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Posts Tagged ‘holidays’

When you’re sick, if you care about your friends, family and co-workers at all, you shut yourself and your contagion in your home and promise not to infect everyone you care about with your germs. You cough, hack, sneeze and wheeze, shiver and boil all by yourself, reaching out every now and again via Twitter, Facebook, text or the ancient medium of the telephone to contact people and let them know you’re still alive. And, could someone please deliver Popsicles and orange juice to your doorstep?

One thing being sick gives you, is the uninterrupted time to catch up on certain hobbies and entertainments that usually get pushed into the far corners of your available moments, competing against one another for your attention before you fall asleep, exhausted, at the end of another day: Television. Movies. BOOKS.

Ah, books. Glorious pages of imaginable fantasy, fiction, mystery and horror! I have a thriving “to read” list that exists within my Goodreads account, but at the end of each year I like to peruse the Goodreads Choice Awards, adding anything that sounds promising, interesting, different into my queue. Last year, some of the best books I read were ones that I found through a perusal of the Choice Awards finalists for 2011: Deathless by Catherynne M. Valente, The Language of Flowers by Vanessa Diffenbaugh, Ready Player One by Ernest Cline, The Last Werewolf by Glen Duncan, and The Leftovers by Tom Perrotta.

Catching a Christmas bug gave me the opportunity to page through the Choice Awards finalists (and winners) for 2012, and to add a number of new books to my “to read” list. After the many successful stolen titles from last year’s awards, I’m very excited and am looking forward to picking through this year’s finds.

First up, Ella Minnow Pea by Mark Dunn. I finished that one in about three hours this morning over a long breakfast-on-the-couch, nursing a glass of orange juice and clutching a box of tissues. It was a great little satire that pays homage to the English language in a unique way. Classified as a young adult book, this volume should not deter adult readers — it’s packed front to back with voluptuous, meaty words that will have you reaching for your dictionary, just as finishing it will make you want to sit down and practice the art of writing a letter again.

Right before Ella Minnow Pea, I spent the day in bed immersed in the Kindle pages of Robert McCammon’s Swan Song, trying to keep my mind occupied between the 4-6 hour time frame in which I could take more Tylenol for the body aches. Swan Song is a big novel about the destruction — and salvation — of the world. McCammon weaves a rich story from the very separate stories of disparate characters, slowly drawing them together in the years after the POTUS gives the word to start World War III, unleashing all of the United States’ nuclear power while the states absorb the missiles and bombs of other nations.

The scene McCammon paints is gruesome: a devastating portrait of a world torn apart at the seams, riddled with radiation poisoning, and the remnants of humanity that struggle on. It is a dark portrait filled with death and evil, but one that finds its own light within a few individuals whose inside faces are good and valiant. Hope does find a foothold within the devastated Earth — it is brought about by a wrestler, a little girl, and a homeless woman. Swan Song is a big book that doesn’t drag an inch. There are enough characters for McCammon to keep moving between, but not so many (Hello, I’m talking to you, Mr. G. R. R. Martin) that you begin to fear keeping their individual stories clear in your mind. Given the opportunity and time to read the whole thing, it goes by pretty quickly; while in bed, I managed to get from 35% to 100% completion in a little less than a day.

I have two more books in hand to hopefully get me through the last remnants of this damned cold. On one hand, I’m enjoying the unfettered reading time. On the other, I’m anxious to spend some of this holiday with my family instead of alone, to hug my sister and my fur-nieces, to have our own little belated Christmas, and to celebrate my Mom’s birthday on January first. To sum up:

Dear Christmas Cold,
Please, pretty please, take these three full days of respite from doing anything at all (save eating, sleeping and reading) and give me back the remaining two days of holiday! What it really comes down to is that I can’t imagine not starting 2013 off by celebrating Mom’s birthday with family and friends.
Thanks for your consideration in this matter.
Your Host, Jennifer

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It’s the holiday season. People are festive: decorating their homes, hitting all of the pre-Christmas and post-Christmas and pre-New Year sales, and over-indulging in the foods they most associate with the season. People are smiling: work days are shorter, there are parties to attend, and gifts to give and receive. Instead of talking about the weather, small talk exhibits its own brand of ho-ho-ho flair: “Was Santa good to you?”

I feel like an observer. I watch the people around me and take note of how they seem to absorb and radiate good vibes, winter vibes, Christmas vibes, Hanukkah vibes, New Year vibes! They manage this despite the fact that we’re having a mild December and the temps are still in the 50s each day. They manage despite the fact that they weren’t able to keep last year’s resolutions, but are determined to make and keep this year’s. They seem effortlessly excited about the whole deal, whether they’re staying close to home or traveling, whether they’ve got big families or small. Yet, the holiday spirit doesn’t seem to have sunk in far enough to get pumped through my heart and to show on my face.

Instead, I feel like my heart is hemorrhaging. I don’t seem to be able to soak up what’s being directed at me that’s good, it just sloughs off and I’m left feeling drained and empty. Which leaves me feeling grouchy and Grinchy and SAD. I got to go on a short family trip to visit my sister, and we spent two nights at a really nice inn with a spa. That sentence should end there, but I want to tack on that I came back home and worked on my day off, and I’m exhausted, and I don’t know how to find a point of relaxation where my shoulder doesn’t hurt all. day. long. Then I immediately feel guilty, because HELLO! I got my first facial ever at a fancy spa and I got to spend time with my family, so who the fuck am I to complain?

But the guilt doesn’t do anything but my my heart feel heavier, less capable of enjoying the good that does come my way: packages arriving from friends, watching an old Bing Crosby movie with Sarah S-E, working on sewing and craft projects with Mom. Distraction and alcohol help, though.

I went out drinking with Aimee the Friday before Christmas. I wasn’t sure I wanted to go, because it involved coming home and NOT putting on pajamas. It involved brushing my teeth and hair and meeting people and smiling and talking and CARING. I surprised myself by having one of the best nights out that I’d had in a long time, early morning visit to I HOP with their particularly interesting crowd included. (The French toast was fantastic!)

We were swimming on Wednesday when Sean invited me to a New Years Eve party, and initially I said “no.” But then I swam the second half-mile and thought about how I really did want to hang out with Sean outside of swimming, and I wanted to see his girlfriend, Liz, again, and why the fuck not because I had a good time when I went out with Aimee, right?! Then he told me it was semi-formal and I almost changed my mind. Then I started trying to figure out if I have anything that I could wear or borrow so I could make it to the party. (To cinch the deal I might have to confirm that I can have French toast after the ball drops.)

I am aware that I’m engaging in that classic personal war of fake it until you make it, and I’m okay with that now… because if it works, I’ll have one hell of a time on Saturday night. And even if I wake up on Monday feeling hollow, faintly tearful and with an overwhelming compulsion to slip into a pair of fleece pants and marry myself to the couch for several hours, I brought Miss Kitty home from an extended Christmas vacation and Grandma and Grandpa’s tonight, and she’s currently purring so loudly right near my ear that I can feel the thrum of her love, happiness and contentment starting to fill up a small part inside me with something good.

If my stupid empty, non-merry heart can learn to accept love and affection, companionship and happiness from a cat then I have to have hope that it can learn to accept it — and hold onto it — from humans, too.

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For some reason, I got really excited about Halloween this year. As in, wanted to make my own costume, go to parties and go trick-or-treating with my friend Sarah J. and her kids. It all started with a blog post from years ago, back before I knew how to star and tag posts in Google Reader so I could find things again later. Someone had posted a photo of a little kid (pre-toddler?) dressed up as a Viking, and manohman do I wish I could find it to share with you here.

[This is about as close as a Google search is going to get me.] The fur boots! Oh my goodness.

This cuteness + [Charlaine Harris’ Sookie Stackhouse series + HBO’s True Blood (hello, Eric Northman)]+ a weird and sudden desire to learn to sew and crochet + a friend’s blonde haired, blue eyed almost 3-year-old = a very Viking Halloween.

I started by getting Mom involved. She taught me to sew, and we made faux fur vests and boots for Caleb and I. Then, Mom showed me how to take a single, long strip of faux leather and place darts around it in order to make a belt, which I hung three-inch wide strips of the same material from to make a leather skirt. I ripped apart an old leather belt of mine to add some extra ornamentation to the skirt. During a lunch break one day at work, Sarah S-E taught me how to crochet, and I started making both a child and adult size Viking hat. Finally, Mom and I made red velvet mummy cupcakes and candy finger bone pretzels.

  

My friend Jill hosted the First Annual Haunted Barn party. I managed to borrow the majority of the decorations from a guy I used to pet-sit for, as he used to throw an elaborate haunted house every year (unfortunately he stopped creating the haunted houses right about the time I started dog-sitting, so I never got to attend one). Aimee came as an Amish Girl, and her costume won a prize! Sarah J. was a beautiful Butterfly, and Mom came as Brunnehilde the Green (M&M). Sean and Liz dressed up as Daddy Warbucks and Annie, in the most awesome inappropriate pairs costume ever! It was very cold that night (some parts of Maryland got snow!), but we had a great time and huddled around the space heaters when necessary.

  

  

  

On the actual All Hallows Eve, I went trick-or-treating with Sarah J. and her kids, Catelyn the Butterfly and Caleb the Viking. Nene and Mom were there too, as well as Sarah’s friends and their kids, Bat Girl (Nadia) and Bumblebee the Transformer (Nathan). The biggest challenge of the evening was getting Caleb into his costume, but once he was in it, he loved the attention (and the candy)! We wandered from house to house down Nene’s family-friendly neighborhood, laughing at the kids’ squeals when something was scary and playing “red light-green light” when they’d run too far ahead. The adults reminisced about how different Halloween is from when we were little, and the kids tried to make more room for “good” candy by dumping all of the “yucky” candy on the adults!

  

  

I was really proud of the way that the costumes turned out, and was glad I decided to channel the spooky spirit this year! All around, this was a Halloween filled with more treats than tricks!

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Andy from Wild ARS Chase is now in my Google reader, thanks to an introduction via a recent co-blog with Ben from No Ordinary Rollercoaster. I’ve been reading Ben’s stuff since I clicked on one of his comments off of Courtney’s blog, Word Perv. In an effort not to be a lurker I’ve actually tried to comment on every blog that I read regularly…

Andy recently posted letters to new and long-term readers, along with a challenge. It’s actually a challenge to long-term readers, but since a) Newbies can join in too, b) I love a challenge and c) I need to delurk myself from Wild ARS Chase… I present to you, Jen A.’s Top 10 Favorite Things About the Holidays (Halloween thru New Year’s Day):

10. Activity Overdrive — It starts near the Halloween and goes straight through New Years, the clutter of highlighted activities on my calendar that have nothing to do with work and everything to do with friends! This year I’m lucky enough to count a football game, an ice hockey game, a divorce celebration, a Stitch-n-Bitch, a dinner party, and a Nat’l Geographic photography exhibit among the fun things I’ve planned to do with friends during the holiday season!

9. Nordstrom — Walking up to the Nordstrom in the Annapolis Mall this past Saturday, they had huge billboards on the outside of the store proclaiming that you would not find Christmas music or decorations inside the store because Nordstrom believes in celebrating each holiday as it comes. Cheers to you, Nordstrom! Now, if we could only find a way to exhaust all of the fumes coming from the perfume counters out of the main level of the store…

8. The Possibility of Snow — Living in Southern Maryland, we only get a good snow about every four years or so. And I only like the first day it snows. After that? It’s all mushy and half melted and you have to worry about black ice and snowplowing your car into the ditch beside the road. Then the salt trucks come through, followed by the scraper trucks and everything turns brown (or yellow!) and dingy looking and I’m over it. But the FIRST DAY OF SNOW — that’s magical.

7. Jackets and Coats — I used to love getting to wear sweaters in the fall and winter, but now the chilly air is an excuse to layer up with a coat or jacket! I love choosing which one, and if I had a bigger closet and/or more funds, I would most definitely bu a few more to round out my selection!

6. Courtney’s Annual Thanksgiving Brunch — A new edition to my holiday routine! Her 4th Annual was my first, and I’m hooked. I blame it on the great group of friends that gathered, Charlie’s blue eyes, and the sweet potato cheesecake.

5. Fireplaces — I love starting up a fire in the fireplace on a chilly day or night, curling up on the couch under a throw with a cup of hot chocolate and a book.

4. Hot Scotch — My friend Sarah J. introduced me to hot chocolate with a shot of Buttershots in it, and it is now one of my favorite toast-me-up winter drinks!

3. Wrapping Presents — This year, I’m not really in a presents sort of mood. This year, all I want is to hang out with good friends and enjoy myself. But when presents do come into the picture, I love wrapping them. I love neatly folded corners, taping, tying ribbon… It’s just one of a million little process-oriented tasks that make me happy. And I always delight in seeing the other person’s face light up; when you know you’ve gifted them something really great, no matter how big, small, lumpy or baked it is!

2. Mail — I always love getting mail, but it’s around the holidays that gobs of real mail (not the bills and newsletters from colleges and the local hospital) really starts arriving! Of course, the cards from friends and family are always buried within a mountain of catalogs, but hey… I can deal.

1. Sourdough — my family starts using my Mom’s 170-year-old sourdough starter (from the Goldminer’s in CA) around the end of October. By Thanksgiving, the biscuits have the best flavor and the turkey (or chicken) and dumplings is a leftover I will keep heating up… But the best part of the holidays is New Year’s Day, also known as Mom’s Birthday, when my family has a Fried Sourdough Bread Open House. OMGYummy! Do you need an post-New Year’s hangover meal? C’mon by when you’re sufficiently sober enough to drive and help yourself to a few pieces! (You’ll thank me later!)

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