Monday, December 31, 2012

Happy New Year to YOU!!!

New Year's Eve.

Right off the bat, I just want to say that I traditionally don't get very hyped-up about New Year's.  I don't know if it's a sense of apathy bleeding out of my nose or what, but it's just never been that big a deal to me.  Matter of fact, when I think back on the most memorable New Year in recent history, what I come up with is my first New Year's Eve with Michael.  He was living in a loft with his good friend, we had been dating a few months, and his bedroom shared a wall with Steel, a club downtown.  On New Year's Eve we lay there in his bed, with a toddler-age Padawan sleeping soundly in between us (because his mom had wanted to go out that night), and listened to the music and the sound of the obnoxious dj next door pulse through the wall.  For some reason, it was a really sweet moment.  (Probably because if the chick you're dating is willing to spend New Year's Eve with you and your toddler, in bed by 10:00, you BOTH know that you're probably both in it for the long haul, right?  =)  But whatever.

Anyhow, even though the rolling over of the calendar doesn't actually mean beans to me, when I got out of the bath this morning I found myself doing some obligatory reminiscing over the year gone by.  So here are a few things that happened, and a few things I learned:

To begin with, I learned that I have a REALLY hard time remembering what was happening 12 months ago.

Let's see. . .  Oh yeah.  I had a broken wrist. 

I had broken it right before Christmas, and had pins placed in it surgically TWO days before the 25th.  This was a REALLY stupid move on my part, because I was in a LOT of pain on Christmas day.  I must shamefully admit that I was also probably a huge bitch.  (This is true.  I have been informed, by reliable sources, that this is true.)  But I made it through it, and my family eventually forgave me for this momentary lapse of pleasantness.  And if nothing else, I can now one day inform my child that "When you were a baby, I took care of you with ONE HAND TIED BEHIND MY BACK!" 


And I did.

I changed his clothes, fed him, put him down for his naps, and changed his diaper.  All single-handedly.  So here's to a small sense of pride.  (He wore a lot of zippered clothes for a few months.  Snaps were the devil.)

We put in a new fence in the back yard.

This might not seem like a great big deal, but it was important to me.

You see, I have an optimistic heart, but a fatalistic mind.  I hope for the best, most brightly and consistently, but typically prepare for the worst.  (Like the apocalypse.  I am CONSTANTLY preparing for that.  Or a fire. . .  Or a flood. . .  Or zombie hordes. . .  You name it, I've got a contingency plan in place for it.)  Anyway, as I have been through a slew of horrid and ultimately unsuccessful relationships in my life (think "flames and sulphur"), one of my greatest fears is that I will somehow lose my husband or my family.  So, to someone as prone to complete and utter panic as I am, the installation of a new fence in the back yard is NOT merely the "installation of a new fence in the back yard."  Rather, it is visual and concrete proof of plans for the future.

When you're as batshit as I can be at times, it's the little things that make ALL the difference.  (It's a blessing and a curse, really.)


Summer came, and Michael and I went to the Hangout Festival in Gulf Shores.  It was THE first time that we had left the baby, and I walked around all week long feeling like a part of me was missing.  But in truth, we had a FABULOUS time.  We ate hot wings at Bahama Bob's, we lazed on the beach, we giggled and talked, we enjoyed the company of friends we hadn't seen in far too long and even made some new ones, and we saw some truly kick-ass shows on the beach.

Flogging Molly.

Jack White.

Enough said.

(Seriously, I could write an entire post about either one of those shows, but ENOUGH SAID.)

We lost my Granny.

This one I can barely write about.  It's not the shock over losing her. . . she had a very long, and what I suspect was QUITE happy, life.  No. . . it's just the reality of her being gone.  It's the look on my mother's face when I say or do something that reminds her of The Gran.  It's missing the sweet way she always smelled, and remembering her deep and abiding disgust for Roseanne Barr.  ("She's just a foul-mouthed hog.") 

But there are certain slants of sunlight on really blue-sky days, and certain pots of absolutely perfectly brewed tea, that will always make me feel as if she's RIGHT THERE.  Just on the other side of a veil that I, for now, lack the ability to lift. 

But there nonetheless.

And we do what we must.  And that is drink tea, make coffee, change diapers, and go on.

We had Took's very first birthday party in our back yard.  =)  Water balloons, grilled food, cousins, aunts & uncles, grandparents galore, and lots and lots of punch.  It was hot as hell, and one of the best days of my life.  My baby was a year old. 

It was a day that seemed fictional.  That's all I really know to say about it.

Then came August, and there was. . . unpleasantness.

Mostly in my head.

I started having real issues with anxiety. 

I don't know why.  Honestly, I don't even CARE why.  But it happened.  I lost my shit, I fell of my horse, I dropped my marbles, I killed my furby.  I took some time to regroup.  And for a really long time, all that I was really certain of was that I had ruined my entire life.  That it was done.  All the happiness was over, because I had destroyed it.

But. . . time has a way of fading away and dying.  Bruises start to lose their color, and what you did on Tuesday turns into what you did last week, and that eventually turns into a photograph in your memory.  And what did I learn?  I learned that OH YEAH, I can be a complete nut-job.  I can come unglued, and I can completely panic.  But strangely enough, I'm comforted by it.  Because even at my worst (and believe me folks, that was IT) . . . my greatest fears were never realized.  I never became this truly evil, soulless person.  I got lost, but I don't think I lost Me, if that makes any sense at all. 

And I learned that even when my hair turns to snakes and my eyes shoot fire, this incredible soul that I am pledged to. . . stayed.  And he didn't stop loving me.  (And that shattered QUITE a few mirrors of fear, let me just tell you.)

So the overall feeling eventually just turned into one of overwhelming gratitude.

I started painting.

I've never really done this.  I've drawn occasionally.  I drew a few things with pastel chalks back in my college days, and maybe created a fairy here or there along the way, but I've never really painted.  And certainly never done it consistently.  So one day I just sat down and did it. 

And it was very relaxing.  A quite lovely and productive form of escapism.  (Let my brain off the leash for a while.  You know.)  So I painted something.  And the next day I painted something else.  And I just . . . kept doing it.

And some of it was crap, and some of it was actually okay.  I really LIKED doing it. 

And I kept doing it until one day I looked up and. . . I was out of paint.

I had used up all my tubes of watercolors.


So.  I asked for more for Christmas, and I got them.

And as for this year. . . who knows?  I'm no artist.  It doesn't come naturally to me.  It's hard, and it's frustrating, and I usually get really pissed off if something doesn't come out precisely the way I pictured it in my head.  But I love it.  And I have this beautiful stack of supplies sitting over there in the corner just waiting to play with me.  So maybe some Tuesday while the baby's asleep, I'll sit down, the stars will align, and I'll make something beautiful.  Here's hoping.  =)

I learned a lot about parenting.

This is not to say that I am anywhere CLOSE to actually knowing what I am doing.  Nope.  Still fairly clueless, and totally making it up as I go along.  But still. . .  I learned that babies love it when you're silly.  And thankfully, I can probably out-silly anyone on my block.  They also love it when you sing to them, and dance, and I just so happen to know every word to every song in every classic Disney cartoon ever made.  (Finally!  A use for that skill set!!)

I learned that scooping Took up off the floor, tickling his fat belly, and placing a flurry of kisses on his face feels like the most natural thing in the world to do.  And, just yesterday, I learned that because THAT comes naturally, responding to Pad in the same way now feels more natural, too.  Don't get me wrong---I've pretty much loved that kid since the day I met him, and I've been his "Dani" for as long as he can remember.  I've given baths, made grilled cheeses, gone to doctor visits, kissed boo-boos, administered time-outs, and read Star Wars bedtime stories.  But, for the VERY first time ever, yesterday as I was playing with Took on the couch, he came up and just. . . crawled up in my lap.

He has never done that before.

So I just sat there and tried not to cry and completely ruin the moment.

I learned that, since having the baby, I have become an open emotional wound that will cry at the drop of a hat.

This could not BE more true.

Granted, I have always felt perfectly okay crying if I was sad enough, but it NEVER used to happen this frequently.

I cried when Took got his first haircut.

I cried when my cousin's new baby started bawling because she was in pain.

I cry when I hear stories of hardship from other people.

I cry when I see that stupid Carter's commercial that says "When you hold my hand, I hold it right back."  Destroys me.  Every time.

And I cried two mornings ago when Took and Padawan ran to the computer to watch a music video with me, then BEGGED to see it four more times.  They were enchanted.  The music made them HAPPY.  And one of my greatest wishes had been fulfilled, and I just. . . cried.

So my hopes for this next year are high, even though I don't really see things in a "year to year" type way.  I see in more of days and weeks.  (Or hours and minutes, if I am being completely honest.)

I am learning to see the good in myself, which is hard, even though I can always quickly and surely spot it in others.

And one of the best things that I have found so far is this:

I am grateful.

For every breath my husband takes.  For every family member that walks this earth.  For every curl on my baby's head, and every meal that I eat.

I really am.

And if that means that, for the foreseeable future, I may cry like a baby every time something meaningful, spiritual, or truly important happens in my life, then I'll take it.

It hurts, and it's not always easy.  But I'll take it.

Because you can't cry if you're asleep.

To cry, to appreciate, to be truly and perfectly grateful. . . you have to be truly and perfectly awake.

Happy New Year, folks.

More importantly, Happy Today.

Peace and Love,

Saturday, December 29, 2012

My Christmas Vacation

Welp.  It's over.  It's done.  For better or worse, another Christmas is in the books.

So I pause for a moment of reflection on the now-deceased holiday. . .

We actually had a really good one.  =)

Spawn came to see us on the 21st, which was great, because this wasn't actually "our year" to have him.  But, as he is now 16, he can go where he pleases.  (And does, I imagine, with some degree of delight.)

So he got here, and we were very happy about that.  A 16 year old in the house is a very strange thing for me.  I'm just not used to it.  It's VE-E-E-R-Y different from my norm of a toddler or a 5 year old.  No telling him what to do, no reminding him to flush the toilet, no pleading with him not to jump on the furniture, and an added bonus of the ability to have an ACTUAL conversation.  It's wild.  Were it not for the fact that I would be in bed for a month, sobbing uncontrollably that "my baby's a MAN!", I'd wish Nolan were that age right now.  But I'm really looking forward to all of his firsts, so I'm just going to wait this one out.  =)

So the next night we went to my Uncle's house for a Christmas get-together with my mom's side of the family.  It was great.  Nothing to do but show up, visit, and eat tons and tons of unbelievably well-prepared food.  (One thing about my mom's family:  They.  Can.  COOK.  For REAL.  And I mean "They can cook" like "They make Paula Deen look like a clueless diner fry-cook with runny eggs."  Their get-togethers are always phenomenal.  And I always leave bloated.) 

It was truly great to see all my cousins, my brother and sister-in-law, and all the kiddos.  It was MEANT to be a "NO GIFTS" kind of get-together, but, as Michael and I were not going to be able to make my mom's Christmas celebration on Christmas day, we had to bring our gifts for the nephews and nieces that night.  So after everyone ate, we tried to sneak downstairs and quietly give our gifts to the little ones in a very sneaky little super-spy fashion.  And then. . . it happened.

I am not exaggerating at ALL when I tell you that it was at this moment that my GREATEST Christmas nightmare came true, right in my face, and in vivid, living color.

One of my kind and beautiful cousins, who I never actually see throughout the year (ever), but wish that I saw more of, walked up to me and handed me a gift.  "It isn't much," she said sweetly.  Then she smiled and hugged my neck. 

I choked.  I hugged her back.  Choked out "You shouldn't have", or something like that, and sat back down.  And then I concentrated, very, VERY hard, on not crying.

Because she is a single mom.  She has TWO children.  And I did not have a single thing for either one of them.

Now I could rationalize this by saying that we have never, once, in our entire lives exchanged gifts for our children.  I could also add that I honestly did not know that she was even going to BE there, because she ISN'T always.  I could add a DOZEN more things. . . but all that really matters is that she was thoughtful and kind enough to get a gift for Tookie, and her son and her daughter got absolutely NOTHING from me.

I managed to hold back my tears until we got into the car to leave.  Then I just bawled until we got home.

And at this point, I'm just seriously pissed at myself for letting my karma this get outtawhack.

I will find a resolution.


A couple more peaceful days at home with Michael, Took, and Spawn, and it was Christmas Eve.  And Christmas Eve is the night that I have, all my life, gone to my Daddy's for Christmas with HIS family.  Ah, tradition.  =)  So I loaded my plump toddler in the car, and headed to Dad's house, leaving Spawn at home, as I had informed him that it was his choice to go or stay home, but that we would probably be late getting back.  So we got to Dad's, changed cars, then headed to my cousin's house, still another half hour away.  I believe we were the last to arrive.

And Took was NOT in a "festive" sort of mood.

So we ate, we visited, we chatted, and we enjoyed ourselves.  And, about the time my Aunt Brenda decided to drag my baby over to the tree and FORCE him to start opening his presents, he finally decided to warm up and come out of his shell.  A Tickle Me Elmo?  AND he dances and plays the drums???  How DELIGHTFUL!!  I believe I, too, shall dance!  And at one point during his unwrapping session, I turned around to see my ENTIRE family, gathered around in chairs, doing NOTHING but sitting there and watching my boy unwrap his gifts and giggle and act a clown.

He IS the first baby in the family in over 20 years.

Still, it's funny.  =)

And, that brings us to Christmas morning.  Which for me, this year, was an exercise in RESTRAINT.

You see, Michael had to work on Christmas day this year.  He had to be there at 5:00, work till 5:00, and pick up Devin before finally coming home.  Soooo. . . Christmas morning I woke up at 8:45.

Yes.  You read that right.  The baby slept until almost 9:00.

That was probably one of the BEST Christmas gifts that I received.  =)

But wake up we did, and got breakfast and turned on all the Christmas lights.  Then my mom came over with a breakfast casserole  (which I REALLY didn't think I was going to like, or even find REMOTELY edible, but which turned out to be AWESOME.  I LOVE when I am wrong in exactly this way.  I really hope it happens a lot more.), and we ate and talked and let the baby and Spawn open up their gifts from them.  (Michael didn't want anything else unwrapped yet.  Didn't want to miss anything.  Which I COMPLETELY understand, but CRAP.  Kind of tied my hands a little there, hon.)

Later, I set about making peppermint bark.  I thought this would be a great way to occupy my time while I waited on Mr. to get home and the Christmas celebration to begin. 

So I gathered my ingredients.  Uh-oh.  No peppermint extract.  Buuut. . . we had cherry.  ???  That's probably just as good, right?  La-di-da. . .  Melt the chocolate. . .  It was JUST right!!  Aaaaand add the cherry flavoring, and ----  holy shit-bells.

Science just happened in my kitchen, and suddenly my white chocolate was as hard as ceramic.

(I HATE science when it is in direct opposition to candy.  HATE IT!!)

So I tried to melt it down again.  Nope.  Added some shortening.  (Which is what my mom said you should do, and SHE KNOWS.)  No change at all.  And I would be damned if I was throwing out perfectly good white chocolate.

So I took the stiff, lumpy junk out of the bowl, spread it out in the pan, and practically BEAT it down flat.  Then I sprinkled it with broken up candy canes.  But it was so hard that they just laid on top of it.  So I beat that down into it, too.

And it was ugly.  Hideous, really.  But completely delicious.

So I pretended that I did it on purpose, and that is how Confetti Candy was born.


Then Michael called and told me his parents were on their way over.  They weren't supposed to come over until that night.  But this was Alabama, and even on Christmas day there was the threat of tornadoes.  So we gladly lit a few candles, and had a nice visit.

Then finally, FINALLY, at almost 6:00 that night, Michael got home, with Padawan in tow, and we had our Christmas. 

And it was great.  =)

Spawn got a lava lamp, Michael got a pizza stone, I got a Clarisonic, Tookie got a Mr. Potato Head, and Padawan got threatened that we were going to take EVERYTHING back if he didn't at least PRETEND to be grateful.

Your basic family Christmas.  =)

The next day was Pad's birthday.  The big Numero 6, and we celebrated by having yet ANOTHER Christmas with first my Dad that morning, and my Mom that night.  Spawn went home, another threat to Pad to get his ass downstairs and say goodbye, and things settled back into a more or less normal pace.

The next morning I woke up feeling positively WRETCHED.  Scared.  Out of sorts.  Dizzy.

Walked out of the bedroom and evidences of Christmas were still all OVER the place.  Toys were everywhere

The house was positively CRAWLING with crap.

And I . . . I just lost it.

My face was tingling.  I couldn't breathe.  I ran out to the garage and grabbed the first Rubbermaid container I saw.  Back into the kitchen and I started snatching down ribbons and Gingerbread man pot-holders and dangling ornaments as fast as I could and tossing them in the bin.  COMPLETELY and utterly panicked.

It had to go.  Had to go.  Had to BE GONE.  Now.  Now.  NOW.

(I think I scared Michael.)

"STOP!  Stop.  We're not going to just THROW all our Christmas stuff into a container because YOU'RE freaking out!  Now go lay down in the bed."

(I have cleaned that last sentence up a LOT.  Taken out the expletives.  Personally, I don't MIND expletives.  I think they add literary flavor.  But some tend to get squeamish with them, so I don't use them NEARLY as liberally as I would like.  God, I hate compromise.)

Truth is, I don't know WHY I freaked out.

I just did.

I just felt like I couldn't breathe.

Suddenly I just felt claustrophobic, and I was trying to fix it.  And I'm pretty sure my husband now thinks I am a certifiable basket case.

So this is my cozy little life.

I adore the HELL out of it.  =)

But, as with almost everything, it is one step forward, one step back.

But I'm not complaining.

Because for all those times when I'm going neither forward NOR back. . .

I'm twirling MADLY around in circles, dizzy and giggling as the world spins around me.

Hold onto your hats out there, people.


Saturday, December 15, 2012

Making Sense of the Senseless

Dear Nolan,

Something very bad happened in our country yesterday.  It was not a result of war, or the consequence of a skirmish with another country.  It was not a fight for power, or land, or money.  It was not the result of a disagreement over policy, or politics, or even religion.  Many innocent children and adults lost their lives. . . and every adult in our country today is hopelessly confused, and hurting, and desperately trying to make some sort of sense out of such a heinous act.

And we just keep turning it over and over in our heads, because the simple truth is that we just can'tThere is just no sense to be made from it.

I am so thankful that you are not yet old enough to comprehend what happened.  I am glad that, at least at this point, I don't have to answer your questions yet, or try to apply logic and hopefulness to a situation that is incomprehensible, the very definition of madness, and hopelessly turned upside down.  But, as sorely as I wish this weren't true, I know that this is not going to be the last time something like this happens.  And eventually you are going to be old enough to be aware of situations like this, and you are going to have questions.  And so I figured maybe I better go on and start preparing myself for that.  Because at this point. . . I'm afraid that I just don't have answers for you at all.

When this atrocious act occurred yesterday, I think that everyone was just stunned.  It was just too unthinkable; no one could get their head around it.  It felt the same way it feels when you're having a nightmare:  You just keep shaking your head and trying to wake up, because somewhere in your heart you know that certainly this is too evil to be true.  That certainly this could never be reality.

And yet it was.  And as our collective shock slowly began to ebb away, we wanted ANSWERSWhy did this happen?  HOW did this happen??  WHO is to blame???  And people begin to raise the gun-control issues again, among others, in an attempt to not only make some sort of sense out of this tragedy,  but to make an effort to ensure that this sort of thing never happens again.

It is only natural that we feel this way.  These were our friends.  These were our children.

Everybody reacts to tragedy differently:  Some of us want to know why.  Some of us question God and ask Him how could He let this happen.  Some of us get angry at how insane and utterly pointless evil can be, and we cry out for someone that we can make pay for these crimes.  And then some of us merely weep.  Not only for the families and friends of those who were lost, but for where we are as a society that this was even possible, and then we weep some more just out of feelings of pure helplessness.

Because the fact is that you can't apply logic to a completely illogical situation.  We will never be able to make sense out of the senseless.  We will never be able to reconcile the slaughter of innocents.  It's just not possible.  And in that way, I'm afraid that there are just no answers to be had.

But if you were old enough to understand, and if you came to me with questions, I guess the only thing that I could tell you would be this:

We can't make sense out of tragedies like this.  You can't merely apply reason and hope it will look any better in the sunlight.  Because it's just too big.  And while we may never find the answers to truly satisfy a grieving heart's questions, we can certainly find some useful cautions to carry with us.

Do not fool yourself into believing that evil lives in some far-off place.  It is not in some distant land, industriously working to destroy the lives of others.  It walks among us, strolls our sidewalks, and frequents our libraries and grocery stores.  It looks just like us, it is everywhere we are, and it is very real.

In the wake of something like this, it is only natural to grieve and despair.  And to wonder what I, as one small person, can possibly do in the face of so much reckless hate.

I wish it weren't true baby, but bad things are always going to happen.  We cannot stop them.  And when they do happen, good people will always, to a degree, feel woefully and shamefully helpless.

Because we can't control others.  We can't constantly keep watch on them, and we can't force them to do what is right. 

But neither can we live in fear of them.

So instead of answers, I'm afraid that all I can give you is this:

The only weapon we have against this evil is ourselves.  As real as we are constantly being reminded that evil is. . . so is good.  It is as real as you and I.  It is tangible, and it is everywhere.

Each day of our lives we are fighting a war.  It is not a war we asked for, nor did our ancestors, and we can never take a day off.  With every action in our lives, we are constantly choosing and reaffirming which side we belong to.  With our every deed, we become a stronger force for good or evil.

We already have everything we need to shine a light into the darknessWE  are the candle that can be used to light up this world.  It is our responsibility, as warriors of light, to nurture that part in ourselves that houses goodness.  It is our responsibility, to ourselves and to our planet, to feed the part of ourselves that hopesTo strengthen the part that endures, and finds joy in what is true.  To give courage, and power, to the place in our hearts that says I will stand up for what is rightI will care for other people, no matter the cost to myself.  I will protect those that are innocent.  With every chance I get, in every small way I can, I will show this world that even if everyone else falls down, I will still stand.

And in myself, I will grow what is good, and decent, and right.  I will make it stronger.  And I will use it every day, in every way, small or large, that I possibly can.

Because it is the only defense we have:  each other.

And let us never forget, not even for a second, which side we belong to.  Which side we spend our days fighting for.

Let us never grow so jaded that we become unaffected.

Let us never become so weary that we lose the strength to fight.

For the ones that have been lost.  For our future.  And for each other.

Let us never lose hope that our world can, and will, be better.

Let us turn our sorrow into our strength.

And let us never stop trying to get there.

I love you sweetheart.  When I feel too hopeless to go on, you are my strength to stand.  For a better world, just for you.



Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Tis the Season to Stress Out

I have never been particularly impressed with money.

I am not making this point to brag.  Oh, no.  As a matter of fact, I'm pretty sure it is a character flaw of some form or another.  Or, at the very least, strong supporting evidence that points a big fat finger at the notion that I am a very simple woman with a very simple mind.

(Other supporting evidence would include my lifelong love of cartoons, my fascination with the inherent hilarity of cats, and the fact that I am completely incapable of suppressing 'the giggles' any time someone around me farts.  Simple mind, simple pleasures.)

And if that is truly the case. . . which, honestly, I have been suspecting for more than a FEW years now. . . then I am perfectly prepared to live with it.  I've been around long enough to know that I would gladly take 'simple' over 'complicated' any day of the week.

But the fact remains:  I have just never really been impressed with money, or the pretty little things that it can buy.  Fancy new cars?  Really just don't care.  Latest trends and fashions?  Meh.  I learned years ago that my fondness for jeans, and all things cozy and snuggish, is not something that I am likely to outgrow, and is a trait that simply will not be denied.  Newest tech gadgets that can operate your entire house AND feed your cat simply by pressing a button on your phone?  Again I say: Meh.  Maybe I've just read too many Dean Koontz novels (impossible!!), but that level of dependency on devices leaves me feeling more than a little bit unsettled.  (First you let your guard down.  That's how it always starts.)  Plus, I've always kind of preferred wiping my own ass, if you know what I mean. 

Now. . . a nice collection of art, stacks and stacks of interesting books, piles of craft supplies or furniture in need of makeovers, a pet tiger, or a spinning bookcase that moves aside to reveal a SECRET ROOM!!!  THOSE are things that I might seriously be foaming-at-the-mouth jealous of!  But the fact is that I simply haven't KNOWN that many insanely wealthy people in my lifetime.  And the few that I HAVE known just had NO CLUE how to properly spend their money.  (It's called 'TASTE', people.  And 'pet tigers.'  Look it up, it's not that complicated.)  I've always worked for what I wanted, always been fortunate enough to have enough food on the table to feed myself, and enough kibble in the bowl to feed the cat, and aside from books, there really haven't been that many material things that I've found myself longing for.  (Aside from coffee, but as coffee is integral to survival--much like air--I refuse to place it in the category of material things.)  And so, in 36 years of life, I can honestly say that I've never really had much cause to either be impressed with the almighty dollar, or to covet what those around me might've bought with it. 

And yeah.  I'll just go on and admit it:  It's not something I'm ashamed of.  I LIKE the fact that I don't spend a large portion of my life in the pursuit of possessions.  (Which would essentially equal spending a large portion of my life dissatisfied.)  I LIKE the fact that those things honestly hold no allure for me, and I LIKE the fact that I don't feel like I have spent my life mindlessly buying, consuming, and chasing after the damned Joneses.  (Because yes:  I LIKE to think that I'm smarter than that.)  All those things are removeable; they can all be stripped away.  And not only are they not important. . . to my mind, they are meaningless.  Worse, they are a distraction from the things that truly ARE important.  A distraction from all the beautiful things in our lives that we would be hopelessly LOST without. 

Now for the shameful part (but I guess I'm big enough to admit this, too):  I was feeling just a teensy bit smug about the fact that I had my head screwed on so very securely when it came to this.  (Is that coming across?  Just checking.)  I mean, my head wasn't the size of a Macy's Thanksgiving Day parade balloon JUST yet, but still. . . I was feeling rather 'correct' when it came to matters of "The best things in life AREN'T 'things.'"

And then. . . then came Christmas.

The Christmas season happens and all that smugness, the tiny sense of pride, and all the (what *I* consider to bemonk-like self control goes right out the window, flying on wings of Christmas fliers in our mailbox, toy commercials dominating the t.v., credit card jingles stuck in my head, and endless worries of "Have we gotten the kids enough?!?"

Because this time of year is the ONLY time of year that it happens, but it is the time when I just wish I had more money.

Please do not judge me too harshly, though, because I am NOT (not, NOT!!) saying this to complain!!  (I'm really not.  So you can kindly just stop looking down your red Rudolph nose at me.)  This is the choice I made, knowingly and willingly, when we had the baby, and if we did it again today (I would probably lose my mind because not sleeping for the three months that your baby is a newborn really sucks)---there would still be no other choice for me.  Before Took was even born, Michael and I discussed it at great length:  He had worked the numbers and decided that if we were careful, I could stay home with the baby if I wanted.  It would mean that money would probably be tight from time to time, and there most likely wouldn't be a lot of extra left over for ancillary things.  It would mean we would be on a strict budget, and we would stick to it, and we would probably not be eating out much.  (Not really a big deal when your husband's an awesome cook.  =)  It would mean that we would probably be watching our pennies for a few years, and it would mean that there would be a lot of times when there were things that we wanted that would just have to wait.  But most importantly, it would mean I would get to wake up every morning and have breakfast with my son.  And rock him to sleep for his nap every afternoon.  And be there to kiss every boo-boo acquired from climbing on, and consequently tumbling off of, various items of furniture the moment my back was turned for 3.5 seconds.  It would mean getting to spend Michael's off-days with him.  It would mean the three of us in the kitchen in the morning, making breakfast and coffee, sipping juice and chasing cats, sharing bites of french toast with the baby, and just building up quiet moments in our life.  The kind of moments that you reach back for to nourish you in times of trial and weakness.  In short, it was a choice that too few mothers get to make, and it was really no choice at all.  Screw the dinners out, screw Starbucks frappucinos, screw a shopping trip here and there, screw a little bit of extra expendable income.  Just give me my family and I'll never regret it.

And I DON'TNot at ALL.

The catch 22 is it's that wonderful and cherished family that I want to BUY these Christmas gifts for!!

But somehow (and thanks to Michael's careful plotting and planning all year long), we are going to make it work again this year.  (Always seems like a Christmas miracle when we somehow manage to pull it off each year.  It's a bonding experience, really.  Without going into debt.  Did I mention that part?  Going into debt for Christmas is not an option.  Plus I think it would probably make baby Jesus cry.  Or piss off Santa Claus, I forget which one.  Either way, I feel sure it's very anti-'the true meaning of Christmas.')

Curiously enough, I've reached my 'Enough!' point a little early this year, and I can't say that I mind it a bit.  Still two weeks out and I've already driven myself half-mad worrying about this detail or that, and stressing over everyone I know's individual Christmas happiness.  (Which I am not actually, personally responsible for.  Nor is my gift.  Perfectly logical.  I have really GOT to learn to start remembering this earlier in the YEAR!!  Maybe a post-it would help. . .) 

So from this point forward, I am striving to have a relaxed attitude about the season.  We have most of our gifts bought, they just need to be wrapped.  The children won't be getting lavish amounts of gifts from us. . . but truthfully they could get nothing from us at all, and still receive just a shameful amount of presents.  This one is probably the hardest for me.  Trying not to worry about 'Have we done enough for the kids?'  But it helps to remember that I don't want them to grow up to be assholes.  And all the kids I knew that were insufferable spoiled brats growing up?  That's pretty much exclusively the career path they chose.  So it actually helps a lot to think about it as protecting the children.  I'm fairly sure they'll thank me when they're older. . .

Either that, or they'll be lamenting to their shrink about how all they ever wanted as a child was a Mr. Potato Head, and that's the reason they have trust issues today.