Because I’m not a Christmas Card sender

I’ve tried before, a couple of years I even got the cards out in time.

I felt very accomplished those years. But it’s been a long time.

So in light of the fact that I’m not organized or competent enough to send out individual paper cards, here:

Also, in the tradition of those lovely people who do a family update letter every year at Christmas, I will do this.

2011.

The year started out like they all tend to do.

Resolutions were pretty much abandoned by week 2.

I turned 31.

The institution of marriage was defined by people in all different ways.

Ava lost her first tooth. Max lost several of his.

Lucy turned one.

Josh and I decided to go back to school, and we had our 5 year anniversary.

Josh was in many plays. I was in none.

Max and Ava and Dan were also in plays.

I started going to a for real shrink.

My sister got married.

Osama Bin Laden was killed.

Occupy Wall Street began.

Josh said goodbye to his grandfather.

I registered my domain name and began to blog with fervor.

Josh and I finished our first semester of school online.

And oddly enough, that seems to be all of note I can really remember.

I am giving myself this week of mostly leisure, so you may not hear from me for a while.

I love you.

Worth more than 1,000 words

I made a great many friends when I was in college the first time. Friends I’ve kept throughout the years – one who I married and unmarried, and many others who I will never ever be without. 
Not many of them live nearby, though. It makes for long gobetweens in visits, calls, talks. I end up keeping tabs on people through Facebook and email.
 
It’s a type of friendship that I don’t really think has been pioneered exactly. It’s a far cry from the world of Beaches, all Bette Midler and Barbara Hershey waiting weeks for responses…I can have indepth conversations, exchange pictures, and gossip just like we were in the dorms again, all with a little bit of wireless internet. 
 
One of those friends is named Addie.
 
You guys, Addie is straight up one of the most wonderful people in the world. From the time I spent with her in 1999, to exchanging emails and watching from afar as each of her children has been born or found, she has always been a constant. Someone who I know won’t judge or sugarcoat. She is a treasure.

 
Addie has a photography business. Like many photographers starting out, she works a full time job and she only really has time for her work on the weekends. We’ve talked for years about getting together and making some pictures, but it’s just never happened. Conflicts and time and whatnot.
 
Until last weekend. We all packed up and squashed into Dan’s truck, drove 45 minutes to an abandoned motel, and prepared to grin and pose.
 
I hate having my picture taken. I hate it because I always feel self-conscious and fat, my chin is too pointy and my teeth are too big.
 
But we did it. Addie was sweet and gracious and put up with our weirdness. She had fantastic ideas and she made us feel so…normal. Which is difficult with a family like ours.
 
When my pictures are tweaked and awesome, I’ll show you. A whole post of pictures.
 
But until then, I just wanted you to know about my friend Addie, because I seriously love her and I don’t feel like I convey it enough. Also, go and like her on Facebook. It’s worth it just to see all the pictures she posts.

Dedesensitizing

As a rule, in this house of mixed insanity, we don’t go big on most things. 
 
We make cakes for birthdays but there’s usually not a big hubbub.
We usually have a pumpkin somewhere around Halloween. Most years.
 
But for the most part, we don’t make big deals out of holidays or occasions. Last year for Christmas we decorated the corner ficus tree with paper ornaments.
 
It works for us. I like to think that we are teaching our children that every day can be special, every day can be fun and great. There’s no need to wait for the calendar to tell you when to celebrate.
 
It’s my hope that they will believe that for at least a few years before they figure out we’re mostly just gape-jawed, knuckledragging lazy.
 

Dan takes a somewhat pious stand on the whole situation…”Christmas makes everyone feel like they have to spend money on someone or they don’t love them.”
 
Dan obviously doesn’t know how many people are getting homemade gifts this year. Ahem.
 
My point is that we do minimalist holidays around here. I mean, there are six people in this house…it does get a little cozy for comfort when you throw in decor and laundry and whatever board game my kids are yelling over this week (whoever thought to make Angry Birds into a board game….well, that’s just stupid. Yeah, I said it).

 
But this year we decided to holiday it up, and by we I mean Josh and I. We bought some lights, borrowed a bunch of ornaments from the inlaws, and picked up an honest-to-Moses real live tree. For real. The last time I remember having a real tree, my parents had gold shag carpet (which, by the way, I would totally dig. The vacuum lines were always trippy).
 
We came home and put up the tree, and my children were in. Heaven. 
 
Lucy ran her hands through the branches, “Tree, tree!”
Max wondered how many lights we’d need to make the whole thing catch on fire, and he told Dan it made sense for him not to care about Christmas since “you don’t believe in God and that means it’s just a regular old day.” (Note to self: try and convince Max that the Grinch was an atheist and he turned out to be the heart-biggenest of all.)
Ava alternated between moving ornaments around and telling me how glad she was to have a mom like me “who knows how to do stuff.”
 
I’d say it went over pretty well. If nothing else, I get to sit in the dark with only the tree lights…and for some reason that always calms me. I think that may be worth the whole ordeal.

This is why I think church kind of sucks

This past Sunday, we the Steens decided to go on a small road trip. We needed to go to Five Guys, Target, etc.

 

So we went, after convincing my Mom to loan us her car (we take her car on trips like that because it gets good gas mileage and is always clean).

 

In my mom’s car, I found a copy of a recent bulletin from her church. While I was somewhat afraid that my blaspheming fingers might cause it to burst into flame, I looked over it. 

 

Josh noticed the blurb pictured below, and he observed that the Brittany Settle mentioned would have been in school with our friend Marty.

 

So I did some research. Because I’m a trouble stirrer.

 

In 1991, Brittany Settle was indeed given an assignment for a term paper. The teacher was clear in her terms: pick whatever you want to write about, get it approved, and then write about it.

 

So Brittany chose her topic. She chose the topic of “drama,” which I can only assume meant things like traveling troupes and Globe Theatre and the like.

 

Then, for whatever reason, she changed her mind. She decided to write about Jesus instead. I can only imagine the reasoning. Maybe she thought it would be easier, maybe she knew she had a good paper in her brain, bred from years of Bible verses and Sunday School.

 

She decided to change topics and she wrote what I’m sure was an excellent paper. 

 

However, she never got the change approved. She didn’t give her teacher any heads up at all, and so when she turned in what was supposed to be a paper about actors and dramatics and it was instead about Jesus, she failed.

 

It’s a lesson I learned in about the fifth grade – you don’t follow directions, you fail your shit.

 

The fact that the situation then escalated to court dates and appearances on church bulletins two decades later is just a little ridiculous.

Untitled because I can

This week is drawing to a close and oh my GOD can you believe it’s December? That is just crazy. Really, insane.
I mean December is for Christmas and holidays and Hanukah and Kwanzaa.

Max asked me one year if we could celebrate Kwanzaa. However I wasn’t really sure what all that entailed so I told him we could have a menorah and that seemed to appease him.

I generally despise Christmas.

I love giving gifts, it’s one of my favorite things in the world. I just don’t like giving gifts on a strained budget. I want to buy everyone the iPads and iPhones and xboxes they want and I want to watch their faces light up because they got a kickass present from someone who loves them. Me.

I just can’t do that yet. Maybe one day.

Oh, and there’s some exciting happenings with school stuff, maybe I’ll be able to fill you in soon. Yeee!

I am out of sorts with the weather. I love the cooler, but it’s moving a little too quickly into bitter ass cold. And that’s not cool.

Now if you’ll excuse me, Lucy has a permanent marker.

To win and to lose

I’m giving up. Whatever this virus is does not plan on leaving anytime soon. 
I could, at this point, regale you with tales of how crap I feel or how abnormally every function of my body is progressing, but I think I’ll spare you. BECAUSE I LOVE YOU.
 
Yesterday was Max’s chess tournament. Like I mentioned, he’s been prepping for it for months. Nonstop. Last year he played and came home with a “participant” ribbon after beating exactly no one. He was rather wounded, and apparently he was having none of that this year.
 
So he went. He competed. He emerged the second most victorious.
 

Second place, baby! We were all so proud.

However, as happy tales often do, this one has a dark side.

 

Ava, who is fresh into the accelerated program and therefore only this year got a chance to play chess, she competed too.

 

Apparently Ava has inherited my utter inability to stratergize and plan, and therefore she shares my absolute suck at the game of kings.

 

She played one game. She lost. It didn’t go well.

 

She was upset upon the homecoming because everyone was so excited for Max. 

 

Which presented a dilemma. Of course we were sad that she didn’t do better, we were sad that she was upset, but MAX WORKED HIS ASS OFF. He wanted to do well and so he did, whereas Ava would “practice” with Max only if he played with no queen and often she’d just quit when her brain started to tire out.

 

I tried to be gentle. I tried to be understanding. But maybe she learned a lesson.

 

And at least she didn’t yell, “SHIT!” when she lost, I was a little worried about that.
 

Snowed

So, here I am again. 
Let me tell you, whatever this germ is that has assaulted my insides over the past two days, IT WINS. I have never been so miserable. Well, wait. The last time I was this miserable I was eight months pregnant and had the flu. That was bad.
 
But this, this has been awful. I took finals last night in a cold sweat and just prayed I wouldn’t hurl on the table. Or poop myself. Or both. And while I think I may be over it and Lucy didn’t seem to have it quite as bad, Josh has it now. Everyone knows that when the man gets sick the world is ending.
 
It snowed last night. There was a big uproar because we were under a WINTER STORM WARNING. The pink and blue on the radar was very promising indeed.
 

 And then this happened, and it was lovely and exciting. 

I even started to maybe believe the warnings, and i got a little excited. I live in Mississippi, people. We get real snow maybe a couple of times a year.

 

Then this morning I woke up and looked outside with huge anticipation….

 

Nothing. The pavement was wet. The end. I wanted to go find the inventor of the Weather Channel and punch him.

 

Max was excited, though. He had been upset that school might be closed because today is the chess tournament that he’s been prepping for for months. Which is why he woke up, looked out the window, and yelled, “SWEET!”

 

Yup. It’s my kid’s fault the snow didn’t stick. Maybe I should punch him.

 

Thanksgiving thoughts…and the WINNER!

Guess what, I took exactly ZERO pictures yesterday on Thanksgiving. So I stole Josh’s. 
I don’t know what came over me.
 
Hm.
 

Anyway, so yesterday was Thanksgiving. It was lovely, really, all the food and sugar and food and people.
 
Also food.
 
But I have to admit something: Thanksgiving doesn’t feel real anymore.
 
That sounds strange I know, but it’s really the only way I can think of to describe it. 
 
I’ve had lots of Thanksgivings, from the legendary McRib Thanksgiving of 19something to awkward high school holiday sharing with boyfriend family, pregnant Thanksgivings, everything you can think of pretty much.
 
And it’s always a blast. I love my family – both sides and every person involved, and it’s never been a stress or a chore for me. Josh gets to cook, I get to bake, and everyone gets to eat. It’s fun stuff.
 
This year was fun, but….different. The meals were over and I was left with a huge feeling of anticlimax.
 
Maybe I’m just getting older, maybe Lucy was bratting it up because she’s getting new teeth. Maybe I was just in a weird mood, maybe the moon was in Shintippies and my oodles were noogin, but I think holidays may need to change a bit.
 
Come with me into my vision.
 
The day arrives with no less preparation. The kitchen is full of dishes and smells so thick you can taste every spice and ingredient. The fridge is packed, the oven is humming, and every bit of counter space is either messed or full of waiting pyrex.
 
BUT…no one is in a flurry. There is no ticking clock. 
 
The kids watch movies in their pajamas, football takes over the bigscreen, and we sit outside in shifts with mimosas and lattes.
 
Family arrives, family from ALL THREE SIDES, and instead of a big production of sitdown and proper…they just join in the day. Watching football, having conversations. The focus isn’t on minutes wasted or time shared and split. The focus is on being together. Enjoying each other with a mutual understanding of ease and fun. People leave, people arrive. Instead of stuffing face over a couple of hours, the whole day is there to be taken. Breakfast. Lunch. Dinner. Whatever, whenever.
 
I’m willing to bet the day would wind down with a much more peaceful atmosphere.

 
Anyway. Maybe it’s just a pipe dream. Maybe it can really happen.
 
So you’ve stuck around this long, huh? 
 
Want to know who the winner is?
 
………………………..
………………………..
………………………..
 
KIM! @notblessedmama
 
YAYYYYY!
 
Kim, email me or give me a shout on Twitter. I’ll hook you up.
 
I love giveaways. That was fun. Maybe I’ll do it again sometime.

Thanks be

(here’s the giveaway I know you’re looking for)

So there have been lots of thankful countdowns and such on Facebook.

Generally I don’t shy away from things like that.

AND WHO AM I KIDDING, NOW IS NO DIFFERENT.

I’m thankful.

I’m thankful for:

My health, however I may sometimes hate the way I look and think.
My heart, and the ability I have to love and care. Really. Some people can’t do that.
My desire to be more of a person.
School.
Wine.
The way Josh loves to cook.
Pumpkin muffins.
Friendship – over the past year I’ve done some regrettable things. I’ve lost people who meant a great deal to me. But I still have some people who love me, flaws and all. And that is a blessing beyond words.

And now for the hardcore love:

I’m thankful for Dan. He is exactly the father Max and Ava need, and we are all lucky to have him.
I’m thankful for my Mom. She is everything I have ever wanted to be.
I’m thankful for my Dad. He is, now and always, the measure of the type of man I need.
I’m thankful for my sister. She has been my partner in crime for my entire life, and one of the best friends I could have. Even if she left me out of her Facebook thankful countdown.
I’m thankful for my grandmothers. For how loving and sweet they both have always been, and the memories they’ve given me.
I’m thankful for Josh’s family. They have loved me and accepted me, they are my family.
I’m thankful for my son. Max has, in the past decade, taught me more about myself than I ever expected. His heart and sweet soul are something we should all strive to match.
I’m thankful for my Ava Thomas. For the fire and joy she carries with her. For the independence I envy, and for the beauty she carries, inside and out.
I’m thankful for Lucy Grace. She has given me new life, laughter, and a joy I didn’t know I had room in my heart for.
I’m thankful for Josh. I could gush and spew about every reason, but I can sum it in this: he has taught me what love truly is. I would have gone through my life an incomplete person if I did not have him.

Happy Thanksgiving.

Speechless.

I have restarted this post six times.

I am very rarely at a loss for words, but today is one of those times.

It’s a difficult thing to watch someone you love hurt, and it’s no secret that I don’t get along too well with difficult things.

But things happen. And you can’t do anything about it.

Almost exactly a year ago, my husband lost his grandmother. She had been very sick for a long time, but when she went she was lucid and…well, there. She said her goodbyes. There was closure.

This week, Josh said goodbye to his grandfather.

This was much different, in that over the last year (longer than that, really) we’d all watched his steady loss of reality. He wasn’t totally without moments of clarity, but they gradually became fewer and farther between.

I never really knew Josh’s grandparents. Well, I did, but obviously not the way he did. I watch him hurt and I wish I could fix things. I wish I could share those memories.

I remember, though, my own grandfathers and the time I had with them. I think about how short the time I had with them was and how much I miss them. I think about my grandmothers and how they still remember their husbands so fondly. I think about the times I was around Josh’s grandparents together, and how they were the very picture of everything I want my marriage to be. How if I’d had longer I would have loved to hear all the stories they no doubt had to tell.

I have no words to say to make anything better. I wish I did.

The end of this circle is complete. What a beautiful time it was. I wish I’d had more time to be a part of it.