Saturday, December 24, 2011

muddling through...

It's Christmas. That alone is enough to bring out the old, familiar melancholia. But I had it beat for a while. For a few years it went into hibernation. This year woke it up.

It's weird to feel like a stranger in your own life. With your own kids. In your own family that you created. Of course I knew that it was going to be different. That it would change when the girls grew up. But it changed too soon. Everything did.

I guess it's another of those times when I thought I would have more time. But you never have more time. Life happens right now. It's a fucking game of hide-and-seek: ready or not, here I come!

Part of me really wants some Christmas magic to dump all over me like a blinding blizzard and bury all my worries, fears, frustrations...sadness. Just for one day - well, maybe like, a day-and-a-half (it is Christmas Eve, after all!).

Maybe it will. Until then, I'll have to muddle through,'s never as bleak in the real world as it seems in my mind. There is a disturbing solace in that fact. It was just so much easier when the girls were little. When they didn't criticize every move I make. Hopefully they'll decide to give me a little bit holiday happiness for Christmas this year. It could happen.

Last year - another weird year (but not as weird as this one) because it was Savannah's first year of college and she was just home for Christmas - Gabi actually had an endearing Christmas epiphany. I think it might have been even before any presents or stockings had even been opened and she looked at me and said, "How did you get so good at Christmas, Mom? I was thinking about it last night, and you are really good at Christmas. You do all this stuff to make it special and it's always awesome, and I just wondered how you got so good at it."

This year they're both home for Christmas after living elsewhere. And I guess I expected it to feel either normal or special. And it mostly feels awkward. I feel unclear as to my role and I feel like I'm walking on eggshells trying so hard to please everyone - and we all know that I don't like to do that. I think I'll just take a deep breath, remember Gabi's words of Christmas past and put on my smile. If that doesn't do the trick, I'm sure there's a glass of wine out there somewhere with my name on it.

Sunday, December 11, 2011

my holiday reading list

I love nothing more than curling up with a nice glass of wine and a good book in the warmth of a hot and steamy bathtub. During this magical time of year, I enjoy revisiting some of my favorite holiday tomes. I hope that you find something below that tickles your festive fancy, too!

The Stupidest Angel by Christopher Moore

"Christmas crept into Pine Cove like a creeping Christmas thing: dragging garland, ribbon, and sleigh bells, oozing eggnog, reeking of pine, and threatening festive doom like a cold sore under the mistletoe."

This heartwarming story of holiday horror had me at "creeping Christmas thing." There's something in this book for everyone - Santa, crazy warrior babes who wield swords and hear voices in their heads, science, animals like dogs and talking fruit bats, and zombies. Cool, huh?

Holidays on Ice by David Sedaris

This delightful Christmas collection features David's breakout piece, The Santaland Diaries, which includes a passage that makes me giggle no matter how many times I read it. I don't know if it's my Catholic and then fundamental Christian upbringing that makes this so funny to me, but take a read:

"We were standing near the Lollipop Forest when we realized that Santa is an anagram for Satan. Father Christmas or the Devil - so close but yet so far. We imagined a Satanland where visitors would wade through steaming pools of human blood and feces before arriving at the Gates of Hell, where a hideous imp in a singed velvet costume would take them by the hand and lead them toward Satan. Once we thought of it we couldn't get it out of our minds. Overhearing the customers we would substitute the word Satan for Santa.

'What do you think, Michael? Do you think Macy's has the real Satan?'"

It also features other instant holiday classics like "Dinah, the Christmas Whore." While each of those tales literally makes me laugh out loud, my very favorite Sedaris holiday tale is not in this collection. My fave is called, "Six To Eight Black Men" and can be found in Dress Your Family in Corduroy and Denim. The essay shares the story of the Dutch Saint Nicholas as told to David while traveling in Holland.

Apparently Saint Nick is the former Bishop of Turkey who travels around on Christmas Eve sneaking into the rooms of Dutch kids with six to eight black men (no one seems to be able to agree on the exact number) and, depending on whether the kid was naughty or nice, will either leave presents in the tot's shoes OR stuff him in a sack and beat him with switches - possibly taking the kid back to Turkey with them. I don't know about you, but I think this would be a much more motivating story for kids than the seriously lame threat of coal.

You Better Not Cry by Augusten Burroughs
I never thought another irreverent collection of holiday humor could warm my cockles and tickle my funny bone as well as that of my beloved David Sedaris (see above). But I was wrong. Augusten's Christmas stories are awesome and brought tears to my eyes from both laughter and (yes, it's true!) that warm, fuzzy feeling some may call "heartwarming." One of my favorite passages is from an essay entitled, "Why Do You Reward Me Thus?" that goes into the absurdity of "The 12 Days of Christmas." Here's a snippet:

"...And what's the message? Did you ever notice that a lot of the alleged 'gifts' happen to be people? Eight maids a-milking, so that's prepubescent girls forced into labor, probably inserting the underwire into bras. And then nine ladies dancing? That's the sex trade. I won't even go into the five golden rings. But somebody's paying somebody off for something. Human trafficking and birds? That's a good Christmas song?

"Oh, and swans, which are the drunk, violent ex-boyfriends of the bird world. Because what would any holiday be without a little domestic violence?"

Ah, Augusten! You may just be a man after my own, shriveled holiday heart. (That, I hate to admit, has indeed gotten very warm this holiday season).

Well, there you have it! My favorite yuletide reads. I also love more traditional, childlike wonder-filled tales like The Polar Express and Auntie Claus, but nothing works the holiday magic for me quite so well as a snarky take on an often-simpering holiday - and throwing in a few meaningful, good-will-toward-men and peace-on-earth tidbits here and there doesn't totally suck, either.

Thursday, December 8, 2011

nobody knows christmas better than hallmark and lifetime

Check out lessons learned from holiday movies on celebutant:

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

when bad christmas songs happen to good people

Every year we are blessed with a glut of new holiday music from our favorite singing sensations. After all, we need every artist who has ever been signed to a record label to share their version of “Jingle Bells” or “Let It Snow” with our waiting ears. This year Michael Bublé came out with a complete holiday CD, following up his previous EP that featured just a few tantalizing tunes that left his fans eager for more seasonal singing from the velvety-voiced crooner. The album, called Christmas, went on sale at the end of October, and for the most part it doesn’t disappoint. However, there is one track that goes terribly, terribly wrong.

I’m sure you’re familiar with the song “Santa Baby.” This syrupy-sweet, somewhat sensual song is usually sung in a Betty Boop style that flirts with and teases Ol’ St. Nick in a manner that turns the jolly old elf into a sort of sugar daddy. Well, our man Michael has taken this song and made it his own, changing the term of endearment throughout the song from” Baby” to “Buddy,” “Pally” and even “Papi.” Papi, by the way, is what Sofia Vergara should call Al Bundy on Modern Family – not what Michael Bublé should be crooning to Santa.

And that’s not even the worst part. At no point does Michael take the song in an ironic, comedic direction. Oh no. He keeps the flirty, teasing tone and sings the song as smoothly and earnestly as he sings other classics like “I’ll be Home for Christmas” and “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas.” As the song plays on he promises Santa that he’ll “wait up for you, dude,” and implores Kris Kringle to both “fill his stocking” and “trim his tree.” And, I know what you’re thinking – but it’s not just my dirty mind that makes that creepy – a friend’s 13 year-old boy heard the song and said, “That’s not right.”

After my first listen, I felt like I needed to take a shower. And I had to wash all memory of that song out of my hair before I could enjoy a second listen to even the non-creepy songs on the CD. “Santa Buddy” left a frightened and confused taste in my mouth for the dulcet sounds of Mr. Bublé, and that was something I thought could never happen. I don’t know who is ultimately to blame for this travesty against Christmas music – whether it was Michael’s idea or his producers – but the only way this song could ever work would be if Neil Patrick Harris was singing it – with tongue firmly in cheek. That would make sense.

Sunday, December 4, 2011

it's beginning to look a lot like christmas...

It's that special time of year again when Christmas overtakes, well, everything. In honor of that magical spell (and in order to be a total conformist) I once again offer up my holiday gift of jolly seasonal blogs. I hope you enjoy!

To kick off the 21st Century Wonder Woman 2011 Christmas Season, I'm starting with a list of my favorite things about this time of year - offered in no particular order (keeping in mind that I sort of have a mostly love-hate relationship with all of this, so even things that feel my love might get a little bruised in the process).

Numero Uno:
Seasonally-themed overpriced coffee concoctions at Starbucks. Yes, I am a part of the evil Starbucks machine - and if you have a problem with that, you can suck it! While it all starts with the return of the pumpkin spice latte in autumn, that's just the precursor to wonderful delights such as the eggnog latte, gingerbread latte (I've never actually tried that one, not being a huge fan of gingerbread even when it's not in my coffee) and my penultimate favorite - the peppermint mocha (I prefer mine white and with no whip). Sometimes I break down during other times of the year and order a venti white peppermint mocha with no whip in the middle of summer - but it always tastes best during the holiday season. Yum!

Numero Dos:
Christmas music. My love of this festive cacophony of sleigh bells, choirs, Bing Crosby - and sometimes Elivs - is two-pronged: I love nostalgic classics that take me, much like that well-known ghost of Christmas past, back to those innocent holiday days of yore. I also love hearing new renditions of those beloved favorites as wrapped up and sung by the likes of Glee, Michael Buble, Diana Krall and She and Him. My all-time favorite song, though, is Judy Garland singing "Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas." I like the melancholy in the song as I think melancholy owns a front-row seat in the holiday season. Secondly, I love to make fun of all the ridiculous and cheesy songs that pollute the holiday airwaves - and no mention of holiday tunes would be complete without a nod to the many inadvertently pervy songs that fill me with mirth and delight upon each listen (for more on this topic, check out my blog from Xmas 2008). Not to beat a dead horse, but there is also an awesomely sick and wrong Christmas tune by Fall Out Boy that you must check out: Yule Shoot Your Eye Out.

Trois: Decorations. Oh yeah, baby! Even cheesy, horrible, overdone decorations make me happy. I don't necessarily want to live in the midst of them, but I do appreciate the enthusiasm and garish taste that goes into them (for more, see my blog watch of my neighbors' decor from Thanksgiving 2010). This year I am trying something new on the decoration front. After a viewing of Elf the other nite, I was inspired by Buddy's paper chain and snowflake explosion at his evil dad's house - a style that one friend has deemed "trashy chic." So, trashy chic it is! The first phase of trashy chic started last nite (see pic, above) with the hanging of the inaugural paper chain. Awesome!

Cuatro: Food. Well, cooking food, to be exact. Every year I cook a big Christmas feast for my friends and assorted loved ones. This is one of my favorite, favorite things to do and is typically the only gift my friends get from me - so it helps me be a cheap bastard, as well. Eschewing turkey and the usual holiday spread, I decided - o so many years ago - that it would be cool to make a meal from a different country every Christmas. That way we could try new things and learn about traditions around the world at the same time. As a mother of young kidlets, I thought this idea was genius. The first year I made a Mediterranean feast of stuffed leg of lamb, dolmathes, lemon rice, tortellini salad, mussels and assorted meats, cheeses, olives and breads. It was such a big hit, that I was forbidden from moving on to any other countries in subsequent years. A few years ago I was able to convince everyone to partake of a "traditional" Victorian Christmas feast (I even boiled the pudding!) This year, having made the Mediterranean feast on Thanksgiving (at my brother's request), I will be making prime rib, crab legs and various delectable accompaniments to complement those main attractions.

Cinq: Glitter, sequins and other shiny things. Christmas is one of the only times of year when it is entirely acceptable - nay, encouraged - to light yourself up just as brightly and sparkly as the Christmas tree at Rockefeller Center. Hells yeah! You can wear glitter on your clothes, on your legs, in your hair - even on your eyelashes. And this is just seen as adorably festive rather than cheaply whorish! How can you beat that?

SIX: Charity, generosity and an abnormal tendency to be just a little more forgiving, helpful and aware of those less fortunate than ourselves. I always tried - in the midst of overblown materialism and the inevitable "gimmes" - to make my kids conscientious of not only taking their grandparents for all they can get at this time of year, but giving something back to those, who whether due to stronger marriages or better all-around mental health, don't have six different sets of grandparents to spoil them rotten. Much to my delight both of my chicas have come through with a deep concern for others - and they show it. Gabi (even while owing nearly $600 in fines) has been joyously giving away any dollars she has in her pocket whenever she passes by a grizzled fellow with a sign asking for help. She just can't go by and act like they're not there - she is compelled to dig into her pocket and give. Savannah has been into "adopting" kids at Christmas - and even adopted Jesus one year!

Well, there you have it. Just a few of my favorite things about this time of year. Undoubtedly you will be subjected to more holiday musings in the days to come - so stay tuned!

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