Category Archives: Rambling Sessions

When Doves Cry

Today, Prince has died.

In honor, I am re-posting a little piece I wrote about him on my blog in August 2011.

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I called it: “Darling Nikki:”

I just walked into the living room at midnight, to discover my husband watching Prince’s 1984 film “Purple Rain”… if you are younger than 45 – this may be a quaint story of nostalgia about how Grandma and Grandpa used to “get down,” but if you are older than that, perhaps you will recognize some of my memories.

First of all, I was 19-years-old when this movie came out – and to this day, I love me some Prince.  This tiny, elfin, androgynous, almost certainly bi-sexual, black man was making girls scream and pass out like a munchkin-sized black-Elvis back in 1984.

Of course, at the time, I was unaware of how truly short he was.

As a woman who was 5’8” in the 7th grade, I was later heartbroken to learn that my little mini-chocolate-chip of desire was only 5’2” and explicitly didn’t date women taller than he was… like my meeting Prince, much less dating him, was even a remote possibility.

I took posters of him, one of which featured a semi-nude, effeminate African American male lounging on purple satin sheets, and taped them on large pieces of leftover paneling from a basement renovation project. I propped these pieces of homemade art in my bedroom windows, creating a darkened den of Prince-lust.

Sometimes, it is painful to realize that I have lived long enough to find out that the mysterious, elusive, too-cool-for-school Prince, re-named himself some unpronounceable hieroglyphic, and became a Jehovah’s Witness… seriously, people in Minnesota, have opened their doors to find PRINCE on their porch wanting to come inside for a religious chat.

I’ve never opened the door to anyone holding a pamphlet in my life, but I swear, I would let Prince come into my living room and talk about anything he wanted just to hang out with him for an hour.

Do you think he would be embarrassed if I started writhing on the floor doing my impression of him doing “Darling Nikki” on stage almost thirty years ago?

 

 

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Terror in the Toilet

Spork Cartoon

Every couple of years (during election cycles), there seems to be a national panic over some life-altering threat to our very “existence-as-we-know-it.”

These threats pop up overnight and disappear just as quickly. Like tornadoes. They seem to stay on the ground just long enough to distract people from whatever the hell is really going on at the moment.

Remember when we were all going to die from Ebola? You probably don’t since you haven’t heard about it since the last presidential election. One day, Ebola is looming over the country like a giant swarm of death bees, then, all of a sudden, they disappear in a cloud of smoke, like a magic trick.

Now, overnight it seems, there is a new threat to our life and liberty. I call it, “Terror in the Toilet.”

My main question is where the hell have all these trans-people been hiding? There are apparently enough of them causing mayhem that states have to pass legislation to protect ordinary citizens from the threat that they might see one in a public bathroom.

I’ve met two trans-people in my entire life and I happen to know a lot of weirdos. I’ll bet 99% of people worried about a penis in their potty have never even seen a trans-person.

It’s like all those handicap parking spaces at Walmart. If every single handicapped person who can drive showed up at the exact same time, there would still be too many of them.

There just aren’t that many trans-people either. If we made transgender-only public bathrooms, the toilet handles would rust before some of them were ever used. It seems that no one really knows how many trans-people there are, but it is estimated at less than half a percent of the population.

And they have just now become a problem requiring the time and energy of state lawmakers, while gripping the nation in a paralysis of fear? They were lying low until the time was right to strike, I guess.

Besides actual trans-folk, who are deliberately presenting as a different gender than the one they were born to, I wonder about the people who simply “look” different than their gender, regardless of their sexual preference, what about ladies who look masculine or men who look feminine?

We’ve all seen a person and we weren’t quite sure “what” they were, right? Remember the ambiguous “Pat” from Saturday Night Live back in the ‘90s? Where should Pat go poo poo?

I, personally, know two different married, straight, anatomically correct (I assume), biologically-born women who look like men in drag. Not by choice, they are just large ladies with masculine faces and man-hands.

So are we supposed to accost people who don’t look like their stereotypical gender norms and insist on seeing their prizes and goodies before we allow them to use the bathroom?

Are we going to have a gender-version of asking a woman who is not pregnant when she is due?

I say, all bathrooms should be unisex. As human beings, whether black or white, gay or straight, or any other version or variety, the one thing we have in common is that we all pee and poop.

So, I say, live and let live. Go and let go.

Let’s stop this “terror-in-the-toilet” in its tracks right now!

Dear Girl’s Clothing Manufacturers: I Am Begging You

Posted by of Suburban Misfit Mom on April 7, 2016

clothing manufacturers

I know I am not the first mother-of-a-daughter to have this problem, but could someone please sell clothes for girls somewhere in between the range of Ariel and a street-walker?

My daughter is 5’2” and weighs 105 pounds. She is also 11-years-old. She cannot wear “children’s” sizes anymore.  My only choice is to take her to the disarmingly named “Juniors” section and try, through frustration, and sometimes tears (mine, not hers), to find her a pair of shorts that covers her ass cheeks or a two-piece bathing suit in which the bottoms cover the pubic bone.

And as I am fond of saying, I am not a prude. If you are 17 or 18-years-old and have the confidence to let your booty hang out of the hand towel you’re wearing over your whale spout, you go girl. You are at an age where being sexually active is not unreasonable, or illegal, and though I am not advocating that teenagers dress like sex workers, I did when I was your age, and I respect your right to do the same. Be careful out there.

No, I am talking about children. I do not want my 11-year-old to be dressed in a manner that attracts the attention of boys and men because she is dressed like a much older girl. Yet, my almost-tween should not have to choose between the humiliation of a Dora The Explorer tank top and being asked out on a date by a college student.

So, will somebody please sell age-appropriate, reasonably modest clothing for children who are not yet young women? You could call it the “I am a Child not a Whore” store.

You will have the undying gratitude of mothers everywhere.

Puppy Poop Patrol

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That face…

I love animals as much as the next person, but I must have been temporarily insane when I volunteered to foster eleven puppies for three weeks.

Yes, I said, eleven puppies. Why would anyone do that, you ask? Well, all I can say is that it seemed like a good idea at the time.

My 11-year-old daughter does not remember our dogs as puppies and is always clamoring for one. I thought this would be a fun way to do a good deed and give my child the experience she craved without a lifetime commitment to a new dog in the house.

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Chow Time

I honestly had no idea how much a puppy pooped. Multiply that times eleven and it was poop-ageddon at my house.

They were corralled in a crate large enough for a Great Dane, but just like an over-populated city, there just wasn’t enough real estate for eleven puppies to do their business without sleeping in it.

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Eleven Clean Puppies Go To Bed

They spent their days in a pen in the backyard and every night I put them to bed in a clean crate. In the morning, they were clamoring to be let out of what looked like a crime scene… only you know, it wasn’t blood.

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Law & Order SVU: Puppies

Not only did I clean a crate every day that looked like a septic tank exploded, I also had eleven puppies covered in poop from head to toe every morning. In three weeks, I gave them six baths, which if you are doing the math, is sixty-six baths, but my efforts were futile. The stench was overwhelming within a matter of hours.

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Bath Time Fun/Craziness

My daughter helped, but I couldn’t glove her up and send her into that toxic waste dump, so poop patrol was always my job.

At one point, I had something of a wine-fueled nervous breakdown. I was crying and mumbling things like, “The poop. It’s just too much. I can’t keep up.”

I think there were times when I was cleaning the crate that my mind left and went somewhere far, far away, maybe to a tropical beach where no one pooped.

When it was time to give them back, I cried like a baby. I nuzzled my favorite, the tiny runt named Fifi, until she was the last to go. My husband patted my shoulder and said soothingly, “It’s okay.” I replied, “If I’d had to keep them another week, I would be crying even harder.”

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Fifi

So here is what I learned from this experience, eleven puppies poop a lot and Disney is a big fat liar. Taking care of 101 Dalmatians is not physically possible without a guy showing up on your doorstep from the health department wearing a hazmat suit.

5 Reasons Why I Am Jealous Of Divorced Women

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Originally published at http://www.suburbanmisfitmom.com

I was recently surprised to discover that I am jealous of divorced women.

Let me clarify that statement: I am jealous of financially solvent divorced women.

I know that chasing a deadbeat dad for child support is no picnic, and many female heads-of-households fall into poverty, and even homelessness, due to losing 50% of their financial security.

I don’t envy those women. No, I mean women who are making as much, or more than, their husbands when they get divorced.

Hell, sometimes these women are even better off financially. If hubby has an expensive hobby, an addiction, or makes bad financial decisions, sometimes women are economically better off with less income once they are legally separated from their ball and chain and he no longer has access to the joint account.

And of course, I’m not oblivious to the grief of genuine heartbreak and broken dreams. To put it mildly, it is no fun being physically separated from someone you love. Or to love someone who doesn’t love you back.

But imagine, if you will, strong, independent, professional women who have initiated divorce with a joyous heart, a yearning for freedom, and the ability to pay their bills.

This is what I envy:

  1. Divorced women aren’t responsible for every facet of their children’s lives. For God’s sake, every other weekend, they are on freaking vacation. Twenty-six weeks a year, they get to take a weekend trip, read a book from cover to cover, take an uninterrupted bubble bath, and have a guilt-free Girl’s Night Out, all while basking in the knowledge that their children are spending quality time with their loving father. It’s an unbelievable bonus for doing the right thing for your children! You have fewer responsibilities – because Daddy now does half, something you know damn well he wasn’t doing before – and the children now have more quality time with both parents! It’s a win-win for everybody!
  2. Divorced women go on dates! They get their hair “done,” shave their legs, put on lipstick, and go out! They get to go to fancy restaurants and flirt over a glass of wine. If they’re lucky, they still get butterflies on occasion.
  3. Divorced women do less housework than when they were married. Think about it, one less person’s laundry means less towels. One less person to cook for means fewer dishes. One less person leaving their dirty socks on the floor means less to pick up at the end of the day. Sure, you’re the only adult around to walk the dog and take out the trash, but that’s better than having to repeatedly ask someone else to do it every night. And if your kids are old enough to take on some of these tasks, Score!
  4. Divorced women do not have to ask anyone a flippin’ thing about what they do or don’t do. They can choose to purchase a new comforter for the bed without a committee meeting. They can paint the dining table blue. They can buy a pony! They can do any damn thing they want to do and there is no one around to judge them. Divorced women receive more compliments and less criticism.
  5. Divorced women do not have to have mercy sex when they are tired or not in the mood. A divorced woman doesn’t hurry to bed and pretend to be asleep before her husband gets there in order to avoid the inevitable negotiations – “tomorrow night, I promise.” Divorced women can have orgasms every night or go for months without and there is no one to consider but themselves. And when self-love and sex toys are not enough, there’s always that date on their off-duty weekend, and when they don’t want that one around, they can send him home.

Sure, my reasons for envying divorced women are tongue-in-cheek – or are they? I wouldn’t really want to be divorced. I love my husband and we love our child as a family. There are many more pros than cons to being married, but every once in a while, after a long day or an annoying verbal exchange, I imagine what it might be like to have 26 weekend vacations a year. I’m just kidding. Or am I?

P.S. Renea is married to a wonderful man who never leaves his dirty socks on the floor and always takes out the trash without being asked.

(Artwork provided by Jo Moss, Sister-in-law of one of our writers, and can be found and purchased at http://www.jomossart.com/illustration )

Baby Feet. New Feet. Old Feet. Gross Feet.

Five years ago, this was my very first post ever.

It is still read every week by someone, somewhere in the world.

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Recently, I was struck by the hideous state of most adult’s feet.

Both men and women freely exhibit their toes in the most jaw-droppingly disgusting state… and don’t seem to care!  These are the same people who showered, shaved, put on cologne and clothes, and seemed to give a damn about their appearance to the outside world, then casually thrust their squat, fat little feet into the slimmest idea of a “shoe” and prance around with the most disgusting external part of their body visible to anyone who might be say… eating.

The two-inch thick chunks of dead skin crusted on the heel, the Fred Flintstone big toe, the pinkie all curled up in a fetal position, the chipped metallic blue nail polish, are all enough to make one wonder if people think their toes are protected by an invisibility cloak.

Then I notice the chubby little feet of toddlers and remember how often I actually KISSED the toes of my own child and am made aware of one of nature’s many cruelties – what starts out as one of the cutest, most kissable parts of the human body slowly becomes the nastiest, most feral part of our hardworking anatomy.

I just want folks to take a moment to look at their feet… go on… do it… right now.  For the love of all that is holy, do they look like a werewolf’s paws?  Have they had any kind of grooming AT ALL within say… the past year?  Could you cut through a good inch layer of calluses before your brain recognized pain from hitting live skin?  If any of this is true for you, then please… please… for the sake of all of us with a weak stomach and a love for eating outdoors in the summer time, cover up those tootsies and/or get an intensive pedicure.

I thank you in advance.  We all do.  And remember, there is no shame in wearing close-toed shoes.

 

The Fish That DIDN’T Get Away

Previously published in “Vodka Yonic,” an alternative women’s column in the Nashville Scene, and Charlotte, NC Creative Loafing.

Cartoon Fish

I have an ongoing love/terror relationship with the ocean.

As much as I love, and need, semi-regular visits to the sea, due to my debilitating fear of sharks (and for that I would like to thank my parents for taking me to see Jaws in 1975 when I was 10 years old), until a couple of years ago, I thought they were the only fish I had to worry about.

I was swimming in the gulf one beautiful day — more floating than swimming, really — bobbing gently on the waves… in no more than four feet of water of course, not deep enough for anything too big to silently swim beneath me, all while scanning the horizon for dorsal fins…

Staying in shallow water is one of my personal safety rules to avoid sharks that are large enough to eat me. Another rule is to never be the farthest one out; I am always aware when people are farther out to sea than me, and the minute they come in, I back up, until someone is again farther out. My theory is that if a shark comes in for lunch, he’ll be loudly snacking on the people who did not follow my safety rules, all while I quietly back out of the ocean.

After my float, I was relaxing back on land when nature called. Normally, I would just pee in the ocean (don’t judge me — millions of animals pee in it every day), but since I’d been out of the water for a while and had dried off, I didn’t want to go back in right that minute for a potty break, so I went to the real bathrooms out in the parking lot.

As I pulled down the bottom of my bathing suit, a dead fish roughly 3 inches long fell out and plopped onto the nasty concrete floor at my feet. I stared in horror. He was tiny as far as, say, bait goes, but not so tiny that I shouldn’t have felt him swimming around in my bathing suit bottoms in the first place.

At what point did he swim into what he likely thought was a particularly enticing cave, happily splish-splashing straight into his own jaws of death?

And then — after I had inadvertently pulled him out of the water to his imminent demise — I never felt him flopping around, gasping for air in his death throes, either. Surely there must have been some movement, some struggle that I would have recognized as an animal dying in my pants? I can think of few more undignified ways of dying than in someone’s pants, especially when they don’t even have the decency to notice.

Which leads me to the glaringly obvious and most disturbing question of all: Just how big is my ass? So big, apparently, that I cannot feel a living creature dying in my pants.

I felt terrible, not only that he had died in such an ignoble way, and that my rear end was apparently the size of a small pond, but that he died at all. If only I had known he was there, I would have rescued him from my valley of death and set him free. The guilt, as I stood there, staring at his lifeless, scaly little body, was overwhelming.

As I paced in the stall, trying to wrap my mind around all of the tragic things that had been happening without my knowledge — things that had obviously caused this poor creature’s death — I was suddenly filled with gratitude, because nobody had seen it fall out of my pants.

Can you imagine a graceful way to play off a dead fish falling out of the bottom of your swimsuit?

No, you probably can’t.

I couldn’t just leave him there on the floor, so I gently picked him up with a piece of toilet paper and gave him the most dignified toilet funeral I could. I placed him in the bowl and said a few words, mostly apologizing profusely that my butt was so huge. I then told him goodbye and sent him down that swirling whirlpool to the afterlife. A wild and free creature of the sea just got the standard funeral service given to a beloved family goldfish, so perhaps something was made right in the world.

Now, not only do I still retain a gnawing fear of sharks, I now have a perpetual suspicion of every little thing that might be lurking in the water. And while I can’t predict if I’ll meet my end at the mouth of Jaws, I can assure you that no other sea creature will die in my pants.

How Today’s Music is Hurting Your Daughter

OR WHY “HOTLING BLING” BLOWS

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I swear I am not a prude.  I was as haughtily amused and annoyed as any teenager in the ’80’s when Tipper Gore complained about explicit music lyrics. I used to like to say at the time, and it was true, that I’d no idea what Sheena Easton’s “Sugar Walls” was about until Tipper quoted the lyrics for me. Good God, she was singing about vaginas! Okay, now I’m embarrassed.

Fast forward a few decades and now, with a young daughter of my own, I am increasingly irritated, not by the language, but by the message being sent to her in today’s music. There was this horrible song last year that was playing every time I turned the radio on, “Hey Mama” by David Guetta and Nicki Minaj with such empowering lyrics as:

Yes, I do the cooking

Yes, I do the cleaning

Yes, I keep the nana real sweet for your eating

Yes, you be the boss, yes I be respecting

Whatever that you tell me ’cause it’s game you be spitting

Are you freaking kidding me? A song, very catchy by the way, explaining a woman’s role as basically a House-Elf and then, the lyrics continue with the woman in the song also promising to be available for sex at a moment’s notice, ‘cause you know, after cooking and cleaning all day, what a woman really wants is sex:

Yes, I be your woman

Yes, I be your baby

Yes, I be whatever that you tell me when you ready

Yes, I be your girl, forever your lady

You ain’t never gotta worry, I’m down for you baby

The song has a happy, club vibe; I can see its appeal, but do we really want to be telling today’s young women that all they need to do is keep the house clean and their vaginas fresh? That’s so 1950’s.

The song currently making smoke erupt from my feminist ears is “Hotline Bling” by Drake.

“You used to call me on my cellphone,

late night when you need my love.”

Okay, his girl is a Booty Call, nothing wrong with that among equal partners in an honest relationship who are on the same page, but, then he spends the entire song complaining that the girl is not sitting home waiting for him while he is out running the streets.

Apparently, the man “leaves the city,” and I am going to go out on a limb here and say that it wasn’t to enter the priesthood, and yet, he is upset that his Booty Call has decided to have a life of her own and go out with girlfriends, and gasp (!) even date other men!

Ever since I left the city you

Got a reputation for yourself now

Everybody knows and I feel left out

Girl you got me down, you got me stressed out

Cause ever since I left the city, you

Started wearing less and goin’ out more

Glasses of champagne out on the dance floor

Hangin’ with some girls I’ve never seen before

Dude is stressed out ‘cause his former “girlfriend” is wearing a short skirt, drinking champagne and clubbing with girlfriends. Why? Because she is supposed to be sitting home in her pj’s, crying into her bowl of dinner cereal, waiting for him to show up.

That pisses me off.

He goes on to say:

You don’t need no one else

You don’t need nobody else, no

Why you never alone

Why you always touching road

Used to always stay at home, be a good girl You was in the zone

You should just be yourself, Right now, you’re someone else

Yep, that’s right Little Lady, you need to stay home and be a “good girl,” maybe even a House-Elf like Nicki Minaj. You should just “be yourself,” which is apparently a lonely person with no self-esteem who can’t have a life outside of waiting for an old boyfriend to drop by when he’s looking for easy sex without commitment. You are supposed to be faithful to a non-relationship for his sexual gratification and convenience.

Well, f#ck you, Drake.

So now, listening to the radio on the way to school every morning, I have to say to my daughter, “yes, it’s a catchy little tune, but the message sucks. You are not supposed to aspire to be a man’s servant and sex toy.” And yes, I say this to my tween daughter. Because if I don’t give her that message, this garbage will give her another one.

I am also afraid for other girls whose parents aren’t listening to the lyrics. Moms and Dads who aren’t countering the sexist, misogynistic messages in today’s music that their young daughters are listening to. So, I urge today’s parents-of-daughters to listen to music with their girls. Make sure the message is an empowering one that increases their self-esteem and does not devalue their self-worth, and if the song doesn’t do that, talk about it.

 

 

All I Want For Christmas Is A New Cell Phone

I’ve always had a love/hate relationship with technology.

I was one of the last people that I knew to even get a cell phone in the first place. And other than absolutely necessary communications, my cell phone has never been that important to me. Until two weeks ago, the cell phone I was carrying was 10 years old. Just think about that for a minute. All the innovations in the past decade and I was carrying around what basically amounted to an antique. And I am as shocked as you are that a single phone was still functioning perfectly after all these years.

I am about to make a shocking confession: until December 1st of this year, I did not text and did not have internet access through my phone. I hope most of you were sitting down when you read that.

Now, maybe three years ago, people would still say to me, “Hey, I’ll let you know what time we’ll be there… do you text?”

“Uh, no,” I would say sheepishly and shake my head.

Within the past year or so, no one asks if you “text” anymore. No sane person can imagine a human being walking around in 2015 who doesn’t… my 10-year-old daughter texts… so do my 70-year-old parents… I think even Santa Claus has been texting since 2005, so now it had become, “Did you get my text saying we would be late to the party?”

“Uh, no,” I would say shamefully, “I know this is weird, and I’m a little embarrassed to tell you this, but I don’t text,” then I would bow my head and shield my eyes behind my hands so that I couldn’t see the look on their faces.

Finally, I had had enough. The shame and embarrassment at my “cell phone situation” had become too great to bear; I used to not care what people thought… I was a rebel… I was cool… now it turns out, I was just weird.

So, this was going to be it. The year I got on the same train everyone else was riding.

I made this life altering decision at Thanksgiving and spent the next week or so after that researching the “best deal;” a whole lot had changed since I’d gotten my “free phone” from AT&T in exchange for a 2-year contract all those years ago.

There were now dozens of cell phone brands, and companies I’d never heard of, and now, a half dozen companies existed that didn’t even have their own towers, they piggy-backed off the big networks… it was madness out there, I tell you…

But I finally made a decision, found the cheapest phone – in my case, free, which is the kind of price tag I like – and the least expensive plan with unlimited talk and text… and I marched into that Metro PCS store like a boss, threw down my old phone and said boldly, “I want to switch over from AT&T for that free phone, right there!”

The young woman looked down at my phone and fell apart. She was doubled-over, clutching her sides and stomping her feet. When she was able to collect herself, she picked up my phone, held it out to her co-worker, and said, “Look at this. I haven’t seen a phone like this since Middle School!” She was barely able to catch her breath between gulps of laughter.

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This is what caused all the hysteria.

 

Now, I wasn’t the least bit offended by Metro PCS’s employees rolling on the floor laughing at me. I get it. I really do. Actually, I appreciated the young woman’s confidence that I was self-aware enough to laugh with her, and I did.

I told her that if Adele had just used an old slider phone instead of a flip phone in her new video, “Hello,” I would have been hip again. I say, “again,” as if I was ever hip in the first place.

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Makes me feel like a grown-up!

 

This is my new phone!

Yes, it was free.

It is not an iPhone6. I do not want $600 in my hand. I told someone that once and they said, “you don’t have to pay it all at once. You make monthly payments.”

No. They did not get it. If someone gave me $600 and said, “here, go buy yourself an iPhone6,” I would take that money and purchase 6 $100 gift cards for massages.

It’s not about the money. It’s about priorities.

After the young woman had collected herself and finished activating my new phone, she took a before and after pic of me holding my phones to share with her co-workers at their multi-store locations during their weekly meeting. I am glad that I was able to get a smart phone and spread a little holiday cheer while I was at it.

One of the reasons I resisted getting a smart phone, is that I have seen how it takes over people’s lives. Everyone is face down on their phones all the time and no one talks to each other anymore. Chatty emails are dead and people only communicate with abbreviated texts, which are the written equivalent of grunting.

The morning after getting my shiny, fancy new phone, I was in the drive-thru of Chik-Fil-A picking up a chicken biscuit for breakfast. I was face down, fascinated with my ability to read news alerts from CNN in my car, when I heard the horn.

I looked up. The car ahead of me was no longer in sight. Clearly, my anonymous friend behind me had been more than patient and had waited as long as possible before despairing that I would ever move and honked their horn.

I had become “one of them” and it had taken less than 24 hours.

I do enjoy my new phone.  I have made my peace with it. I have reveled in the pleasures of an instantaneous hand-held map and the ability to ask a computer to make a last minute hair appointment for me, but I’m sure it won’t take long before I lose my sense of appreciation for my new master… I mean my “smart” phone.

In the meantime, Merry Christmas to all and to all an electronics-free goodnight. Ya’ll go talk to each other!

Merry Freaking Christmas

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Yet again, it is that wonderfully festive time of year, when war breaks out at my house. When it comes time to put up the Christmas decorations, most people deck their halls with boughs of holly.  At my house, my husband and I come close to decking each other.

 

My husband is Bosnian, which means that as a child, he was raised in a culturally Muslim household, but he is also non-religious. His problem is not with Christmas per se, but with the unholy amount of work involved in my decorating schemes. He has no fond childhood memories of twinkling tree lights glowing softly in a darkened living room or the near rapture of waking Christmas morning to a stocking full of tiny treasures.

I am also non-religious and our holiday celebrations are secular.  This is not a religious bone of contention between us, but rather one of differing aesthetic values and  individual levels of tolerance for hanging by one arm from a shaky gutter trying to staple gun Christmas lights without puncturing through the protective plastic coating and electrocuting yourself.

We have been married for 14 years, which means the “Battle of the Christmas Tree” has lasted more than a decade.  I always win because Christmas decorating traditions are important to me, and eventually his lack of conviction either way causes him to cave to my demands, but that doesn’t mean that I am immune to the holiday spirit being violently sucked out of “tree day.”

There are real tree people and fake tree people, and no offense to the latter, but a fake tree will be erected in my house over my cold, lifeless body.

In previous years, my husband has tried to claim that it was “cruel” to kill a tree just to make it a holiday decoration.  This was from a man who eats lambs, goats and anything else he can chase down in the barnyard.  Literally, he grew up eating animals that grazed in his backyard and had names, so I didn’t buy his compassion for the tree and saw it for what it really was, an attempt to not have to put up one up…then, when that didn’t work, he tried the whole “green” argument by telling me how horrible it was for the planet to destroy all these trees.  Seriously thinking he didn’t know any better, I told him that they were grown on farms for the sole purpose of being Christmas Trees.  I wasn’t depopulating a forest, for God’s sake.

Once, I even showed him an article that said artificial trees were harder on the environment.  At least my tree could be recycled and would never claim valuable space in a landfill, but these reasonable talking points did nothing to persuade him to love a real Christmas tree.  He was sticking to his guns, as if I didn’t know that it was really because of the amount of work involved in getting a tree home and in the stand.

But you know, I wasn’t asking him to lumberjack one out of a dark and dangerous forest.  There were no tools or physical exertion involved; I was simply asking him to drive to Home Depot, where there is a well-lit parking lot and a sales associate who trims the trunk, wraps it in netting and helps you load it on top of the car.

The first skirmish with casualties was in 2011. My daughter was 6-years-old.

The installation of the Christmas tree that year was particularly difficult.  The tree, before it was decorated, fell twice.  The third time, it was fully loaded. We collect Christmas ornaments on our travels. The blown glass gondolier from Venice will not be easy to replace. And my clay frog from Mexico is now missing a leg.

Each time the beast fell, gallons of water flowed over our hardwood floors, which we soaked up with giant bath towels. We finally had to lay the tree down and saw off so many lower branches that the tree now looked like the squirrel equivalent of road-kill.

Swear words, in two languages, were hurled at the tree and at each other.  At one point, I apologized to our daughter sitting quietly on the couch, watching this, and having her childhood memories of Christmas destroyed.

I sat down with her afterwards and calmly explained that this was not normal.  That for most families, music was playing, hot chocolate was being served and cinnamon was bubbling on the stove.  The decorating of the tree was supposed to be a happy, family event that was enjoyed by all.

As my husband tightened the screws in the stand one final time, in an effort to finally stabilize the tree, now barren of its lower limbs, the noise he was making was somewhere between the mewing of a kitten and the whimpering of a little girl.

But, as we stood back to admire our handiwork, this time the tree held!  It was up and it was beautiful.  The house was fragrant with the scent of fir.

My husband very seriously stated that he refused to put up a tree ever again.  A year passed, and by Christmas of 2012, and every year since, like childbirth, the pain of “tree day” has faded enough that I am able to con him into it yet again… though not as graciously as one would hope.

As Christmas 2015 approaches, I once again look forward to our loving family tradition of screaming swear words, hurling insults and threats, and admiring our beautiful tree by the light of the fire.

Update: A week ago, our tree went up. Two days later, after the branches had settled, we added the lights. It was the easiest installation ever! I thought that, somehow, a Christmas miracle had occurred, and our family was now going to be able to put this curse behind them. We added the ornaments. And the tree fell. I swept up the broken parts and put them in the little box where I keep the casualties from the last disaster.

Merry Freaking Christmas to all and to all a Goodnight!

Cheaper Than Therapy is a blog and live storytelling show in Montgomery, AL. FOLLOW the blog, LIKE the show on FB, FOLLOW me on Twitter @ReneaDijab or come check out the show!