Warning: Decorating for Christmas Can be Hazardous to your Health

It’s over. Now all that’s left is for me to continue applying Icy Hot to my back and taking a regimen of ibuprofen so I can soon walk, perhaps even bend over, without uttering a profanity.

If you’re worried I was in some sort of accident – fear not. I’m just recovering from decorating for Christmas. For me holiday decor is my Olympics. A decathlon of sorts where for three solid days I lug bin after bin out of my basement and begin the transformation from holiday drab to fab.

For years I have divided my decorating into three separate phases. Phase one begins with getting the Christmas tree and decorating it.

I usually like to get the tree bright and early the day after Thanksgiving. This year due to a University of Texas football game, that please note was on TV and could have been recorded, we had to delay our family outing to select a tree until 3 p.m. Thus setting my decorating schedule back h-o-u-r-s.

That though wasn’t the worst of it. U.T. lost or according to my husband “gave the game away” to Iowa State and he was in a mood that wasn’t the least bit festive.

I, totally full of the Christmas spirit, suggested that he might want to pick a new Big 12 team to root for. Perhaps even Iowa State because they haven’t been to a conference championship since 1912. So, that would be fun, historic even, to see them win some more.

This suggestion was met with a glare that still haunts me. It also made the ride to select a tree so lacking in holiday joy not even the Cheetah Girls Christmas CD from 2005 featuring the classic “Marshmallow World” could serve as a mood booster.

Luckily it didn’t impact our quest for the perfect Noble pine. We found one quickly and then I moved on to perusing wreaths. Shortly after that I discovered my husband had gone MIA. I sent my son to look for him and he reported back while laughing “that dad was walking off the game.”

Seriously, I wanted to throw a 20-inch Frasier fir wreath at my husband. Who allows football to usurp their holiday joy?

The next day I was barely ambulatory and a tad queasy after staying up till 2 a.m. to finish decorating the tree while subsisting on Pepperidge Farm peppermint cookies and Diet Coke. But I rallied and began phase two – exterior illumination.

This is where I almost lost my Christmas mojo. None, and I mean none, of the lights in my yards and yards of outdoor holiday garland worked. Granted they were more than a decade old but still I felt like my holly jolly had been kicked to the curb.

It didn’t help that I also had a slight memory of these lights going out last year right before I was going to take them down. But instead of removing the lights from the garland I just shoved them back in a bin.

As I was forced to cut hundreds of lights off with scissors so I could clear the way for new lights I wanted to travel back in time and punch myself in the face.

It was so bad I had to break open a fresh bag of peppermint cookies to make it through that perilous journey.

Fortunately phase three – assorted interior decor not of a Christmas tree nature was less eventful but not without peril. I couldn’t find one of my holiday bins and was at Defcon 1 for a nervous collapse.

Days later all is well – sort of.  I’m still sore from lugging bins and falling off a ladder ( to be clear it was a step stool but still – ouch.) My hope is I’ll be able to climb stairs without cursing very soon.

 

Reach Snarky  at snarkyinthesuburbs@ gmail.com, on Facebook at Snarky in the Suburbs, on Twitter at @snarkynsuburbs on Instagram @snarky.in.the.suburbs.

Premature Christmas

Screen Shot 2015-11-19 at 8.14.13 AMIt’s taken a lot of discipline and dedication to make it to this day without giving in or being weak. Oh, how I’ve wanted to not just succumb but to throw myself in with the herd and celebrate being one of “those people.”

But, I can’t. I. Must. Stay. Strong. I’m almost to the finish line. All I need to do is gut it out for 24 more hours and I’ve done it. I’ve achieved my goal, no forget that, it’s not a goal. A goal is something you’re aiming to accomplish. What I’m talking about is so much more important than any goal. It’s about obeying your mother which you don’t approach with a half-hearted, namby pamby “I’ll try.” No, maternal obedience from an adult daughter demands, a “must do” attitude.

This steadfast compliance in the face of overwhelming temptation is why it took everything I had while buying leaf bags at Lowes to not lovingly gaze at a fresh evergreen garland with a sassy overlay of candy canes and a sprinkling of faux snow that screams Santa + Jack Frost = Best Friends Forever. You see, I was raised from a very young age to embrace one of my mother’s most fundamental edicts – thou shalt not decorate for Christmas before Thanksgiving.

This used to be one of my mom’s easier rules to obey. Back in the day most folks didn’t even put a tree up until December Uno. It was downright weird to see anyone going full holly jolly before you could actually start opening a flap on your Advent calendar. This was primarily because everyone had “real” Christmas trees. Time travel back to the 1970’s and the fake Frasier Fir was so flammable some counties had outlawed it. Never mind that it looked almost as artificial as the facelift my great Aunt Ethel got in Guadalajara, Mexico circa 1972.

Once faux Christmas trees reached an authenticity level so acute that it could fool even the most discerning of squirrels the last remaining barrier to premature Christmas decor was breached. Now, it’s almost impossible to not I spy at least one neighbor with Christmas lights up in October. The neighbor might not have the lights on but they’re up and if I follow my mother’s rule to the letter that’s still a no, no.

I always admired my mother’s keen passion for keeping Thanksgiving as a separate event and not smooshing it together with the Christmas season so it becomes like a piece of chocolate in a s’more. You know how when you eat a s’more you get a taste of the chocolate, but it’s totally overwhelmed by the gooey, bulky show off that is a charred marshmallow. That’s exactly what she thought happened to Thanksgiving when you’re carving the turkey next to a fully flocked Christmas tree.

Growing up, especially as teenagers, my sister and I would delight in aggravating my mother by pointing out people in town who had Christmas decorations up early and to be truthful early to my mom was anytime before the first weekend in December. When a salacious marital cheating scandal happened to a prominent citizen my mom’s very pious response was, “Well, what did anyone except from that woman. She had Christmas up before you could even buy a Butterball in the grocery store. I’m telling you it speaks to character.”

When I pressed my mother for details about how exactly putting Christmas decorations up before Thanksgiving was a moral defect. She looked at me like I had just asked if writing thank you notes was ever optional and responded, “You don’t skip over Thanksgiving just because something better in the form of Christmas is lurking all bright and shiny around the corner and you don’t skip out of a marriage for exactly that same reason. It would behoove you to remember that young lady.”

Remember it I did. And as much as I have always wanted to get started on putting up Christmas decorations early (because what woman with a holiday To Do list a mile long doesn’t want to start getting stuff done) I lived in fear my mother would find out and have a very dignified, and somewhat reserved, hissy fit. (Think of it as a long, drawn out, sigh of devastating disappointment.)

This year is the first Thanksgiving I’ll celebrate without my mother. She passed away in March. My sister called me and asked if I was going to start decorating early. I told her no way because I believe with all my heart my mom is still with us and she would somehow manage to express her disapproval from the great beyond.

“I feel the same way,” my sister shared. Then we both started laughing. My mother maybe gone but her Thanksgiving spirit or “Holiday Decoration Timeline” is still living large.

Hey, while we’re talking about Christmas do you know what you make a great gift? My Snarky book series. If you haven’t experienced a Snarky book yet may cover_1-3-21I gently suggest you give it a try like right now. Yes, my friend just click on one of the links and presto you can get yourself some Snarky for only, wait for it, wait for it, 99 cents!  You can buy it for your Kindle or in paperback on Amazon.  It’s also available for the Nook or you can get it for your Kobo reader. Click on a link and give it a test read. 🙂

 

Christmas Confessions of a Weary Mother

ae36562c66fad2ff246db4fd78613f0fIf you want to suck the air right out of room casually mention anytime between Thanksgiving and Christmas that you find the holiday season less than magical. As people are gasping for oxygen, quickly add that this doesn’t mean you don’t totally embrace the religious significance of 12/25 (this will aid in getting folks breathing again). As they’re furiously inhaling use this time to further explain that you find conquering your Christmas To Do list about as much fun as smooshing your noncompliant ab flab into Spanx. As soon as you finish this sentence watch as people flee from you in fear that your anti holly, jolly, holiday spirit might be contagious.

This is because confessing that you consider Christmas a month of hard labor is number two on the Top 10 List of Things No Mother is Ever Allowed to Divulge. This is not to say; I don’t find moments of Christmas enchanting and life affirming. What I don’t find so captivating is the 21st Century pressure to create a perfect Christmas. Did my mother and her generation feel this compulsion? No. We need to look no further then the average Christmas in 1975. Using my family as an exemplar let’s survey the facts. There was one tree, one single room festooned in evergreen finery, some outside lights strung so haphazardly by my dad, that my mother informed the neighbors it was “avant garde.” The only Christmas craft I did was shove cloves into an orange to hang in my great aunt’s closet and the presents were purchased from Sears. Meanwhile, family bonding occurred when I helped my grandma make all the Christmas cookies, marveling at how she could chain smoke a pack of Virginia Slims and, yet, not get a single ash in the gingerbread dough.

Now, compare that to the current lunacy mothers have wrapped themselves up in. I’d like to blame social media for turning Christmas into a competition or at least creating a social class of holiday underachievers but first we need to look back further, pre Pinterest, and there you’ll find ground zero for Christmas crazy, Family Fun magazine. Yep, this is where it all started. The out-of-control crafting, artisanal winter parties for children featuring an albino Rudolph made from goat cheese, pre-macerated by the molars of Malta monks, with an heirloom sun-dried tomato nose. Add in decorating your fireplace mantel with snow that’s actually hand loomed, pet dander and you have the birth of holiday insanity.

The saving grace of all this nonsense (not that I don’t think a goat cheese Rudolph doesn’t sound delish) is that a decade ago mothers could still fib about their Christmas creations. As in, “Oh yeah, for sure, the kids and I are going to start harvesting pet dander this weekend.” Today, that won’t pass muster. Oh no, in 2014, everyone is living in the show me state. You just can’t say you did something you have to produce a pictorial with catchy sayings and enhanced graphics.

All any of this has done is create Tis the Season to Be One Upping. Case in point, I don’t know of a single person who just puts up one Christmas tree. We’re in the middle of a hard-core, tree-palooza. Go to anyone’s house and there’s a tree in the living room, another in the kitchen, a ski lodge inspired evergreen in the den and a personalized, themed tree for each child’s bedroom. (And to my friend with a tree in her downstairs half bath please note I’m considering staging an intervention.) I’m exhausted just thinking about all the decorating, never mind the backbreaking labor of taking it all down, packing it away and hauling the boxes to the basement.

And it’s not just the decorating. It’s the parties. Am I the only one who ponders the fact that genteel hospitality maybe dead? R.I.P. going to a holiday party where you’re only required to bring yourself (and a little something for you hosts). Now it’s cookie exchanges, gift card tree swaps, and the worst, the very worst, the office Secret Santa because that’s just what you need on your To Do list – buy presents for a co-worker whose name you have trouble remembering.

None of this even compares to the holiday time suck that is the Elf of the Shelf. Okay, folks, I don’t claim to have the best connection to the big guy surfing the celestial byways on the fluffiest of cumulus cloud BUT I’m thinking while He might be okay with sharing his birthday with Santa this whole shady shelf elf is a no–can-do.

Did you know the phrase Elf on the Shelf, when translated from the obscure, native, North Pole language of Ydnac Enac, means More Work for Mothers? How many times have weary, almost to the point of tears, moms finally laid down their heads to go to sleep and just as they’re about to float off to the land of blissful slumber they are jerked awake by remembering they didn’t move that freaking elf? And, oh no, you just can’t move the blasted thing, to say, the dining room. You have to create an elf tableau so impressive that your Instagram picture has the potential to go viral and get you on the Today Show.

The stress from maintaining a 30-day alternate hobgoblin holiday universe is manifesting into a new disorder called elfinsomnia. This ailment is currently linked to being responsible for two out of three maternal meltdowns in the Target checkout line during the month of December.

I swear to you, even with all my grousing, I still hear the bell. You know the one from The Polar Express where if you truly believe the bell still rings for you. Except, I’m afraid it’s the alarm on my cell phone telling me it’s time for my anti-anxiety meds. On a positive note, at least, they’re red and green.

Merry Christmas!

 **For more Snarky check out my book  Snarky in the Suburbs Back to School. 

Here’s a little ditty about it: The Spring Creek Elementary School PTA board (a coven of Mean Moms dressed in Uggs, yoga pants, and dermal filler) is up to no good.  Wynn Butler (middle-aged, uncool, and not bringing sexy back) is determined to find out what’s going on. With help from her two kids, a Roomba vacuum turned mobile surveillance drone, and a few good friends, Wynn launches a covert investigation that leads to the “mother of all revenge capers” at the school’s annual Fall Festival.  If you’ve ever fantasized about smoke bombing the idiot parent who has yet to master the fine art of the school drop-off lane, or standing up and shouting, “Liar, liar, Botox on fire” during a PTA meeting, then this delicious tale of payback is for you. 

Holiday Decorating = Marital Counseling

I donfunny-pictures-lights-house-christmas-harder-than-you’t admit to being a genius, but I’m telling you I’ve had some pretty good ideas. One of my best is that Waterparks should have on site dermatologists to scan for potentially cancerous moles. Why isn’t this being done? It’s a flesh rich, almost naked environment that is prime mole diagnosis territory. Think of the lives that could be saved! I can’t be the only person that has been behind someone in line for the Colon Irrigation tube slide and not thought, “Wow, that guy’s mole looks suspicious.” Of course, there’s always the off chance that it’s a tattoo designed to look like emerging melanoma, but still it’s not like Mr. Tattoo wouldn’t benefit from the keen eye of a dermatologist.

I came up with my newest awesome idea while at Target this past weekend. Yes, Target. I find the store very inspirational and intellectually stimulating. I was also eating Pepperidge Farm Gingerbread cookies and I think that helped sharpen my thought process. Ginger has been proven to boost the knowledge noggin. Okay, scratch that. I just checked the ingredients absolutely no ginger in the cookie. Let’s just go with the sugar invigorated my sensory stimuli. Any who, as I was munching away on cookies I made my way over to the Christmas lights. I was in need of only a single, 100 count, LED, ice white package of bulbs.

When I reached the holiday decor area I had a little trouble getting to the lights. It was jammed packed with people studying and debating their choices. Seriously, it was the Algonquin roundtable of exterior illumination. There were guys debating the superior lighting power of the C7 compared to the C9, the sphere versus the ball and if the rope light is an adequate substitution for the icicle as it relates to decorating tree trunks.

I was enthralled and was about to ask this collection of bulb brainiacs a question when the bickering started. Not, as you might think, between the glow gurus, but between the husbands and wives. There were spousal disagreements over lighting schemes. For the men, it seems bigger is better (of course). For the women, it was more of a taste issue. Why go for the C9 bulb when twinkle lights will “just look classier.”

This is when I had the stellar idea that retail stores that sell Christmas lights should offer free marital counseling the two days after Thanksgiving. Call it a humanitarian public service. A therapist could be on hand to not only act as a referee, but to impart knowledge on problem solving and maybe even do relationship building exercises using the holiday inflatable or blow up as a “yardstick of feelings.”

I have a theory about inflatables. I think they’re making up for some sort of emotional deficiency in a marriage. The more blow-ups in someone’s yard the less affection they may be getting at home. Is there anything sadder looking than an inflatable suffering from erectile dysfunction? It’s pitiful, those heaps of crumpled nylon littering a yard in fabric tombstones that might as well read “R.I.P. Good Taste.” Then when the blowups are getting jets of air shot up their infrastructure they bob and weave like they’ve got their swagger back and yet we all know it’s only a matter of time before their spirits are deflated again and again. If that’s not a metaphor for a marriage in trouble I don’t know what is.

Another holiday light themed till death do us part red flag is the wife who urges, coaxes, maybe even sweet talks her husband into climbing on a ladder, that has seen much better days, and venturing up and up and away to the tippy top of their three-story house. As the hubs is clutching a spool of commercial grade C9 lights, that act as an unbalanced load causing him to sway to and fro, he hoists himself onto the roof as the wife cheers, “go just a little bit higher” which is code for “I just paid your life insurance policy and this will be so much better and quicker than a divorce.”

And don’t even me started on the husband who asks his wife to “plug in” the lights while assuring her that the puddle she is standing in won’t matter because the “the electricity is grounded.”

You see there’s a lot of marriage angst and in extreme circumstances death scenarios involved in this whole outside holiday light thing. Imagine the number of marriages that could be rescued and second-degree murder charges averted if a counselor, therapist, or registered smile maker (they have those in California) lurked around the holiday aisles.

Target are you listening?

 

 **For more Snarky check out my book  Snarky in the Suburbs Back to School. 

Here’s a little ditty about it: The Spring Creek Elementary School PTA board (a coven of Mean Moms dressed in Uggs, yoga pants, and dermal filler) is up to no good.  Wynn Butler (middle-aged, uncool, and not bringing sexy back) is determined to find out what’s going on. With help from her two kids, a Roomba vacuum turned mobile surveillance drone, and a few good friends, Wynn launches a covert investigation that leads to the “mother of all revenge capers” at the school’s annual Fall Festival.  If you’ve ever fantasized about smoke bombing the idiot parent who has yet to master the fine art of the school drop-off lane, or standing up and shouting, “Liar, liar, Botox on fire” during a PTA meeting, then this delicious tale of payback is for you. 

My Christmas Tree Makes Me Cry

You knoScreen Shot 2014-12-04 at 10.15.23 AMw you may have scarred your children when they refer to decorating the Christmas tree as a pejorative. For example, if something unpleasant has happened they might describe it as “being bad, but not decorating the Christmas tree bad.” It’s all because I have an illness. Really, more of a yuletide related disorder. And this disorder, as most disorders do, relates back to my childhood.

My mother was a florist and decorated people’s homes for the holidays. Her pièce de résistance was the Christmas tree. She was renowned for her ability to turn a simple evergreen into a work of art. One of the ways she showcased her talent was to throw a huge Christmas Eve party where the star of the show was the tree. Some years we had trees so large that my father had to install guide wires and drill metal hooks into the wall to hold the evergreen beast in place. This excessive dedication and devotion (i.e. mental illness; subcategory – addiction and OCD) to finding and decorating the perfect tree leached into my very soul. Every year I’m possessed with what my husband describes as a case of the “Christmas tree crazies.”

The addiction flares up when the fresh trees start getting delivered. I’m on a mission to find the tree that still has its saw scars. Last week, I hit the tannenbaum trifecta when I spied a truck at Whole Foods unloading trees that all passed my rigorous three-part sniff and needle test. For the uninitiated the sniff test requires that the tree have a robust bouquet of pungent pine aroma, with some subtle undertones of sweet sap and a slight, but rich loamy soil finish. I immediately called my husband and told him it was “go time!” He knew exactly what I meant. It’s not like we haven’t trained for this. As soon as mid November rolls around he keeps supplies in his car and is ready at a moment’s notice for “the call.”

Back in the day we would do the whole family thing and make it an outing to find a Christmas tree. But, we had to abandon that Hallmark moment when I would make the kids cry. Seriously, I couldn’t help myself. They have the worst taste in trees. You would have thought they were Charlie Brown. They always gravitated towards the evergreen underachiever. I blame my husband for their lackluster judgment regarding the Abies fraseri (Frasier Fir) because they obviously got some substandard tree gene from his family.

It gets worse when it comes to decorating the tree. They’re all tree slackers. One does not haphazardly place lights and ornaments on a tree in an effort to “just get it done.” Oh, no, there must be a tree story. You’re creating a visual imprint for the holidays. It all starts with the lights. You must exceed 1,000 lights and you start this journey by first wrapping the deep interior of the tree with luminescence using the gentlest of hands or as my mother would say, “you approach the tree as if fairies lived there,” then and only then do you work your way out towards the branches. As for hanging decorations no metal ornament hooks are allowed. What are we animals without opposable thumbs? Each ornament is tied on a tree branch with a satin ribbon.

This tree process is so labor intensive that it makes me cry almost every year. In fact, my family is still recovering from the tree trauma of 2005. I had spent h-o-u-r-s decorating the tree. My kids were still little so I let them “help” and by that I mean having them put ornaments on the tree and then moving them later. Just as I was ready to share the wonder and glory of my creation every single, freaking, light went out. My husband was called in for illumination life support, but nothing we did could get the lights to come back on. My only solution was to take all the decorations and lights off the tree and start over!

It was then that my children learned what the ugly cry is. I wailed! I’m sure a woman having a water birth in a pedicure tub at a nail salon located inside a Walmart would have made less noise. My husband, no doubt, fearing for his and the children’s safety quickly left the house under the guise of getting me new lights. I was left alone with my holiday spirit broken, weeping on my living room floor with the unlit Christmas tree casting a shadow of gloomy mockery on my pain.

It took until 2 o’clock in the morning for me to “redo” that tree. But I did it. I persevered because you can’t quit crazy especially not Christmas crazy.

**For more Snarky check out my book  Snarky in the Suburbs Back to School. 

Here’s a little ditty about it: The Spring Creek Elementary School PTA board (a coven of Mean Moms dressed in Uggs, yoga pants, and dermal filler) is up to no good.  Wynn Butler (middle-aged, uncool, and not bringing sexy back) is determined to find out what’s going on. With help from her two kids, a Roomba vacuum turned mobile surveillance drone, and a few good friends, Wynn launches a covert investigation that leads to the “mother of all revenge capers” at the school’s annual Fall Festival.  If you’ve ever fantasized about smoke bombing the idiot parent who has yet to master the fine art of the school drop-off lane, or standing up and shouting, “Liar, liar, Botox on fire” during a PTA meeting, then this delicious tale of payback is for you. 

To stay up-to-date on new posts and take part in my not so deep thoughts click on this Facebook link – http://is.gd/iEgnJ (That’s the abbreviated link to my FB page) or I twitter @snarkynsuburbs.