. I also told him how he made the best mashed potatoes that I ever had and that I was not able to duplicate them despite my best efforts. He chuckled out those memories and I think they resonated with him, if only for a moment. I see a white flag in his future and it’s sad, uncle.

 

 

*Photo credit attributed to: This is the Front cover for the Single Blue Christmas by the artist Elvis Presley. The cover art copyright is believed to belong to the label, RCA Victor, or the graphic artist(s). Front cover of picture sleeve of original single release of Elvis Presley’s “Blue Christmas” (RCA Victor 447-0720)