How It Feels This Year

This is the first year I’ve voluntarily felt like I could do Christmas.

Not the first year ever. The first after that demarcation point. The After Death Year.

There were years I faked it, and it was excruciating, and wrong, and painful.

There were years I literally stuck to the bed, pillow soaked through with tears, knowing a light would come, gasping for the air that would get me to that spot. That was last year. The fifth year.

This year I have half-decorated trees, bins strewn about the house, no gifts wrapped, company set to arrive in under an hour, and I’m the most at peace I’ve been.

I mastered the art of Fuck It long ago.

Next year could be different. I know that.

Depression isn’t predictable. Liar. Thief.

Grief is a cunt of another stripe. Curling through everyday life, popping in for inopportune visits.

But this year. This year I get to Do Some Things.

And I’m furiously happy about that shit.

How It Changes

I used to have themed Christmas trees. I had seven in the living room, and the kids each had one and I'm pretty sure a couple small ones were scattered about, too. A snowman tree, Santa tree, angel tree, and trees for just my ornaments, my husband's, the kids' ornaments—it was the only time I really decorated for a holiday. I have ornaments from every Christmas of my life, and it shows. My first Christmas, alone? I have at least five ornaments. And every year I greet them like old friends. Or I used to.

 

 


My Santa and angel from 1969 are something I know will be there in their cotton-candy pink glory each year.

 

But it's hard now. Because in between them are mixed golf ball Santas and Sponge Bobs who belonged to my late husband, and every time I unwrap that piece of paper that used to feel like an early Christmas gift, I now feel a mix of anticipation and fear.

 


Because I want to honor his memory, and I want my children to know their father is still part of our celebration of the holidays (and every day), but I also know that it's a painful reminder of loss with each unwrapped piece of our history.

 

That first year, I couldn't even bring the ornaments out of the attic. Last year, I got them onto the tree, but somebody else had to put them away. This year, it took me three tries and a meltdown in the shed to get the decorations into the house.

But it gets better. I was able to help hang some of his ornaments on the tree. And children are the balm of healing like no other salve of this earth. As I watched them hang too many ornaments from the tips of a single branch, it made me smile. Some day they will know that the branches are stronger toward the trunk, but right now they want nothing more than to make sure the beauty of their ornament is seen RIGHT NOW. RIGHT HERE. UP FRONT. And who can blame them for that kind of passion? Even the tree tries its hardest to support their dreams.

 

 

 

 

Wants Vs Needs: Merry Widowmass

I remembered to make a list of what I wanted for Christmas this year. What I forgot was to make a list of what I would need—namely, what I would need for Christmas Day.

I needed a gift of strength that would allow me to walk into the room with the Christmas tree and stockings, the presents overflowing from all corners, and be able to do so without losing my ability to breathe, falling to tears, turning to run back to my room before everybody would see me.

I needed to be able to look into the faces of my children and our family and share their joy as they opened gifts instead of hyperventilating under the covers in my room.

I needed grief to let me go for today or, at least, give me a heads up that I wouldn't be able to participate so I wouldn't feel like such a failure with my family. I know they don't see it that way, but I feel that way.

I needed peace, not the searing pain. Not today. Today was not about me—not SUPPOSED to be about me.

Grief needs to fuck right off. I am so. Very. Tired. Of crying.

Next year, somebody remember to ship my ass to Hawaii for this day.

Not Quite There: Merry Widowmass

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Progress. I think I'm making progress. I know I am. I'm surrounded by decorations, the real ones from my past, new ones we've made, and the ones we have blended together. This is a huge step from where I was last Christmas.

I play Christmas music, much like I used to do when Bob was still alive.

I want to bake. I look at pictures of things I want to do. I see my recipes in my head. I buy the ingredients for the cookies. I am So. Very. Close.

I am still not there.

I have to remind myself it is only the second Christmas without him.

I have to remind myself that it is okay to feel like I can't be happy all the time.

I have to remind myself that it isn't my job to bake all of the cookies, wrap all of the presents, or make sure things look like a Pottery Barn catalog. Hell, I don't want to live in a Pottery Barn catalog. I am not Martha Stewart. My shoes are too sexy, and my daughter likes me too much.

We have a decorated tree, a happy bunch of kids, and the crew is getting the rest of the decorations up outside this weekend. My daughter and her BFF have wrapped a lot of the gifts and the boyfriend and I will wrap more tomorrow before his family arrives. The rest will probably arrive in Amazon Blue. God Bless Amazon Blue and Prime Shipping.

Baby steps.

Until then, I'm mowing down Trader Joe's mini gingerbread men like it's my Mother-Fucking JOB. LIttle frosted men. I highly recommend them. I might be passing them off as "my cookies" this year if I can't pull my head out in the next few days.

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Fun Stuff: Let's Link It Up With Some Tuneage

Let's start with a little music. This is probably my all-time favorite holiday CD.

Elton John's Christmas Party is a compilation CD of his favorite holiday tunes, and the man picked a seriously sweet selection. My top picks from the CD (videos not the actual CD versions, in some cases):

Outkast - Player's Ball (Official Music Video). Watch more top selected videos about: OutKast

 

I might have a slight addiction to the holiday tunes, and this year I finally downloaded A Colbert Christmas: The Greatest Gift of All!, which is from 2008. My top pick has to be Colbert's duet with Jon Stewart, "Can I Interest You In Hanunukah?"

Happy Hump Day, kids. Go find some mistletoe.

 

 

 

 

Change In Plans: Learning To Be Flexible And The First Christmas

This holiday season has been all about flexibility.

First, we had to forgo the visit to Bob's parents because I was still sick and Bob's dad's immune system is compromised right now. We have plans to visit them upon our return from Denver. 

Then, we had to rework our plans for Denver. The friend we're going to visit and stay with is sick, Bug doesn't want to go (being an Aspie dude means traveling and a change of environment isn't always his thing, and I appreciate that), so we've made another change in plans. Instead, Bug will hang with his grandparents whom he's been missing and have been missing him, and Peanut and I will head out to Denver for a long weekend instead of an 8-day family vacation. 

It's been about other changes, too. We made it through our first Christmas without Bob by doing things a little and a lot differently. We skipped things that didn't feel right; we didn't have a traditional Christmas dinner, choosing to eat a favorite meal of In-n-Out burger, instead. We had a cocktail and soda at a local Chinese restaurant. We drove around looking at lights, listening to rap music, taking pictures, and posting them on the Internet with funny captions. We ate cookies in bed. We visited Bob's sister who's home from the hospital, thank GOD! We bought new stockings instead of climbing into the attic to face our vast collection of Christmas decorations from years past. We missed him. We talked about him. We celebrated the simple moments. I think he would be proud of his kids, of me, of his family, of how we're learning to live and love. It's what he wanted for us.

We did what felt right. It wasn't always easy or peaceful. There were difficult, sad, bumpy moments, but we made it. We sprinkled lots of laughter over the top. It's the only way we know how to do it.

 

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Decisions You Have To Make For Yourself, And They Suck

Califmom BW 09The scientists studying human cloning need to hurry the fuck up. I need two of me, immediately. Like yesterday. I need one of me to take my husband to the hospital Christmas Eve, and one of me to pick my children up from their grandparents’ house and bring them home.

I need one of me to spend the next three days at inpatient chemo with my husband. And I need the other one of me to spend Christmas with my children who are too young to be allowed into the hospital to visit their father thanks to the “nobody under age 14” rule. (Thank you H1N1 virus.)

But, these damn cloning scientists seems to be taking Christmas off, unlike the doctors who will be working to save my husband. Cloning slackers.

After today’s surgery, Bob got to come home for the night. We go back tomorrow to do a new chemo regimen, in the hopes that it will do a better job at getting the cancer into a complete or near complete remission for the transplant process.

The chemo regimen they’ll do this time is called R-ICE chemotherapy. RICE, RICE, BABY -- but I don't think they have a dance for it yet. I'll have to work on that. Anyhoo, it’s another common regimen used for treating lymphoma that’s recurred, and is often used prior to transplant.

The biopsy was done to determine if the lymphoma tumors that have been growing rapidly the past week are of a new type. This will help the team at Stanford decide if a different transplant approach is warranted. The initial plan was for an autologous transplant, which requires a complete or near complete remission of the current lymphoma. Otherwise, an allologous transplant becomes the next option. In that case, they’d start looking for sibling donors. Good thing he has a bunch of those! God bless a good, horny Catholic family.

Now, if I can just figure out how to make two of me before tomorrow. I have two kids who want to be home and a husband who’s health is in a precarious state who doesn’t understand why I won’t just leave him at the hospital to go be with the kids. Men. They can be dense fuckers sometimes.

Thankfully, the kids are old enough that we discussed opening gifts with Daddy on Sunday when he comes home. They get that. We'll just move Christmas by 2 days. Christ wasn't born on the 25th of December, anyway. God will get over it.

Bug asked me to text Santa to let him know we’d need to postpone our delivery by two days. No problem, dude. I’m on it. Then, my boy who never worries about his dad, at least not in words, the kid who never uses his cell phone, texted me and then called me tonight. He’s worried. He wanted me to say prayers with him. Part of his prayers for the past 6 years have included people we know who have passed—my grandparents, and my two girlfriends who died of cancer in their 30s and their families. (Non-standard, I know. He's a non-standard kid.) I didn’t maintain. He said, “Mom, it sounded like you either got sad there or we had some static on the line.” No, dude, I got sad there. “Yeah, Mom, I’ve been feeling sad, too. I’m getting worried.” I’m worried, too, bud.

Peanut texted me in the middle of the night last night. Her stomach hurt. She wanted to come home. She misses her animals. Dr. Doolittle, that one. Both dogs and our 20lb. cat sleep with her most nights, piled onto her twin bed. They surround her during the days while she does her school work. She’s homesick. She needs the surroundings that calm her. Her best friend/cousin is out of town for the holidays, which adds to her lost-at-sea feeling, I’m sure. I wish I could just take her with me to the hospital. If they didn’t have a record of her age, I’d lie and say she was 14. She certainly looks it, and it would reduce her anxiety immensely to be with us. She’s the kid who needs to know what’s going on to feel calm. I text her during the day when I can. She wants to know why she can’t just be home alone while I’m at the hospital all day, just so she can be home, where things are familiar. The kid is breaking my heart.

This is what it’s like to be a mother, and a wife, and to love so much you want to be able to cut yourself into pieces for the people who need you most and who you most want to be able to support and love.

Cloners. I blame your lazy asses. Scotty, too. Should have been able to beam my ass back and forth by now.

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Mom & Dad, Consider Your Stockings Stuffed

Despite ample coaxing, my parents rarely read my blog. Shocking, I know. I can’t imagine why they don’t race over here to see what I’ve strapped to my head this week. Alas, they don’t.

viking

They’ve known me my whole damn life, it seems. So, this shit just doesn’t impress them much. They knew me when I glued cotton balls to my brother’s face in the middle of that cold winter night, climbed upon our snowy rooftop, and jingled those bells to bring about a little Christmas spirit for them. Unimpressed. A little pissed, actually.

They knew me when I shoved my children into oversized flower pots in a wagon and called it a Halloween costume. (Hey, we won that damn contest, and my mother helped make the hats. So, don’t let her tell you otherwise.)

And, they know me now. Now, that I’ll be featured, along with others, in Nick Douglas’ forthcoming book, Twitter Wit, “a compilation of Twitter aphorisms and witticisms, celebrating a medium that has enabled millions of users to broadcast their lives and quips within Twitter's 140-character limit, thus reinventing wordplay in the tradition of Dorothy Parker and Oscar Wilde.”

In my case, it’s probably a tweet about poop, or sex, or something respectable like that. And, since my parents haven’t read this and aren’t on Twitter, guess what Mom and Dad will be getting in their stockings this year. Thanks, Nick!

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My List: From Big to Small Xmas '08


I have a little bit of everything on my Christmas wish list this year, except a pony. I totally left the pony off the list. Didn't want to appear greedy. Plus, I've had a pony. Not the friendliest of the ride-able mammals. I went kind of traditional: jewelry, a laptop (girl’s gotta dream), a new set of bamboo sheets (softest sheets evah!), gadgetry, bath bombs, clothing, literary finds, an eco-friendly coffee mug, and some art. Oh, and a plushie uterus. For reals. Check it out. Thanks to @clapifyoulike me for that hot tip. The biggest test: Will Hubs order any of it in time?

By the way, this is my first year using Wishpot, and I’m loving the ease of use. I can browse any page on the Interwebs, find something I want, click the Wishpot button on my toolbar, and my wish list is updated. So flippin’ cool. It even pulls pictures and prices when it can. Then, I email it to Hubs with a big fat PLEEEEEEEZZZZZZ. (It's also handy for keeping track of ideas for gifts for others...if you're into that sort of thing.)

Also, I cannot push this idea enough: If you spouse struggles with what to get you for the holidays, send him (or her...yeah, right) a clickable wish list. Make it simple stupid. That's what I'm telling you. Best idea for maintaining that marital bliss.

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I Am A Shopping (in my jammies) Fool

Since the recipients of these gifts don’t regularly read my blog, I’m going to tell you all about the awesomeness of my finds. Check out these cool goodies—all purchased sans pants (on my part).

Probably someone was wearing pants in the process. It just wasn't me, or maybe even the person I ordered them from, but certainly the UPS guy had on pants or at least a pair of those brown shorts, right?

For Baby Jack (who’s more a dude than a baby now, but I like the name):

ChalkFun

Traveling fun from Lil B Designs for the little guy; a roll up chalk board with chalk holder.

For Peanut (a major bookworm):

everybodyisdifferent

We checked out Everybody is Different from the library, and she only got a chance to read a bit, but loved what she read. It struck me as the kind of book you’d want to read and re-read, pass around the family, that kind of thing.

gaiagirls

Peanut LOVED the other Gaia Girls book (Way of the Water) we got in Hopland. We read it together, and it is incredibly well-written, with a strong girl character, and enough fantasy intertwined to really draw you into the story. I have high hopes that Gaia Girls Enter the Earth will be equally as good.

For Bug (birthday or Xmas, I haven’t decided yet):

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A t-shirt from JamJamTees that captures his personality.

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lab

Two prints from Poor Dog Farm for his room that capture his special interests: kiwi birds, chocolate labs, and vintage hats.

For the house:

christmascookie

Reed diffuser oil in Christmas Cookie scent. It arrived today and YUM! Smells so much better than dog. Like, a thousand times better.

For the family:

soapnuts

I got a sample of SoapNuts from The Laundry Tree at BlogHer and they rock! A natural way to wash your laundry, super easy to use, and unscented (unless you choose to add scent—I like the Energy Essential Oil). I ordered the Daily Grommet Soapnut Package.

For the grandparents:

HeadsetMicrophone MicrosoftLifecam

A webcam and headset for “visiting” with the grandkids. I ordered one for our family, as well. Love Amazon for the gadgetry. I’m not providing links though, as there are a gazillion choices that really need to be narrowed by your specific tech requirements.

That’s all for now, and I guarantee now that I’ve posted this stuff, my parents will start reading my blog (other than when I specifically send them a link to a post). Isn’t that how this works?

Up next, I’ll let you all have a peak at my Xmas wish list. I make one for Hubs each year, complete with clickable ordering links. So far, it’s been a great way to avoid him shopping on the 24th and being utterly shocked when things are sold out. It also prevents me hating him on the 24th. Win win.

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