Thanks to our trip to Yerevan last week, the holiday season has kind of crept up on me. Tomorrow is Thanksgiving, and because Bill just had oral surgery, it may not be much of a celebration for us. I used to love Thanksgiving. It was my favorite holiday for many years, but in Germany, it doesn’t mean that much. I know some people celebrate Thanksgiving here, and there are even a couple of restaurants that offer Thanksgiving dinner for the American crowd. But since it’s just the two of us, we don’t always make a big deal out of it… and this year, Bill has stitches in his mouth.
I used to love decorating for Christmas, but now it seems like a pain in the ass. I do like putting up the trees (we have two), because I like how they look. They make our living room look more lived in, and the lights are pretty. But it’s an ordeal to decorate, because I don’t necessarily enjoy it, nor am I very good at it. Nevertheless, I have started the process. Yesterday, I started bringing up the decorations. This morning, I brought up the trees and ornaments. I’ve already put up the trees and put out the decorations. I just have to add the lights, garlands, and ornaments. I may do that later today. There’s no need to rush.
Then there’s buying gifts and wrapping them. I don’t mind the buying part, but I’m not very good at gift wrapping. Some people have a real knack for making packages look perfect and festive. Not me! I didn’t inherit that gene from my mom.
Speaking of my mom, I talked to her yesterday. She said she’s been suffering from vertigo lately, but is otherwise doing fine. She was going to to go the family reunion in Natural Bridge, Virginia, where my dad grew up, but decided to cancel because of the vertigo. She also realized that a lot of the people she’d like to see are either dead or not coming to the party. So, being ever pragmatic, she’s staying home. Pragmatism is one gene I did inherit from my mom.
Bill picked up our Czech paintings yesterday. They look fabulous. I’ve already hung them. He also dropped off our new Armenian paintings to be framed. I’m thinking I’d like to have a few more of our unframed paintings framed. Maybe after Christmas, we’ll do that. I think we have a couple of new stools being made for our wine barrel table. I love how the bird painting turned out!
The one thing I would like to do very soon is add a new dog to our family… But I have to find the right one, and that could take time. Now is a good time, though. We have no trips planned.
I guess I can be grateful that we have no holiday drama. That used to be an annual fixture of both Bill’s and my holidays, before we were married. Now, we can just celebrate together, and be assured that there will be no fighting or other bullshit to contend with. Just good food, good humor, good music, and lots of booze. 😉 Maybe there won’t be as much booze this year. Don’t want to upset my stomach.
Christmas is a nice time in Germany. I should just enjoy it, if only for the Christmas markets. This time of year makes me a little crazy, though. I’m not gonna lie. But it’s coming. The undecorated Christmas tree in our Dorfplatz is already up.
The weirdness of the past nine months are starting to get to me somewhat. Last night, I was feeling “cheeky”, as the Brits would say. Although I haven’t personally suffered as much as a lot of people have, I have been feeling kind of “tense” lately. Little things bug me more than they might usually, not that I’m a particularly laid back person to start with.
I always get a bit nutty during the holidays. When I was growing up, the holidays were always fraught with expectations that were never quite met. As I became an adult, the holidays became downright unpleasant. For several years, my eldest sister hosted our family gatherings in her house. I can remember a lot of fights with my sisters and tense moments with my parents, especially my dad.
The last time I spent Christmas with my family of origin was in 2003, just after my sister Sarah had her son, who turned out to be the last grandchild. Imagine that. My parents had four girls. You’d expect there would have been a lot of grandkids for them. But nope… My sister Betsy had two kids, a girl and a boy, Becky never married, Sarah had a son, and Bill and I couldn’t have kids thanks to his vasectomy. The older I get, the more I think that might have been a blessing. Family life has become surreal these days. I feel kind of divorced from mine.
Add in the shitshow that 2020 has been, and this year’s holiday season is even weirder than usual. So I had a good laugh when I ran across a funny video by Sandy and Richard Riccardi, a talented couple on YouTube and Facebook who make funny parodies of popular songs. A lot of their material is political, but sometimes they do songs about common situations that come up in everyday life. I think the first song I ever heard by this funny duo was a song called “Unfriend Me”…
Since Trump came on the scene, this couple has come out with some very amusing songs about him, as well as some of the current events that affect everyone. I like a lot of their stuff, but I don’t always love what they do. Like, for instance, I wasn’t a big fan of this song…
To be clear… I get that the masks are necessary for now. I’m just really fed up with some how people feel emboldened to constantly clobber people over the head about them. I hate the aggressive, belligerent, and obnoxious hashtags, and in your face slogans like, “Wear a damn mask!”. I don’t think those types of messages are helpful. They certainly don’t inspire respect or compliance.
Yesterday, I was reading a Facebook thread started by true crime author Kathryn Casey, who wrote that she had sent away a couple of maskless workers who had come over to do work on her house. The workers mocked Casey’s husband when he asked them to wear masks while they were working. A thread ensued, in which people were congratulating Casey for sending away the maskless workers and hiring a different company. Casey’s choice to fire the workers would have been alright with me, but accompanying those comments were others that were hostile and aggressive. One lady wrote about how she was tired of how non mask wearers were so “belligerent”. Then she wrote, “Wear a damn mask or stay home!”
Another lady wrote that she was tired of people telling her to “wear a damn mask or stay home.” She explained that she has an eating disorder, lives in a remote area where grocery delivery is unavailable, and has a medical problem that prevents her from wearing a mask. None of her friends or family have offered to help her, so she’s been having to deal with people getting up in her face about her lack of a mask for what, I assume, is a real medical problem.
A third woman came along and, in a rather haughty, holier than thou tone, asked what the woman’s medical problem was. She included a news article (which is what everybody seems to use to cite their points these days) and claimed, per the news article, that there are very few medical problems that actually prevent a person from wearing a mask. This woman added that maybe she could see it if the woman with the eating disorder had a burn on her face or something. But otherwise, she felt the lady with the eating disorder was full of shit– despite not knowing her or her personal situation.
I couldn’t restrain myself from commenting. I feel like a lot of people aren’t really giving this issue much consideration. If I sit here and think about it, I can think of several medical problems that might make wearing a mask difficult or impossible for some people. Just off the top of my head, I’m remembering the two men I’ve met at different times in my life who were literally missing parts of their ears and had trouble using their hands due to injuries they’d sustained in wars. Then there are people who don’t hear well, have speech impediments or breathing problems, deal with severe anxiety or PTSD issues, or have trouble with their vision.
But most people don’t stop and consider people who really do have legitimate problems with wearing the masks. They just say, “Wear a damn mask!” If someone doesn’t or can’t comply, they think they are entitled to an explanation regarding another person’s private medical situation. And they think their opinions about another person’s circumstances have merit, and they are entitled to weigh in, even though they don’t know the other person from Adam and aren’t any more knowledgeable about the pandemic, or public health issues in general, than the average person is.
The “Wear a damn mask” slogan, in my opinion, is too aggressive. Those who truly don’t care about others will simply ignore it. Those who can’t comply will just feel worse than they need to about something beyond their control. And that harsh directive just adds to the overall dehumanized, dystopian, and downright creepy vibe in the air this year. It’s very depressing to me. Although personally, I don’t have it bad at all, I often think of the relatives I’ve recently lost and think they’re lucky to have escaped this living hell. The future seems bleak, and the constant anger and polarization only makes it worse. It makes me want to check out.
I can’t be the only one who feels like this, so I decided to respond to the woman with the eating disorder. I wrote that I was sorry she was having a hard time and I hoped it would get better for her. And I find it rich that people are complaining about belligerent “anti maskers” while they make aggressive demands like “Wear a damn mask!”, and aren’t willing to consider why people legitimately can’t or won’t wear a mask. I added that I won’t ask her what her health problems are, because they are none of my business.
Frankly, if I see someone who isn’t following the rules, I just stay away from them, if I can. I don’t automatically assume they’re selfish assholes. While I’m well aware that there are selfish assholes out there who simply don’t want to comply with the rules, it’s less depressing to me to assume the best about people whenever possible. Or, at least I like to tell myself that.
After that little exchange, I was feeling tense. But I ran across another funny, snarky song by the Riccardis. This one was called “Braggy Christmas Letter”. It had nothing to do with any of today’s most annoying and pervasive topics. I just thought it was funny, so I shared it.
I had a good laugh as I listened to this song. It reminded me of how, about fifteen years ago, I ran across a family Web site created by a Mormon doctor in Wyoming who, by all images, seemed to be living the perfect life. I remember this guy had every single braggy Christmas letter he’d ever written posted on his site. He’d been divorced, but he even included the letters he’d written while he was with his first wife. I remember sharing that site with people on RfM, who are very familiar with “braggy Christmas letters”. While I don’t think the Mormons have cornered the market on this particular habit, I do think churches that promote a “prosperity gospel” message– ie; if you’re doing really well financially, that means God is smiling on you– prompt certain religious people to send these types of Christmas messages, even if they’re stretching the truth. It’s the whole, smug “seriously, so blessed” vibe that, on the surface, may seem harmless, but can make other people feel really small and devalued.
I didn’t think the above video would be controversial, but somehow even the most innocuous things can become that way. Why? Because everyone is different and sees things differently. Apparently, some people like getting “braggy Christmas letters”. I’m sure they have their reasons for feeling that way. Maybe they genuinely like reading that others are “seriously, so blessed”, with expensive houses, fancy cars, perfect figures, and fat bank accounts. I guess they’re above the petty, snarky people who poke fun. Or they like to appear that way.
I don’t mind getting newsy letters that contain positive news, especially when they aren’t mass produced. But there’s a big difference between a friendly letter with happy news in it and a letter that seems meant to make other people feel insignificant and second rate. The letter Sandy Riccardi is singing is the latter type, and I can’t imagine being happy to receive one of those, especially if they come every year like clockwork. I wonder if the people who were being contrary on that thread actually listened to the song before they commented. Or maybe they just wanted to feed their own egos by being contrary and “above” the snark.
So I got even more tense and grouchy… and Bill, who is always game to make me laugh (and it’s not hard to do), said “You know, Oscar the Grouch never invites anyone to his trash can.”
To which I responded, “But I invited you, Bill. How do you like the smell?”
And then we both laughed.
There was a time when most people had real conversations with people face to face or, at least, on the phone. Nowadays, a lot of us connect via social media. That can lead to a host of communication problems that range from everything from misunderstandings to people feeling emboldened to be mean or smarmy because they’re behind a screen. Some folks also feel that social media is the best place for them to preach or “set a good example” for others to follow. I will admit that it’s annoying to me when people feel the need to check their neighbors and give them unsolicited “special help”. It makes me grouchy.
I don’t even wear a bra anymore. I figure people can deal with my sagging boobs as well as my wrinkles and jowls. It’s been a rough year.
A lot of people thought it was funny. But then I got this response, which sounded like something my mother might say…
I choose to care about my appearance because if I look good, I feel equally good!
(My mom did actually say that shit to me when I was a teenager, dirty and stinky from hanging out at the barn all day, or simply not wanting to dress up and put on my face. Mom likes wearing her makeup. I don’t. What can I say? People are different.)
So my response was…
Most of us are legitimately guilty of being smug sometimes, and inflicting our self-righteous, superior bullshit on others. Sometimes I do it myself, although I try to be conscious of it. I mean, you might say I did the same thing to the woman who was harassing the lady with the eating disorder about her reluctance to “wear a damn mask”. But I doubt the lady with the eating disorder will offer me a cookie, especially as I dwell in my trash can of grouchiness.
One last note: I think my landlord’s grandsons think I’m grouchy. They rang my doorbell yesterday while I was binge watching The Crown. I thought they were delivery people. I opened the door; the dog was barking; I wasn’t dressed; and they were speaking very quietly in German. I didn’t understand or even hear them very well, so I said I didn’t understand and closed the door.
In my defense, in Jettingen, I used to get visits all the time from all manner of people wanting to sell everything from many kilos of apples and potatoes to religion or charities. The visitors came in all shapes, sizes, and ages. I had not met my landlord’s grandchildren, so I didn’t know who they were.
They rang the bell again, and my landlord asked me if I wouldn’t mind fetching their ball, which had gone over the fence. I felt pretty bad, and I noticed that one of the boys was cowering under our front stoop. I got the ball and tossed it to my landlord. Then I noticed he’d left us a wheelbarrow full of firewood. Later, I spotted their ball in the backyard again and felt another pang of guilt. I guess the kids were too afraid to tell me the ball was back in my yard. I tossed it over the fence for them. Hope they find it.
I’m really not a bitch most of the time… I’m just on edge, as we all are. Hopefully, next year will be better.
A lot of people love Christmas. They love shopping, decorating, baking, eating, exchanging gifts, drinking libations, and all of the other stuff that comes from Christmas. When I was a child, I loved Christmas. It was fun to get presents and hang out with my sisters, who would come home from college for Christmas. My parents were into their musical stuff, so I’d get the house to myself a lot. When I joined choirs myself, I’d have musical stuff to do, which was great. Then I finished school, and wasn’t in choirs anymore.
When I got to my twenties, I started finding Christmas depressing. That was mainly because I was forced to spend the holidays with my family, and there were often a lot of fights during that time. Also, during that time of my life, I was always broke, yet I was usually working in retail or restaurant environments where people were spending money. I couldn’t afford to buy presents, and even if I could afford to buy them, I didn’t know what people liked or wanted.
When I married Bill, I started enjoying the holidays again… that is, when his ex wife or my family weren’t causing problems. Now, we’re at a point at which we can afford to have nice holidays. We can buy presents, enjoy good food, and since we live abroad, there’s no pressure to hang out with people who start fights. I like that. I still kind of find Christmas depressing, though. This year, I think it might be because of the weather.
It’s actually not very cold in Germany right now. I just took Arran for a walk, and didn’t even need a jacket. It’s about 50 degrees. I’ve been having some back and hip pain lately, so the walk was a bit painful. But it was also depressing because the sun hasn’t been out in ages. It’s dark, gloomy, and wet outside. There’s mud everywhere, and the balmy temperatures remind me of global warming. I remember eleven years ago, we were living in Germany and I would never dream of going out in December without a jacket. Since then, it’s been getting warmer and warmer. It makes me worry about the future of the planet.
Then I think about my friends and family. I haven’t been “home” since November 2014, and several aunts and uncles have died since then. I feel like I don’t know my family very well anymore, and most of them probably don’t care to see me anyway. This week, Bill is TDY again at a place where I can’t easily join him. So I’m going to be here alone all week, probably buying presents… but we won’t be here for Christmas. We’re going to France to see a friend of mine. I’m looking forward to that, at least. I hope it all goes well. I’m actually a little worried about finding places to eat on the ways there and back. We’re staying two nights in Beaune both ways, and the lady who owns the apartment recommended making dinner reservations. But I have no idea where, and I worry that we’ll be stuck eating Domino’s Pizza or something.
I know I shouldn’t feel blue… It would probably help if I got out more. This morning, I went back to bed after Bill went to work and started reading Margaret Atwood’s sequel to The Handmaid’s Tale, The Testaments. Honestly, I like the sequel more. I find it more compelling than the original novel, which I struggled to get through. However, I seem to fall asleep every time I start reading. I can’t need to sleep that much, can I? I think it’s because it’s so dark and cloudy outside, and the bed is so comfortable, I just want to stay in my nest. I finally made myself take Arran for a walk, but then my back and hip started hurting. I managed to do the whole loop, but I definitely needed ibuprofen. And that was kind of depressing too, since I’m not that old yet. Give me a few more years before I start getting decrepit, please.
Anyway… I can think of a few things to do, I guess. I hate it when Bill is gone, but I can usually find stuff with which to occupy myself. I realize I’m very fortunate, too, because he has a good job and we have plenty. Not everyone is that lucky. I still really miss Zane, but maybe the new year will bring a new dog into my life. If I can stand to walk it, anyway. And nobody does Christmas quite like Germans do. The local Christmas market is very festive. I just find this time of year dark and depressing.
It doesn’t help that Carroll Spinney, who played Big Bird and Oscar the Grouch, died yesterday. Granted, he was almost 86 years old and lived a long, wonderful life. Still, it made me emotional to get that news. In fact, I cried more over Carroll Spinney’s death than my own father’s. When I heard about Spinney’s demise, I had to watch him at Jim Henson’s memorial, during which he sang “Bein’ Green”. I had a good cry, right there in front of Bill, who picked that time to ask me if I didn’t see that everyone– even me– has worth. I got a little irritated with him, because the video had made me all verklempt. I said it wasn’t the right time for that discussion. He said I was right, then we finished off the chocolate cake I made for Thanksgiving.
Well… if Christmas is depressing, January is usually even more depressing. And so is February. But then the spring comes, and it’s nicer. And maybe we’ll have an idea about how much longer we’ll be here and what the future holds. Maybe I’ll even have a puppy by then.
Perhaps I have a touch of seasonal affective disorder, though. These really short days are depressing and make me want to hibernate. I’d probably feel less guilty about hibernation if it was snowing outside.
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