I never did figure out how to celebrate this holiday. So I’m making the regular activities of the day fit a theme. It’s backwards, but dammit, I have a New Year’s Resolution to keep!
So I’m sorting Legos. I’m sure I’ll write more about Legos at some point. I love them. Obsess about them. They teach me and inspire me. I’m serious.
But the sorting is a chore. I have a system: small Legos, large Legos, flat Legos, and then obscure and large sized ones. Most colors have four boxes each which are divided in this way. About the size of a shoe box so you can tell right off I have thousands of Legos.
Unfortunately this is a bit backwards for the holiday because I am segregating the Legos. Right now I have three bowls of integrated Legos and I can’t have that. They must be separated – then further separated by size. So since I’m backwards on this holiday any way, I guess it’s ok to not let the red and gray Legos mingle. We will have none of that! Separate but equal in the Land of Legos.
My goal with this particular sort is to get through the whites and reds because I want to make two Star Wars X-Wing ships. I’ve been going through my favorite projects. I’m particularly interested to know whether or not I still have all the pieces.
Once the kids get their hands on my Legos there is no telling where the pieces go. They actually play with them. It drives me crazy.
My kids and I have been discussing the resolutions we want to make. I think goals are a good idea. I think that reviewing where you are and thinking about ways you’d like to change or improve can only be a good thing. We take the whole first week of the New Year to think about it since being on time or being prepared has never been a resolution.
So my Sam says, “I want a revolution too.”
“That’s ‘resolution’ little guy, but I like your spirit.”
“I want my revolution to be eating more dessert and less school. I like school, but I don’t want to go to school.”
Which makes perfect sense to me. For my part I’m going to try embracing holidays. I really do hate them. The older I get, the more cynical I become, every single holiday feels like an orchestrated event to get us to spend money and buy advertising space and humiliate ourselves trying to sing unsingable songs. And with small children, the holidays cannot be dodged. The decorating, the obligatory gift giving and card sending . . . it all makes me crazy. Crazy with exhaustion and that feeling that I’ll never get a grip on it. I’m always behind.
So this year, I’m getting in front of the holidays. Every month there is some opportunity, and we are going to celebrate. We are going to celebrate every damn holiday if it kills me. We are going to have fun dammit. That means decorating, a small gift exchange, food and some social activity for the whole family. I will even hang the appropriate flag outside our front door as evidence of my holiday spirit. Ugh.
Which brings me to the first holiday. Martin Luther King Day. What on earth does one do for this holiday? I’m being challenged right out of the gate. How do you decorate to integrate? Is there equality food? What does a freedom gift exchange look like? All I can think of is that we each take a portion of King’s great speeches and read them aloud. And while that might sound educational and beautiful, come on, it’s lame! My resolve is being tested only two weeks into the New Year.
I won’t be tripped up though. I’ve got the glow of a New Year’s Resolution all over me and I will not fail. I’ll probably lose that last ten pounds by then too. Who am I kidding?
This Christmas I decided to give my children my office. I’m completely redecorating with desks and bookshelves, lots of space for school projects and floor to ceiling whiteboards. It’s costing more money than I have , but it really has to be done. My kids are struggling at school.
I openly stressed about the money and the transition to my mother over the holidays. She completely missed my bigger issues which makes sense because she is a woman of another generation. My open stressing rendered no support, instead some small condemnation.
My mother suggested I was redecorating because I like to do that sort of thing. She suggested that I not make financial expenditures which could deprive my children. This was merely a luxury I should forego.
She was missing big points and I couldn’t convince her otherwise. She was a stay at home mom most of her life. She married my dad when she was 21 and raising children was all she ever knew.
My kids have me for only a couple of hours every night – for homework, dinner, chat and cuddling. They are now at an age where they need space to open books and make projects. The three of them share a single, small bedroom. They need my office space more than I do. My single, imposing desk which accommodates one will not help the four of us muddle through the three Rs. No question: they need a functioning room and the expense is just one of those things I’m going to have to shoulder.
But the bigger heartache in all this is losing my office. I had an occupation and a profession which gave me satisfaction and independence. I had barely begun marketing myself and enjoying the thrill that comes with building a business. I’m turning my back on that, giving it away to the three people I love the most who depend on me for everything. . . and it hurts. It hurts to realize I’m not that zippy independent professional I once thought I could be. Calling the shots from my seat of power, making things happen and influencing the world. I’m simply not important in that way and handing off my office seals that fate and acknowledges my own impotence in the adult world of movers and shakers. It’s really quite sad. I could feel like a failure except that I see this step as one toward creating success in other areas, other more important areas, like the development of children.
This really is their time. I suspect my time is over, my arc has ended. Whatever chances I had to “be something” have now dissolved except in ways that pertain to or at least include consideration of the kids. I’m really ok with that. It’s an adjustment period certainly, but I feel triumphant in that it was a hard decision. . . and I only hesitated about two days to make it.
My Boyfriend Candidate went nuts this year and gave me a bunch of gifts. Not individually extravagant, but as a whole, it was an investment of time and consideration. I gave him a set of wine glasses – which he really didn’t need. It was nice, minimally thoughtful, and looked kinda puny next to his pile of generosity.
I have such a problem with this. Being new to dating protocols – after 20+ years of being with my now ex-husband – is the gift giving suppose to be equal? That’s unrealistic considering our difference in income and the fact that everything I have rightfully goes to my children. Still, I’m uncomfortable. I want to show him materially that I care – it’s just not practical or even possible.
It doesn’t bother him at all. As a matter of fact, when I mentioned it, he was put out. He said it was his opportunity to be a little extravagant and spontaneous, and if I was going to tie his hands with a budget aimed at achieving equality that would take all the fun out of the holidays.
I believe too that this gift-giving addresses a sort of fundamental difference between the sexes. I suspect men want to contribute to their women in ways that show character traits and promote their desirability while increasing their market value. The gifts from my BC showed me that 1) he has a sense of humor, 2) he notices my decor/nesting and can purchase an item to match, 3) he notice my stress and wants me to relax, and 4) that he can pick tasteful fashion jewelry which complements my style. These gifts all say “I notice you.” I suspect there was no budget in play. Or at least he wanted it to look that way. I learned a lot about how he feels about me and how he wants me to perceive him. Considering his inability to have a discussion about his feelings and intentions, he accomplished that very thing he avoids through the gift giving.
Or maybe he was at Target and just picked up a bunch of stuff.
I am irked by the holidays. I’d go so far as to say I hate Christmas, but I think God would be angry and I can’t have that.
I have a fake Christmas tree on my front porch. It’s a hand me down from my mother. I already had very nice compact tree for the inside of the house so this big tall one got relegated to outdoor decoration. And amazingly, it gets lots of compliments from the neighbors who enjoy seeing a big 10’ Christmas tree all lit with multicolored lights and metallic bows. Now, not only because of the God thing but also because the neighbors expect it, I have to put that frickin’ tree up every year. I go to war with this tree every December.
I got new lights this year. I thought I would do something nice for it and it might return the favor. About 2000 tiny jewel colored flickering lights in the night. At least for a few hours and then they sputter out. I’ve change the fuses now three times. I’ve changed the way they link together so that they don’t. Each strand has its own independent extension cord. Wires flow from under the tree skirt. Very high tech. I fear I can only keep the lights on for about four hours at a time and then they blow out. I’m so irritated with the outdoor tree I could cry. I don’t even move the ladder back to the garage any more. It’s on standby.
The indoor tree has proved just as uncooperative this year. It’s a conspiracy of ornamentation. It’s a prelit tree which came with now lost guarantees. I stacked it up and plugged it in and several of the strands don’t work this year. So off to Target for replacement lights. A couple hours later and it’s up and down the ladder filling the voids.
My faith in the indoor tree is lost so I won’t decorate it. It’s a naked tree. As soon as I hang something on it, I know a strand will go out and I won’t be able to do anything if balls are on it.
The last few days I walk into the living room, glare at the tree and challenge it to screw me over. Then I hold my breath and plug it in. Whatever relief I may experience when the lights turn on is short-lived as I realize I need to walk to the porch and have a show down with Tree Number Two.
Considering my investment of time, these trees are staying up until Valentine’s Day.
Actual photo from my 2005 Christmas card. I made some quip about "all through the house not a creature was stirring.... just not my house."
I haven’t sent holiday cards in three years. I use to love creating holiday cards. One time I drew a Christmas tree on each card, just the outline, and used my children’s toe prints to create the ornaments. This year, I’m finally in a financial position to send cards, and I have some things to communicate. There have been some big changes.
I haven’t decided how exactly to say all that I’d like to say so I’m paying attention to the letters I’ve been getting and, unfortunately, they annoy me.
I don’t like the impersonal trend toward ink jet address labels and Shutterfly messages, but more than that, they are all braggy brag. “Our son was accepted into the Global Leadership Program for bilingual children with a political interest, and after graduating from first grade this year, he will embark on the program in Spain.” Or the most irksome, “Our daughter has mastered the moguls and won her first competition. Dad doesn’t understand why this second home in Aspen which was suppose to give HIM the opportunity ski is instead making Olympic hopefuls out of his children (Darn that work!)” Seriously, this was in a letter I received today.
My letter would read something like this: “Dear friends, what a year! I’ve finally hit stride as a single mom. After a year of searching and hundreds of resumes sent, I’m back with my old employer, something I never envisioned myself doing. I realize now how important stability, a pay check and benefits really are. Big adventure and risk-taking are overrated. It’s all about the orthodontic coverage, and I know that now. My oldest son is gaining confidence although his daydreaming is reflected in his grades. My number two son is doing well with his support systems and warming up to reading now that he’s in the third grade. We’ve tackled many of his food sensitivities and his nose stopped running after three years! Who knows how number three son is, I haven’t had time to look at him. That’s right dear friends, I’m now solidly on the road to healthy mediocrity and couldn’t be happier!”