Two cents’ on winter and capital punishment (because they go hand-in-hand, right?)

Winter sucks. I know very few people who claim it as their favorite season, and to be honest, I probably don’t like those people very much.

Winter is cold, it’s cruel, it’s boring, and it is devoid of light. As a self-professed vampire, a feeling that is embedded deep in my soul, I don’t need sunlight, but it really does help with things like Vitamin D, the growing of all things, and the absence of the cold bullshit. It also helps to chase away my depression.

I’ve been extremely fortunate and blessed in that I haven’t careened into a downward, seasonal spiral….yet. I am hopeful, yet resolute in my eternal belief that this albatross I have around my neck may occasionally leave to take a piss, but then it will return because it likes my neck; it may be arthritic and stenotic but it is sturdy. I think Depression also respects the fact that I accept it into myself in much the way one accepts a cantankerous and gossipy aunt into their home. You don’t want to, but she’s family.

Winter finds me binge-watching a lot of stuff and always searching for something fascinating to absorb. Serial killers and their capture are always a good tale, so I was pretty psyched when Netflix announced that it would be airing Conversations With A Killer: The Ted Bundy Tapes. It promised to be a really binge-worthy event.

After spending a couple evenings, huddled on the couch underneath a blanket and the comforting weight of 3-7 cats, I can now understand the fascination with Ted Bundy. He was smart, handsome, and engaging. I’ve never delved deeply into his crimes, and I don’t think I need to. On the surface, just watching this guy interact with others, it does seem implausible that he could have been anything other than a successful, career-driven young man. A monster? A cold-blooded rapist and murderer who tortured and savaged his victims? No one would suspect it.

….Until you look into the eyes, and hear the tone of his voice change on those tapes. That was a very dangerous guy, and people like him have no use to society. I’m glad that the FBI was able to glean information from him that was useful in profiling, because he really was the first of his kind, in a long line of serial killers, who could be observed, interviewed, and provide valuable insight into what makes a malignant narcissist tick.

I do have to say that the circus atmosphere of his execution – the shameful “spectators” outside the prison – was one of the most disturbing things I have ever seen.

I will never understand the human fascination with executions; be it the Middle Ages, or the public hangings and much of the past.

Cheering, holding up signs, selling t-shirts, setting off fireworks? As the documentary showed the death chamber, the electric chair, and the narrator – an actual witness – described what happened, I was physically sick to my stomach. The finality of the situation was palpable to me and I realized how frightened he must have been as they strapped him into that chair. I don’t feel sorry for Bundy, but as an empath, I tend to feel things like a slap across the face or a punch in the stomach. I do feel for those who were tasked with carrying out the sentence and for those who were there as official witnesses. What an awful burden on the heart and mind that must be; the narrator who witnessed it now says he is ashamed that he was “overjoyed”. That’s encouraging to have heard; a person who gets enjoyment out of either the doing or the witnessing of such a thing is not a person who I would care to know, I don’t think.

How is the capital punishment meted out in this country somehow more palatable than the public executions we gasp about and wring our hands over, that are shown whenever there’s some genocide or terrible takeover in a third world country? Why is it perfectly acceptable to celebrate the execution of a death row inmate, but we were taken aback and disgusted when the Iraqis did the same thing to Saddam Hussein? “I don’t want to see this,” more than one American complained. Why not? He was responsible for the deaths of not just 30, but thousands. And yet, the execution of a monster like that was somehow distasteful and shocking to the sensitivities of people who may have been in that crowd in the days and minutes preceding 5:00am on January 24, 1989.

They gathered by the thousands, singing raucous songs, buying “Old Sparky” pins and “Burn, Bundy, Burn” t-shirts; drinking themselves silly while they cheered. If this isn’t the perfect representation of ‘Murica, I don’t know what is. We are nothing if not proud of our hypocrisy.

Am I against the death penalty? No, I am not. Some crimes are deserving of it. However, glorifying it, celebrating it? Gathering for it as if it was some celebration? The irony of this is not lost on me. As much as Ted Bundy killed his victims in order to reach that sadistic, sick, frenzied moment of euphoria, those who gathered at his execution did the same, damned thing.

Think about the individuals, at that very moment, who are taking part in taking a life, exacting the revenge for the victims and families and carrying out a punishment handed down by a group of peers. That is a tremendously sobering, serious moment, especially when you take into account that many of these individuals – guards, the warden, medical staff, and the executioner – could very well be Christian and as such, doing something that their God considers a mortal sin. Even the chaplain sent to provide comfort to the inmate, must be feeling the weight of such a final judgment.

It isn’t a celebration. It is a funeral. It is a moment to think, very seriously, about the fragility of life and the immense, awesome power we have over each other and all living things. It is a moment to take in solemnly and quietly, and to reverently dedicate to the victims. As a final thought, why would we want to give these sick fucks like Bundy the attention they crave? They may have celebrated his death, but in doing so, they sent him to his execution pleased with the knowledge that he was somehow important. He ended up getting what he wanted most in life: attention, his name in lights, books written about him, and the fact that, 30 years later, people are sitting on their couches, underneath blankets and 3-7 cats, watching a show about Ted Bundy.

I think that, when we make a party out of something as final as exacting an eye for an eye, the message is truly lost. The lesson is lost.

And with that, I’m taking my two cents’ and putting them down into the cushions of the couch, where my ass will be planted for much of this polar vortex bullshit. Underneath this soft, warm feline blanket, amongst 3-7 others of his clowder.

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There is no applicable title for this think piece, except, maybe COMMON SENSE. Duh.

There is no applicable title for this think piece, except, maybe COMMON SENSE. Duh.

Warning: I’m pretty sure this isn’t going to be a popular opinion. I don’t usually keep mah trap shut when I feel strongly about something – big shocker there! – so why should this be any different?

Or, “that’s her. The one with HER OWN OPINION.”

People are simply losing their shit about the New York State bill that was signed into law that allows abortions up to full-term. Opinions are everywhere, and most of them are the voices of outraged people who fear that New York State is about to lose its moniker, “The Empire State” and become “The Infanticide State”. I’ll admit, on the very face of it, the words are shocking and carry a very, heavy weight when you think about the reality of it. I was initially taken aback; when you read the words, “full-term” your mind conjures up immediate visuals of sweet, cherubic newborn babies, swaddled in blankets and smelling of baby powder.

Then, the more analytical, common-sense part of my brain said, “Wait a minute. Read the whole thing.”

Who in their right mind thinks that this law is for simple birth control and “killing of babies”? If your answer is “Religious and Evangelical Right-To-Lifers” I would then insist that you revisit my words “in their right mind” and then answer. I know, the rusted ass turd holding the Oval Office (and the nation) hostage right now threw out the words “babies ripped from the womb” into the mainstream, but you need to first consider the source and then remember that he has allegedly paid for a few abortions, if you want to believe pretty credible sources. I don’t know anyone that disgusting or heartless that they’d carry a child to full-term, or near, and then decide, “Yeah, I can’t be bothered” and decide abortion is the answer. People can be hateful and I am a pretty harsh critic of most humans, but even I believe that this isn’t a line most would cross. No, this law won’t hurt innocent babies or allow irresponsible whores to continue to be whores. It will assist parents in making the most humane, loving, difficult decision when they have an unviable pregnancy. It will allow them to make it without the shame foisted upon them by others or the questionable legalities. It will not assuage their own, personal pain or pangs of guilt, but those are human conditions we all experience and are as such, ours to own.

Late-term abortions are mercy killings, as much as I deplore the term. Is it killing if it gives peace to the afflicted? We have such a tumultuous, terrible struggle with the idea of euthanasia or even putting our sick pets down; this is a whole other kettle of fish. Why is it somehow more merciful and compassionate to have your vet inject your pet with something to end their suffering, or to allow a terminally-ill person to make the same choice? Why is it completely unthinkable that a parent or parents should be allowed to make the same, agonizingly heartbreaking decision to give their unborn child the same measure of peace?

Here’s a simple explanation, if you’ve been reading and you still want to say, “But….”:

The Reproductive Act only does three things:

– Decriminalizes abortion. Neither a woman or her doctor can be jailed for performing this procedure.

– It allows them to remove a fetus beyond 24 weeks who has died in utero (or has a malformation making it unviable), thus making a tragic situation maybe a fraction less devastating than it already is.

– It will allow other qualified health professionals to perform the procedure. And not in your run-of-the-mill Planned Parenthood Clinic, either.

This does NOT allow the abortion of a healthy full-term baby from a healthy mom, no matter how many Bible thumpers tell you it does.

I’ve recalled all the sad stories I have read and heard, secondhand, about babies who were born with unsurvivable conditions; babies whose mothers carried them to term, heartbroken by the knowledge that their child, if it survived the birthing process, would only live for a few minutes or an hour. Babies with conditions so terrible, the doctors were certain that every moment, as fleeting as it would be, was going to be filled with pain and agony. I’m not talking about chromosome abnormalities or even physical limitations; I’m describing malignant tumors, brain malformations, and fatal organ abnormalities. These aren’t just “quality of life” conditions. They are terminal, and by terminal, I mean that every moment these babies spend, both inside as well as outside the womb, is characterized by unendurable suffering.

Think about that for a moment. Is there anything worse for a parent than when their child is in pain? From simple colds to broken bones and even the unthinkable: a serious, life-threatening condition or injury; a parent will do anything to “make it better.” Now, imagine carrying a child who you have yet to meet, but who you have grown and nurtured, shared hopes and dreams for, and anticipated his or her arrival so excitedly; the love you feel for this little stranger who is also not a stranger is infinite and all-encompassing.

Then imagine an ultrasound, thought to be just a look at your baby; maybe this is a 20 or 21 week appointment. When the technician goes quiet and then leaves the room, returning with a more senior colleague, you are gripped with a fear so great it threatens to swallow you whole. They tell you that something isn’t right. There are urgent consultations, more tests, and then a final, terrible sit-down with experts. Your baby, that growing, kicking, part of you, is missing part or most of his or her brain, or has a malignant tumor that has tentacled into their brain, lungs, heart, and spine. Your baby will perhaps breathe at birth, but your baby will feel nothing but agony. Your love cannot fix this. Modern medical science cannot fix this. There is only pain, and then the memory of your child taking a first breath and then a last in the haze of perhaps an hour or less.

Would you want that? Or would you want the pain to end for your child as quickly as possible? Could you survive weeks and months of carrying a child who you know is in agonizing pain and who will die in your arms as soon as you deliver? Every time your baby kicked, would you want to lose your mind, wondering if that was because they were hurting and there was nothing you could do to make it better?

I couldn’t. Maybe you could. Maybe you just believe that’s how it has to be. That’s your right. But this same right, in the other direction, should be extended. Your beliefs are yours. Mine belong to me. And there are others who don’t feel the way you might, and they deserve a choice without repercussions. Abortion is legal in all 50 states. Each state has its own set of rules. In some, abortion is illegal after 20 weeks. In others, it’s 22 or 24. I would also state that abortions at this stage are not the typical, $400 procedure one receives in a clinic. They cost upwards of $20,000 and while the baby is injected with a drug to stop its heart quite painlessly, the mother still has to deliver. I would fervently hope that any serious medical conditions that would affect the viability of a baby would be discovered before the second trimester is over, but that is not always the case. And that is absolutely heartbreaking. But why compound that pain by saying, “Sorry, we know your baby is going to die and is in pain as we speak, but you need to give birth naturally, as was intended”?

There is also the language within this law that provides for the termination of a pregnancy if the mother’s life is at risk. I, personally, don’t know a single mother who would make that choice willingly. I had a high-risk first pregnancy and had my doctor asked me to choose when I was diagnosed with pre-eclampsia, I would have told her to get fucked. I know that I was never more frightened when I was told that both our lives were in danger and that a cesarean section needed to be performed right away. Had you asked me then, in my petrified state, to choose in the event of a catastrophic event, Zachary would be telling you this story; not me. There are mothers whose lives are at a significantly higher risk, where one or both lives could be lost, and I can only imagine how hard that is. While some might argue that this makes things more manageable, I would argue that it is much more complicated than a simple decision. But isn’t it at least comforting to know that no one else can make that choice but you?

Isn’t that the point? Your body, your choice.

There are some things that the government, and churches, and perfect strangers should “scroll past”, as technology dictates these days. As I dictate, it’s a bit blunter:

Mind your own, fucking business.

A shamelessly political blog because we are a country without shame.

Facebook is a massive pain in the ass with all its idiosyncrasies. We all feel that sense of frustration every day, I think.

Sometimes, though? Facebook gives me just what I need. The Facebook Memories posts can be happiness-inducing, and they can be painful. The one I got today was illuminating.

Here I go, saying what’s on my mind. Facebook asked, and tonight, I will answer.

I am, first and foremost, a human being. I have thoughts, feelings, insecurities, moments of great pride and moments of disappointment. I bleed red blood. I cry salty tears. I poop. I sometimes pee a little when I laugh very hard. I’m blessed with intelligence and an articulate way of putting things, even though there are times when my grammar is generously peppered with obscenities. I am human. It’s what I do.

I am, secondly, an American woman. (Mama, let me be..see….errr, wait) I am proud to be American, and prouder still of what women have accomplished in this country. The blood, sweat, and tears of many women who came before us paved the way for the human rights we enjoy today.

I have compassion, empathy, and I understand that not everyone is the same as me. Not everyone agrees with or has the same opinions and beliefs as me. And guess what? That’s okay. I understand how hard it was for those who came before us to secure the rights we, as Americans, have today.

I didn’t suffer as an American over the last 8 years. I believe President Obama to be a brilliant, kind, eloquent, and yes, forgiving man and leader. I was never more proud of my right to be an American and to cast a vote as I was the first time I voted for him.

Except maybe when I voted for Hillary Clinton last November.

A lot of people will ask, “Why? Because she’s a woman?” No. That did not register at all with me, because in my opinion, she’s got bigger balls than much of the male population in DC. I was proud because I was allowed to vote my own mind. Not my conscience; those are two entirely different entities within this body. My choice was not popular amongst many of the people I interact with this very depressed, very Republican part of Pennsylvania. When asked why they were voting for Trump, I was told, on more than one occasion, “He’s better than Hillary.” No one gave a shit about his vague policy declarations and his lack of any moral ethics. “Grab them by the pussy” was met with laughter and “So what?” No one had any sort of answer when asked, “What if that was your daughter, your wife, your sister?” He was just “talking”. They laughed at his crude mimicry of a disabled reporter. He didn’t mean it LIKE THAT, they said. Like what? I asked – me, the sister of a mentally handicapped man who makes some similar motions when agitated. He was just joking, they said.

Um, please.

I don’t want a president who is so thin-skinned that he tweets insults in the middle of the night. I don’t want a president who doesn’t realize that the health insurance that he LIKES – The Affordable Care Act – is, in fact, the same Obamacare that he is vowing to abolish. I don’t want a president who has declared bankruptcy so many times that there ought to be an amendment to the word – like Obamacare. It should be called “Declaring a Trump”. I don’t want a president so devoid of a sense of personal responsibility that he takes for granted the awesome job he now has in front of him. It is time to be serious, and he is anything but. Even those who voted for him – many of them – are now saying, “Well, we had two shitty choices.” Maybe we did, but don’t you DARE vilify me for making as “shitty” a choice as you did. You do not get to do that just because, in your words, you won. Nobody won. Nobody.

Guess what, though? He’s what we got. I don’t have to like it. I don’t have to keep my mouth shut about it either. I get to say, with all seriousness, that those who call me and “my kind” liberals and snowflakes and whatever else derogatory that they can muster, well, they all can fuck right the fuck off, fucking hypocrites that they are, because this is America, and while they’re on their high and mighty “We won so nah bah bah boo boo” horse, I’m still wishing for a country united, a Congress working together and for the good of the people, and for human kindness and compassion to come back into vogue. I get to do that, so fuck you.

He’s what we got. I respect the Office of the President. I have respect for any man or woman who hears a higher calling and answers because that takes a lot of courage and an infallible belief in oneself.

I do not like the man. I do not have to. I do want to see this country mend itself. I don’t think he’s the one to do it. At this point, I don’t really know who IS up to the task. What this election did was expose the passive-aggressive relationship we have with racism and intolerance. It brought these things screaming to the forefront. As far as we thought we had come, we found out that we had not. Everyone is old and cranky and wants you off their lawn. Out of the country if you aren’t the same. Let’s build huge walls and keep all outsiders as far away as possible. Welcome to Panem. May the odds be ever in your favor.

Tomorrow begins a new era. And for fuck’s sake, don’t you think that I’d like to see this country regain the greatness we saw in past times of great tests of strength, integrity, valor? This IS one of those times. And God or Satan or whoever the hell is in charge of this mess help us…..he’s what we got to lead us.

As always, dissenters have every right to disagree. On your own page. My page, my rules, my opinions. I don’t disagree or protest your fervent memes and accolades crowing about how much you like the guy. Your page, your right. I do not invite your discussion here, though. This is America, and we get to disagree. You are my friend for a reason. Let’s keep it that way.

God bless America.”

Two years down the road of the Trump Presidency has shown me one thing: I was fucking right on this day, two years ago.

Have we “Made America Great Again”? Are we “winning”?

We are not.

And I knew what was coming. The sad thing is, I truly hoped for better. I didn’t want the fucker to fail, because if he failed, he failed us all. We’d suffer for his failures. The myopic base of his argues that he’s doing wonderful things. I argue that he has sown more hatred and dissension in this country than any other elected official we’ve had. Where we are today isn’t wonderful.

The only thing I can say about January 19, 2017, is that she didn’t think it would be as bad as it has gotten.

Come on, people. We need to fix this mess.

You were expecting champagne and hors d’oeuvres?

Well, shit. Here it is, the end of another year. If you came here looking to read delightful recaps of a life gone completely sideways, or me waxing poetic about making it through another year despite some pretty heavy blows and some awfully deep, dark holes I found myself in without a rope, well, I apologize: that’s not happening here. I’ll bet it is at other blogs, though, so if that’s the kind of schmaltz you’re craving, just do a quick Google search, putting in any combination of the words “2018 blog recap” or “I made it through 2018” or “2018 pity party” and it’ll take you right the fuck outta this space. Don’t let the door hit you in the ass on your way out, but do me a favor and hit the Like button. It’s the least you can do for assuming that I’m like all the other blogs. I’m a loner, and a rebel.

If I seem a bit ambivalent, a tad, let’s say, combative, it’s probably because I am. I abhor playing by the rules set forth by whoever made the rules that we must feel nostalgic, and list all of the ways in which we were anally violated by 2018 without lube. After doing so, then of course we say, “Let’s drink to the end of 2018 and toast to 2019!” After all that reliving the shit sandwiches we ate throughout the year, the raw deals, the sad situations, and the tragic circumstances, who wouldn’t want to drink themselves unconscious? It never occurred to me, until now, that this is the real reason why people drink on New Year’s Eve. It’s not really to welcome the new year, but to help you forget the old one.

Of course, you’re reminded, every time you look at social media, that this a time for reflection, soul-searching, and to wipe the slate clean and start fresh. Resolutions abound; New Year’s Day is the day to begin anew.

Except, it really is just another day in which the year has changed. The shitty things that happened to you in January, March, and June 2018 still happened. The bills you owed on December 31, 2018, were the same ones you owe on January 1, 2019. The weight you gained because you ate like shit over the holidays didn’t magically disappear. Your problems are still there, hanging on your back like whatever monkey is proportional to your problems; maybe you have a spider monkey, maybe you have a gorilla, and, most unfortunately, a few of you have one of those chimps that will eat a bitch’s face off.

And then, there’s this meme:

Thanks ever so much, Robert Downey Jr, for making this face so that people could make memes about being so over whatever it is that they’re over. Granted, it’s a very effective face, and it’s been used by just about everyone, for everything:

It is annoying, isn’t it? “Here’s Junior, in a cardboard box.” “Junior again, in a cardboard box with his teddy! Soooo adorable!”

Apparently, phlebotomists have their own brand of sarcasm.

Okay, so this is actually true.

Every year since this photo was discovered, my social media is flooded with this image by the same, jaded, glass-is-at-an-ambiguous-level people. The nihilists, the ones who’ve seen it all, the loners; the rebels, Dottie.

Then, there’s this slightly newer, snappier one:

Thanks for the warning.

I know, those who post this one are delighting in their level of blase, devil-may-care, flippant attitudes about the whole, messy New Year situation. It may actually be true! But unfortunately, it was only true the first few times I saw it; now, it is merely redundant.

Why can’t the New Year memes reflect the truth? You know, the things we think, but politely refrain from saying even though we pride ourselves in being the awkward, sarcastic, foul-mouth delights that everyone has come to know and love? I’ve come up with a few that I think have the potential to really catch on and blast me into the stratosphere of “Famous Meme Creators” because if this writing gig doesn’t ever take off, at least I’ll be posthumously known as “that crazy cat lady with the worst example of resting bitch face who made some pretty honest memes that said what we were thinking, but were too busy cultivating a reasonable degree of sarcastic wit to even dare to post because let’s face it, those memes were true AF but who is that savage?”

I think they’re brilliant and I encourage you to share. In fact, I dare you:

We all know at least one person like this. We refrain from wishing them “Happy New Year to you and Steve” because Steve might be Ron, or Bob, or Dan.

This person also posts multiple duckface (fuckface, if you’re MY autocorrect) selfies a week.

Okay, so I condensed this one from half a dozen, individual memes to one, because it’s possible that they all refer to one person.

My craptastic year is all reflected in this collection of writing. The craptastic year before that is, too. If you’re hankering for my musings about a life gone wrong, or upside down, or veered slightly off course, it’s all there. I don’t want or need to recall, with a rueful chuckle, the strange and unsettling things that happened in my life. I don’t need to reread the happy stuff, either. I lived it, and I wrote it down for you and for that guy in the back who’s been sitting there with popcorn, waiting for the movie to start while he picks the cat hair off his clothes. It’s all a part of what makes me who I am, that delightfully awkward, sarcastic foul-mouthed mess of a crazy cat lady who says what you’re thinking and who has a great future in writing memes.

Happy New Year, my friends, and please, be yourself in 2019. I happen to think you are pretty, fucking cool. (Except you, voyeur guy in the back. Go home and watch Netflix.)

Farschnistickelphyffer.

Last minute details fill my brain as I move about on this Friday before Christmas. It is also the Solstice, so I want to take the day to reflect and be grateful for the year and the blessings the universe has bestowed upon me. Quiet observation and reflection are needed, along with some finishing touches to some gifts I have been crafting. I also have the last wave of brown boxes scheduled to land on my doorstep, which is good timing, because most are for a certain 43-year-old who still believes in Santa.

 

Today, The Male Sibling Unit is off to his former place of employment to take part in their annual Christmas fete. Then, he will spend one last evening at his community center before the holiday. He was very concerned about the bus schedule because the party began at 11:30 am and he wouldn’t be actually getting on the bus until that time for his approximately ten-minute ride to the workshop.

“What will they do?” he asked me worriedly yesterday. We had been out, doing some shopping, and were lugging many heavy bags the short distance up the hill to the house. By short, I mean 2 small blocks, and I was slightly winded and overwhelmingly affected by the chaos in the stores and The Male Sibling Unit’s “butt talk”, as The Husband and I lovingly (exasperatedly) refer to anything that comes out of a person’s mouth that we deem a crock of shit. I stopped, set my bags on the ground, and eyed him.

“What will who do?” I asked, genuinely mystified.

“My friends!” he replied in an annoyed tone, as if I should have presumed this. “The workers! The bosses!” At this, I did “get it”, which both irritated and amused me, as most acts of narcissism on the part of The Male Sibling Unit do. Nevertheless, I persisted in acting clueless. It’s more fun.

“What do you mean, exactly?” I asked, waiting for it.

“The party starts at 11:30! I won’t be there yet. What will they do without me?”

Bingo!

“Do you think they should wait for you? It’s only ten minutes. What, are you the Grand Puba of Christmas?”

The Male Sibling Unit giggled and actually looked a bit sheepish. “No,” he answered, his voice rising as if it was actually a question. Satisfied that I had imparted a bit of selflessness into him and that this was a lesson that had penetrated his eternally me-centric psyche, I picked up my bags and we resumed the trek up the hill. I was just feeling the burn again, about three-quarters of the way up, when he shattered any self-satisfied assumptions I may have harbored.

In a quiet voice, more to himself than to anyone in general, he said, “I still don’t know what they’re gonna do ’til I get there.” I may have choke-exclaimed something unintelligible similar to one of The Old Man’s expletives in the classic The Christmas Story. Then, I huffed the rest of the way home, The Male Sibling Unit following me silently, until we were nearly home and he laughed at my death-rattle as we crossed the threshold of the porch. “Tired?” he asked mildly, a smile on his face.

I will say only this: The Old Man has nothing on my ability to craft new swear words.

Nadda fingah!

A sappy little entry because, well, it’s Christmas.

I felt the need to be close to my Mommy today. I don’t know why; it was just a thing I woke up wanting. It’s funny; when she is just “Mom”, it sounds more austere. When she is Mommy, I am a little girl, needing her presence to take away whatever hurt or uncertainties I am feeling. Even in my 50s, this never changes.

The holidays may have been stressful for her when we were children; there was so much she needed to do and so little money with which to do it. She always seemed happy, though. The lights, the decorations – they have that effect. She would let me help with the tree and give me strands of lights with which to festoon our tiny apartment with. The Family Christmas ornament would be unwrapped and hung in a doorway; it was my great-grandmother’s before we were given it, and her mother’s before her. It was 100 years old when I was a little child. Mirrored, blue glass, simple in its design, I was only permitted to touch it when I got older, and we treated it with such care. It is quite heavy, most likely a lead glass, but it is absolutely pristine. She would hang it with such ceremony and pride. Christmas could then begin.

I now have the Family Ornament, and I care for it as tenderly as she did. My pride, when gazing upon it, swells my heart to bursting. Five generations of women, going back to the 1800s, have had the honor and the responsibility of keeping the heirloom safe, and soon it will be time to pass it on.

There’s a huge lump in my throat and I know that I can’t have her back; my mother, when she was at her best, baking cookies, preparing jams and breads, and depositing gifts underneath the tree for me to discover when I came home from school, and wonder about until Christmas morning. She always made dreams come true, and I now understand how hard that is.

I recently found a bag of my mother’s yarn in a bin I had put away. Amongst the tangles were many balls of remnants from projects past; my mother was a gifted knitter and crocheter. I would call the pieces she crafted works of art. In her later years, when money was again tight at Christmas, she would set to crafting for everyone in the family. Mittens with “idiot strings” for the little ones, scarves, potholder sets, pillows, afghans, slippers, and even stuffed animals. They were made with love and care, and her taste in combining colors and creating patterns was impeccable.

I have been meaning to take all her remnants of yarn and crochet a blanket, and what better day to start than today, when the need to feel close to her is so prescient? As I gathered the balls into a bag, I found one last, beautiful gift from her, crafted by her beautiful hands. It is a small, crocheted flower, most likely meant to decorate a pot holder, or hat, or pillow. It is golden, like a star, and its meaning couldn’t be any clearer. It is a small, tight, furtive squeeze of love from that hand I held, in the quiet of sunset, as she passed from this world into the next. I didn’t get it back then, six years ago, but I felt it today.

I love you, Mommy. Merry Christmas.

Merry Christmas, and bake off.

Merry Christmas, and bake off.

I’ve been spending lots of time in dimly-lit rooms lately.

Some of it is by choice, but much of it is due to my eye condition and the bad flare-up I’ve been having. The weather has been a bit frightful, as it is apt to be in a Pennsylvania December, too. Going out to walk in it can be a challenge even under the most optimal health scenarios. Stark, white landscapes may be beautiful, but they cause glare, and glare is a four-letter word in and to my eyes (and yep, I can count). Wind is, also, and so I pick my battles carefully.

I knew that the holiday trip the husband and I made last week – our gift of a couple of nights away, culminating in a Ghost Ritual before heading back home – would mean days of recovery, but when Cardinal Copia and the Nameless Ghouls beckon, we assemble, together as one.

The frigid air outside, the incense pumped into the theater, and my careful-but-heavy application of eye makeup was sure to inflame my delicate eye tissue, and so rest before and after has been crucial. It sucks – what else can I say? But, as with any chronic illness or condition, you have to decide whether you or the disease wins. I am not a gambler, but I simply have to win this battle, because fuck getting old. Just fucking fuck it. I may have the trifecta of chronic ass aches in depression, arthritis, and these fucking eyes, as I am so fond of saying, but I choose when, how, and TO live.

So fuck you, trifecta.

Anyway, I have been watching tv at night, by the soft glow of the Christmas tree and some twinkle light-festooned archways. There aren’t any new episodes of the programs I watch, because television has come up with this whole “Winter finale” bullshit, no doubt to entice viewers into watching that last new episode that airs just before the deluge of holiday programming takes over. Thusly, we have to content ourselves with those “very special Christmas episodes” somewhere around Thanksgiving, which puts them somewhere behind the holiday game of retail and advertising (and some of my neighbors, who had their Christmas lights glowing right after Halloween).

I have purposely avoided the news, except for an occasional Anderson Cooper viewing, because he is handsome and still very polite even in his exasperated, “Trump Is A Moron” diatribe. I know, I should keep up with the freight trains that barrel through Washington DC every day, and I do skim the headlines, but I’m Trumped out, for lack of a better way to put it. I simply cannot stomach the daily deposits of feces that spew out of the wrong orifice on that man. I cannot watch the sadness going on at the border, or read about the anger and confusion going on in Europe and the UK. I know it exists; as an intelligent human being, I do stay informed. I just can’t seem to stomach the seepage into my daily life anymore, and especially at Christmas.

There are so many sad stories this time of year, and so many are geared toward pulling at our heartstrings. As an aside, why is that, exactly? Are poor kids, or sick kids, somehow legitimately less fortunate only at Christmas? Is it okay to ignore that they lack food, healthcare, warm clothes, or decent living conditions 364 days out of the year, but not okay that one day that an imaginary fat man in a red suit is supposed to deliver them a sackful of gifts? Because, you know, it’s all about those gifts. People would have you believe nothing else. And I know that I am guilty of perpetuating that belief, as I rush around before Christmas, trying to make wishes come true in the eyes of first, my kids, and now, my grandkids. I’ve tried to inject more love and more meaning, but in the end, my Christmas joy comes from a place of knowing that their eyes light up in delight because I got it right. Selfish? Maybe. But I own it.

So, I try to control the number of sad stories I actively engage in, even in this, the era of instant information inundating our senses. It’s not easy, unless I put the phone down, or leave it in another room. I don’t like to do that because I have family members in various stages of health issues and sometimes, they need me. Invariably, I miss a phone call or text when I do that, and so the phone stays nearby. And with that, the temptation. To combat it, I switch on the tv.

I watch cooking shows, or more accurately, baking shows. Not just any baking shows, either. I lose myself in hours of The Great British Baking Show, a series from the BBC. It’s viewable on PBS and also on Netflix, if you want to click on the highlighted link. I watch, then rewatch, my favorite bakes. I file away pointers and wonder at their confectionary and yeasty creations because it seems like the Brits just have got it going on. While I know bakers exist all over the world, and I know people who love to bake and who create beautiful delights, the Brits seem to take it to a totally different, elevated level.

It’s simply fascinating to watch them politely compete with each other over recipes of choux pastry, Genoese sponge, and sugar work. I admit, I had no idea that eclairs were made of choux pastry, and I would have called the cake in a decorated cake by the world cake because it is cake….not sponge. Sponge seems more appropriate, now that I know how important it is to get the right rise and the right formation of structure, the perfect golden color, and to time a chocolate sponge just right because the hue is deceptive. I never knew. I just never knew. I feel enlightened in the knowledge.

And then there are the hosts, Mary Berry, and Paul Hollywood: knowledgeable, charismatic legends in the UK, renowned for their baking, their books, and their tv appearances. In newer shows, Mary has been replaced by Pru Leith, who is also a well-known “celebrity baker” in the UK. They are supported by hosts, UK comedic personalities Mel Giedroyc and Sue Perkins, and later seasons, Sandi Toksvig and Noel Fielding.

Did I forget to mention that, in addition, to being a “cracking baker” and the authority on baking bread, Paul Hollywood is, himself, a visionary, delightful piece of eye candy?

Bake me some bread, you silver foxy fucker.

Those steely, blue eyes that cut a contestant like lasers when they fuck up a bake, and turn into warm pools of tropical ocean when complimenting them on a particularly great flavor – oh yeah, I’ll take that over the news any day of the year, not just at the holidays.

I was recently gifted a Kitchenaid mixer by a very dear friend after wishing, fervently, that I had one. My love of baking has waned over the last few years not because I don’t want to, but because my arthritis prohibits it. A hand mixer can be okay, but the vibration causes uncomfortable pain for hours after, plus there are days when I lack sufficient grip. I had been looking for a used one at a lower price because as much as I coveted them, I could not bring myself to pay $200+ for one. She could, and did, causing me to burst into tears and to wonder at the fact that there are still some truly wonderful people left in this world, despite the news trying to convince us otherwise.

Now, I can bake to my heart’s content, and try all those recipes Paul and Mary demonstrate in their Masterclass shows. Baking is kind and filled with love. Baking is not racist, or spiteful, or inciteful. How can you even think of the cruel things happening around the globe when you’re working a dough to get the gluten going, or shaping a braided loaf, or cutting cookies into precise shapes, or whipping a meringue into perfect peaks? Baking is love, and love is contagious and enticing. The only time the news has any business interfering with a bake is just before you’re getting ready to work a bread dough. You can punch and knead and slam that dough down to your heart’s content, feeling all the anger and tense emotions releasing through your hands into the activation of the ingredients.

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have some anise Christmas cookies to whip up. I’ve got love to release.