Friday, November 30, 2012

Holiday Photo Challenge Contest!!!

The more of these challenges I do, the more amazing pictures are submitted and the harder it gets for me to narrow the field down.  Here are my 25 favorite shots.  There is only one shot per person, so it was even harder to pick among those who submitted several great photos.  

Here are the rules:
- You can vote once, for as many entries as you would like to choose.  You are encouraged to get your friends to vote for you for this reason!!!
- The poll is on the left hand margin of the blog.
- The contest will close at 10 a.m. MST on December 8, 2012.
- The main prize for the contest has been graciously sponsored by Suburban Haiku!  In the next week, I'll be rounding up some more goodies for the box as well.  

Here are the best of the best!

1 Buzz, Emma Capra

2. Angel, Musings of Munch

3. So fancy, Distracted Mommy

4. Electric, Dave Ewing

5. Sisters, Ginger Park

6. Tall grass, It's a Dome Life

7. Fall Splendor, Laura Capra

8. Four Generations, Baking in a Tornado

9. Spooky, Tanya Guffey

10. Capturing childhood, Kristen Bason

11. Falling water, Maria Ostroski

12.  Up, The Sadder But Wiser Girl

13.  Unbroken, Sarah Rose

14. Storm, Michelle Lumpkin

15. Nourish, Courtney Adams

16. Bravery (she's the one hanging on the right), Susanne Nelson

17. Colors, Love Art Baby

18. Rescued, Tiffany Gomollon

19. Moo, the crumb diaries

20. Busy Bizzy, Keep Me Company Pet Sitting

21. Joy, Lisa Evans

22. Reflection. Tracy Moore

23. Sunset, Katie Isaacson

24. Tahoe, Jennifer Maidl

25. Higher, Michelle Michael

How to be a blogger and/or run a Facebook page

I don't claim to be an expert at any of this, but I have recently had quite a few people asking for help.  I've helped set up blog pages, about me pages, profiles, secret identities, Facebook pages, headers, backgrounds and avatars.  At some point I started wondering why people aren't paying me for this stuff.

Honestly, it's taken me years to learn it all, and here I am just giving this stuff away for free.  Head meeting wall.

Here are some tips that I would offer to anyone thinking about starting up.

1) Don't expect anything to happen overnight.  I have been blogging, almost every day, for almost four years.  I did not start my Facebook page until about two years ago, got on Twitter about a year ago.  For me, it has been very gradual, and I've been learning all along the way.  I've learned a little about html, a lot about editing and more about myself.  I didn't get my fan base overnight.  You won't either.

2) Do your own research.  Don't expect that you can always just ask someone who's been around longer.  Again, I've learned everything I have learned through years of hard work.  Years of research.  Years of trial and error.  I've taught myself how to use all the platforms, and can honestly say that I never asked anyone else for help unless I did tons of research first and still found myself stuck.  I've made my fair share of mistakes, but that's part of the process.  The entire internet is there at your fingertips....use it.

3) Think long and hard about your identity and voice.  Before you post anything, before you share anything, before you make a blog or a Facebook page, think about who you want to be.  Do you want to be a sarcastic humorist, do you want to be taken seriously as a writer, do you want people to laugh, do you want people to relate to you?  Figure this out long before you do anything else.

4) Write a LOT before you go public.  I mean a LOT.  Unless you are a very seasoned writer, it's going to be rough in the beginning.  I can promise you that after you're at it a while, you will cringe when you go back and read the early stuff.  When I started, my goal was to write something, anything, for an hour a day.  For the most part, I have stuck to it.  The best way to improve is to keep at it.  Go back and re-read.  Edit.  Edit. Edit.  You'll hopefully get to the point where you don't have to edit much.

5) Decide from day one if you want to be anonymous or public.  Then stick with it.  If you want to bitch about your family or friends, be anonymous.  Seriously.  Unless they are all okay with it, which I highly doubt.  If you assume a secret identity, be good at it.  My goal from the beginning was to work towards becoming a published writer, so I've never hidden who I am.  It's your choice.

6) Learn your platform.  This goes for all of it.  Pick Blogger or Wordpress and learn it inside and out.  I am on Blogger, but I've thought about switching to Wordpress for a long time.  Wordpress allows for more flexibility, and has more exposure to other users of Wordpress.  Blogger is easier, more user friendly.  I'm not great at the tech stuff, so I stay.  You also need to learn Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest and any other social media platform you intend to use.  There are help sections and tutorials online for setting up pages, for linking pages to one another, etc.  Don't expect someone to have the answers for every question.  I figured it can too, honest.

7) Custom stuff doesn't come free unless you do it yourself or have friends who will.  There is a huge element of blogging and page administration to comes just from graphic design.  If you don't know how to do it, and you can't learn, you will have to pay someone eventually if you want stuff customized.  Ask for recommendations from others who've been at it a while, they will usually happily have people they trust to refer you to.

8) Be genuine. Don't try to be someone or something you're not.  People will see through it.  I promise.  If you don't cuss or talk about sex or politics, don't start for pageviews.  If you are religious, stay that way.  If you are gay, be out with it.  If you are a feminist, fine.  Be authentic.  People will love you for who you are.

9) Don't focus on numbers.  Focus on making connections with people.  I would rather have 100 real fans who read what I write and relate than 1,000 fans who never read anything and are just there for funny cat pictures.  (not that there's anything wrong with cat pictures - you guys know I love them)  Too many bloggers and page admins get wrapped up in numbers.  Fans only matter if they are fans.

10) Don't be a kissass.  There are way too many good people in this blogging world, and it's a lot smaller than most people realize.  Don't saddle up to the big dogs thinking you can ride their coattails.  It's not going to happen.  Most of us have been around long enough to see through it.  Don't just haphazardly ask for other pages or bloggers to share your stuff.  Some may have S4S policies, some may not.  Find out before you ask.  I share stuff that's worth sharing.  I share things my friends write.  I share only what is high enough quality that it won't diminish my reputation.

11) Don't be an asshole.  Unless that's your thing.  If you are, you will attract other assholes, so prepare yourself.  If you want to post things that will incite snarky comments, be prepared for it.  If you get a rise out of pissing people off, then you're going to get it thrown right back at you.  Be prepared to deal with trolls and  page bans and stern warnings from the powers that be at Facebook.  That will happen even if you aren't an asshole once you've been around long enough.  Everyone who gets big enough has to deal with it.

12) Don't give away too much for free.  Resist the urge to do every link up and post suggestion and guest feature.  Don't sacrifice your integrity for a few views.

13) Be careful who you ally with.  The vast majority of people I have come across in the blogosphere have been rock stars.  Not everyone is awesome though.  There are a few out there with egos bigger than you'd imagine...and they'll step on whoever they have to to get ahead.  Remember the power of anonymity, those who choose to hide who they really are might not be who they claim to be.

14) Learn how to use photo editing software.  Make your own headers and avatars.  Learn what dimensions and ratios images need to be.  Think about things like resolution and quality.  I use because it's online, it's free, and it's easy.

15) Don't steal stuff.  Just don't.  It's one thing to get ideas about posts from someone else, to be inspired by someone.  That's fine.  But don't blatantly rip off post topics, themes, weekly regular ideas, pictures, etc.  Don't cross post from other blogs unless you tell them.   Also, don't go claiming things are yours when you know they aren't.  Most of the stuff on the internet doesn't really "belong" to anyone, so don't go plastering your name on things you know aren't yours.  You'll just get yourself in trouble.

16) Be consistent with posting.  Post on a regular basis, whatever that means to you. Some aim for weekly or a few times a week.  I write daily.  If you have a Facebook page, it is even more important to post daily.  Good, quality stuff only though....don't post just to post.  If you are consistent, but the quality of the material is bad, people will lose interest.

17) Evolve.  Blogger completely changed their system a few years ago.  Facebook changes how they operate daily.  It's the nature of the beast.  Evolve or get angry, those are really the only options.

18) Remember why you're doing this.  This is supposed to be fun.  Or thought provoking.  Or educational.  Or whatever the point of your blogging was intended to be.  Stay true to that...and if you find yourself veering off course, take a step back.  Evaluate if this place you're heading is a natural progression or a distraction from your goals.

19) Don't take yourself too seriously.  Don't get offended.  Don't take stuff personally.  If a troll gets to you, just block and delete.  If you're too emotional about something, maybe take a step back before you write up a post.

20) Be considerate.  If you aren't anonymous, think about what you write about the people in your life long and hard before you write it.  People will always, always, always misinterpret things.  They will assume you are writing about them.  They will get offended.  Temper it as much as you can.

To the future bloggers and page admins of the world, good luck.  It's a tough road, especially in the beginning, but it's been amazing in my life.

To all the current bloggers and page admins of the world, thank you for sharing this weird life with me.  If I've missed something huge, please add your tips in the comments.

Thursday, November 29, 2012

30 Day Holiday Photo Challenge - Day 30

Day 30 - Family

We really are this ridiculous.

What Blogging Has Done to My Family and Friends

If you've hung out here for any length of time, you know that I write humor.  This post isn't going to be any different.

I could tell you about all the truly amazing things that have come from blogging.  I could.  I could tell you about meeting some of the coolest people in the entire world or about finally having friends that don't think I'm odd for writing stuff down on napkins.   I could tell you about having a place to air the grievances, about the therapeutic effect of writing.  I could tell you about how goddamn fun it is.   I could tell you about how my daughter wants to be a writer like her mom.

That's not what this post is about, though I guess I already told you some of the warm fuzzies.

This is about the bizarre ways that blogging has affected my family and friends.

My son knows that if I threaten to write about him, I'll make good on that promise.  It works wonders in the behavior modification department.

I didn't swear hardly at all here until after my Dad died, because he read everything I wrote.  Also why I didn't write about boobs or hoohas in the beginning.  I could just see him hanging his head at the computer.  

My father in law knows that I'm going to write about the crazy things he does.  Instead of trying to suppress what he says or does in an attempt to keep it off the internet, he runs home and checks the blog to see if the story is up yet.  

My kids all know that on any given day, mom could be crying or laughing her ass off at the computer.    They also know that she will share most of the inappropriate stuff with them.

My youngest daughter has told many people that I am in charge of the internet.  Many, many, many people.

My husband understands the need to moderate comments at midnight.

My friends ask me pretty frequently to address the issues they are afraid to post about on their Facebook walls.  I'll be your Huckleberry.

Some people freak the fuck out when they realize I have a blog and totally alter the way they act around me.  This entertains me.

A few fans send me stuff that they know I will love.  Things like this.

Nickelodeon has a new show called Dog with a Blog.  My daughter loves this show.  My husband, after realizing that this is a real thing started laughing hysterically.

Then he looked at me, and asked me if I was friends with the dog yet.

Not yet, but I think we will be BFFs soon.

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

30 Day Holiday Photo Challenge - Day 29

Day 29 - Share

I found the perfect picture for this one a few days ago.  This is my youngest, with my nephew in a headlock, "sharing" the phone.  They played games like this for about half an hour.  Hilarious.

Dear Kids, a letter from Santa

All the children in the world,

Some of you may be familiar with me already, but let me introduce myself just in case. My name is Santa Claus. I've been called many other names over the years, it's true. My least favorite is probably Fat Bastard.

Anyway, I'm writing this letter to you in response to all the letters you will inevitably write to me this holiday season. I really don't have time to read them, and the elves start whining after reading this stuff for a couple weeks. I have to be honest, I'm not paying attention to anything they say once the whining starts. They really do have the most nauseating voices.

Let me just make a few things obvious in case you haven't figured this stuff out yet on your own.

I'm looking at you, kid. Pay attention.

1. Do not scream or burp or fart on my lap. Do not pee on me, and for the love of all that is holy and right in this world, DO NOT BARF ON ME. Granted, it's not the real me being tortured down there in the mall, but those guys in the red suits are my friends. They do the heavy lifting while I hang out here at the North Pole sipping hot toddies all day. Oh, don't pull their beards either. Every Santa hates that shit.

2. Smile for the goddamn picture. Seriously. Do you see that line? The longer those kids wait, the more they are going to turn into little brats. The longer their parents wait, the more desperate they will get. You've seen the crazy pathetic mother flapping her arms like a freak behind the camera, sobbing hysterically because her fucking kid won't smile. Don't be an asshole. Just smile for the picture. Make this as easy as possible, and I'll slip you an extra candy cane, mmmkay? I've got 27 more little assholes to deal with behind you.

3. If you want good presents, leave me the good cookies. Stop giving me the broken, burnt cookies. Dammit. There is nothing in this world that honks me off more than a burnt damn cookie. Oh, and gingersnaps??? That shit is disgusting. Keep it off the plate if you know what's good for you.

4. If you want awesome presents, pour some Bailey's or Kahlua in the milk. Ask your parents where this is.

5. There is a list of things I can't bring you. Don't even ask. If your parents haven't told you this, then they deserve what is coming to them. 
  • Live animals. They shit in the sleigh and we all know you aren't going to clean it up, no matter how much you promise. 
  • Anything electronic that requires a data plan. I'll fuck with parents, but not that much. 
  • Weapons of any kind. Unless you want an Official Red Ryder Carbine-Action Two-Hundred-Shot Range Model Air Rifle, that is. I'll totally bring you that shit. 
  • The LEGO Death Star. Just don't fucking ask. 
6. Assuming the things you want aren't on the above mentioned list, be specific. Really fucking specific. If you just tell me you want a doll, but what you really wanted was the brown haired doll with blue eyes wearing the green outfit carrying a tiny dog, say it. Tell your parents a few months in advance, too. That shit doesn't just make itself, and I'm not a goddamn mind reader. You guys are picky little turds.

7. Don't be a shithead the week before Christmas. Do you know how many fucking phone calls I get from parents who've had enough??? I don't got time for that shit. I'm busy. I've got deadlines. Knock it off. Shitheads don't get presents.

8. Go ahead change your mind at the last minute, ask for something else. I dare you, you little bastard. It's not going to work. I don't recommend trying to pull a fast one on a dude who's been around the block for a few thousand years.

9. If you say you don't believe in me, you're not getting coal. It's too damn heavy to lug around. What you are getting, though, is socks and underwear. LOTS of socks and underwear. Merry Fucking Christmas!!!

10. Finally, on Christmas Eve....go the fuck to sleep. Your parents are exhausted, the house is a mess, shit ain't wrapped and I can't squeeze my fat ass down the chimney until you're all in dreamland. So get there, and quickly. Once you're there, s.t.a.y.t.h.e.r.e. Got it??? I'm gonna be super pissed if I'm running late because you needed another fucking drink of water then had to pee an hour later.

Hope this helps answer some of your questions.

Now, behave. My creepy Elves are spying on you.


Santa Claus

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

30 Day Holiday Photo Challenge - Day 28

Day 28 - Love

This is one that can be expressed so many ways.  I choose here to share a piece of love that transcends time and place, that comes to us when we need it, that knows no boundary of life and death.

At just the times I need it, a song will come on the radio that makes me think of him, or a heart shaped cloud will appear in the sky.

He still finds a way to tell me he loves me.

I miss you, Dad.

Things That Piss Me Off Tuesday - The Screw You Lexus edition

Ignoring the fact that I'm really not in rage grrrrrl mode today, I'm going to dig deep.  It's Tuesday, and I'm supposed to be pissed off, so dammit I'm going to try.

Winter that isn't winter
If it's going to be 12 degrees when I have to leave, it should snow.  You hear me, Mother Nature?  Enough of this cold breeze crap.  Bring me some snow.

Yep, I hate it all.  Every piece of it.  In fact, I should probably stop reading about WalMart because it is pissing me off so much.  Did you know that in some states, as many as 80% of WM employees rely on food stamps and Medicaid?  Did you know that the Walton family is the richest in the world?  Did you know that they have internal rules about limiting hours and pay to help employees qualify for assistance?  Do you realize that this is another form of corporate welfare?  The shareholders are rolling in the dough, but the employees are barely making minimum wage.  Guess who's picking up the difference???  You and I, the taxpayers.

I hope you will rethink the next time you shop there using the excuse to save a few bucks.  It's costing society more in the long run for corporations like this one to exist.  Oh, but you could get a tv there for $10 cheaper....yeah, so keep on shopping there.  (I'm kidding.  Please don't.)

Reminders of our constant inability to make our families truly happy
It's almost December, so you know what that means.  We had a good few weeks after the election where things went back to normal and we were subjected to commercials about wiener pills and feminine hygiene products.  Yeah, well that's over.

It's the constant barrage of reminders that your family will never be the happiest they could be.  Unless you shower your wife/girlfriend/and even daughters in diamonds, YOU FAIL.  I'm not kidding about the daughters, I think Kay is running an ad where future step dads are supposed to give the soon-to-be stepdaughter diamonds.  Add that into your budget, gentlemen.

If those diamonds aren't enough, you are supposed to buy everyone a Lexus too.

Because everyone has a $50,000+ holiday budget.

Screw you, Lexus.

I especially like the one commercial (which I think is actually a Buick commercial), where Dad buys everyone in the family a Segway and they all look at him like the loser that he is when the snooty neighbor drives by with their new-with-a-giant-bow-just-to-rub-it-in-everyone's-faces-car.

Except here's the thing, jerkoffs.....Segways are like $7,000 each.

Gosh, ONLY spent $28,000 on us.  You must not love us enough.

I was talking to m husband about it a few nights ago, and we wondered aloud why the more reasonably priced car manufacturers don't jump on the bandwagon.  Imagine the commercials....
Slightly better than the beater you're driving right now.

Sorry kid, Dad got the Lexus.

We all know you don't deserve the Cadillac.

She'll love it anyway!  Okay, maybe not, but at least it's still clean!

What???  It's got a big bow!  Look at the big bow!!!

Monday, November 26, 2012

30 Day Holiday Photo Challenge - Day 27

Day 27 - Celebration

I know what I was thinking when I picked this theme for this day, but not thinking it through well enough for it to make sense.

Tomorrow, the 27th, would have been my Dad's 60th birthday.  We will eat our cherry cheesecake and drink some Coors light, see if we can find some NASCAR on tv.

Since my timing was off a bit, I have to come up with something else for this day.

This picture is of my son and his Uncle on his birthday.  Because when you turn four and your uncle is a firefighter and you get to climb on his truck and shoot the hose with your friends, that pretty much makes you the King of the Universe.

I can't be trusted with an Elf

I'm sure you've all seen it already.  It's already starting.  It won't stop for a month.

The posts.

The pictures.

The naming of the newest Elves.

The cute little stories.

The mischief of the Elf who "forgot" to move overnight.

Because the Elf is the one that does all this shit.  Right...

I'm sure it's a cute story and all, and I can honestly say that I've never read it.  I have no desire to read this book, and I have even less desire to own an Elf.  Or manage an Elf, since they are supposed to be "real" and all, I guess you don't "own" them.  Whatever.

It's not just a book with a doll anymore, it's a sensation sweeping the country.  There is a movie now too.  WHAT???  You don't have an Elf?  However do you get your children to behave all December???

Um, with veiled threats, like normal people.

We've taught our kids to believe in Santa, we play along with all the normal expectations.  We do the lap sitting and the picture taking and the letter writing.  We leave out the milk and cookies.  We even leave carrots for the reindeer that we have to buy special from the store with the tops still on them.

I'll be the first to admit that I've threatened to place a call to the North Pole on occasion at this time of the year when the kids were being particularly naughty.  I've threatened the kids with rocks, coal and jars of pickles.  (my youngest really hates pickles)

I play the hell out of the Santa card.

What I won't do, can't do, refuse to do, is to have my life dictated by a scary little doll.

You've seen the Elf, right?  He's a creepy little dude.

You are supposed to move the scary big eyed bastard every night so the kids think he's actually watching them. If that's not enough to give them nightmares, I don't know what is.  My kids have always been a little bit weirded out by the fact that Santa gets into the house in the first place.  The idea of having a tiny stalker wouldn't sit well, I assure you.

Imagine if the Elf watched us.  Shudder.

Even if I wanted an Elf, I'd suck at having one.  I'd forget to move the Elf.  I know that I don't have the self-discipline to remember that.  The kids go to bed, and my job as Mom is done for the day.

I'd be a terrible Elf keeper, and end up throwing him across rooms while distracting the kids half the damn time.

Oh yes, kids, the Elf really did mean to end up in the sink or lodged into the tree upside down.  That's where he watches you from.  Duh.

My kids are terrible at remembering stuff this time of year anyway.  I buy them the stupid chocolate advent calendars, and half the mornings they forget.  MY KIDS FORGET TO EAT CHOCOLATE, people.  This is not normal.  Clearly, they are mine.

We cannot be trusted with an Elf.

Which is fine.  I don't want one anyway.

I don't want to make up new stories or take ridiculous posed pictures.  I don't want to post about the stinking Elf every day on my Facebook page in an effort to proclaim my superior mom-ness to the rest of the world.

I wrote a little about this last year when people started harassing me about making 118 Christmas tree brownies for school.  We all have our own version of overcompensation.  We all want to believe that we are kick ass moms for something.  We all want to be the best mom at something.  I bake, you buy an Elf.  I get it.  I do. Difference being, I can promise you I'm not moving the brownies around the house every day and taking pictures of them.

You want to buy an Elf and play along, good for you.  Post away, tweet away, pin away.   Tell us all how awesome your Elf is you are.  Just don't be surprised when we all giggle a little the morning your Elf "forgets" to move and you gots some 'splaining to do.

If I got an Elf, chances are I'd be doing more Elf Shaming than Elf Moving.

On second thought, maybe I should get an Elf just to humiliate him.

Creepy little bastard.

Sunday, November 25, 2012

30 Day Holiday Photo Challenge - Day 26

Day 26 - Tradition

We had quite a few traditions around here, but one of the most amusing has to do with what happens to the Christmas tree sometime between Christmas Eve and Christmas morning.

It picks up some decorations.

Namely, it is adorned with new underwear for the kids.

Don't ask where this tradition started or why...I'm not even sure.  All I know is that this has to happen.

Every year.

The List of 2012

It's that time of year.

My annual Christmas list.

I've done this for a few years now.   If you care to read my lists from years before, click on the links below.


I make these lists for a few reasons.  One, because there are a handful of people in this world who still care what I want.  Two, because I have unreasonable and irrational desires.  Three, because I'm five.

My kids are to the point now where they generate long and elaborate lists, complete with drawings and diagrams and specifications about which version of whatever electronic thing it is that they are asking for.  Kids only get more expensive.

At least kids are still kids and obsess about material things.  They don't ask for the impossible things I want, like time travel.

Here's what I want, in no particular order.

1.  A time machine.  I get the whole altering-the-outcome-of-everything Back the Future effect, but some of the things I would change would still be worth it.  I'd especially like to give out a few taco kicks.

2. I want my car to be clean.  Even under the seats and in the cracks.  It's like a bad science experiment in there.

3. I need new clothes. I've lost enough weight that most of my pants are falling down.  In the event that you're ever walking behind me when my hands are full and I moon you accidentally, my apologies.  I could just buy belts, I suppose, but I'd rather get new jeans.

4. I need new boots.  I've had the same two pairs of boots since college. Oh, the stories those boots could tell you...if and when they ever get replaced, I'm not sure I can bear to part with them.

5. I want a puppy.  Sort of.  I don't particularly want to pay for, train or clean up after a puppy.  I want a puppy again, then I watch Marley and Me and I swear I'm never getting another dog for the rest of my life.

6. Kids that listen the first time.  I'd be a lot less crazy if this happened. 

7. The ability to clone myself.

8. An unlimited Starbucks card.  Enough said.

9. Nail polish and eyeliner and lip gloss that my daughters don't steal.

10. I want to go to a real NYE party, full of drunkenness and glitter.

11. I want a vacation, without my kids.  I love them and all, but I want to go sit by a pool with a drink that has an umbrella in it and not have to worry about people drowning.

12. I want a teleporter. I wish it didn't take 16 hours to reach the beach from here.  I should just be able to press a button.

13. I want my hair to stay this color without having to dye it every month.

14. I want to notice my eyebrows are out of control at any other time than when I am in the car.  I can forget to pluck them for weeks on end when I'm near tweezers and mirrors, but get me in a car going somewhere important and I suddenly realize there is a caterpillar growing on my forehead.  Maybe I'll just leave some tweezers in the car.  That's not weird, right?

15. I want to know how to knit.  I'm trying to learn, and this skill set is clearly above my pay grade.  I'm going to keep at it because of who and what it's for, but goddammit I suck.

16. A pedicure more than once a year.  Strike that, more often than once every two years.

17. I love to cook, but hate to clean.  So, a dish washing robot would be great.

18. I'd prefer that my cat doesn't bringing mice in the house anymore.

19. World peace, the end of hunger, cure for cancer, truth, justice and fairness.  All that stuff.

20.  Something huge that will probably never happen, but I keep holding out hope.  It would just confirm the fact that I am indeed crazy, but I'm okay with that.  There's always room for more crazy around here.  ;)

Saturday, November 24, 2012

30 Day Holiday Photo Challenge - Day 25

Day 25 - Adorn

It's officially that time of year.  Now that Thanksgiving is over and done with, it's time to throw glitter and tinsel on everything.

I'm scaling back this year a little, trying to fit more simplicity in my holiday.

Not a single decoration is out yet, and I'm really okay with that.

This is a picture of the blue spruce in my backyard, taken three years ago now.  I'm not sure what came over me when I did this, but I just knew that if the weather cooperated, it would end up looking as I'd envisioned.

And it did.

The real version of the flocked Christmas trees I grew up surrounded by, tagging along behind my father.  He worked the lots, I begged to go with him.  We never did bring one of those flocked trees home, maybe because we didn't need to.  We had that moment out there in the dark, rubbing our hands warm over the fire pit, watching the manufactured snow gently fall onto the trees.

I couldn't go home for Christmas that year, and my dad couldn't be here.  He'd never make the trip out here again, but I could share this moment with him.

This was his tree.

I haven't done it since, but I think this might be the year.

The Complicated Relationship Between Santa Claus and the Tooth Fairy

My eldest child is in middle school now.  In the last few weeks, my husband has urged me to have the talk with the boy about the fat man in the red suit.

I can't do it.

He still believes in Santa Claus.  He still believes in the Easter Bunny and the Leprechaun that comes the night before St. Patrick's Day and the Tooth Fairy.  He believes in it all.

My husband is afraid he will get picked on if the kids at school catch wind of the fact that he still willingly writes letters to this mythical man, that he still wants to go sit on Santa's lap at the mall, that he still insists we leave out milk and cookies.

It's a legitimate fear that my husband has.  I worry about my son too, of course.  He is a gentle and trusting kid, he finds the good in everyone, he is genuinely happy.  I've been dreading the day that comes when he realizes that not everyone in the world is good, that his friends will betray him, that he will have his heart broken.

I can't break his heart for him, even if I'd only be doing it to protect him.

I can't steal the magic.

I can't crush him like that.

I can't.

There is a part of me that hopes he can somehow believe quietly and secretly.  That he will find a way to make it look good for the kids who've been told the truth, that he'll play it off like he doesn't believe anymore, that he will still get the nervous giggles on Christmas Eve and ask me to track the sleigh on Norad.

I hope that someday when he's home from college, there will still be something beneath the tree for him from Santa and he will smile.  I hope that when the day comes when he becomes Santa himself, the transition will be seamless and unspoken.  He will just understand that it wasn't all a lie, that it isn't all a lie, that it's more than that. It's believing.

I hope.

If I needed any more reason to resist telling him the truth, it came just a few nights ago.  The night before Thanksgiving, he pulled out a tooth.  I asked him what he wanted to do with it.  If he wanted to do some science experiments with it, throw it in a glass of soda to see if it will really dissolve overnight like they say it will.  I thought for sure he'd want to do that since he spends so much time obsessing over science class now.

Instead, he found a tiny baggie, pulled out his tiny Buzz Lightyear tooth shaped pillow, and tucked it under his head.

My husband looked at me in disbelief that night.

He still believes?


For as long as my children are alive, they will believe in the tooth fairy.  I still believe in the tooth fairy, even if I know better. In our house, the tooth fairy isn't just a magical character that exchanges lost baby teeth for golden dollars and sugar free gum.

In our house, the tooth fairy is my Dad.

Many years ago, this boy of mine asked what everyone in the family did for work.  Some were easy to explain, others more difficult for a child to understand.  From the driver's seat in the car, I told him that Grandpa made new teeth for people who'd lost theirs, since kids don't know what dentures are.  He immediately, and without a moment of hesitation, asked me if Grandpa was the tooth fairy.

Yes, of course he is.

From that moment on, Dad was the tooth fairy.  He got the first phone calls every time one was lost.  He talked the kids though their dentist appointments.  He got to supervise a few losses in person.  And he took the last tooth lost on his watch with him when he left us, tucked into a tiny baggie in his front shirt pocket.

Even in death, he kept this, his last job.  The kids reasoned that he just has a halo to go with the wings and tutu now.

You'll have to forgive us if we let our kids hang on to this imagined fantasy world just a little longer than they should.  If we bend over backwards to keep the magic alive.

I can't ask them to stop believing.

I still believe.  

I just needed a visit from the tooth fairy this week to remind me.

Friday, November 23, 2012

30 Day Holiday Photo Challenge - Day 24

Day 24 - Hope

There are so many things that I could choose for this theme. So many ways I could choose to interpret it.  So many ways I could relate it to specific people in my life.

There are so many things I am hopeful for.

I hope to grow old with my husband and to live out our dream of buying a condo in some thriving downtown area, where we can walk to the theater and restaurants and little quaint shops and coffee houses.

I hope to see my children thrive and live happy, healthy lives.  I hope they find their passions in this world and chase them.  I hope they find love and build their own families someday, however that seems right for them.

I hope for cures for diseases, I hope for finding ways to avoid them in the first place someday.  I hope for a tolerant society full of the beauty of diversity. I hope for bigger things like peace and tiny ones like mornings without low blood sugar issues.

I hope for new chances.  I hope for second ones.  I hope for new chances to do it right.  I hope for do-overs.

I hope for a new start, every day.

First, we need a new day to have a chance.

This is the sunrise from just outside my neighborhood.  The sun sets over the mountains here, making for some spectacular sights. It rises over the long and reaching plains, slower and more gradually than it sets.

The cirrostratus clouds in the sky here, a warning of a coming storm, set fire to the morning.

The sun goes to bed every night, but it promises to rise the next morning and give us one more shot to do it better.

Without this, what would be the point of hope?

Things we learned at dinner last night

Did you know that if you brine a turkey, it cooks faster?  This was my first foray into the brining world, and I somehow neglected to read the fine print where it tells you that the turkey will be done an entire hour earlier than you think it will be.  Then, you're going to have only the 20 minutes of resting time to get everything else done.

Do the hustle.

AJ will drink anything out of a champagne glass.  We may start giving him one every night at dinner just to get the kid to drink his milk.  All fancy, now.

My sweet potato casserole is awesome, or at least other people say it is.  I don't eat it.  Ever.  Like my pies. I spend hours making them, then watch everyone else eat them.  Again, I've been told they are delicious, but you're really just going to have to take everyone else's word for it.

We ate dinner around 4:15.  I have one serving of whatever and call it good.  I do not feel compelled, like those around me, to stuff myself completely full with several helpings of everything.  Consequently, I don't feel like taking a nap immediately after eating, and by bedtime I am hungry.  Before heading to bed, I grabbed a piece of cold turkey out of the fridge and sent up a meaty toast to my Dad, realizing this was exactly what he always did.  I'm more and more like him all the time.

People who've known me for any length of time know that if they do something hilarious around me, I'm going to write about it.

Watch out now.

Usually, I change names to protect the innocent.

Not really.

I may not specify which person said or did whatever I'm writing about, mostly out of fear that they'll stop doing funny things in my presence.  Also to preserve their privacy.  Wink, wink.  Sure, that sounds good.  Right?

Anyhow, the comedy relief at dinner came from the other side of the table.

One person (will remain nameless), asked for more wine.  Another grabbed the bottle in the middle of the table from a local winery and poured the wine.

Oooooh, that's good.  

We should go there sometime.

Yes, we should go to Clitoris.

Let's.  Let's go to clitoris.

I managed not to laugh for 3.7 seconds.

30 Day Holiday Photo Challenge - Day 23

Day 23 - Feast

I spent the better part of the last two days cooking and baking for Thanksgiving.

This, right here, is the crowning glory of the dinner.  My stuffing.

Thursday, November 22, 2012


I awoke this morning to a message in my inbox.

Thanksgiving is a bittersweet holiday for me, as it is for so many people I know and love.

Too many of those close to me lost someone close to them this year.

Too many of those I love are in the fight of their lives.

Too many.

Sometimes we just need to be grateful for the most simple things.

We need to be thankful for this.

Please read this piece by Bill Hayes, On Being Not Dead, run in the New York Times today.  It spoke to me, and said everything I wanted to say, but more eloquently and more simply than I ever could.

May you remember all that you have to be grateful for today.


Wednesday, November 21, 2012

30 Day Holiday Photo Challenge - Day 22

Day 22 - Gather 

Obviously you all are going to have an easy way out for this one.  Since I'm doing it a day ahead of the gathering day, I had to come up with something else.

This is some of my insanely fun family.  When we get together, there is sure to be lots of good food, lots of laughs and lots of Coors Light.  What good is a family BBQ without a water balloon toss, anyway?

We don't have fun together.  Not at all.

I adore these people.  And I'm going to be missing them all tomorrow.  xoxo

Sensitivity training, courtesy of a sarcastic cynic

As the holiday season of 2012 officially kicks off, I'd like to hop up on my soapbox for just a second.

It's gonna be quick because I have too much to do today.

I just ask that we all be a little more conscious of others this time around.  And yes,  I need this reminder as much, if not more, than anyone else does.  Mind your manners and your words.  Consider whether you could use more kindness and patience.  Think about whether someone who is driving you a little bit insane is doing it not because they want to or are trying to, but possibly because it's the only coping mechanism they have.

Holidays are emotionally loaded, full of expectation and assumptions about how perfect everything should be.  The jewelry and car commercials constant, the catalogs full of things the kids want but aren't in the budget.  All reminders of how we fall short.

Holidays are great for most people.  Full of family and friends and celebration.  Happy.

They aren't that way for everyone, probably including some of the people sitting around the tables with you laughing nervously and putting on the smiley face. Probably including some of you reading this right now.

For some of us, they are emotionally charged reminders of things.  Of events that have taken place, of people that are missing, of the seats that are empty.  Of who or what is wrong.  Of what we want, but can't have.  Of how we have failed others and ourselves.  Some of us have family that should be with us, but won't or can't.  Some of us wish we had memory erasers from years gone by.  Some of us tear up at every flipping Christmas song on the radio.

Give us a little slack.

Forgive us if we drink too much and get too loud.

Forgive us if we sneak out for a cigarette even though we said we quit.

Forgive us if we volunteer to run to the store for whatever is missing and don't come back for an hour.

Forgive us if we get emotional without warning and cry.

Forgive us if we just need to get out and take a walk in the dark, in the pouring rain, in the snow.

Forgive us if we hide in the bathroom.

Forgive us if family dinners end in fistfights on the front lawn.

Forgive us if we freak out because the stuffing isn't perfect.

Forgive us, and forgive yourselves.

To quote my all time favorite Christmas movie, one that will always remind me of my own father and the coping mechanisms both he and Clark had to get through holidays, the ones that I now completely understand,

Where do you think you're going? Nobody's leaving. Nobody's walking out on this fun, old-fashioned family Christmas. No, no. We're all in this together. This is a full-blown, four-alarm holiday emergency here. We're gonna press on, and we're gonna have the hap, hap, happiest Christmas since Bing Crosby tap-danced with Danny fucking Kaye. And when Santa squeezes his fat white ass down that chimney tonight, he's gonna find the jolliest bunch of assholes this side of the nuthouse. 

Thanksgiving.  Let's do this thing.

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

30 Day Holiday Photo Challenge - Day 21

Day 21 - Important

I chose the picture for today because it's something that I've been making a more conscious effort to do.

Normally, I am the one taking the pictures.  My role as mother dictates that, sure, but since I'm also the so-called photographer, it is magnified.

I realized a while ago that all those pictures I take were missing something.  Missing someone.

They were missing me.

I have to be honest.  It wasn't always an oversight.  I avoided being on the other side of the lens.  Afraid of what the picture would look like, unsure whether I could stand to look at myself, terrified of ruining an otherwise great shot with me.

If there's one thing that losing a parent does, it makes you realize that all that stuff is stupid.  Those reasons are selfish.

Your kids want pictures of you.  They want pictures with you.  Your family and friends want pictures of you.  You should too.

Those pictures are important.

Even if it means sometimes you have two chins or funky hair.  Even if it means that most of the pictures that include you are taken from arm's length with a cell phone camera.

This is me and my boy, on my first day as a soccer coach.

Not too shabby.


Normally, Tuesday is my day to rant about the things that piss me off.  This week, I just can't bring myself to do it.  Two days to Thanksgiving, smack dab in the middle of the month of gratitude.

I've written about gratitude as it's been a part of my life recently a few weeks ago.  The backhanded variety. The perspective and lessons learned type of gratitude.  The if I hadn't been to hell and back I wouldn't have this gratitude kind of gratitude.

I try to keep a healthy perspective about life, but sometimes I think we all slip a little.  Can't see the forest because we get too preoccupied staring that at the one or two dysfunctional trees.  Truth be told, I've got a lot of dysfunctional trees in my forest, but there are enough of them in there that are strong and healthy and tall and magnificent that the other ones can blend in just fine if I let them.  If I don't fixate on them and stare.

It's the blending that saves us.

Saves our sanity.

Keeps us grounded.

We have a choice to make, we all do.  We can fixate on the dysfunctional, or we can force ourselves to take the step back and let it all run together.

I'm trying....really take that step back.

Thanksgiving is tough for me.  Among other things, this holiday, and the entire tail end of November really, have always belonged to my Dad.  His birthday always fell sometime around or on the day we celebrate together around a table with family.  Even though he's not here anymore, his birthday still is.  He would have been 60 this year.  We would have made him the cherry cheesecake he always requested and put way too many candles on it and we would have laughed.

We'll still have the cheesecake, but without the candles.  Without the person to blow them out.  With stories to remember him, reminders that he is still with us and that he'd be downright angry if anyone was sad because he isn't here anymore.

Today, I am thankful that dinner is here this year.  Though the table won't be surrounded by everyone I wish it could be, it will be full.  My children are healthy, my husband recovering.  My brother in law has the day off and will be comparing mustaches with my husband.  We'll meet someone new, and I'll spend a lot of time harassing my father in law.  My mother in law has her work cut out for her, since she has been tagged to teach me to knit.  (Wish her luck on that one)  My dog will sit patiently and wait for whatever falls on the floor, perhaps entertaining us in the meantime.  The cat will be obnoxious, and I wouldn't expect anything else.  

There are people missing, of course.  Those far away and those who've left us forever. There will be phone calls and toasts and silent prayers to the stars for them.

I have pumpkins to roast today and a turkey to clean.  I have been completely preoccupied with the fact that I'm brining the bird this year, and I'm grateful for the distraction.  I have pies to bake and stuffing to make and candles to light and tables to set.

I am grateful for being busy.  For having family to feed and a table to sit around.

I'm grateful for my forest.

Monday, November 19, 2012

30 Day Holiday Photo Challenge - Day 20

Day 20 - Gift

I tend to get mushy and emotional when I do these challenges, mostly because every picture I share with you is one that means something significant to me.

Today is no different.

My dad, pointing out the rays to Tom and AJ
This was taken at the Aquarium of the Pacific in the summer of 2010.  Every time we went back home to California after moving to Colorado, my Dad made sure to take the kids here.  It was his favorite place to spend time with them. He was always excited and engaged, eager to share it all with them.

This was the last time we would go there with him.  The last time he'd point out the rays and sea stars.  The last time he'd urge the kids up to the glass on the other side of the sharks.  The last time he'd sit and stare at the jellyfish.

Time is a gift.

I'm so grateful we had time.

I miss you, Dad.

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