That Jesus knew where his towel was.

“And then, one Thursday, nearly two thousand years after one man had been nailed to a tree for saying how great it would be to be nice to people for a change, a girl sitting on her own in a small café in Rickmansworth suddenly realized what it was that had been going wrong all this time, and she finally knew how the world could be made a good and happy place. This time it was right, it would work, and no one would have to get nailed to anything. Sadly, however, before she could get to a phone to tell anyone about it, the Earth was unexpectedly demolished to make way for a new hyperspace bypass, and so the idea was lost, seemingly for ever.”
― Douglas Adams, The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy

I was raised Catholic. I sporadically attended Catholic school, and I made my confirmation a little late, but I got there in the end. I don’t practice anymore, but I know that in the eyes of the Church, that doesn’t make me any less of a Catholic now. I won’t quibble the distinction, but I will say it’s a one-sided relationship these days. I’m not an atheist (though it would be fine if I was). I don’t know what I believe exactly (and that’s okay too). There’s a really cool frood sitting in the Vatican right now, but in my opinion, at least, there’s still a long way to go to get back to the guy who told us to just love one another.

jesus

For the record: I’m not debating whether or not Jesus existed in this post, and if he did, if the real man bore much resemblance to this guy. That’s a whole different conversation. This is the J.C. I learned about as a kid, so that’s who I’m talking about here.

When I was a little church-going girl, it was the 70s. My church had folk masses every week, and everyone’s hair was a little long. That’s where and when I learned about Jesus. Jesus, as I was taught, was a really nice guy. I mean, super nice. He was always friendly and considerate, and he never gossiped or had a bad word about anyone. He loved his parents. He was a carpenter like his dad (okay, stepdad). The first time he performed a miracle, it was to help his mom — come on, how sweet was that? He had long flowy robes and pretty eyes. He multiplied loaves and fishes so no one went hungry (too bad you can’t get restaurants to do that with a fish fry during Lent). He rode a donkey. He didn’t give into peer pressure. He was nice to sick people and poor people and lepers, instead of being mean to them like everyone else was. He held a nice dinner party for all his friends. What’s not to like? We’d go to church and sing nice songs about how awesome Jesus was, accompanied by a strummy guitar and maybe a tambourine. It was all uber-pleasant, and more than a little groovy.

When I got older, though, church stopped being so sunshine-y. Religious instruction became more and more about what we weren’t supposed to do, about what was sinful, what was wrong, what would send us to hell. As an adult, it’s only gotten worse. Everywhere I turn I see people who calls themselves Christians preaching hate and talking about sin with a fervor that surely, you would think, could be put to better, more productive use. They focus on judging others around them, ignoring what John said about casting the first stone, and they’re so angry. So scornful. So miserable and not at all cool.

I don’t understand it. Jesus spent his whole life being kind. He wasn’t negative. That doesn’t mean he agreed with everyone around him, or didn’t know that there were evil people, or sinners, in the world. He spoke out against cruelty and prejudice and larceny and greed. But whatever he considered sins, he didn’t spend his precious time on that. He focused on being nice instead. Considerate. (And by sometimes hiding behind the couch — whenever anyone asks me if I’ve “found Jesus” it’s the first place I look, and he’s ALWAYS there. He’s such a bad hider.) Accepting. Friendly. So would it be so hard to give what he did a try, instead of focusing on hate?

I’m not going to change how anyone else thinks, and I’m not really trying to. But every year on this day, I think, “Good Friday? Well, not for one guy, it wasn’t.” Jesus was a nice guy, and he went through a lot of crap. Personally, I don’t think spewing hate is a good way to say thank you, should one be so inclined to do so. Instead, you might want to try being a little more hoopy, a lot less judgy, and a little nicer, on the whole. Really, that’s pretty good advice for us all.

mischief managed

all7I recently finished a highly enjoyable reread of the Harry Potter series. At the end, though, just as always, I can’t help but feel a little down. Not because of the sad bits, especially in the last book — though those would be a worthy reason. Really, just because… it’s over.

I came to Harry Potter just before the fourth book came out. All the signs at Barnes & Noble, counting down the days to the book’s release… I felt like there must be something to this. I read the first three books and loved them. Then, on the midnight release night for Goblet Of Fire, I was on my way home, late, and remembered the book was coming out in a few minutes. I walked into the store expecting, I don’t know, a few dozen people. Instead the line filled the store. Two hours later I had my copy, and never looked back.

For later book releases, I knew what to expect. Believe me, by the time the final book, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, was released, I was a pro. I spent the day at Barnes & Noble, and was one of the first hundred to receive our books after that midnight countdown…

The thing I remember most, though, was leaving the store a few minutes later, book held high proudly in hand. About a thousand people were in the parking lot (overflow — the store was full to capacity) and they cheered as we came out.

scholasticThat’s the thing about Harry Potter that still gives me chills of happiness, after all these years. Once upon a time, kids waited in line all day for a book. They wore costumes, they debated theories on sites like The Leaky Cauldron and Mugglenet… for a book. They formed tribute bands like Harry & the Potters and released CDs. They made videos, fanart, and wrote fanfiction. They’re still doing those things, years after it’s all over. That night in 2007, people stood outside at midnight and cheered — just to be able to read something. Isn’t that the best thing you’ve ever heard?

After the books were done, it was disappointing knowing there wouldn’t be any more stories of Harry and friends — but we had the movies, at least. An extra one, even, when they split Deathly Hallows in two. So that was something for awhile, but eventually all good things do really come to an end.

I know some people feel Harry Potter doesn’t do anything for them — they read the first book and weren’t hooked. I don’t know exactly what to say about that, other than: for what it’s worth, one of the magical things about the Harry Potter series is that the books age along with Harry. Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone is written about an eleven-year old, and it’s written for eleven year-olds. That didn’t stop a lot of adults from enjoying it, of course, but the themes, emotions and Harry’s perception of the world around him are childlike. With each passing book, though, Harry grows more perceptive. He experiences more things, he has more complex emotions. He grows up, and the books grow up with him. So if that first book seemed too childish, that might be an explanation.

allendsTruthfully, though, to each their own. I loved every moment of the series, from the first page to the last, from the first on-screen image to the final credits, and can’t fathom missing any of it. I loved the characters, good and bad; I loved Harry’s decisions, right and wrong; his mistakes, his failures, his courage. I loved his friends, more than anything else, really, and I loved living in his world for awhile. For me, just as for so many other people, Harry Potter was a wonderful experience, one I’m always sorry to see end. The beauty of it all, though, is — I can go right back to page one, any time I want, and start all over again.




cornell giving day

cornell university giving dayMy alma mater, Cornell University, has designated tomorrow as “Cornell Giving Day“.

Cornell was a wonderful experience for me, and I try to give back when I can. Truthfully, though, I’ve instituted a hard rule of “no giving $ until I finish paying for the first time around”. And yes, I’m still working on those lovely student loans — grad school will do that to you. One day I hope to help Cornell students in financial need the way I was helped, and until then, I donate my time and energy as a volunteer.

To this end, and with that disclaimer, I’m boosting the signal here, for any interested fellow alums and Cornell supporters:

What is Cornell Giving Day?

Cornell Giving Day is a festive and inspiring virtual coming-together of alumni, parents, friends, and Big Red fans all over the world to raise support for Cornell over 24 hours. All gifts made on March 25, 2015, between 12:00 a.m. and 11:59 p.m. EDT, will count toward Cornell Giving Day.

What makes my contribution on Cornell Giving Day special?

On March 25, your contribution has an even bigger impact than usual, thanks to a handful of generous supporters who will be providing $300,000 in challenge money to various Cornell colleges, schools, and units. By making your gift, you can boost the area you care about and help it win the challenge amount. Throughout the day, leaderboards will show progress by college and unit in real time, and games and contests will sustain the fun and suspense.

Where does my gift go and where do the challenge funds go?

100 percent of your gift goes directly to where you designate it: your college or school or in support of areas like undergraduate scholarships and athletics—you name it. The challenge funds will go to the annual fund of the winning college or unit.

 

 

cleaning lady

cats sweeping broomWhen I was in college, I lived in a dorm. Dorms can be great equalizers. It’s hard to tell who’s as poor as you are or as rich as Midas when everyone’s living in the same building, schlumping around in sweatpants and pajamas. Hardly anyone at Cornell had a car (the campus isn’t vehicle-friendly) and this was way back in the day before cell phones, laptops and even computer ownership might have given some clue. One telling factor was Spring Break plans — if you were off to Prague on a moment’s notice, that probably meant you weren’t down to your last two dollars, as I often was. The more economically challenged among us often stayed put for Spring Break (and had a fun time, too).

Another thing I noticed was cleaning ladies. Every now and then, one of my friends would mention their housekeeper, or the cleaning person that came to their house, back home. I couldn’t fathom such a thing. We’d never, ever had a cleaning person. Quite frankly, at the time, my mother was working a second part time job *as* a cleaning person, to keep me in school. You can imagine how galling I found it when a fellow student protested to me that having a cleaning person wasn’t a luxury; his mother worked, after all. She didn’t have time to clean. Meanwhile my mother worked all day, worked cleaning offices at night, and cleaned her own house with whatever energy she somehow had. It’s not an entirely fair comparison, but I still think having someone come to clean your house, unless you’re physically incapable of doing so (and a lot of those people can’t afford help, sadly), is a luxury.

You have to imagine, then, how weirded out I am by the fact that we have cleaning people coming to the house this week.

I mean, this isn’t a regular thing. We had a Groupon, and it’s a spring cleaning kind of deal. Dave’s super busy in tax season. And I have a little trouble doing certain things, especially when there’s bending involved. It’s still a luxury, though, and I feel strangely guilty about it.

I’m a lousy housekeeper. I didn’t inherit the Leonard cleaning gene, the one that guaranteed my grandmother’s basement floor was safer to eat off of than most people’s kitchen plates, and the one that made my mother stress about dust bunnies in the storage closet. Yeah, I missed that. I don’t have it in me. But I grew up with it, so I end up looking around my reasonably neat house and seeing nothing but dust and dirt and feeling ashamed.

So as a result of all that matriarchal genetic pressure and guilt over economic divide, I’ve been desperately restraining myself all week from cleaning the bathroom ahead of time, because I don’t want the cleaning people to see that my bathroom is dirty and think I’m lazy. I haven’t succumbed yet, but there’s still more than 24 hours to go. I’d say it’s 50/50. At best.

just so you know

Featured

I write about a lot of things — whatever’s going on in my life at the time, whether that’s traveling, getting in shape, reading, etc, and sometimes thoughts about where I’m headed, or where I’ve been. As a former librarian I’m a little obsessed with books, and as a tech geek I love all things Apple, Kindle and in-between. I love food more than it good for me, and my viewing habits range from “Downton Abbey” to “Modern Family”  to “Game of Thrones” and back around again. I have two cats, a wonderful husband, and the rest is subject to change without notice.

how did I get here?

yearbook1

With my name spelled wrong and everything.

This is me, in high school. I was voted Most Likely to Succeed. I’m not mentioning that to brag — the opposite, really. It’s more that I sometimes ask myself, how did I get here, from there? Wasn’t I supposed to end up doing something, I don’t know, important?

Honestly, I started out on the wrong foot: the only thing I ever wanted to be when I grew up was an astronaut. This, despite a fear of heights, speed, fire and airless places, also no aptitude for science and an utter lack of the physical skills needed for astronaut-ing, made that particular goal a pipe dream. So when I graduated from high school, despite a resounding endorsement from my peers, I had no particular idea what I was going to succeed at. I’d been on Debate Team, and I was pretty good at it too, so my yearbook is filled with a lot of “good luck in law school” comments. I have not, however, ever in my life entertained the idea of attending law school. Too dry. Too dull. (Though, I will say that when I was in about third grade I told my mother I didn’t want to be President someday, I wanted to be a Supreme Court judge. Presidents only get to keep their job for 8 years at most. Supreme Court judges get hired for life. This future union member already knew the value of job security.)

During orientation in my first week at Cornell, I wandered into the open house for the Department of Theatre, Film and Dance. Four years later I graduated with a background in costumes and directing. Three months later I quit graduate school before I’d even started, and for the next five years or so I worked at mostly meaningless jobs that didn’t quite pay the bills.

Sooner or later I decided I needed, you know, a career, or something. And in 1998, believe it or not, Library Science was a good field to study if you wanted a job. When I graduated with my Master’s from UB, there were recruiters at the school every semester. I had three job offers to pick from. I chose Amherst Museum. And that’s where I spent the next decade as a solo librarian. I had a great time organizing my library, processing the archives, getting involved in regional professional organizations like WNYLRC, where I spent some time on the Board. It was a terrific experience. I’d be lying, though, if I told you I was following my heart’s desire. Being a librarian mostly appealed to the OCD part of me that liked organizing things. That still likes organizing things. But I saw people who had passion for librarianship. I wasn’t one of them. So when I stopped being a librarian, I missed my colleagues, but not the rest.

So I never did get around to deciding what I wanted to be when I grew up. Now, to be frank, Dave and I both try our best to work as little as possible. 🙂 I have a job but it’s not anything worth mentioning; it’s just a job, not a career. I’m not really anything, professionally, and probably never will be. I’m just a little surprised that doesn’t bother me more.

You know, it’s twenty-five years since that picture was in my yearbook, and I look at it now and think, if I’d done a few things differently, maybe I would have fulfilled that promise and done something “important”. There were few times I believe, objectively, that I made the wrong choice. I should have picked a different major in college, or a different graduate school for theatre, or a different library to work in. Those were turning points for me. And it clarifies things for me to see that now, definitely. But in the age-old tradition of everyone who’s lucky enough to be happy, it doesn’t mean I’d go back and change anything now, if I could. Because whatever I did, right or wrong, I ended up somewhere I want to be. I didn’t succeed the way I thought I was going to, or the way my high school classmates apparently expected I would, but I wouldn’t trade my life for the world, wrong turns, failures, and all.

how I learned to love the elliptical and eat chocolate every day

elliptical1I work out every day. Every. Damn. Day. Some people love to exercise. I’m not one of those people. But despite my dread, I push myself to it anyhow, because I know it makes me stronger, gets my metabolism moving, and it allows me to eat a Reese’s in peace.

In the summer, I swim — great for you all around, and better for my back  — but in this long, bleak, frozen winter of our discontent, I’m forced into the gym. I use the bike a lot, and I’ve recently started getting used to the elliptical. Mind you, the first time I climbed onto that medieval torture device, after 30 seconds I wanted to confess to being a heretic so I could burn at the stake instead. But after a few more tries I got the hang of it and I’m building up to spending half my work out that way.

This isn’t my first time to the rodeo. I’ve done this before. But I think I didn’t keep it off because I hadn’t learned moderation. I got in the low-cal zone and I denied myself *everything*, and when I was done (there’s a mistake right there) and fell off the wagon, I fell big time. I don’t want that to happen again, so I’m being more reasonable with myself this time. If we constantly deny ourselves, we’re guaranteeing that we’ll eventually fail. Because you’re never “done”. It’s never over. Since this is it for the rest of my life, I need eat responsibly but not miserably if I’m going to succeed.

There are a lot of people who’ll tell you you’re doing it wrong, this way. I use MyFitnessPal and it’s a great app, but I don’t spend a lot of time in the discussion forums. It can be kind of crazypants judgy in there. “Hey look at me” syndrome is alive and well in weight loss communities. Look at how fast I’m losing, look at how under calorie goal I am, look at me, look at me, look at me. You can get an inferiority complex really easily. Just remember, it’s not a race. Or if it is, it’s one the tortoise is going to win in the end, not the hare.

For what it’s worth, here’s what I do, and what works for me. It’s not a quick fix, but it’s not all that hard, either, once you set your mind to it:

Count all your calories. All of them. It’s boring, by the way, just so you know. Tedious. But do it. Exercise often. Also potentially tedious. Try podcasts, or audiobooks, or Netflix. Eat lots of veggies and fiber but eat the things you like, too, just in moderation. A Hershey’s kiss has 22 calories — if you need a sweet treat, just have a couple of those. Be kind to yourself. Don’t get on the scale too often (too bad I don’t listen to my own advice on that one). The number will go down, over a period of time, but not all at once. And give yourself a day off, now and then, and enjoy yourself. Enjoy food, enjoy a break from vigilance. Then rinse, reuse, and repeat.

how to lose a Super Bowl

Jim-KellyIf there’s one thing Buffalo knows, it’s how to lose a Super Bowl. I mean, we had a lot of practice. (For the record, it’s not like this.)

The four years the Buffalo Bills went to the Super Bowl happened to be the same four years I was away at college. I missed out on some of the hometown fervor but I camped out every Sunday in the dorm’s TV room, often with my friend and fellow Bills fan Mark, holding out hope for a miracle. (We even got to watch the Comeback Game, something Buffalonians missed out on as it’d been blacked out at home.)

That first year, it was so exciting, with Jim Kelly leading our hurry-up offense and an amazing defense. We should have taken it that year, but Parcells and Belicheck beat us — the Giants played a better game. And the Bills got in their own way, with stupid screw-ups and missed opportunities. It was close, though. Three feet wide to the right close.

The second time, it was another great season with everything clicking. The Bills bulldogged their way through the playoffs and thought they’d avenge the previous year’s loss — we were experienced now, we wouldn’t spook easily, we’d get the job done. Except not, because apparently Thurman Thomas couldn’t even keep track of his helmet, and at halftime the Redskins had a 17-0 lead. The final score was 37 to 24, but it wasn’t even that close of a game. By the fourth quarter, I think the Redskins were letting their season ticket holders play.

You’d think that was embarrassing enough, but the Bills were just about to learn all about shame in Super Bowl XXVII, the following year. We’d fought and fought hard all season — Jim Kelly going out injured in the final game of the season, Frank Reich bringing the Bills to victory in the wildcard playoff game against the Oilers, in the greatest football comeback of all time. Straight on through to the Super Bowl, we were on fire… and then Dallas beat us in a crushing 52-17 loss. It was humiliating. Watching that game and its NINE Bills turnovers, you had to develop a sense of humor about it all, or you’d just have cried your eyes out.

Heartbreakingly, we had one more shot. In 1993 we went all the way back to the Super Bowl and against the Cowboys again. Everyone cringed in fear at the possibility of another humiliation, but the stars seemed to align in our favor. At half-time, we had the lead. I allowed myself to hope. We all did. I’ll never forget taking a break from the TV room and going up to my room, confiding in a friend that the curse might finally be over. It wasn’t, of course. The tides turned, Thurman fumbled, and the Cowboys went on to trounce us, 30 to 13.

It was over. I think we all knew. The Bills had a decent season the next year, and some people held faith that we’d “strive for five”, but it didn’t happen. Sadly, it’s been a steady decline for the Bills since then. With free agency and the passage of time, all the great players of the early 90s were soon gone. Coaches came and went. Quarterbacks came and went. Last year, a new owner, even, after the passing of Ralph Wilson at the age of 95.

Someday, the Bills will turn it around again. It’ll be their turn. And maybe those Bills will eclipse the memory of those four years of losses. To be honest, though, I kind of hope not. I mean, we lost, I know. Four times. Four-time Super Bowl losers. Four times we were the 1st Runner Up, and not Miss America. It’s kind of sad, except it was kind of cool, in its own way, too.

Four times we were the second-best team in the league, in a row. That’s more than every other team but one could say, each of those years. Four years in a row we had the pleasure of watching a great team pull together, and as a city we pulled with them. We all had our favorite players — mine were Andre Reed and Bruce Smith — but they all contributed to that dynasty. Thurman Thomas, Steve Tasker, Darryl Talley, Don Beebe, Cornelius Bennett, Kent Hull… the list goes on, but the more I watch football, the more I appreciate what a great quarterback Jim Kelly was. The no-huddle offense, the K-gun, the way he’d scramble in the pocket. What I admire him most for now, though, was his ability to lose and maintain grace under pressure. More than grace — energy. He never gave up. Failure just seemed to spur him on. Jim Kelly could throw an interception, and walk off the field with a grin, sometimes clapping his hands. The first year or two it drove me crazy — he’d just screwed up! He should look embarrassed! Our old quarterback, Joe Ferguson, would hang his head in shame after he’d messed up. But there was Kelly, looking like he’d just scored instead of handed the ball over to the other team. It was maddening, but then I realized what he was doing. He wasn’t proud of an error, he was confident that it was just a blip in the radar. Two seconds after something went wrong on the field, he was thinking ahead about how to get it right the next time. And he was focused on that, on how to achieve a win, instead of mired down in how it felt to lose.

So, in other words, Seattle, my advice is — you may have done something the Bills didn’t by winning the big game last year, but you could still learn a little something from Jim Kelly and his team. Don’t hang your head. Don’t be sore losers. Don’t start fights on the last play of the game. Just get right back on the horse and play like you’re in it to win it.

day 200 and counting

hershey-bar-nutrition-factsI’ve been dieting — counting calories, eating healthier, embracing a healthier lifestyle, sacrificing calories to Zuul, whatever you want to call it — for 200 days now. Two hundred portion-limited, fun filled days. Just 15,000 or so to go.

It’s actually been going well. I’ve lost 39-ish pounds as of today, and mostly it’s been not too awful. We’ve got a lot of good recipes for our dinner rotation, and we’ve found a few takeout places with lower-calories options, when we need a break from cooking. I exercise every day and I’m looking forward to going back to the pool in the summer. But… the holidays aren’t entirely easy. Or the weekends. Or the days in between. And maybe it’s just the realization, this time around, that it’s never going to be over, really. You can’t just cut calories for a month or a year or two, lose the weight, and then go back to eating whatever you want. There is no eating whatever you want, not really ever again. (Unless I get to my 80s, in which case, you know, screw it, I’m throwing caution to the winds.)

I take breaks for special occasions — Thanksgiving, Christmas, our anniversary. I know it helps to take a break from the regimen every now and then; if you deprive yourself all the time, sooner or later you’re going to hit a wall and lose your mojo. But special occasions have to be special — you have to pick and choose, and not turn every weekend into a chance to cheat. The holidays really are hard. No one has a weight problem because they indulge on Christmas Day. It’s when you graze happily through the entire holiday season that you get into trouble. I’ve always found it hard to stick to a diet when you work in an office, too. It’s like every time you turn around someone is bringing in donuts, ordering out for lunch, bringing in cake. Ah, cake… sorry, I just drooled on the keyboard a little there.

I know it’s worth it. I’m getting healthier all the time. When we go on our cruise next year I’m going to be in good shape and feel a lot better about myself, physically and mentally. These are good things and good goals. Still, though. Too often it feels like the world is one big gooey-cheesy-chocolately-crispy-fried wonderland that I have to say “No, thank you” to, when what I really want to do is yell, “Yes, please!” as I grab seconds.

the best and worst Christmases

Xmas-Garfield-TreeOur days-until-Christmas chain is almost gone. I’ve been looking forward to this Christmas very much — the celebrating, the presents, seeing friends and being generally festive. And I was thinking this morning about the best Christmases I can remember, and contrarily, because I’m a glass-half-empty kind of gal, about some of the worst.

We were really poor when I was growing up. Thanks to a father who’d decided he wasn’t responsible for the kids he’d had, nor was particularly worried about his nine-year-old daughter having a roof over her head, my mother struggled a lot. There were some years where it was hard for her to keep up with the bills and the groceries, let alone presents. I never felt like I went without, though, so lord only knows how she managed. I remember one year about a week before Christmas, when I was 11 or so, she gave me twenty dollars to shop for presents to give, of my own. She said, “For the person who loves Christmas and loves to give gifts more than anyone, you should have a chance to do that this year.” I don’t remember any of the gifts I received that year, but I remember that twenty bucks, and buying little trinkets for my family, feeling so thrilled. It was barely anything but it must have been hard for her to scrape that together for me, and it makes me sad thinking about that now. Was that one of the worst Christmases? I worry it was — for her. But for me, it was one of the best.

Norman Rockwell and a legion of retailers’ advertisements aside, some families fight during the holidays. It’s the heightened emotions, the gathering of people who often aren’t together, the complicated traveling plans that make you anxious. My family was no exception, and I can remember a few humdingers over the years. I mean, only once did someone throw a punch. 🙂 Some people have never experienced this, and I applaud your relatives’ self restraint and mastery of passive aggression. For most, it’s just the occasional rolled eyes and those awkward, mildly ugly moments. That kind of thing is worth overlooking. But in my opinion, when the words (or fists) get too harsh, though, it’s time to make different plans for the holidays.

There’ve been some really nice Christmases in there, too. The Festival of Lights in Niagara Falls was always so beautiful. I would go with family, later with friends; they stopped doing much on the US side, but the Canadian side still has amazing displays that Dave and I went to every year we could. My cousin and I used to go to Fort Erie, enjoy Chinese food at Happy Jack’s, then drive up the Canadian side to look at all the gorgeous houses and their decorations. Christmas concerts at school (once our chorus sang backup to Andy Williams on “The Most Wonderful Time of the Year”; let’s just say Andy’s personality wasn’t very wonderful) and nice festive times shopping, meeting friends, having fun.

The nicest Christmas I remember was in 2002. Mom and I went to Wegmans to do our grocery shopping for the holidays, probably on the 20th or so, a few days before Christmas. While we were still working hard to make ends meet, things were a little better. We’d moved into a nice duplex a year or so before, we both had steady jobs and benefits. We had debt and we couldn’t afford a lot of luxuries, but we were okay. And we were looking forward to having a great Christmas feast at home (ham? roast? I don’t remember) with a yummy dessert for just the two of us. We were at the Wegmans on Alberta Drive and it was packed with holiday shoppers, but it was wonderful. Everything was decorated and festive, there was a band playing Christmas carols at the cafe, and everywhere you looked there were treats and tidbits and holiday concoctions, families getting ready for gatherings, everyone in a cheery mood. We shopped and lingered and later agreed it was the nicest thing ever, just being out in the holiday crowd, together, getting ready for our Christmas at home.

Right around now, everyone from your co-worker to the guy driving next to you with his bumper sticker to Linus wants to tell you what the true meaning of Christmas is, but I’m not going to jump on that bandwagon. Christmas is what you make of it, good or bad. It can be about your faith, about your family, about presents or egg nog or about the Grinch. My only advice is to spend it just the way you want to, and not the way you feel you should, unless those two coincide.

Merriest of merries, to one and all.