November 2017

Find Your Merry

“May the day be the bowl of cherriest; And to all, the Merriest!” –June Christy, singing “The Merriest”

“It’s the most wonderful time of the year.”

Is it? That’s the message that gets shoved in our faces at every turn before we can even put away our Halloween candy. But by the time December arrives, things are feeling a little less than “wonderful.”

What is “wonderful” about madly dashing from one get-together to another? Arriving in a full-on sweat, watching the clock to make sure we make it on time to the next party, or to relieve the babysitter, or just figuring up how many hours of sleep we can get if we leave right now? I suppose there’s quite a bit of “wonder”-ing involved in the process of figuring out what to wear to an event described as “Christmas Casual,” or “Festive Attire.” And while all the heavy foods, drinks, and tempting sweets are incredibly “wonderful” the moment they hit our lips, the headaches and extra pounds they leave behind are certainly less than desirable. And what about the gifting? I would estimate about half of my gift list is enjoyable, but the other half is admittedly out of duty or given to people for whom I have absolutely no idea what they may want or need. Another holiday activity I’m 50/50 on? Christmas cards. I love having a great picture of my kids to share, but the arduous process of locking down the perfect photo can be downright painful. I have so much fun combing the web for all the different design options for the card, but panic sets in when I have to commit to the one that will be ours. I get so excited when I go to the mailbox and find holiday greetings from our family and friends, but I feel a distinctly Grinchy sense of dread when I look at the box holding my own unaddressed cards, waiting for my late night undivided attention.

Some holiday activities start out as “wonderful,” then take a hairpin turn into woeful. Take, for example, holiday decorating. For me, decorating anything is a painful process. Bookshelves, bulletin boards, cookies, console tables, even trying to pick out a necklace to go with an outfit is a journey of intense indecision for me. I can look at the placement of objects for hours, wondering if it’s just right or blatantly wrong. So, the task of adorning my home to make it festive for approximately just a month and a half is, well, maybe not the most wonderful time of the year for me.

Each year I start out full of joy and positivity. I don’t do my decorating until after Thanksgiving, so by then I’ve had time to look at scores of catalogs that have landed in my mailbox, making holiday decorating look fun and easy, and most likely completed by Santa’s very own elves. Just a few weeks ago, I captivated an audience of ladies at my daughter’s ballet practice by telling them all about my plans to purchase an all-white Christmas tree and decorate it with shiny ornaments and multi-colored blinking lights. Sure, it might sound tacky, but I saw it in a catalog, and it looked so fun! So easy! So festive! Everyone thought it was a fabulous idea. No one had any advice on where I could find an elf to bring my catalog idea to life. Fast forward a couple more weeks. The Christmas card pictures were snapped, scrutinized, and selected. Thanksgiving was planned, prepared, and consumed. An 8-year-old’s birthday party was hosted and (barely) survived. The Clemson vs. Carolina game was endured. The decorating was next on the list. *sigh*

So, as I’ve done in every year past, I trudged up to the attic and opened the oddly shaped little door that leads to the dungeon where unnecessary things go to finish out their useless lives. There, my gaze settled on scores of boxes and bags of merry and bright STUFF that would all have to be carried downstairs, unpacked, placed, then their boxes returned to the upstairs dungeon. All to be enjoyed for just a few weeks, when the entire process would then have to be reversed. *sigh*

It took almost 2 days and 427 heavy sighs for me to sprinkle holiday cheer around my home. Garlands and wreaths were hung and fluffed (and cursed). Ladders were climbed and dismounted. Three pre-lit trees were assembled and adorned. One had zero working lights. One had a random section of lights that were burned out, which required me to manhandle the entire tree to turn the offending section to the wall. The last tree, the biggest one, didn’t let me down until we added on the last section. I was proud of the way I held my composure up until the moment I had to snake an extension cord from the top of my pricey pre-lit tree down to the floor. The top section needed to be plugged into the timer that I’d carefully set up to provide us with automatic sparkly merriment from the hours of 3:30 to 11:30pm. Like some sort of Christmas Marine, with my belly on the floor and greenery snagging my hair while I dragged myself by the forearms towards the outlet, I searched for the carefully hidden extension cord. I found it and went to connect it to the timer so I could survey my twinkly masterpiece. This was when I discovered that the timer only had one outlet. An outlet that was already occupied by the cord supplying power to the rest of the tree. If I wanted scheduled sparkly merriment, my only choice was to start over with a new timer. *cue cursing and kicking under the tree*

angry elf

And that is the story of how I started drinking wine at 2:00 on a Sunday.

And this is the start of the story of how I turned it all around. The timer dilemma is actually a rather small event in my storehouse of holiday snafus. One year, half the lights went out on the tree after it had been fully decorated. I was planning to just slap a bunch of extra lights on it, but after a closer examination, I noticed that I’d put the sections together in the wrong order. The whole thing had to be disassembled and reassembled AND extra lights strung. Incidentally, that tree ended up at the dump the day after Christmas. One year, the entire tree fell over approximately one hour after the decorating was complete. That tree ended up on the curb, along with dozens of shattered special ornaments. And what about the year that I dragged our little family onto an odyssey to capture the Christmas card photo, only to arrive at the destination and realize that I’d forgotten to pack the camera? That was a long time ago, as in, before the days that phones had cameras. We don’t really talk about that, actually.

So, in the midst of all this drama and these less-than-wonderful duties, where can we find our merriment? For me, it’s not surprising that I find my merry in a song. After I shimmied myself out from under my half-lit tree, located a new timer (and, yes, a glass of wine), and got my corner of the living room sparkling bright, I turned on a little mood music to carry me through the final stages of decorating. I stood back and surveyed roughly 500 pretty little lights and all the boxes of ornaments that were about to escape their exile to get their chance to shine when I heard the first strains of the song that would usher in the official start of the holiday season for me.

“I-I-I don’t want a lot for Christmas…

 “There is just one thing I-I-I need…”

 Y’all, I don’t care what kind of diva-like behavior she displays, Mariah Carey is an angel. She could rob a bank in broad daylight wearing a full-sequined Dynasty-esque dress, carrying a Chihuahua, and when she went on trial, the attorneys would play “All I Want for Christmas” as Exhibit A, and all charges would immediately be dropped.


But maybe that’s just me.

Christmas music, when used in moderation, can cure many holiday ills. I’ve seen it firsthand! In the interest of spreading merriment, and because I can’t buy you all a present individually, I made you a mixtape. Enjoy responsibly.

Jingle All the Way Playlist (get it here on Amazon Music)

“All I Want for Christmas” by Mariah Carey. Because the song is magic.

“Christmas (Baby, Please Come Home)” by Michael Buble. Because it’s a law that every holiday must include some Michael Buble.

“Run Run Rudolph” by Kelly Clarkson. Because she completely rocks this song.

“Blue Christmas” by Elvis Presley. Because he’s the King.

“The Christmas Song” by Nat King Cole. Because of chestnuts roasting on an open fire, duh.

“Cool Yule” by Louis Armstrong. Because he, and this song, are the epitome of cool.

“Donde Esta Santa Claus” by Augie Rio. Because it’s adorable and catchy and we all need to know more Spanish.

“The Man with the Bag” by Kay Starr. Because if you’re not waiting for the man with the bag, you are the man with the bag.

“Mele Kalikimaka” by Bing Crosby & The Andrews Sisters. Because we can all empathize with Clark Griswold and his swimming pool dreams.

“Jingle Bell Rock” by Blake Shelton & Miranda Lambert. Because your family drama doesn’t seem so bad when you compare it to hearing yourself on the radio singing Christmas carols with your ex. Ummm, awkward.

“Merry Christmas Baby” by Lou Rawls. Because “got me some good music on the radio…”

“Jingle Bells” by James Taylor. Because it’s funny to watch people sing along to a song they think they know, but it’s arranged completely differently.

“My Favorite Things” by Tony Bennett. Because Tony Bennett is a national treasure.

“Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer” by The Temptations. Because once you get past the first 15 seconds, your whole family will be singing along.

“Please Come Home for Christmas” by the Eagles. Because sometimes Christmas is sad and it makes us miss our people.

“Sleigh Ride” by Harry Connick, Jr. Because you gotta bring the party back up after those Eagles made you sad.

“Christmas in Hollis” by RUN-DMC. Because the lyrics are actually family friendly and you also want to know who’s really listening to your playlist (hint: they’re looking pensive and saying, “Wait, is that…RUN-DMC??”)

“What Christmas Means to Me” by Stevie Wonder. Because it’s happy and has the right message.

“Winter Wonderland” by Aretha Franklin. Because, in true Aretha fashion, she hits it hard from the first “Sleigh Bells RING.” Oh, I’m listening, Aretha. Bring it.

“Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas” by Ella Fitzgerald. Because that’s what I want for you.

A holiday full of merriment and quality time spent with those precious people that you love and enjoy, free of stress and pressure and unrealistic expectations. It’s a tall order and will take nothing short of a miracle to achieve. But it just so happens that this is the Most Wonderful Time of the Year, and miracles abound if you just open your eyes.




Let’s Be Adults About This

Being an adult isn’t a matter of age. It’s a matter of responsibility.” –Jonathan Howard

For millions of Millennials, “adulting” is trending. Or maybe it isn’t anymore. I’ve been an adult for so long now that I’ve missed the novelty in regularly announcing my proficiency in being a capable and marginally responsible citizen. But apparently, Kids These Days (also known as “Millennials”) saw a need for a hip way to complain about the tragically un-hip, mundane tasks of ordinary life like paying bills, working a full-time job, or maintaining a vehicle. Enter #adulting to the rescue.

Example: “Feeling so ick. Probably should go to doc, but my mom says I have to call and make my own appointment. What the what? UGH. I hate #adulting.”

 Or: “So, you guys, that Check Engine light thing is totes for realsies. #needaride #adultingistheworst”

 Or this one: “It’s Saturday and I’m gettin’ my grocery on! Feeling so accomplished! #adultingonthedaily”

 As a long-time, card-carrying adult, I get a little annoyed by all the fuss made over people just doing what they’re supposed to do. What’s next? Participation trophies for taking out the trash? If so, I’d better clear some space for the motherlode of awards headed my way, because I am the adultiest of adults. I pay the bills on time. I clean out the refrigerator regularly. I make all my people go to the bathroom before leaving the house. I carry a light sweater in case it’s chilly. I use the word “chilly.” I have ibuprofen and lip balm at the ready at all times. For heaven’s sake, I own a garlic press. AND I USE IT. Basically, I could give a TED Talk about adulting. But I won’t because I am too busy, you know, adulting.

The irony of the term “adulting” is that the person using it is likely only scratching the surface of what adulthood really means. Which got me thinking, how does one legitimately earn adult status? Is it turning 18? 21? I don’t think so. I know plenty of 40-year-olds who have miles to go before reaching adulthood. Maybe it’s when you get the boot from your parent’s insurance plan. When you leave college, do you just automatically enter adulthood? Or does your adult card get punched when you send in that first income tax return?

After careful thought and reflection while organizing my garage this weekend (a super-adult-y activity), I’ve come to the conclusion that adulthood is a milestone reached by repeated successful completion of grudging tasks that are necessary for living a productive and hygienic life, and that generally receive no recognition whatsoever. If that last sentence was confusing to you, all it means is that being an adult is complicated, and just spending one Saturday afternoon paying bills doesn’t make you one.

One thing for sure is that once you’ve crossed over into adulthood, it’s nearly impossible to come back. You’re just in too deep. There are many experiences, large and small, memorable and forgettable that eventually earn you the rights and burdens of adulthood. For some people, adulthood is achieved on the 455th morning that they sit in the parking lot of their job, looking at the door, taking a deep breath and saying, “You have to do this. You have to go in there. Again.” For others, they know they’re an adult when they’d rather turn in early on Saturday night because they don’t want Sunday to be a total wash. It’s different for all of us.

As for me, I owe my adulthood status to a rat. I don’t like giving that much credit to a lowly rat, but I’m an adult, and I give credit where credit is due, so there you go. That fact of the matter is, only a real adult can handle a rat and live to tell that tale, without shame. Fellow adults can empathize with me here without judgment.

Do you have a dwelling for which you are solely responsible? Congratulations. You now have problems for the rest of your life. A rat will be one of many excruciating headaches you will encounter. Rats and headaches and dwellings are all very adult-y. You’re well on the way to earning your first adulting trophy.

Dealing with a rat can also earn you a badge in adult problem-solving. Your problem starts innocently enough. You might notice a jagged hole torn into your bag of $12.99/lb organic almonds. Maybe you yell at your husband that he shouldn’t tear into the snacks like some sort of rabid animal. Perhaps he snips back that he didn’t do it because what sort of wacko wants to eat raw, unsalted almonds anyway, and how much did you say those cost?? There’s a chance that when you hold up the vandalized package as evidence you notice an unusual amount of small, dark…crumbs? Those are crumbs, right? Right?

Ummm, no. Those are not crumbs. And those almonds need to go in the trash because, friend, you’ve got yourself a RAT. Not a mouse. A RAT. You see, a mouse runs through mazes while smart people in white coats write things down. A mouse sings and dances and cons you into handing over a month of your salary in exchange for 5 sleepless days in Florida. A RAT exists only to eat your food, leave droppings, and possibly kill you with the plague.

The good news is, you’ve identified the problem. Level complete! Now you need to articulate the problem and accept it. At my house, this usually involves profanity and rage cleaning. Cursing while cleaning is a very adult thing to do. Gold star.

Once you’ve accepted the fact that you’ve been unknowingly sharing your living quarters with plague-carrying vermin, it’s time to solve your problem and serve some eviction notices. An adult steadfastly defends her castle (and the almonds contained within it).

I still remember the first rat I battled. I called my mom to see what I should do. I was not an adult yet. I thought I was, but I obviously still had things to learn because I didn’t take her advice immediately. Mom offered to give me a few traps that she had for just this problem. Oh, no thank you, I said. Surely rat management had come a long way from the old days of using traps. Certainly, there was a better way. If not more humane, at least less visibly barbaric, right? Right?

Ummm, no. True, rodent extermination options are more varied now than in the days of The Pied Piper, but as with most unpleasant duties, in this case the simplest method is the most effective. In my experience, an old-school mousetrap is the way to go if you’re not interested in sharing your living quarters with a rat. Sure, you risk breaking a finger or two in the process of setting the darn thing, but that’s the kind of sacrifice a real adult is willing to make. Rats are certainly smarter than you think, but they also can’t resist the allure of a strategically placed glob of peanut butter, even if it’s sitting atop a spring-loaded platform of death. Be an adult and don’t lose your nerve here. When you start getting all soft-hearted and feeling bad about trapping the rodent, just remember that this uninvited guest has been frolicking like a schoolgirl across your food in the middle of the night, carrying disease on its tiny feet and laughing at you while it leaves souvenirs of bubonic plague confetti. The rat shows you no mercy, so don’t return the favor by being all ethical and civilized.

I am not ashamed of my truth. I fought the rat, and I WON. I am now supremely confident in my status as a bona fide adult. And for any rats out there who think they can help themselves to my almonds, BRING IT. We’re all adults here–and adults don’t play. #adultswin



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