family, holidays, mental health

I refuse to let anyone mess up my holidays, and it’s a good policy to have!

I hope everyone reading my blog post enjoyed their holiday yesterday… those who celebrated, anyway. I know not everyone enjoys Christmas. There was a time in my past when it wasn’t such a fun holiday for me. I would say that for most of my 20s, I wasn’t a Christmas fan. I found it to be more of a burden than anything else. In those years, I was still single, and Christmas meant spending money I didn’t have on gifts for people I didn’t know that well anymore, and without fail, at least one dramatic or traumatic altercation with someone from my family of origin.

Christmas got dramatically better for me from about the year 2005. That was the first year after I resolutely decided that I would never again let someone else fuck up my holidays. I have stubbornly stuck to that resolution, and it works really well. It helps that we live in another country now, so no one expects us to take part in Christmas gatherings anymore. Our Christmases are just Bill and me and the dogs, with lots of wine, beer, music, and good food… and presents that don’t have any weird messages or symbols attached to them. There aren’t any arguments. There aren’t any manipulative ploys for attention. There’s nothing but us, enjoying each other and our very compatible and comfortable marriage. It’s peaceful and freeing, just the way I love it. We don’t even bother with church.

I know we’re beyond blessed. I’ve read more than a few angsty posts from people who find Christmas unbearably overwhelming and annoying. I’ve seen a few newspaper articles about how to handle Christmas with obnoxious relatives, which is even trickier this year, since vaccinations against COVID-19 are available and not everybody agrees with taking them. Christmas shouldn’t be something to endure… but for some people, it really is.

Unfortunately, COVID vaccines are just one more issue that divides people, which causes stress in family units. My own family of origin isn’t immune to it. My mom said that one of my sisters invited her to spend Christmas with her family, but this sister isn’t vaccinated and refuses to consider getting the shots. My mom is in her 80s and lives in an assisted living apartment. She doesn’t want to be around unvaccinated people, because she doesn’t want to get sick. My sister also lives in another state, and mom doesn’t want to drive there. So she decided to stay home… which is fine for her, since she’s a very independent person. I’ll probably call her later today to see how it went for her.

Bill talked to his daughter on Skype on Christmas Eve. They had a great chat. Younger daughter said she was very happy with the gifts that Bill and his mom sent to her. She said she was pleased with the gifts, because they were just gifts. There was no weird hidden meaning or guilt message attached. Bill sent toys for her kids, some German candy that isn’t available in the USA, a gift card for a restaurant so she and her husband can have a date night, and a big box of Lebkuchen, German gingerbread. Younger daughter said the Lebkuchen was a huge hit, since she’s pregnant, and the ginger is soothing to her stomach. She said that her mom would buy it in the past, but it was always stale. The box Bill sent was fresh, and much to our surprise, got to her very quickly.

She said that her mother also sent gifts… and then she asked Bill if he ever got gifts from Ex that had “hidden meanings”. Bill chuckled knowingly, because he remembered quite a few occasions when his ex wife sent gifts that weren’t bringing tidings of joy.

He told me about how, back when they first separated in 1999, Ex was letting #3 stay at the home that Bill was still paying the mortgage on. She told Bill not to come home. Instead, they would meet at my father-in-law’s house, and have Christmas there. Under the tree were presents for Bill from the kids… But they were items that Bill already owned. When he left their house to go back into the Army, he left a lot of his stuff there. And instead of sending the items to him, Ex simply wrapped them up and had the kids put their names on the packages. Then she put them under the tree, disguised as gifts. There he sat on Christmas morning 1999, unwrapping the Star Wars VCR tapes that he’d already owned and had watched with ex stepson.

At the time, Bill just blew it off. He figured she was just being a petty bitch. But then he realized that Ex was also doing all she could to eliminate his presence in the family. She threw out photos of him and even stole the one that younger daughter used to sleep with. She cut his image out of pictures. Older daughter once remarked that she had forgotten what he looked like, because Ex was doing her best to erase him… even as she demanded $2550 a month from him in child support, which she received on time, every month, in full, and with no complaint.

For years, I was so disgusted by the cruel things she did. But now, I know that this is the kind of treatment everyone eventually gets from her. She does the same thing to her own children. I don’t know what she sent younger daughter, but I can imagine that whatever it was, it was intended to make her feel shitty. Or, at least, GUILTY.

I have mentioned before that Ex has a habit of ruining treasured childhood relics, like storybooks and music. Bill used to read a book to his children when they were small. It was a book about forgiveness. Just before Bill went to Iraq, Ex sent him the book, with a really cryptic shitty message. She wouldn’t encourage the kids to speak to him. Instead, she had them write him letters disowning him, then she sent him a book to remind him of them… and just before he went to a place where he could have been killed. For weeks, I had to look at that book in our home. I finally told Bill to do something with it so I didn’t have to see it, or I would be throwing it out. He ended up sending it back to her with a note that read, “You need this more than I do.” BRAVO! That was the last time she ever sent him a poisonous package.

Unfortunately, it sounds like she’s still up to her old tricks. I feel sad for Bill’s daughters, and the three other kids Ex has had, but was apparently never satisfied with and just wants to torment. I don’t know what drives her to be the way she is. Some of it, I’m sure, is mental illness… but some of it is just plain mean and cruel. How sad it is that one of the things Bill can bond with his daughter over is the mental fuckery perpetrated by Ex.

Lest anyone think this is going to be another one of my Ex trashing posts… I will now move on to an anecdote about my own family. I’ve written the story many times about what happened in my own family, back in 2003. That was the year I swore off gatherings with my family of origin.

One of my sisters had asked for a ride to Gloucester with us. We obliged, but I told her that if there was a fight, we’d be leaving. Sure enough, hours after we arrived, there was a fight.

Besides the fight, which made the tension in the house unbearable, Bill and I were relegated to the very uncomfortable sleeper sofa in the freezing cold room which had once been a garage. It had been rebuilt into an office, but had poor insulation. I had started my period , and that room wasn’t near a bathroom. I just wanted to be in my own house.

Bill and I resolved to leave the next day. The sister who came with us didn’t want to go home early, and tried to manipulate us into staying. She wanted us to take her shopping. I refused, so she threw a huge tantrum… I mean HUGE! There was screaming, swearing, melting down, and it was like something I would have expected from a toddler.

However, instead of giving in, as I had in the past, I turned to Bill and said, “Come on, let’s just go.” And we did. We left her at my parents’ house. She had to find another way home, which I understand involved taking a bus. She was a woman in her 40s at the time. She and I have talked about that incident just once since it happened. In her version of the story, I was blaming her for our other sister’s fight with me.

I saw our spat from an entirely different perspective. I had told her ahead of time that I was not willing to stay at the house if there was any fighting. My sister had agreed to those conditions. Then, when there predictably was a fight, she tried to change the terms to ones that suited her, even though we had done her a favor by driving her down there, and she had agreed to our conditions.

When I refused to acquiesce to her demands, she had two choices– she could either come with us, or she could find her own way home. When she threw a tantrum, we determined that she’d rather stay in Gloucester… and I sure as hell didn’t need her in my car for hours, complaining non-stop as we drove back to northern Virginia. At the time, that was a very traumatic event, but it was a good thing it happened. Christmas 2003 was what gave me the courage to deal with Ex during Christmas of 2004, when she tried to ruin our holiday.

In 2004, Ex tried to manipulate me into attending Christmas at Bill’s dad’s house. She told us to get a hotel room, since she and the kids and #3 would be staying at the house. She refused to listen to Bill when he said it was a terrible idea. She expected me to show up, even though she never even asked me what I thought of it. It occurred to me that I LOVE my immediate family, but I didn’t even want to do Christmas with them again. I sure as hell didn’t want to do it with Ex, her husband, the kids, and my in-laws. I realized that if I went, it would be yet another disastrous holiday season.

I told Bill I would not be attending the gathering, but he should go and see his daughters. He went… and it was pretty dreadful, although not as dreadful as it would have been if I had gone, too. Bonus– we saved a lot of money because I stayed home with the dogs. I finally learned that obligatory, “forced family time is not always the best idea”…

What am I trying to say here? It’s that the holidays belong to everyone. You have the right to enjoy your holiday, just as much as anyone else does. And if family gatherings cause stress, strife, or cause you to go into unwanted debt, you have the right to opt out… to protect your own sanity. Christmas is optional.

I remember how, back in the days when I felt like I had to spend Christmas at home, it would always take some time to recover. Sometimes it took a few days. Sometimes, it was weeks. The year that we left my sister at my parents’ house, it was a year before she spoke to me again. But, she probably doesn’t realize that I rather enjoyed the silence. Nowadays, she mostly treats me with more respect, which is really all I ever could have hoped for in the first place.

But she did send me a private message with a little drama in it this year… she told me about how, a few years ago, our mom called her up and yelled at her, and brought my name into it. She said that mom was upset about how my sister refused to cooperate with the annual family tradition. My sister insinuated that it was because our brother-in-law had abused her cat when they came the year prior. Brother-in-law doesn’t think animals belong inside. He also enjoys watching us fight.

Anyway, I wasn’t there to see what happened, so I don’t know his side of the story. The bottom line is, because of what had happened during a previous holiday, she decided to stay home, and she claimed that our mom called her up and bitched. She was supposedly “shocked” that sister hadn’t wanted to celebrate, “Especially since Jenny…” then she stopped herself.

My comment was, “Because Jenny what? Because I don’t spend holidays at home anymore? I have DONE my time.” As the youngest, I went to all the graduations, while my graduations usually weren’t attended by my sisters. I used to be the one sister everyone could count on to be there. But that last Christmas in 2003 was the last straw. I refuse to let anyone mess up my holidays.

I stay in my house, sleep in my own comfortable bed, eat what I want, drink what I want, wear what I want, and listen to whatever music I want to… and there is NO fighting… and no stupid manipulative bullshit or guilt tripping or mean remarks about how I need to go on a diet, put on makeup, or fix my hair. There are no intrusive questions about how I can afford my lifestyle or critical, judgmental remarks about things I say, or the way I laugh, or anything else. I can simply be myself, and be appreciated for the person I am… and the person I am is really not so bad.

I am all for holidays without stress, guilt, tension, fighting, manipulation, crying jags, physical blows, temper tantrums, or lies. Ever since I decided that I’m an adult and I deserve these things, life has been better. Ever since we decided that the holidays are for us to enjoy, too, Bill and I have found Christmas to be a lot better… and much more fun! And I haven’t felt the need to read or write to an advice column, asking for help on how to deal with my relatives since…

Last night, the most stressful event was at the end of the evening, as Bill struggled to keep his eyes open. He just looked like a pissed off teddy bear, and it was absolutely ADORABLE. That’s the kind of thing I like to see on Christmas. Here’s hoping that’s how it will be from now on. Any friends or family members who are game for that kind of celebration are welcome. The rest can make drama among themselves and leave us out of it.

Standard
lessons learned, memories

Partial repost: My own experience with a “Cootie Kid”…

One last partial repost– partial, because I left off the last part, which is time sensitive and no longer relevant. I wrote this February 24, 2015. I also changed the title of the post, because the original title is no longer relevant.

Last night, I looked up a woman I haven’t seen or heard of since fifth grade.  I was surprised by how easy it was to find her.  I just typed her maiden name and the name of the town where we grew up.  I was surprised to find her living in a town not far from our old hometown.  I also found out that she attended the same high school my former boyfriend did.  He may even know her because they probably graduated in the same class.

This woman’s name was very common in the year of our birth.  Indeed, I share her first name, but here I’ll just call her “Joni”.  Like me, Joni was socially awkward and considered weird.  Actually, she made me look like a social genius because she was even louder and odder than I ever was.  Joni was outgoing and smart enough, but she was strangely dressed and kind of homely.  She had very crooked teeth that didn’t appear to be very well cared for and an unfortunate habit of picking her nose in class and eating her boogers in front of everyone.  When we were kids, she was very skinny, had stringy blonde hair, and a face that could be best described as interesting.   

When we were in the fourth grade, I remember playing kickball with Joni.  Our teacher at the time, Mr. A , was big on taking us out for recess if time allowed.  These were the glorious days before the No Child Left Behind Act.  One day, we were playing kickball and Joni, being kind of gangly and uncoordinated, stepped up to the plate.  The ball rolled toward her.  She kicked at it, missed entirely, and fell to the ground with a solid thud.  On impact with the dirt, Joni’s leg made a sickening cracking sound, and she started howling in agony.  At the time back in 1981, there was a McDonald’s commercial that used the voice talents of Frank Nelson, a guy who would say “Yeeeeeees….” all the time.  That’s what Joni sounded like when she hit the ground and started screaming.

You can hear Frank Nelson say “Yeeees” in this commercial. Joni sounded a little like him when she screamed.

Poor thing.  I actually remember people laughing and saying that Joni sounded like the McDonald’s guy at the scene of her injury.  She was not well-regarded by our classmates.  I don’t remember being especially unkind to her, though I also don’t remember being her buddy.  People were mean to me too, though, and I think I might have had a smidge of empathy… though I probably also felt relief that someone other than me was being picked on. 

Anyway, Mr. A got help for her and, after about a week, she came back to school with a canvas cast that covered her whole leg.  She used crutches for months and I remember her wearing what she called a “rocking shoe”.  I even remember her spiritedly telling someone about the rocking shoe when he was teasing her about it.  She was a girl with a surprising amount of pluck and resilience, especially for her age.

I might have felt snarky toward Joni the way our classmates did, but I too suffered an accident while in Mr. A’s class.  In my case, it just involved being knocked unconscious by a soccer ball kicked by Mr. A.  That was a very embarrassing incident, but at least I recovered from it quickly. 

The following year, Joni was in my fifth grade class.  That year, I witnessed another classmate getting hurt, though this time, it wasn’t Joni.  It was another person who, at the time, was a friend of mine.  We were in PE class and she was climbing the bleachers when her leg slipped between the seat and the foot board.  She tore a huge gash in her leg, right by her knee.  I remember all the blood and our gym teacher (not Mr. A, though he did become a gym teacher at that school that year) picking her up in his arms and rushing her to the office where someone called an ambulance.  This girl’s bleacher accident also happened right in front of me and it reminded of me of when Joni broke her leg.  My other injured classmate screamed, but she didn’t sound like Frank Nelson.  She, too, used crutches for weeks afterwards.

One of my last clear memories of Joni was at Christmas time.  We had a gift exchange and Joni drew my name.  On the day of the gift exchange, the teacher asked me to come speak with her out in the hall.  While we were out there, she handed me a present, which turned out to be a little Smurf pin.  I think it depicted Papa Smurf grinning and holding a flower.  She said she had bought it for me because Joni had drawn my name and she knew the present Joni was going to give me would suck.  She didn’t phrase it that way, of course, but that was the basic gist of what she was saying.  I think I remember her telling me that Joni’s family didn’t have any money or something to that effect.  I believed it, having been in school with Joni for a couple of years.

Sure enough, when it came time for gift exchanges, I got Joni’s gift wrapped in rumpled notebook paper.  It was a Christmas ornament that we’d all made in class and hers was painted several different non-complementary colors.  Since the teacher had prepared me, I managed to accept the gift gracefully.  And though I was never a fan of the Smurfs, it took many years before I could bring myself to get rid of that little Smurf pin that my teacher had bought for me.  To this day, I still have the same luck when it comes to secret gift exchanges.  I always get the person who buys me booze and then drinks it all before they present it to me (yes, this did actually happen to me once when I worked at a country club).

After fifth grade, Joni moved away.  I didn’t know where she went and, in time, even forgot all about her.  But then someone on Facebook posted one of those class pictures and I saw her in it, again reminding me that she was part of my childhood.  I looked up Joni because I was curious about where she is and how she’s doing.  It looks like she’s doing fine.  I was a little dismayed to find out that she’s already a grandmother.  Since we are the same age, I hate the idea that I’m old enough to have grandchildren… but hell, I guess I am.  I see that she’s still awkward looking, but apparently has a lot of friends, a loving family, and a good sense of humor. 

I even saw that she was brave enough to post photos from her early childhood.  I actually remembered some of the photos because they were of a scholastic nature and I was around for them.  She even had one that had the full on face shot with the heavenly profile side shot above it, ever popular in the early 80s.  She had on a very frumpy looking dress that looked like it might have belonged to her mother.  One friend asked if she was Amish and her reply was a light-hearted, matter-of-fact response that that was how her parents dressed her.  I was glad to see that she looks happy enough as an adult despite our miserable elementary school days. 

Standard
holidays

Christmas Eve already!

A slightly altered version of this post also appears on my travel blog.

I know a lot of people think this year has dragged on. For me, it’s flown by. It’s hard to believe that a year ago, we were in Nimes, France, celebrating Christmas 2019 with my good friend Audra and her husband. Audra and I grew up in the same small town and attended the same small college. We have both ended up living in Europe, although Audra has gone native and will probably stay in France. I, on the other hand, will probably leave Europe at some point. Or, I’ll probably leave Germany, anyway. I don’t know when, and I’m not in a hurry to go anywhere.

I like living in Europe. I’m grateful we were able to move here well before the pandemic started. We’ve had a lot of fun over the past few years, despite some of the hassles. I don’t really miss life in the United States. I do miss a few people and some of the conveniences of living in my homeland, but the German lifestyle appeals to me. I like that life isn’t just about working. I like that the leaders seem to care about the citizenry. I like that our town is clean and the people are nice.

So homey… but Noyzi sure sheds a lot!

The weather could be better, but it’s not bad here. It’s noticeably milder these days than it was during our first time here. Of course, that’s probably because of global warming, which is kind of depressing. But in the meantime, global warming makes winters less snowy and icy, on the whole. We do have lots and lots of rain, and that’s turned our backyard into a sloppy mess. But it’s fenced in, and we have plenty of privacy. The dogs get to enjoy a few minutes out there to do their business without the need of a leash. We also have a nice landlord. He likes dogs, and yesterday brought us three bottles of bubbly and a box of chocolates, as well as free firewood.

Bill and I have a lot to be grateful for, even if 2020 has been a most unusual and horrifying year for so many people. We did have some losses, but we’re both still basically healthy and happy… and a few genuinely great things happened, too. The highlight was Bill getting to see his daughter again after fifteen years and meeting his son in law and grandchildren.

He’s getting braver.

Also… I think Noyzi the Kosovar street dog was meant to be our dog. He’s settling in well and enjoying being a pet with his own big, hairy bed, and his own private water bowl, because he doesn’t like drinking from the one in the kitchen. Noyzi and Arran aren’t buddies yet, but I have seen a few sparks of playfulness. He’s becoming a goofy clown. I notice he sniffs the air when something is cooking and he silently sneaks up behind me when it’s time for us to eat. I’ll feel his big nose tap me on the back as if to say, “Don’t forget the Nozyi snack tax.” It’s been very rewarding to watch him adapt and enjoy things that so many dogs love… like walks and treats and belly rubs.

Arran, lying on what used to be Zane’s rug. He’s finally the boss.

Arran is still very spry and engaged with life, despite being about eleven years old. He still loves his walks, food, sleeping with us, and cuddling with Bill, who is his favorite person. I’m grateful that I caught him heading downstairs last night before we went to bed. He needed a potty break, big time!

Bill and I are also learning guitar. A year ago, I didn’t own a guitar. Now we have four of them, and Bill is shopping for an electric version. I was even talking about picking up bass guitar last night. If this pandemic goes on for much longer, I might have to go for it. I’ve managed to make some nice vocal recordings, too, even if they aren’t as popular as my blog is (which isn’t saying that much).

I’m also grateful to all of you who continue to read and comment on my stuff, even when I go a little off the rails. Thanks for giving me a reason to write. I wish you all a wonderful Christmas. I may or may not write tomorrow. Depends on how bored I get, and if inspiration strikes.

Standard
book reviews, silliness

Reposted book review: How to Live With A Huge Penis

Here’s another reposted book review for those who need a laugh. Actually, the funniest thing about this book is the title… but I’m gonna share it as/is anyway. I went through a phase in which I reviewed a lot of books about “inappropriate” topics. Maybe someone on your Christmas list will enjoy it. This review was originally posted on Epinions.com October 23, 2011.

Hey guys!  Do you suffer from Oversized Male Genitalia (OMG)?  In other words, is your penis HUGE?  Does it rival the size of a Pringles can or a shampoo bottle?  Does it cause you pain or embarrassment?  Have you been the subject of ridicule, violence, or discrimination because of your large member?  Are you afraid for the future because of the size of your penis?  Have I got a self-help book for you!  Dr. Richard Jacob and Reverend Owen Thomas are the authors of the 2009 book, How to Live with a Huge Penis.  It’s a book especially for men who suffer from OMG and the people who love them.

I suppose you’re wondering how in the world a genteel lady like myself would ever deign to read a book entitled How to Live with a Huge Penis.  After all, I don’t have a penis.  Well, the truth is, I found this book while looking at a hilarious site called UHpinions.com.  UHpinions is basically a site that showcases funny reviews that have been posted on Amazon, Yelp!, and though I have yet to find one, Epinions.  Quite a few people had reviewed this particular book and one person left a real humdinger of a review.  I was so intrigued that I just had to read this book for myself.

In all seriousness, what is this book all about?

First thing’s first.  This book was published by an outfit called Quirk Books (www.quirkbooks.com).  Despite the handsome red cover with fancy gold lettering, this book is not really intended to be taken seriously.  This slim volume is more of a satire of self-help than anything else.  I will admit, however, to finding the handy Length Gauge on the front cover very useful as I determined whether or not my dear husband, Bill, suffers from OMG or is just well-endowed.  Flip to the back of the book and you’ll find a Girth Gauge, which again, helps readers of the male persuasion figure out if their penis size is cause for personal problems.

Book style

This book is written a lot like your garden variety self-help book is, albeit with larger lettering.  The font size used in How to Live with a Huge Penis is huge, which ought to make people who prefer larger print happy.  The authors begin by reassuring readers with OMG that they are not alone.  Indeed, they include witty little anecdotes of certain famous men in history who also reportedly had huge penises.  These little anecdotes, while probably not altogether true, are somewhat entertaining.

Next, the authors address how guys with OMG can deal with negative situations arising from their condition.  These situations are brought up through italicized stories written by anonymous males who have suffered with reassuring answers offered by the authors who no doubt are experts on the subject of OMG.  Toward the middle of the book, men with OMG can learn how they can “unzip” their condition, coming out to friends and family.   There are also handy tips on the care and maintenance of a huge penis and the best ways to enjoy sexual intercourse with loved ones. 

Introspective readers will certainly appreciate the daily affirmation journal at the end of the book, just pulsating with anticipation for its first entry.  And the authors have also thoughtfully provided a helpful chapter about the positive aspects of owning an enormous schlong.

My thoughts 

Honestly, I think this book could be much better than it is.  It’s meant to be funny and it sort of is, but there’s not that much to it.  The book is written in large print and contains pictures… not the detailed, interesting ones, mind you, but more like the stick figures that are used to determine which restroom one should use.  Some of the writing is mildly entertaining and even giggle worthy, but with a title like How to Live with a Huge Penis, I was expecting something much more exciting.  This book is a little like a cock tease in that respect.  Also, there is a Web site on the back cover, but I tried going there and got the front page for GoDaddy.  Talk about false hopes dashed.

Overall

This book might make a funny gag gift for a man in your life.  Of course, it might also be quite offensive to some readers.  If you’re the slightest bit intrigued by this review, I recommend checking out UHpinions.com and reading about it there, first.  You might actually laugh harder for free.

For more information: www.quirkbooks.com

As an Amazon Associate, I get a small commission from Amazon.com for sales made through my site.

Standard
holidays

De-Christmasifying…

I started to write a post yesterday, but trashed it when I realized how depressing it was. After I did that, I couldn’t think of anything else to write about that wasn’t a downer. I decided to work on my puzzle instead.

This morning, we took down all the Christmas crap. Every year, I am less and less enthusiastic about decorating the house because it requires putting things up and taking them down; then cleaning up the residual mess. But I think I would be sad if I didn’t decorate the house. I like to look at Christmas lights and I enjoy the coziness of the way they make the house feel, especially here in Germany. So I dutifully put up the trees, hang the stockings my mom knitted for us, and scatter other holiday decorations around the living room. Then, in early January, I take it all down again, discarding the inevitably broken ornaments that result each year. I have a ton of ornaments my mom gave me– some of which were around before I was even born and don’t even make it to the tree anymore.

I was thinking about some of the ornaments that mean something to me, though. I have some that were given to me by people I haven’t seen in thirty years. I have some I made when I was in elementary school. One from first grade (a burgundy fire glazed church); one from second ( a Christmas tree made of salt dough that I colored with magic marker); one from fifth grade (a painted rocking horse that looks shitty because I couldn’t decide what color I wanted and finally went with white); and one from sixth grade, (a misshapen sled made of popsicle sticks and spray painted gold).

Art was not my strong suit when I was in school. I was good at drawing things, but could never stay in the lines. I had terrible handwriting then and now, actually. I liked art, but could never settle on a concept. So I’d end up with ugly white rocking horses with too many colors used for the saddle, rocker, and saddle pad, which I’d painted on myself, since all saddles need pads under them, as far as I’m concerned. I’d had a vision in my head, but changed my concept when it was too late.

The ornament that really gets me, though, is the church. I went to a public school in Fairfax, Virginia for first and second grades. In 1978, people didn’t care if the teacher presented churches to children as Christmas ornaments. I want to say we had a choice of which one we wanted. I never liked church as a kid, but I must have thought the church ornament was the coolest looking one. I could also tell that the teacher did the heavy lifting in the making of that ornament, since it still looks really nice in 2020. Like I said… I wasn’t one to stay in the lines when I colored. I’m sure that today, kids in public schools aren’t offered religious subjects for their Christmas art projects. Actually, I’d be surprised if they do any kind of Christmas themed stuff anymore, but I really have no idea. Things have changed so much over the past few decades.

Then there were ornaments on the tree we bought when we lived near Neiman Marcus. My sister gave us a $100 Neiman Marcus gift card as a wedding present. $100 doesn’t buy much at that store, so we decided to use it to buy Christmas ornaments. For the first twelve Christmases we spent together, we hung those ridiculously pricey ornaments on a fake tree we bought at Rose’s Discount Store for $50. I hated that tree, because it had poorly color coded branches and it took forever to put it together. We finally bought a new tree in 2013, because I was tired of dealing with the old one. I remember before we left Texas, we put the tree out with other stuff to be picked up by the city. Trash pickers removed all of the valuable scrap metal, then some Jehovah’s Witnesses came by to take some of the rest of it. Naturally, they left the tree. No one else wanted it, either.

We have a small tree we bought the first time we lived in Germany because we forgot to pack our Christmas stuff. I haven’t had the heart to throw it out yet, although I think when it’s time to go back to America, we’ll be leaving it here. Every year, it loses more “pine needles” and makes a mess. I also look forward to doing away with the horrible German lights we have. For some reason, the light strands have about twenty feet of wire before the string starts. They have very heavy duty, plastic, bulky plugs, too, which take up a lot of room on the power strip. I threw out a perfectly good light strand today, because it was hopelessly tangled and would have taken forever to straighten out. We’ll just get a new strand next year, if we’re still living in Europe.

After we finished taking down all the Christmas stuff, we put clean sheets on the bed, and I vacuumed the living room. Then I cleaned the toilet and took a shower. For a filthy person who lives “like a pig”, I sure do a lot of housework. That’s another issue that I hope will be resolved in 2020…

Mother-in-law is coming next week. We’ll have more housekeeping to do before she arrives and becomes our first houseguest at this address. I’m eager to hear what she thinks of our vastly upgraded digs. Bill also has to order new tires for the Volvo, since the ones we paid 470 euros for last week are snow tires… and somehow, we have to get our “Real IDs” to prove we’re Americans… not that I’m proud of it, lately. I hate this time of year, but at least we have a lot to focus on this year.

Standard