Category Archives: holidays
This 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.
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.
- Make a list of what you got done in 2021. You’ll be surprised.
- Make a list of intentions for 2022, before it gets frittered away.
- 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 Alone; Joyful; 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.
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.
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!
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.
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
Thank you, Jesus!
Dear Reader, I‘ve done it again. It’s gorgeous outside and everyone is strolling or gardening and I’m inside. Doing my taxes. At the last minute.
Generally, it seems, humans love to get away with something. Like when my mommy would say I could have “a couple” cookies and I’d take three. A friend still has a stapler from our first job together 30 years ago, technically white collar crime; I’m pretty sure her family would have given her a stapler had she asked. Tax advisors to corporate giants find secret, magical tax loopholes, and their clients are rolling themselves in wallpaper paste and 100-dollar bills, having gleefully denied Uncle Sam his due.
My current scam is the Substitute Task System. Say, I’m supposed to write my column. I don’t feel like it, so I scrub the tub. It’s productive but it feels like I’m getting away with something. Later, when I am to vacuum, I’ll sort a drawer. Write birthday cards? Clean the dashboard with a toothpick. All less of a yawner because they’re not the thing I’m supposed to be doing. Then, when I’m supposed to do my taxes, I’ll write my column. You get the picture. By not doing what I’m supposed to be doing, even if I’m doing something measurably less pleasant, I think I’m getting away with something. Delicious.
Back to taxes. Why do I put this off? Because every year I can’t find some document, or I think the accountant is going to ask me for a document I don’t have and I’ll never get through to the people that can get me the document, lost in an endless loop of recorded phone options (“Press 9 to hear these options again”) as the grains of sand cascade hopelessly through the hourglass’s waist.
Or: kindly people at the library, paid by God, are helping me at no cost in a super lean year. They examine my documents and murmur softly, “Uh oh. She has to file a 27-K19…” because of some 75-cent “dividend” I got in a way I don’t understand. They can’t find the 27-K19 form and the good citizens on line behind me begin melting as their kids circle the library in a frenzy. A hole starts opening in the floor and through the smoke I can see the gates of Hell and I’m going down. I am a bad person. I’m unprepared. I never got rid of the thing producing a 75-cent dividend requiring a 27-K19. I’m inconveniencing the hard-working Americans on line behind me. Run.
Weirdly, I’m not by nature a procrastinator. I dislike putting things off. I could never understand college friends concocting cockamamie excuses to get an extension on a paper – why prolong the agony? An inveterate list-maker, little gives me more satisfaction than (a) lining tasks up and (b) knocking them down. Saturday morning is my favorite. A whole DAY to check items off the list. Brilliant!
But filing taxes is simply, for many, an odyssey fraught with peril. One wrong move and it’s Hefty Fine City plus Audited For Life. I’ve done my taxes last-minute in all ways: on paper with an instruction booklet, via affordable accountant, via pricey accountant avec late filing fee (his idea), via kindly people paid by God to help those in a super lean year, by phone (before Al Gore invented the Internet), and with TurboTax (after Al Gore invented the Internet). My suggestion: TurboTax. Start it, ignore it for a few days, and they’ll halve the price to lure you back. Score.
That lucky reward aside, procrastination is ultimately unsatisfying because you’re not getting away with something. In the end, it has to get done. All the sweating and hair pulling and the crying and the bloodletting wreak yet again their senseless damage when you could easily have dealt with things earlier during a blizzard instead, and gone frolicking outdoors with everyone else on a gorgeous Palm Sunday.
Could it, Dear Reader, have been gorgeous that earlier weekend, and a snowstorm this? No, it could not. Mother Nature collaborates with God at tax time to punish human laggards for dillydallying. Hades is the only stop on this terrible annual journey across the River Styx aboard the S.S. Procrastination. It’s not a local, it’s an express. The doors will not open until the last stop and you cannot get off and you know exactly where you’re headed and it’s nobody’s fault but your own that you got on board. Good day.
HOT TIP FROM A LOCAL: A tax-prep service apparently accessible to 70% of Americans, but only 2% use it because no one knows about it: irs.gov/freefile.
I don’t think I can improve upon this old St. Patty’s Day post. It pretty much says it all.
But if you follow me on Twitter (@uvgvt), I’ll retweet the cement mixer parade in Burlington. It’s what we dew.