Saturday, December 31, 2011

Get thee behind me, cookies. (Oh wait...)

It’s New Year’s Eve, and I’m still in R & R (rest & recovery) mode after Semester kicked my sorry arse to the curb. By early November, I felt weighted down by concrete debris. By mid-November, I was praying cadaver dogs would find me under the rubble in time to gradegradegrade whilst preparing for Thanksgiving. Then, as soon as I was breathing again, it was time to do end-of-semester test writing, student org wrap-up, anxious student calming, and gradegradegrading, whilst simultaneously getting ready for eleven people at the Row for Christmas. This meant also finding time to put up the tree, decorate, and tackle my half-finished pile of homemade gifts: Wine to label, knit hats and malas to finish, cookies & granola to bake, and jam jars to wash and wrap in festive holiday fabric.

Whiny, I know. But it’s all just to explain that from November on, stress led me directly to near-total hermitting and my typical end-of-year CC diet (carbs and coffee). By December, I had a much fluffier silhouette and mild but alarming tachycardia.  Then came the cookies: Chocolate Espresso Spritz, molasses gingersnaps, my mom’s famous sugar cookies, and her delightful cornflake holly cookies (with red hots for berries, of course). Add to that Mom’s gallons of Chex Mix, a little Bailey’s and eggnog to soothe the nerves, and various kinds of nacho cheese doodles & chips, and one can see why, since late December, I’ve been glued to my Lazy-Girl in a carb-induced, heart-skipping near-coma.
To make matters worse, I had a long list of things I’d hoped to accomplish over break. But I’ve mostly been watching Finding Bigfoot or Ancient Aliens (that guy’s gotta know his hair makes it impossible to take him seriously, right?), mechanically moving Chex Mix from bag to mouth. Just a big ‘ole furry blanket-covered slug.
But hope springs eternal. Tonight, when Ray’s band cuts loose at our Little Town watering hole, I’ll be there with bells on—literally. I will not be making resolutions. I will not be turning over any new leaves. I will gratefully be letting go of stress & anxiety by celebrating, laughing and singing with dear friends. I will be seriously shaking my lumpy, ever-expanding money-maker. I will pry loose the evil adipose from its home on my thighs and offer it up to the dancing goddess of the New Year. 

Tomorrow? Maybe I'll eat a salad. And I’ll bet there’s an episode of Wicked Attraction I haven’t seen yet…

Thursday, December 29, 2011

A Very Untidy Christmas to You All!

My favorite Christmas tradition is the total chaos and disorder I remember from my youth—anxious kids up at dawn, shrieking and cajoling to get started, while bleary-eyed grownups stand around in their pajamas, cups of coffee glued to their hands. No breakfast, no ceremony. As soon as everyone's in the vicinity, it happens—that ancient, mystical ram's horn signal audible only to children—and the mayhem begins.

Imagine a cross between a Brazilian soccer stadium riot and a prairie bison stampede. Paper, ribbon, cards & envelopes shoot like projectile shrapnel across the room. Kids turn into circus contortionists as they climb over each other to get at packages on the other side of the tree. Grownups step further and further back from the Circle of Destruction, dumbstruck, still not fully comprehending that they're out of bed. And almost as suddenly as it begins, it's over. Each child retreats to her or his own spot in the living room to pile, sort, stack, count, and start ripping open their booty. The grownups, whose still-wrapped presents now lie scattered in undignified heaps around the room, retreat to the kitchen for more coffee.

One Christmas my older brother and I got up in the middle of the night and pried each of our presents open, then carefully re-sealed them. Our fake surprise the next morning was Oscar-worthy. (The next year, Mom used her own secret code on the gift tags and wrapped all our presents in Knox gelatin and saltine boxes. Touché, Mom.) Another Christmas, when I was living in Lincoln, my friend and I drove to Omaha in the wee hours, then woke my family up at 4 a.m., singing loud, off-key carols. I'm pretty sure most of them have forgiven me.

This Christmas, we had a smallish gathering, since none of my brothers—in Kansas, Ohio and Ecuador—could make it. Foolishly overconfident due to our small numbers, we decided to try polite & tidy. We managed 1½ circuits of round-robin present opening before the confetti started flying. It quickly devolved into a 5-minute shredding frenzy that I watched, agog, from a safe distance. When it was over, the house looked like it had been hit with a Wal-Mart carpet bomb. Perfect! And I lovedlovedloved the soundtrack—squeals, shrieks of surprise, belly laughs, oh-my-goshes, a little knife-sharp familial sarcasm, and occasional spontaneous outbursts of goofy singing.
So as I sit in my quiet, post-Christmas cookie & Chex Mix stupor, I can't put into words how grateful I am. Believe me, I know how lucky we are to have gathered—four generations of us—for another loud, messy celebration overflowing with love--the REAL blessing of this and every season.