The 2020 Christmas Newsletter

When Covid broadsided us in March, my family members reacted each in his own way, but that didn’t stop us from doing things. Special things. Things we just didn’t see coming…like this watercolor by Kid 5.

Hubby bought groceries. He bought them until our cupboards exploded and I took his Costco card away. Then he bought blocks. Eighty-pound keystone wall-building blocks. He hid his credit card from me and he won’t stop bringing more home. Hubby is building the Great Pyramids on our hillside property with his bare hands. Obviously, he has a better chance at stopping gravity than stopping any of 2020s dumpster fires.

I picked up a sledgehammer and demolished the master bathroom. All of it. I ripped the flooring out and you can stare into the basement if you don’t mind the funny smell. I left nothing standing but the toilet, only you can’t get to it because the floor is gone. This is fine because, conveniently, there’s a toilet paper shortage. I ripped out the dry-rot—the nasty slime that no one could see, but I knew it was there—because there was a lot of it swirling in the global atmosphere that I couldn’t reach.

Some day, Hubby will stop building walls and build us a bathroom.

But this is not that day.

Kid Numero Uno, about to turn a whopping thirty years old, created a plethora of art for people. Art makes people happy. That’s a big deal in 2020. He lives in L.A. and has gone all adulty on me. He calls on the regular to make sure we’re all healthy, wears his mask, visits people outdoors six feet apart, and to really understand the level of his shocking behavior: he exchanged Christmas presents with us. This is unheard of and I’ve asked him repeatedly to take his temperature and read me the little numbers on the thermometer.

Senorita Dos Equis, on her way to becoming The Most Interesting Teacher in the World, went back to school for her master’s degree in Education: Learning & Technology. She also works in the local school district: “I don’t always zoom with kindergartners, but when I do, they take naps on camera and there’s not a thing I can do about it.” I can’t help feeling like this is some new level of Jumanji where juggling swords on a unicycle will be required. I hope she wins.

Tres Leches Mija ghosted on us. She lives less than a mile away, but the only proof she’s alive is when she sends me hilarious memes at two in the morning. Although her plans with her sidekick, Alastor the Wonder Dog, were curtailed (haha), the two managed to win ribbons (Best in Class for “Who’s a Good Boy?”) and are in training to join CARDA as a search and rescue team. He’s already snoofed up plenty of hotdogs and rescued cats from boredom, so glory is in their future.

Quatro Corazones split the year four ways: college, work, girlfriend, and a brand new car. He passed his classes. He was promoted into a full-time position at work. I’m not sure his girlfriend knows that the Toyota 4Runner is for camping and boys’ trips, but we’ll do coffee soon and talk. He had his blood drawn last week and texted me: “I blacked out. But got a cookie.” Me: “Never watch!” Him: “I didn’t, I just tilted my head for a second and I couldn’t see anything. Good news tho, I don’t do drugs.”

Me: “Whatever. Just try not to slurp up any Covid while you’re in there.”

Cinco de Mayo Mijo is currently the favorite kid because he stays home and feeds me. He rode the restaurant industry rollercoaster all year, and it taught him that food could be used to steal car keys from parents. “Mother dear, I see that you are typing sideways and about to fall onto the floor on your face. Could it be that you haven’t eaten in three days in your effort to MAKE MORE WORDS?” Then, he slips a grilled cheese sandwich with a tiny dill pickle nose and a ketchup smiley face on it in front of me and runs away with my car key. I don’t even care where he’s going. I lick ketchup from my fingers and keep typing.

These are great life skills. Why he insists on staying with college, I don’t know.

Covid-Kitty Furrybutt Smoochin’ Sugarloaf Whiskerboy is doing fine, thanks. He misses his life on the street and plays Ninja-paws in the back alley once in a while, to hone his tough guy persona. I carry my scars with pride. I want to go on record as saying, “When the animals in this family get more stocking stuffers than the actual kids, it must be 2020.”

We’re all leaning a little sideways, and that’s okay. I celebrate your own flavor of crazy this holiday season and lift a virtual cuppa with you as we farewell 2020.

It’s been one heck of a ride.

 

2019 Christmas Newsletter

2019 has been quite a year, let me catch you up!

Child Five just came into my writing lair to get the keys to my car in order to go to his day job that is usually a night job because BJs Brew House loves him. He schmoozes old ladies and brings ginormous pazookies to people and generally makes this world a better place, which is something a mother can get behind. He graduated high school in June. Like everything the kid has ever done, I celebrated with tears of joy and vowed, “We aren’t ever doing that again.”

It never gets old.

Child Five hangs out with Child Four, the two bachelors living in – let’s call it what it is – our basement. They like to style it “Man Cave” and I like to call it “The Pit of Despair” and if a cave woman ever walks by, she will agree that if a mastodon dies in the hallway, no one will ever notice. We are, neither one of us, going in there to investigate.

The two boys attend community college with lofty visions (rim shot: they are both 6’ 5”) of transferring to SDSU as Engineer majors. They sit around the table making up words for their calculus classes, like “Rolles theorem” and “left, right, Rieman sum” and “integrals”. I tell them to watch their language at the table but they don’t listen to me anymore because they are adulting now.

Adulting. This is The Way.

Did you see that coming? Quick side note that I did not see Baby Yoda coming, either, and now he must never leave and I need one for Christmas because he makes me laugh but also want to throw things and this sounds just like grand-parenting but, none of my kids are dating at the moment, so….Yoda!

Where was I?

The Middle. Child Three trains dogs. Among other career-type things. Shameless plug. Her dog is more obedient than any of my five kids ever were. It lies on a towel and won’t budge, even when you wave hotdogs under his nose. I mean, not like I tried when my daughter wasn’t looking or anything. I was happy if my kids stayed in the backyard when the ice cream truck drove by. On the other hand, her dog will also rip your face off if she says the magic word, so, pros n cons.

Child Three and Child Two, my beautiful girls, lived together in a Shoe in Ramona this year. A sweet little penny loafer that they enjoyed but will give up in a couple of weeks for closer pasture and that makes my heart happy. Child Two is sneakily educating children through the use of science and creativity (ie: fun), both on the job and through personal tutoring, and may take her talents into the school district next year. So long as she avoids calculus, we can hang out.

Child One has been orbiting our universe for so long that we think of him like Santa Claus. Maybe he’s real. Maybe he’ll show up if we leave out cookies. He’s not a holiday human, which is okay, but if he decides to pay us a visit, just know that a trap has been laid and we are ready for “Operation Santa Snatch”.

Hubby built a wall this year. Out of eighty pound blocks of cement. Then he built a deck. Out of PVC planks that are fire-proof , termite-proof, water-proof, and walking-on proof. Don’t ask. Hubby thinks retirement sounds fabulous until it occurs to him that he will be subjected to my sarcasm 24/7 and then he goes to work whistling. Which makes him both strong and wise.

Who, me?

I’ve been very patient and responsible and went to writing classes for a year to learn how to write a novel. Now I have a novel but it has to be REWRITTEN and EDITED and subjected to further SCRUTINY before it’s allowed to be born and the temptation to go rogue and self publish exactly what I think about that is dancing through my head.

Ahem.

I love my actual job. I provided excellent service to my freelance clients this year and they let me make glorious words for them. They are the warm steady glow in an office filled with strobe lights and laser beams. And a chicken.

And a wardrobe with Narnia inside.

I sit in my closet, wardrobe thrown open wide, and magic pours out. With it, I spin the straw from my emptying nest into the gold of new dreams. And everything sort of sparkles.

Merry Christmas to each one of you, and a very Sparkly New 2020.

Phobias, Fears, and Flatulence

There are certain October activities that err on the side of dramatic. Anxious, shall we say. I know perfectly normal people who will give up their cold hard cash on purpose to get lost in a dark maze full of professional actors. A pumpkin is inadequate for their anxieties. They need chainsaws. Screaming. Running. And an exit sign.

My idea of a good October activity is to let the house go for the month. I have cobwebs in every corner, dead flies on the window sills, and dust an inch thick everywhere else. Squeaky doors, mysterious footprints down the hall, slimy potions in the fridge. I don’t like to brag, but I have a 3″ slug living in my shower right now. Some people pay good money for this level of authenticity.

But really, what is your idea of scary? What is your worst nightmare? Your darkest fear?

  1. Creepy Crawlers: spiders, mice, rats, bugs, snakes, cockroaches, worms
  2. Pokey Things: needles, vampires, , splinters, dentists, bees, ticks, Inigo Montoya
  3. Squishy Grossness: blood, vomit, gore, germs, full diapers, basically anything involving a toddler
  4. Big Booms: thunder, barking dogs, fireworks, Instant pots, stereo systems commandeered by your teenager
  5. Squeezy Spots: elevators, graveyards, cubicles, holes, slot canyons, Walmart on Black Friday
  6. Stranger Danger: clowns, aliens, mimes, every Disney character in a bobble-head costume even Winnie the Pooh
  7. Location-o-phobia: airplane, ocean, bridges, space, heights, shark-nados, onstage with Dr Phil
  8. Embarrassment: pushing the “Send” button too soon, raising your hand in a meeting, farting in yoga class

And what are your coping mechanisms?

If you’re afraid of the dark (achluophobia) and going to sleep (somniphobia) because there might be a monster under your bed (teraphobia) and the dust bunnies down there are just as scary (amathophobia), you should put the mattress flat on the floor. Where the dolls can find you (pediophobia).

PS: That doll thing is real. Ask me some day about my Grandma’s house.
PPS: And also my adult children just told me that watching Toy Story scarred them for life. Let’s add another phobia:

9. Badmomophobia: the reason your kids need therapy.

Mother’s Day Hotline 2018

Good morning, and thank you for calling the Mother’s Day Hotline.

Please listen carefully, as our menu has changed.

If you are currently considering becoming a mother, please press 1.

If you are pregnant and searching for baby names, please press 2.

If you are wondering what it’s like to give birth, please press 3.

If you have a newborn and wish it came with crib notes, please press 4.

If you are currently surrounded with toddlers, please press 5.

If you are mothering elementary school age children, please press 6.

If you have children in the middle school zone, please press 7.

If your teens have made a strike towards independence, please press 8.

If you are desperate for a “mom break” by now, please press 9.

If you are considering leaving them all behind and rejoining the work force, please press pound.

If your children are grown and flown from the nest, and you want to sob hysterically because it all went too fast, please press the star key.

Thank you for calling the Mothers Day Hotline. Enjoy your toast and tea. See you again soon.

The 2017 Christmas Newsletter

Hello Friends and Family,

2017 has been an exciting year for our family! Let me catch you up!

Darling child number five is currently in the midst of basketball season, which you will always know by the fumes creeping out from under the laundry room door. He lives off of frozen pizza and tortilla chips, the building blocks of every athlete. Sometimes I nag him via text, and he will eat a fruit snack to step it up. Kid five is crushing Junior year and doing so without a girlfriend. Good job, kid five. Here’s a bacon bit.

Suave child four, owner of a quality high school education, master of sports and holder down of real live job, was denied access to his college of choice and retaliated by vowing to live at home and attend community college, laughing in the face of debt. He also laughs in the face of dirty dishes, overflowing trashcans and mountains of laundry in the hall, which isn’t funny, but is attentive and hardworking at his girlfriend’s family home where he does dishes and takes out trash which now that I think about it isn’t funny either, but what can you do? 

Exhausted kid three is, this very moment, writing the very last paper for the very last class that will finally allow her to very much graduate college. The one that let her in. And then never let her out. Because college is a racket and I refuse to give it the rant it deserves, just know that some things touted since preschool, much like Santa Claus, don’t deliver once you start adulting. Kid three is out of money, out of patience, out of ideas and definitely out of floor space.

I don’t want to talk about it.

Where was I?

Kid two. Go-gettin’ kid two lives across town with her Grammy and works with animals, tourists, and children. I’m not sure which of them gives her more grief on any given day, but she has the adulting thing down pretty well and went out and got herself a little Christmas tree and everything. Just because she travels the world at will does not mean that I am in any way jealous. I, too, have ridden a camel. Just not in Africa.

We have arrived at invisible kid one. Kid one moved to Los Angeles about three years ago to pursue his dream of not becoming a banker. He is busy exhausting every possible avenue that leads to earning an income with art. At the moment, he is becoming a tattoo master and costume designer. If I squint my eyes a little, I can see bankers with tats and some classy bit of leather swag mixed into their three-piece ensemble.

If I squint harder, I can even see kid one occasionally calling his mother.

As for the Hubby and I, we spent this busy year blinking hard as kids dashed to and fro in the earth and occasionally dashed ourselves, hoping to be mistaken for young free spirits. We juggled a lot of dirty dishes while juggling our day jobs. In December, we were blessed with new grand baby, Schubert.

He’s registered at Kahoots Pet Store in the tortoise department.

May your Holidays be Merry and Bright and may your New Year be filled with the delicious sparkle of fresh laundry on hangers.

The Mothers Day Hotline 2017

Good morning, and thank you for calling the Mother’s Day Hotline.

If you are waiting in bed for a tray of burnt toast, spilt juice, and a macaroni necklace, enjoy the following selections at leisure. Otherwise, please choose carefully.

If you are currently considering becoming a mother, please press 1.

If you are pregnant and searching for baby names, please press 2.

If you are wondering what it’s like to give birth, please press 3.

If you have a newborn and and need direction on what type of mommy to be, please press 4.

If you are currently surrounded with toddlers, please press 5.

If you are mothering elementary school age children, please press 6.

If you have children in the middle school zone, please press 7.

If your teens have made a strike towards independence, please press 8.

If you are desperate for a “mom break” by now, please press 9.

If you are considering leaving them all behind and rejoining the work force, please press pound.

If your children are grown and flown from the nest, and you want to sob hysterically because it all went too fast, please press the star key.

Thank you for calling the Mothers Day Hotline. Enjoy your toast and tea. See you again next week.

Administrative Professionals Day

Today, April 26th, is Administrative Professionals Day, and apparently it comes around as a way for In-Desperate-Need-Of-Administration Professionals everywhere to thank the person who keeps their papers spinning.

That’s me. I keep millions of papers in several colors and sizes spinning like tops. My home office alone resembles the NASA Mission Control Center.

But I question this method of acknowledgement.

Once upon a time, all the secretaries got together and decided that, darn it all, they were under appreciated and underpaid, overlooked and overbooked, and needed something else on their jam-packed calendars to fix it.

“Make a note of it,” they said.

Tappity tap, tap…I’m sure men know how to type too, yes?

And they did.

They made up Mother’s Day, Women’s Day, and National Dadgum That’s a Good Day, Day (March 1st). There’s Be Heard Day, Receptionist’s Day, Women’s Checkup Day, Lost Sock Memorial Day, and No Dirty Dishes Day.

This is just a drop in the waterfall of are-you-kidding-me national days.

Only a handful of these “Days” stick to my calendar, and today’s is just vague enough to make me wonder several things:

  1. What qualifies someone as an Administrative Professional?
  2. Who are the non-Administrative Professionals that are supposed to wish you well?
  3. What are their motives for doing so?
  4. Is the well-wishing preceded with “Happy”, “Merry”, or “I need this in today’s mail”?

My research (qualification #1) led me to the greeting card aisle of Target. If there’s one thing Target knows is their shoppers, and sure enough, they were prepared for our imminent need.

Target for the win.

Behold the end cap.

It’s clear that 10 out of 18 Admin Professionals are female (qualification #2). One out of 18 are multilingual. One is an animal-lover. Or thinks everyone else in the office are animals. Four out of 18 have no idea whether they qualify as Admin, and so will take what they can get.

Admin Professionals drink coffee and tea (qualification #3). They make a difference. Their job involves phones, books, clocks, and typing. They require a written “Thank You” once a year for their efforts. They don’t mind feeling patronized instead of professional.

And they can’t mind if you screw up the exact date, because Target has nicely advertised it as a whole week which gives others several opportunities to get it right because we all know who normally is in charge of getting cards out on time.

Who made this??

This one slays me. I am so offended by this bathroom door symbol. If this is the card you reached for when you thought of me, I quit. All 1% of you had better run and hide. These stupid stereotypes exist because you bought into it.

I want just one card that shows a manly man with a dark tie and a beard, sitting at a desk typing away with a real slogan hanging on the wall…Going Commando to Cover Your Butt.

Office Ninja. I could Take you all Down with a Click of my Mouse…

Payroll…Just Do It

Letting Concerned Citizens Scream into my Ear Because I like Money

Boss’s Day is coming up.

What goes around, comes around, and saying “Thank you” is always a good idea.

Flowers and cards and snacks are nice, and the mailroom guy would like some too, by the way. I think he stands with me on the obvious: a Professional is anyone who brings their job up the notch that turns it into a career.

If you’re a street sweeper, be the best darn street sweeper anyone has ever seen.

Here’s to the broom pushers and the paper pushers alike, you have my solid respect every day of the year.

When You Can’t Go to the Mountain

I was supposed to be in Idyllwild today.

All week, actually.

Every year for a million years, even before we were married, Hubby and I were attending the Bible School up there in July.

Most of the fam is up there right now, and I can tell you – without any peeking online whatsoever – what their cabins look like and where they sat in the dining hall and exactly how they will saunter from the general assembly in a half hour from now and head over to Gilboa hall for classes.

The visions of those “left behind” at the rapture and those cast onto a desert island (or a ferry dock) as the party boat sails away without them and others who have walked into the ice cream shop only to discover that their favorite flavor was sold out only moments before…are nothing quite this startling.

Alas, unlike stay-at-home moms, humble servants of the public can’t gallop off into the woods at will.

It’s different.

And so, I sit at the keyboard wondering how, in the first time since never, you bring the mountain to yourself, instead.

The atmosphere there is crisp in the morning, as you sip coffee and the pines streak early sunshine from Tahquitz. So I sat on my deck and sipped tea and admired the sun streaks in our oaks.

The rabbits look the same.

Then they do the daily readings and I’d make a note here or there for pondering later and after announcements, we’d all settle in for morning classes.

So I read this morning, enjoying years of notes, laughing at my twenty-year-old so very naive ones, and follow them along as they grew in understanding, things erased and clarified and re-connected into the bigger fabric of this message of life and love and redemptive glory.

I play in my treasure chest a while and humming, rise to put my house in order for the day.

This God we worship, He is here.

He is there, too.

He is wherever you stand, sharing this moment with me; there is nowhere that He is not.

The difference then, might be the putting aside of everything in order to spiritually feast.

It’s arranging your life in order to leave it, to wander a mountaintop with a huge family reunion, and just breathe Him in.

It’s a deliberate focus.

Up the mountain and down the mountain is like comparing Thanksgiving to plain old dinner.

The yearly gathering ends with a deep satisfaction, tempered with sadness that it’s over.

But – big surprise – my kids are still hungry the next day. For that kind of effort, it should feed us for at least half a year, right? Nope.

We pray for our “daily bread”.

We ask, standing next to Daniel who would never see his mountain again, for just bread and water. For enough.

“Whether I am on the Mountain or at the office, I have learned in whatsoever state I am to be content,” says paraphrased Paul.

So I think, as the party boat sails away, that being on a desert island once in a while can have it’s benefits, if only to prove that the humble daily dinner can become a feast with proper intentions.

Two things occur to me.

  1. There is more food available than a king’s table could hold, right here on the empty beach.
  2. I am not alone.

When you take the thing you wanted, the thing that was outside of you, that you could see and touch and want, and put the thing inside of you, you become the thing.

Are you what you eat? Education and opinions and disciplines and whatever it is that you decided was worth swallowing are continually changing the landscape of who you are.

His days are full of every element of Thanksgiving, should we choose to act like it.

This week can hold every element of the Mountain, should I choose to act like it.

It’s a deliberate focus in much smaller bites.

So I will connect with others that feel “left behind” and remind them that we are, indeed, also part of the Mountain, wherever we stand right now.

I will have meals with them and we will admire the gifts in our treasure chests and skip the elaborate planning and leave satisfied. Sufficient for the day.

The party boat is inside of me.

The Mountain is inside of me.

I will deliberately make space for study and I will deliberately make space for family reunion and I will deliberately make space for holding still and just breathing Him in.

Here.

Today.

And I am grateful.

Idyllwild Pines

Mother’s Day From the Other Side

So it was Mothers Day, and since Jolie is a Mother she’s biased and isn’t allowed to write about it.

Instead, it’s me, Daughter #2, and while I don’t do Mothers Day the Hallmark way, I think we – the kids – did pretty good this year.

For starters, all five of us are still alive and haven’t committed any major felonies.

You know, as soon as some person commits some terrible crime or arson or fraud, everybody isn’t interested it where the person went wrong. Oh no, everybody wants to know WHO their mother is?! And how could she have been such an incompetent mother that their lovely little angel turned out so wrong?! So really, we’ve already given her the gift of another year without any major public scrutiny. No promises for next year but we’re doing our best for you, ma!

On actual mother’s Day, we don’t do the breakfast in bed thing anymore. For starters, I have no memory of my mother ever consuming breakfast…or being in bed. In fact I do not think I have ever seen her eat. She consumes tea from 7am to 6pm and sometimes has a glass of wine for dinner when she needs a good night of sleep…which is probably the only time I have ever seen her sleep.

Cards are also out. If you’re reading her blog then you probably already know she has more sarcasm than sentiment in her. I guess having five super weird kids has that affect on people. Also, I’ve read quite a few of those Hallmark mothers Day cards and frankly I think that they’re about as heartwarming as mailing her an inspirational cat poster. Home-made cards are only cute when you’re nine and under. Poor lady already has about 300 pieces of craft paper with your little handprint on them. She loves all 300 but I don’t think she wants another one.

Mom, if I’m wrong, and you do want another one, you just let me know. All of us still have two hands and loads of paint, we will wallpaper the house in handprints, you just say the word. But since we tried that a couple of times when we were little and you weren’t too happy about it, we held off this year.

Instead we went to church in the morning and, what are the odds, we happened to be reading the story from the Bible about the evil Herodia and how her daughter tricked Herod into cutting off John’s head so she could bring it to her mother on a platter. And me and Daughter #1 are sitting there in church thinking…. dang, how do you top that for Mothers Day? Wasn’t cool to raise the bar like that right in the middle of Mothers Day.

So, after church I go to Albertsons to get some flowers for my mom. I do this, not so much because she really wanted some flowers, but more because I really love Albertsons, especially on obscure holidays, like Easter or Valentines Day or Mother’s Day. On these days, if you go in around noon, you find about a hundred middle-aged men, frantically trying to buy presents for women.

Last-minute panic shopping is one of the greatest spectator sports. Black Friday, for example, is a good one. But on Mothers Day, you go into Albertsons and there’s frantic men scrambling all over the bakery and the candy shelves and the flower section. They circle the bouquet stand again and again and again, trying to figure out what kind of flowers are “mother flowers”.

And they all have the same look on their faces that’s a combination of determination and the look on the face of a drowning man. And that makes sense, because how do you pick out the thing that says “Happy Mother’s Day”?

Really, how do you find something to convey to your mother how much you really love and respect her? How do you let her know you appreciate all the sacrifices she made that you didn’t appreciate all those years? The bedtime stories. The hard lessons that made you both cry all night. The thousands of elementary school mediocre awards ceremonies that she clapped for. The talents that she encouraged that you didn’t realize for years, that you got from her.

The truth is, you’ll never be able to tell or show her how much you appreciate her, but if she’s your mother, she knows.