Friday, December 30, 2011


Sometimes you just want to close your eyes and ears to the predictable crapola media dishes out, don't you? All of the "Year in Review" lists are whirling around, listing the same stuff, over and over, like it's all pre-ordained and we've all decided, "Yes, THESE were the best movies, books, songs, moments." But how can that be? We're snowflakes, people, no two of us alike.

So, naturally, I've been thinking about my favorites, things that resonate still, after months or weeks, things that didn't just fly through my noggin making a brief stop to blast me with special effects or trendy "it" themes or manipulative sentiments.

These are my favorites of 2011.

Favorite movie: Circo, a gorgeous look at a family under the immense pressure of running a family circus in Mexico. Watch the kids, especially. They're spectacular and sad and strong. Resilience in motion.

Favorite TV show: Louie. I love this show, and I don't love TV. Profane at times, and almost always honest. The first time my husband and I watched it, we thought, fine, another comedy, and at the end we were saying, "Whoa. That's dark. But . . . awesomely dark." I don't know why I love it. I just do.

Favorite book: Okay, there's no way I'm going to tell you my favorite book, because too many of my friends write them. I did enjoy getting immersed in State of Wonder by Ann Patchett this year. It wasn't perfect, but few books are, and she kept me engaged. As someone who has a hard time reading fiction these days without seeing the scaffolding, that means a lot.

Favorite music: Fine, I'm predictable on this one, but can I help it that I love Adele? I got to see her perform this year, which seals the deal. She's the real thing, big soulful honest heartache. And then she giggles and says something wacky in her Cockney accent, and you have to love her even more.

Favorite moment: Now, on the verge of letting the year go, looking back, bittersweet and ready to move ahead.

Tell me your favorites . . .

And happy brand new year, everyone.

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Happy Minimalist Christmas

My late mother's hypomania liked to kick into gear around holidays. It all seemed fun, as a kid: the twinkle lights everywhere, the ten varieties of sweets she baked, the mountains of gifts on Christmas morning. But a pattern began to emerge as my brain matured: Christmas maximus always led to my mother's eventual meltdown, which could mean anything from her turning mean and locking herself behind her bedroom door to an ambulance being called to take her away.

So . . . you can imagine that for a while, I thought Christmas sucked. A long while.

I tried it every which way: emulating the grandeur of my mother, skipping it all together, spending it with friends, with family. Trees, no trees. Baking, no baking.

Hubby also has less than wonderful Xmas memories, and from the start, we've been finding ways to make ourselves happy on Christmas day. We've developed traditions that make us giggle. Lox and bagels for Christmas breakfast. A firm "no-getting-out-of-your-pajamas-all-day" rule, even if we venture outside. Mimosas with our first cup of coffee. Catnip for awesome kitty antics. Movies. Lots of movies, happy ones only, please.

This year we were rolling along just fine as Christmas drew near. Then, as life would have it, something went wrong and the already dark days turned darker. Old emotional crud churned below the surface. I wallowed for a few days (though kind friends reached out and helped me through). Then one day, I did the old "fake it till you make it" trick and put on my new Pink Martini holiday CD, lit some pine incense, burned a few candles, and dug out last years remnants of wrapping paper. I wrapped gifts for the afternoon, small funny or sweet things I'd found for my large extended family. I packed shipping boxes, because they all live far away.

I felt better.

I dug out my favorite Christmas decoration, a string of pine cone lights I bought in a sweet little Oregon town a few years back. Good memories come prepackaged with those little suckers. I laid them on the mantel and plugged them in.

I asked hubby what his favorite Christmas cookies were. He said gingerbread. Not the crunchy kind, but the soft kind. I found a great recipe. I went to the store for ingredients. I picked up a rosemary tree, brought it home and decorated it with some of last year's ribbon remnants.

And voila! This year, I will enjoy minimalist Christmas: one favorite decoration, a rosemary plant that will be planted in the earth this spring, some soft gingerbread cookies. One husband, who understands. Bagels and lox on Christmas morning, a mimosa. Candles. Lots of candles. Maybe next year I will need more, but for now, this is perfect.

Happy Christmas, everyone, whatever that means to you. I hope you find those things that make it most meaningful and enjoyable, light and love filled, and in the spirit of peace and harmony for all.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Sometimes Things Go Wrong

Sometimes, they go terribly wrong. The worst thing happens. And it's the holidays, which somehow weights bad news with heavier lead than in, say, summer, or spring. Maybe it's because we know we will think forevermore, "Thanksgiving = Mom dying," or "Christmas was when that drunk driver ruined our lives."

My mom died 21 years ago, not on any holiday. I've not been in a horrific car accident this month, nor has anyone I know. But something has gone wrong, terribly wrong, and it's private. The thing that was never supposed to happen did, as happens in life, and I'm old enough to know that, well, shit happens. To all of us. At any moment. In spite of holidays.

This isn't a plea for sympathy or prayers. This is a statement of fact, and I say it only because I know that sometimes things go wrong for you, too. At the worst possible time. The thing that was never going to happen didn't care that you ate green leafy vegetables or sprinkled salt on the icy sidewalk or sent your son to the best doctor in the city. It happened anyway.

So let us just stand together silently, those of us with these wrong things happening, and be solid in our conviction: This is a part of my life, just as happiness and good events are. It does not change who I am even though it makes me horribly sad or angry or frightened. I'll curse and cry and mope and wallow, and I'll get through it. I will still find joy in life, take breaks from awfulness, and ask for help and support and love and talking and forgetting when I need to.

And I'll notice all the things going right all around me. Every day.