Category Archives: holidays

Be Mine ~ Or at Least Be Someone to Somebody

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I have a plan this year for Valentine’s Day. You might like it. But first, the conventional stuff.

Again, it’s marital engagement season. One of them, anyway. I’m in the in-between years where my peers are married or done with all that, and my YPs aren’t old enough to get hitched, so other than working the weddings of strangers for pay (often hilarious), I have gone to no weddings in decades except for those on Gilmore Girls. Which I did feel that I attended, with my niece. We cried and cried.

As things progress somewhat towards post-pandemic on Earth, and the “wow factor” heads once again to new heights at parties, I’m super looking forward to over-the-top wedding Port-o-sans®, which reside now inside a sort of mobile home. (“Rosalyn, aren’t you coming back to the reception?” “Oh no, it’s much nicer in here, what with the little fireplace and sconces and chutneys and all…I’m just going to knit a few rows…”).

Yes, we’ve come a long way, baby, since the 1969 Woodstock Concert in terms of portable toilets. Though its famous Port-O-San cleaning man’s noble attitude towards his job, which probably cannot be found in modern tymes, made up for lack of fancy amenities in the concert’s potties. See him excerpted here from that classic documentary, Woodstock (1970).

When figuring out what year something happened, I find that because I didn’t bear children to do the reverse math by (“Hmm, Trevor was utero then and now is 23, so it was the year 2000…”), I sometimes use disasters as time delineators. “It was right before the Oklahoma City bombing; 9/11; Haitian earthquake; Indian Ocean Tsunami; BP Crisis; S&L scandal; Hurricanes Katrina (2005) or Sandy (2012) or the slew of 2017—Harvey, Irma and Maria (paper towels, anyone?); Cali mudslides and wildfires (which ones?!). This is a horrible way to track time, which I highly unrecommend. I recall a few Valentine’s Days that were disasters in and of themselves—for friends or myself. Surely we are not alone in this.

So here’s my Valentine’s plan this year: on that day, I’m just going to spread love and affection. Why does it have to be about romantic love?  My mother sent us “balentines” up until she died. A friend and I call each other “Val” because we decided to be each other’s, the year after our mens disappeared. Someone recently dropped off a great number of fleece hats at our church, with a note that said simply, “Use them.” Now that’s a valentine, a symbol of love, given freely. Thank you, kindly hat maker.

If I had a lot of time or coin I’d do something major on that day, but I’ll have to satisfy myself with small gestures. A door held open. Groceries carried. A wheelchair pushed. A phone call long overdue. It doesn’t have to be about Hallmark but if that’s what you want, no shame! Cute cards are all over, try Royal Towne Gifts—get one for your lonely neighbor or favorite librarian. An underpaid worker you see weekly. The mail carrier. Road crew.

I think our true Valentine this year will be the comet named C/2022 E3. Which I haven’t seen due to our seeming perpetual cloud cover. Hopefully, someone spotted the small asteroid 2023 BU as it whizzed by within 2,000 miles of South America last week, in one of the closest approaches ever recorded. Crazily, it was discovered by an amateur astronomer in Crimea, Gennadiy Borisov, who has discovered other comets plus asteroids from his very own observatory. I like this guy!

Your last, best chance to see Comet C/2022 E3 should be during the Grammy Awards on Sunday, February 5 when it will be close to star Capella, so bundle up and look up – instructions here. Binos required. That’s what bird watchers call binoculars. Show yourself, C/2022 E3! Be mine. Be ours.

Promise to Dear Reader: if I ever get married, I’m going to have the most exquisite Port-o-sans you’ve ever visited. There will be Baroque décor, stationary bicycles, palm readers, hovercraft, origami – and a petting zoo for the children. When someone at the reception says, “I’m going to see a man about a horse,” s/he won’t be kidding. You’re all invited. Good Valentine’s Day.

The Little Engine That Could, Part Deux

In December, 1,500 toys were collected one by one for the children of our Vermont town’s “sister city” in Ukraine. Once again, our town thought it would be a miracle if our shipment made it. Once again, we gave it a go anyway.

Thought it might be nice to remind people of the good in this crazy world. Thank you to everyone who helped make it happen. Here’s a great little video from the woman behind the sleigh. Break out the Kleenex®.

The New Year: Just Grab That Ball and Keep Running

New Year’s Resolutions have a bad rep, perhaps deservedly so. That said, I made some and have been sticking to them. More or less. Has Dear Reader made any? Are you complying?

I read odd ones that people had submitted to the New York Times. One person vowed to stop using the words “very” and “really” so much (seems innocent… I mean if that’s all you have to change about yourself, you’re doing really very well). So I guess we can resolve to do (or stop doing) whatever the heck we want! I’ll come up with something embarrassing for you by the end of this piece.

Important: If you had a resolution but dropped the ball, no need to chuck it into the stands and limp off to the locker room in disgrace. Just pick up that blasted ball and keep on going. There’s no ref, baby. No rules. It’s all you. I paraphrase the Alec Baldwin character in “Glengarry Glen Ross”: Always Be Resolving. 

For now, I’ve resolved to: join a gym (or something); make more time for spirituality (of a cosmic stripe); learn a bunch of tech (e.g., how to operate 10 things on my phone that I don’t even know exist). Maybe how to insert a Box and Whisker into a Word document (what?).  Hell, I might need that. To learn the lingo of the young people, such as “quiet quitting” and “flava,” along with “le dollar bean” so I know what the heck people are talking about. 

Timing is everything. Who wants to jump out of bed on a winter’s morn? Perfect time to read. The local paper (ahem) or an actual book. Not screens. It feels a luxurious indulgence in the morning, not like a checklist item, and deliciously old school. When stuck somewhere traveling, delete photos, video, apps, and emails that eat up phone space. I deleted ALL on my junk email account with one motion… freeing! Timing.

Yes, timing. Who wants to drink booze in January after all that bloaty holiday merrymaking? Meditate, not medicate! It’s more calming, more slimming, and way less wear on your organs. Meditation and rest make your organs happy.

Further: I resolve to drink as much hot cocoa as want and cry as much as I please. Who cares? There is much to be sad about. Let it rip. Cocoa beats scotch, which is pricey, makes you loopy, and glosses over your sorrows. Why not experience your sorrows and wail away for a bit? Then you’re able to move onto Mood B, which just may involve Hope.

True Goal: Rather than focus on the problems I can’t solve, I aim to focus on those that I can, like helping with literacy (okay, “such as” helping with literacy). Give someone else hope. If you’re not part of the solution, you’re part of the despair.

Mainly in 2023, I aim to laugh and make others laugh more because I’ve noticed that, for sure, people used to laugh a LOT more. Life has gotten harder which means we have to laugh harder. When you’re laughing, you can feel hope. Have I dropped this ball yet? Yes! But I can pick it right back up or pass it to the experts.

There are plenty of hilarious books. Countless funny movies and shows, e.g., Avenue 5Silicon Valley, the John Mulaney standup shows (try New in Town and The Comeback Kid), and apparently mind-blowing Rothaniel comedy special by Jerrod Carmichael, or that clean old movie gem, Mother, with Albert Brooks. I allow myself two TV shows per week. My TV is mostly cheery background noise. Including football where grown men slam into each other for big paychecks. I can’t watch, but I can listen to the fans. It’s like an expensive radio.

Ah, radio! Wait Wait… Don’t Tell Me at 11 am on Vermont Public Radio on Saturdays (or podcast) has you hooting no matter what mood you’re in. Get in a car or go to vermontpublic.org and play it there as you putter about if you own no radio. Who does?

Word to unload in 2023: this “huddle” word used in business, for “small group meeting.” It comes from sports, but it sounds way too much like “cuddle.” Cuddling with coworkers…the visual…snort. 

In closing, I acknowledge that Dear Reader is tired. We all are. Sleep more while the nights are still long. Sleep well. Dream of dropped balls retrieved with ease, and laughter, and problems solved, and hope. Good rest, good year, and good day.

O Come, Let Us Assemble It    

There seems to be some pushback this year, in various media, against the “Magic of Christmas.” I understand. Times have changed. It’s not Bing Crosby’s holiday so much any more. Hallmark’s cookie-cutter Christmas movies seem woefully out of touch. (The personal assistant saves the day and wins the heart of the widowed billionaire… again! The guy on the Snow Ball committee helping the down-and-out girl, able to value her quirky ways, is secretly… a prince… again! With the requisite cookie-baking scene…flour on his and her noses… adorable!). What happened to the good stories? They used to be good.

This year perhaps more than most, money is an issue, germs remain an issue, and weather, fuel costs and world events are bringing us down. Power outages have caused many people and businesses real hardship.  Perhaps a creature or person you love died. It’s hard to care much about the Perfect Gift—or even wrapping it. I, for one, used to get very, very into wrapping.

They say nostalgia glosses over the past. Makes it seem prettier or more enchanted than it was at the time. As a nostalgic, who talks to other nostalgics, I don’t buy that. We say it was in fact enchanted. The following story illustrates when Christmas was pure magic. 

I preface the tale with my own childhood proclivity for holiday snooping. Driven in part by our keen sense of smell, my siblings or I would notice something in December when we went to, say, get a towel from the closet. That smell. Sniff, sniff. Why does it smell like that in here? The unmistakable smell of… fun

The smell of toys. Plastics. Whatever they pumped into the air in toy stores to make you want live there. That smell was, weirdly, right in our own closet. Let us get a step stool and investigate! Dear Reader knows where I’m going with this. Snooping for presents secreted away by the parents during the weeks leading up to December 25th. Many of them mercifully already wrapped by the grandparents and aunts who’d mailed them. 

On to the story. I hope to do it justice.

My Vermont friend was a little boy growing up with his older brother in the 1960s. Remarkably, their parents took seasonal nighttime jobs in addition to their already demanding day jobs in order to pull together a nice Christmas for their two sons. Which left the sons entirely to their own devices several nights per week. At which point the snooping naturally began.

They found in a closet one year a well-made and elaborate Lionel train set they had badly wanted. Overcome with excitement, they got on the step stool and brought it down. Very, very carefully, they unboxed it. And proceeded to put it together. It was complicated and took a long while. Then they played with it happily for hours. With an eye to the clock, they very, very carefully re-boxed it, got on the step stool, and put it away. Each night they went through this ritual. Each night they got faster at assembling the set, and at re-packaging it perfectly.

On Christmas day the boys could have won Oscars® for the gleeful surprise they displayed upon opening the well-made and elaborate Lionel train set they had badly wanted. They were eager to put it together, this time without fear that they might get caught. The train set was finally theirs.  

The parents were beside themselves with the Christmas Day delight they had brought to their sons. All their hours of hard work had paid off. They felt as much joy as their sons. Their joy was overtaken by astonishment. Look at them go! Our boys! How could our sons be this clever, this talented, that they could assemble the thing with such rapidity? They must be advanced, possibly even geniuses! Clearly, they must go into engineering.

I love that story. I don’t know if they ever told their parents—ask David Atkinson for the full story. For now, it stands as is: a charming, true tale told at dinner one night at a holiday party in Vermont. It brought the house down. Magical times revisited.

The story takes me back to our own childhood. When Mommy would make a huge deal about  snowfall, illuminating the outside lights and opening the curtains so we kids could gaze at the different sizes and shapes of the swirling flakes. When Dad building a fire was a thrilling and special occasion; even the dog got excited. When hot chocolate was made by us children with 50% marshmallows—the big, fat, “jet-puffed” kind—as tinsel clung to our polyester pants and dog, and the parents sloshed brandy into their eggnog. Our hearts soared at the holidays.

Now Mommy is gone and Dad can’t build a fire. But there is still something about snow falling, seeing someone drive by with a carefully selected tree atop their car, children terrified or overjoyed to meet Santa at a town gazebo, and the first few bars of pretty much any Bing Crosby carol. It legitimizes our nostalgia. There was holiday magic. There was. I was there, I felt it. As, hopefully, Dear Reader, did you. If we can’t feel it this year, for whatever reasons, let us quietly watch others feel it. It’s out there. Even if we’re taking a year off ourselves. Good (holi)day to all, with love and memories.

Tip for Parents: Hide the step stool.

Those Three Little Words

tempImage9gL1KMThis time of year, the romantic love promo machine kicks into high gear. People without a partner, or a partner that seems not to care, feel Less Than. It’s enough to make you irritable.

But then everyone is irritable lately, so you’ll blend right in. Even Siri is cranky. “Ready to send it?” she asked this week. I did not respond quickly. READY TO SEND IT?? she repeated. I said never you mind, Missy, I’ll send it myself.

The reality is you don’t need romantic love to be happy. You can love all manner of things. Your home. The arts. A creature. Night. Friend Denise said that in 2022 she wants to do more things that bring her joy. Smart. Maybe you love a sport or hobby. Doing good deeds. Cooking. Napping.

Me, I love bargains. Like discounted grocery items (expired oatmeal: the other ancient grain), and buying used medical supplies on eBay. Also watching the Olympics, much as the winter sport crashes terrify. Resting. Learning an instrument or language. Sending unexpected gifts. And reading those three little words that form the perfect sentence. More on that later.

Angels among us 

In December I searched online for Flash Mobs because my niece had suggested we do one at a Catholic christening we were to attend. I gazed at Youtube, entranced by mall shoppers suddenly ripping into Ode To Joy. As one will, I got sucked into other Youtube recordings, and came across Angels Among Us by Alabama. Despite the corny 80s filming and styling (sunglasses indoors) and overt whiteness, I dug the song; the images of simple people who had done great deeds (including two children) had me bawling. I dare you.

Never trust a snow bank

In a recent storm, I drove through a slender snowbank in a parking lot, which sadly concealed a curb I had never seen before. In nautical terms, I ran aground. After frantic calls to the manly men I know, no one could help beyond some best-guess suggestions, including Trusty Editor who was, I think, impressed with my trick driving. I sped on foot to NAPA for pro advice, where two manly men were eating pizza in a large pickup, the kind of rig that means business. You could tell they were the sort of men that know…everything. I explained my car was on a curb. Expressionless, they set aside their pizza and followed me.

At the scene, one instructed, “You’ll throw it in reverse and we’ll lift it.” (You’ll LIFT it? A car?) Sure enough, after briefly analyzing angles, they lifted it exactly right, off the curb. I gushed, “I wish I could embrace you without COVID!” One replied, almost amused, “There are nice people out there.” With no ado they returned to their truck and pizza pie, which I’d have paid for if I’d had any cash. While they looked like the type of men that don’t accept much in the way of thanks for a good deed, I nonetheless should have offered. Gentlemen, if you see this, I owe you a pizza. Good people indeed. Angels among us.

So, Dear Reader, stop being cranky, shop local for your Valentine, whoever or whatever that is, and do things that bring you joy. Lie down outside and look at the stars. Help or be helped by a stranger. Build a snow fort. And, oh, the perfect three little words?  Reduced To Clear. Bring on the bargains. Good day.

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Have Yourself a Sorry Little Breakdown

The doldrums is a nautical term for the belt around Earth’s equator where sailing ships can get stuck on windless waters for days—an apt metaphor even in landlocked Vermont.

For those who get in serious doldrums after the holidays, you’re not alone. In the 70s, as the tree splintered and shed, we’d beg our mother, “One more day!” Understanding, she’d consent to leave it up. I still suffer while boxing up decorations accumulated over 50 years, many hand made by beloved people now grown—or gone. It physically hurts and I go down.

My theory on the plummet’s severity is this: a combination of most humans’ inability to make transitions easily, plus the nostalgia of where one was 5, 20 or 30 years ago—or even just pre-COVID.The holidays are an annual plunge into sentimentality that wrecks some people for a while. After all the togetherness, even if at times fighty, many have to part with beloved people we wished we still lived with, or near, now miles or oceans away. Add to the emotional soup that sometimes we can tell when these people have had enough of us, or vice versa.

There’s something about that pre-holiday hustle and year-end philanthropy. I love the craft sales and transformation of everything from garlanded gas stations to tricked-out buildings. Carols evoke a simpler time. In truth, there were untold disasters and wars and far more domestic abuse back then, fueled by widely accepted over-drinking (think: the “hilarity” of Red Skelton’s drunk character; Dean Martin crooning basted). But hear the first couple of bars of O Holy Night and smell that balsam fir and you are swept back into your own (hopefully abuse-free) childhood or a dreamy image of happier times before you were born. When the decorations left up too long start getting dusty and something—anything—to look forward to seems a long way off, it’s easy to to go into a death spiral.

So last week after a Covid exposure, for the very first time I decided to wallow. None of this Yankee toughie bootstraps crap. No health-giving exercise or efforts to cheer self or others. Just a marathon of self-isolation, sorrow, and mourning.

It was not at first intentional. After leaving family to return to Vermont, I drove and cried until distracted by old radio interviews with Desmond Tutu (an evolved human, yet strikingly down to earth). But then Christmas music came on and sunk me anew, thinking of this very drive I had taken countless times with my now-gone mommy. Once home, I carried inside only my freezable belongings, got in bed, and let it rip. I cried over everything. Loves, parents, pets, houses and friends lost forever. Strangers who got stuck home alone for the holidays by cancelled flights. Refugees. Great people who died in 2021. Awful situations endured both by people I adore and by complete strangers. Sad pieces of fiction I read that never even actually occurred. I ate nothing but old foods around the house. Slept, woke, ate garbage, cried, slept. And you know what happened?

I’d love to say something profound here. But basically….nothing. Nothing happened. I didn’t come up with a grand epiphany. I didn’t resolve to start a new career or humanity-saving nonprofit, invent a climate change solution or clever movie plot. Nothing came of it. As Yukon Cornelius says, “Nuthin’.”

If you bottle it up and never let it out, you’re in trouble. That’s called being repressed. Although I did ask a male friend how he deals with the deaths of his legendarily party-throwing, smarty parents within weeks of each other. His answer: “I keep that locked up deep, deep down inside.” Hell, maybe that’s the right approach. 

The virus and supply chain madness factored in. Due to Covid exposure, I couldn’t leave my apartment for a week upon returning home — Xtreme solitude rarely boosts mental wellness. As for the supply chain, disappointing in December was the lack in stores of favored holiday items, e.g. the annual “limited edition” cookie by Pepperidge Farms’ called Snowballs®. They were only on Amazon—for $19 a bag. A year without Snowballs® is like a year without…Snowballs®. And this year I didn’t get into preparations or meticulous wrapping the way I once did. Threw things into bags with tissue paper. No hand-drawn gift notes. No Christmas cards.  I skipped movies I watch yearly. And all of that, while freeing, ultimately felt crummy. Next year I’m going back to overdoing it. Obviously, that’s the answer. So there’s the epiphany. 

At this time of year I usually suggest one of three things. 

  1. Make a list of what you got done in 2021. You’ll be surprised.
  2. Make a list of intentions for 2022, before it gets frittered away.
  3. Books: Greenlights; A Girl’s Guide to Missiles; Life (Keith Richards); Boys in the Trees (Carly Simon); Good Habits, Bad Habits; Olive Kitteridge, Olive Again, and Oh William; Mobituaries (Mo Rocca); Dodging Energy Vampires; A Girl Named Zippy; All The Light We Cannot See; The Power of Now; How To Be AloneJoyful; Elevation (S. King); and my personal favorite, A Man Called Ove. Email me for a personal recommendation for you. That’s my gift.

Good repression, good wallow, or good New Year with light at the end of the pandemic tunnel. 

Happy Halloween!

I’m celebrating Halloween a day late (and a Mallomar short). I wasn’t in the mood yesterday and as a friend put it, these days, “Every day is Wednesday.” Time is now fluid. I plan to celebrate the election returns late, too. About three months late. But I. Do. Plan. To celebrate.

I’d rather take a Test than celebrate Valentine’s Day

On the eve of everyone’s favorite manufactured holiday, here’s a test for you on absentmindedness from a book on habits. It’s called, cheerily, the Cognitive Failures Questionaire. It may depress you more than Valentine’s Day—or not. Or maybe you entirely forgot it’s Valentine’s Day because you’re absentminded.

Take the test and find out just how bad off you are. Fun!

 

Good Riddance 2019, Hello 2020

My mommy’s holiday necklace.

Dear Reader may need an uplift this time of year, even if it’s dark humor. Let’s dig in.

In 2019, a friend’s limb was amputated. Others had other terrible things happen. Stars from all walks of life departed this Earth, including my mommy. This, as you know, is life. We slash through the bad and relish the good as able. Maybe your 2019 was dire, or your holidays horrible. An ER doctor told me, “The holidays bring out the best in some people, but in many they bring out the worst inner toddler.”

I offer from that pantheon of useful knowledge, the women’s magazine, this: rather than making New Year’s resolutions, why not list the good things that happened to – or because of – you in 2019? My own list includes a holiday party I threw last minute that was a riot, and the community chorus I joined that proved a rollercoaster of faltering and delight, one of the best experiences of my adult life.

Or try these: Maria Shriver envisions a garbage can she dumps crap in to leave behind. White Plains, NY wrote: I read my entire 2019 calendar, marveling at all I overcame. Brooklyn said, “One way I motivate myself, which probably exhibits a considerable pathology, is to imagine a medieval courtroom where seated around a table are people from my past who have either thwarted, opposed, or ridiculed me. They watch a closed-circuit TV feed of me as my willpower fails. I hit snooze, drink that next beer, whatever. They laugh at how I’m a failure. That gets me going at what I should be doing.”

If you dig resolutions, how about music? My minister advised, “Music will get you through the hard times.” Take uke or voice lessons. Join a choral group – you learn while the tenors and basses cause mischief. Get a pet so you have a cutie to come home to. Or read Eckhardt Tolle’s A New Earth, a slog in the beginning but with a pay-off that’ll blow your mind. I requested deep Resolution thots from the nutters I call friends. The printable responses follow.

From CT: Quit buying losing lottery tickets and buy an actual winner. Shelburne, VT: 2019 was awful…I’m planning on less grief and more joy. South Korea: Just living one day at a time. Spain: I have never ruminated over these things, nor do I give a toss about where I’ve been or where I’m going; whatever I’m doing in the moment is pretty much exactly what I want to be doing. The Bahamas: Prepare for transformation – think dragonflies and caterpillars!  And oddly, from three kind Americans: I’d like to be kinder; more patient; give people a chance.

Boston: Break the mold and try new things. Scarsdale: 2020 is the year of the woman! Burlington: I don’t do NYs resolutions because if something is worth changing, it’s worth changing pronto. North Reading: Declutter! Several women: (1) intermittent fasting; (2) looking forward to the current admin being defeated by the female vote. Fairfield: I hope that people feel they’re good enough…that improvements don’t come from comparing yourself to others or their expectations of you, but rather just…to be. NYC: No NYC resolution would be complete without “weight loss.”

Randolph: Release the old, prepare for the new – a new world is anchoring. This past year the illusions of the ego started dying and consciousness awakened. Let’s envision a new earth collectively and personally; what do we really want to experience in this lifetime? Also Randolph: Speak your truth. Maine: After the worst year of my personal life coinciding with the current state of politics and [skullduggery] among people, I find myself often in a dark and angry place; I resolve to focus on mental and physical recovery, resisting the temptation to become a total recluse in a cave.

Now for the cheery ones. Boca Raton: Year moved like lightning, enjoy the moments! Winooski: Support young people to be engaged and stay positive! Williston: 2020 will be a year of promise and prosperity; I will dedicate time to my passions and incorporate them into my profession. Denver: Speak up, ask for what you want, and accept what comes from that.

I end with these. Cancun: The only resolution I ever make is to try and get by with more. Colchester: I plan on openly laughing at people more this upcoming year. That’s still legal I think.

The good news is humans do feel hopeful about 2020. May Dear Reader’s new year bring happy changes, loving vibes, and that elusive minx: luck.  Good day, and good year.

The New York Times Finds Jesus

Home delivery of The New York Times...to the manger. (The Times is in blue plastic on the bed of pine.) All the news that’s fit for the coming of the Lord?

A friend snapped this on her early morning walk. I can’t tell if the topmost angel is strolling down the sidewalk or suspended in mid-air.  Either is good.*

*Inside tidbit: As I was entering germane “tags” for this post into WordPress, one mysteriously autofilled when I entered the tag, “Jesus learns to read”: Advice to youth in the workplace.  Snort.

 

Life-sized creche, Pleasantville, NY, USA

©Moelino 2019.

Thank you, Jesus!

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