Emotions or “Why I, a US citizen, avoid July 4th. And no, it’s not because I’m a commie bastard.”

Not written here for a bit. There’s a few reasons for that. Life gets in the way, as per usual. But in this case it was more of an emotional/psychological bit of thing going on. Since 2010, the 4th of July has always been hard for me to handle and deal with, and in the last few years it’s been especially bad emotionally, for different reasons.

Growing up, July 4th was never just America’s Independence Day. It was my father’s birthday as well. My dad was born in Cuba, and came to the US when he was (I think) 9 years old. He always thought it was funny and really cool that his birthday was Independence Day. We always had cake, usually some variation of red, white, and blue in some way. Some years we even had actual sparklers on the cake. Cookouts every year, rain or shine. If it were raining then… well, the basement door, which was more of a giant garage door, would be opened up and set to an angle. The grill placed just below it, technically outside, but just barely.

Life was so very far from peachy, especially the last 10 years before my mom and I left my dad in Florida. Often for holidays, even his birthday, entire dinners would be thrown into the trash because he didn’t tell any of us he was going to head over to his sisters for the entire evening instead of come home for the holiday meal. And none of us were allowed to touch the dinner until he was home There were a lot of problems then – ones that most parties that are still alive agree could have been handled better. And pretty much all of us were suffering from mental illness in one form or another.

So to say that holidays for me are rough is an understatement. I’ve managed to work through my issues with nearly all of the standard holidays because those were easier to deal with. They were JUST holidays. Many of which I’m able to focus on other people for. Christmas? Spoil my kid rotten. Halloween? Take my kid out trick-or-treating! Easter? Here comes the easter bunny! New Years? Valentines? Father’s Day? Focus on my husband. Celebrate fresh starts and new ideas with him. Celebrate the fact that Valentine’s is exactly one week after the anniversary of when we started dating. Father’s Day is for dads, and my husband is my kid’s dad. Mother’s Day? Hey I’m a mom, and so is my mom! Thanksgiving? Surround myself with my family. St. Patrick’s Day? My husband’s part Irish and likes to drink so why the fuck not. (Unlike most on St. Patrick’s Day my husband actually IS part Irish, not just claiming to be. He’s also part Sicilian and has a blood card somewhere for Cherokee so, that’s a fun combination.)

But… Independence Day is much harder for me to refocus. Had the story simply ended in 2010 with my mom and I leaving, I think I could have been able to refocus it easier. But… in 2013 my life changed in a huge way. And by 2014, my perspective on many things had changed. I now finally could see things from the other side, and I regretted a LOT of things I had said and done, especially to those of my family I left behind in Florida. But mostly my dad. The last thing I ever said to him was on the phone after receiving a letter from him. I used someone else’s phone so he wouldn’t have my number to reach me. I told him I hated him, and never wanted him to contact me again. That I didn’t need him and I was happier without him. That was roughly a week after I started dating my husband in 2013.

And to this day it eats me alive knowing that’s the last thing I said to him. Later that year, he had a massive mental breakdown, resulting in his inability for quite some time to recognize anyone, even my baby sister who had been stuck taking care of him. He had the breakdown around the time I started telling people I was pregnant (I was a few months along at that point) and I had made it known that I didn’t want him to know, that I didn’t want him to know anything about me or my life. I don’t know if he ever found out or not. After my son was born, I did try to make amends the only way I knew how. But I didn’t have a good phone number for him. I didn’t even know if he still lived at the address he was at when I left after staying with him for six months looking or work in 2011. I contacted a sister of mine, to ensure I had the right address. I sent him a card, apologizing for my actions and words and acknowledging that I had hurt him in such a way that no one should ever hurt another, let alone their parent. I sent a picture of myself and my son, and my son and my husband with the card. I don’t even know if he ever received it – as I came to find out later that he wasn’t at that address anymore.

He died a few years ago.

Heart failure, from what I understand.

I’m not making this post for pity or sympathy. I want to make that VERY clear right damn now. Just…¬† just trying to work out my feelings and put them into better words than I did for my therapist on Friday when I brought it up with her. The closer the calendar gets to July 4th, the more withdrawn I tend to become. And after the holiday, it takes me a bit to re-enter the world so to speak. I try to separate my personal feelings from the actual holiday of Independence Day, and I do the typical Fourth of July activities. Cookouts. Burgers and hotdogs. Lots of soda. Fireworks. Oh the fireworks. My son loves the fountains, but hates the fountains that have all the popper in them. The noise is jarring for him and frightening. He finally got to watch some this year without freaking out too badly. He actually started getting excited for some that he liked when we had more than one of that type. But even as I do these standard, regular holiday activities, the memory of my dad is nagging at the back of my mind. And the harder I push it away, the stronger it is and the harder it is to push it away at all. I also tend to avoid social media the closer it gets, and on the day of, and immediately following, because of family members.

One of my sisters visited his grave marker on his birthday. She took pictures, and wrote a touching post about him and honestly I can’t fault her for that. He was her dad, too. And I’m genuinely glad that she can speak well of him. And that she celebrates his birthday on the 4th of July with joy and laughter and so much life. I want that for myself, but I know it’s a long road yet for me to work through all of this baggage and let it go.

I am optimistic. One day, I’ll be able to wake up on July 4th and not dread the day. Not dwell on my regrets and the might-have-been and maybe even share funny stories with my kid about his grandpa on his birthday (especially the funny birthday stories like the time we found out or next door neighbor was also born on the 4th of July!). One day I’ll face the day and not feel the need to hide in the kitchen and cook so I can hide any tears by cutting up an onion for burgers. But I’m taking it a year at a time. It’s all that I can do, really. In the meantime, I’m gonna make pies or Jello. Cook up some burgers and brats. Crack open a cold can of Pepsi (fuck you, I like Pepsi!) and watch my husband as he fails to blow himself up with the fireworks I bought at the actual fireworks store we have in town now.

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My Winter Holidays

I hope everyone’s winter holidays went smoothly. Mine were the best ones yet. While I received some wonderful gifts from my mom and my husband, and watched my son finally get the hang of tearing into the wrapping paper to see what Santa brought him, there’s one gift that money couldn’t buy. And it did my heart more good than anything else this past holiday season.

A sister of mine whom I haven’t been on good terms with for quite some time now came to visit my mom while she was staying with her in-laws here in GA. She, her husband, and my mom all went out to dinner a few days before Christmas. And instead of just gift cards as had been in the past, for my mom they had actual gifts. And put actual thought into them. But this is not the part that literally moved me to tears. It was the fact that, should I wish, I can contact her again.

I wanted to come here to write about it immediately after mom got home and told me this, but I was far too emotional at the time. Now, I have 3 sisters. As some of you might recall from a great many posts in 2015 I had one of them living with me for a time. This is not that sister. Nor is it the youngest sister either. We’ll call this sister… “Babs”. While I don’t mind my name being bandied about, I do know she values her privacy and all that. So yeah, “Babs” and her husband “Ron”. The last time I saw either of them had been at their wedding in 2014. My son was barely 4 months old at the time. He’ll be 3 in late February. So that should give you an idea of how long it’s been since I’ve seen them. So this to me is quite a big deal that I’m allowed to be on speaking terms with “Babs” again. One Florida sister down, one more Florida sister to go… If that could ever reach a “Once a year X-Mas card” level of contact, who knows. But a gal can dream!

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So large it won’t all fit in the picture!

In other, less emotionally stirring news, my blanket has gotten HUGE! So large in fact that it needs to be stored in a giant green tote bag, and even then it’s not quite done yet. At last measurement, the blanket I am knitting was at 12 feet across and 5 1/2 feet long. Once finished the stripes will go vertical on my bed rather than horizontal as planned simply because oops! I made it queen size instead of full size! I need to add a few more feet for it to properly cover the width of the bed. I think I’ve got the length of the bed plenty covered.

I’m looking forward to my birthday at the end of the month, which someone who’s turning 30 usually wouldn’t be happy to see a big 3 in front of that 0. And while no, not thrilled that I’ll be officially in “mid-life”, I am excited to use one of my Christmas gifts! TARDIS silicone cake molds! I’ll of course be making a blue velvet cake, as it’s one of my favorites, and come on, it’s a TARDIS. It can’t be any other color BUT blue.

Anyway, New Years Eve was a rather quiet affair with lots of rain (thank goodness I didn’t have the money to buy fireworks!), pizza, and cuddling while watching random Youtube videos.

Lastly, the only other major event of 2017 so far was an unexpected trip to the courthouse for my husband yesterday. Apparently my brother-in-law (We’ll call him… “Grant”) wants to get back together with his wife, my sister whom I kicked out in 2015. But there’s a restraining order against him by both my sister and my husband (they each have one, not they went in on one together). “Grant” wants to have the order modified, or rather, wants the one my sister has against him removed so that they can get back together. Unfortunately my husband is dragged into this because it all stems back from an incident in 2014 that resulted in my husband and I having to go to “Grant’s” place to get my sister. It got… tense. Police got involved. My husband pressed charges, and we’ve got a restraining order against him. Well, my husband has anyway. This began a chain of events that includes attempts at coercion and ending in kidnapping. I won’t go into detail because frankly, that stuff has nothing to do with me or mine. But my husband got called to go because “Grant” is seeking to have ALL protection/restraining orders against him removed or modified. And we want nothing to do with him or my sister. My sister didn’t show up to court, and so all orders are in place indefinitely until she is located. And the kicker here? “Grant” has been in contact with her, violating the protection/restraining order and he should rightfully be sitting in jail because of it. And she’s been using someone else’s account on Facebook to get in touch with him. It’s all a crazy clusterfuck at this point. Meanwhile we’re just sitting here like “keep both of them crazies away from us. We don’t need that mess in our life.”

It’s that time of year again (now hand over the Pumpkin Spice!)

It’s that time of year again. My annual reading of Doctor Who: Forever Autumn. When scary and kooky movies all come out to play on the TV. Monster themed candy. More turkey stuffing and turkey gravy and, well, turkeys at the supermarkets. Leaves start to change color as the trees begin their yearly cycle of dormancy. Animals frantically searching for food to place in their winter stores, and birds flying south until spring.

Yes. It’s that time of year. Marked by the distinct smells of clove, cinnamon, and the ever present Pumpkin Spice.

Christmas Shopping Season…. it has begun.

Ya’ll thought I was gonna say Fall or Autumn, didn’t you? Silly readers! You know the seasons go Spring, Summer, Pumpkin Spice Part 1: The Great Candy Grab, and Pumpkin Spice Part 2: Pumpkin Spice Clearance Sales.

We all say it every year when the first Christmas item is seen in a store well before Halloween is even here. Sometimes as early as when children return to school. We all say some variation on how the stores already have X out on the shelves when it’s not even Z yet. And how the holidays are meant for spending time with people you may or may not enjoy being lost on a deserted island with with 5 minutes. How the holidays weren’t so commercialized back in the good old days. So let’s all just get that out of the way now since we all know it’s coming anyway.

This year, I’ve decided not to complain. Yes, I’ve seen Dollar tree already setting out the Easter stuff right alongside St. Patrick’s Day and Valentines, while Christmas is being pushed closer and closer to the store behind Halloween. But I’m looking at it as an opportunity to observe, without complaint, the people. You see, we all bitch and moan about this – but nobody’s stopped to think how this actually benefits the little people. The middle of middle class and lower income earners who simply like to enjoy the holidays. They might like to decorate, or give out candy, or buy presents early. Especially at the cheap stores like Dollar Tree. Seeing these things now, that they can buy and hold back for the holidays gives them more time to get the little stocking stuffers that they’re kids love. Or gives teachers the chance to buy classroom decorations for the class party well before the stores run out. It gives grandparents on fixed incomes a way to buy the little trinkets and doo-dads with plenty of time to pack the goodie box to send their grandchildren for Christmas. People on tight budgets can’t afford to buy stuff for a holiday in bulk unless they somehow came into a big wad of cash, a surprise holiday bonus, or work themselves to death. Especially in this economy. So setting out the stuff at a time most people deem far too early is actually the best for the little guy who still wants to give his kids and family a halfway decent Christmas.

It’s taken me a long time to come to this realization, and in all honesty it took a 59 year old woman sitting on the end of my bed in tears of shock and joy that anyone actually thought enough of her to get her something good and decent when they could have simply blown their spare cash on useless stuff – it honestly took that experience Saturday night to get me to open my eyes and look at all of this “commercialized” holiday nonsense in a whole new light. While yes corporations and retail chains see it as a money grabbing opportunity, and a way to sell and push more product on the shoppers and consumers, they have inadvertently made it possible for the poorer people in our economy to take part in something that they otherwise would have had to put off. They have accidentally created a situation where those who can’t do but once a year may feel a little less ashamed for not having enough to do what they truly wanted to do for their loved ones and families.

So, having had this realization dawn on me, I’m actually going to enjoy observing people and their habits. Watch the bag lady’s face light up in Family Dollar as she manages to get a $1.50 pack of 30 generic greeting cards that she can use for the next few years to send to friends and family. Watch the overworked single mother who could never afford that $35 Playskool slide for her toddler light up when she can take it to the Walmart holiday layaway counter and be able to pay just enough every week from her McDonald’s paycheck to get it for the little tyke for Christmas.

And me? I’m going to write like hell during November for NaNoWriMo mainly because it’s practice, but partly because I’ve always talked about it but never followed through. This year, I’m following through with Pumpkin Spice fueled marathon writing sessions at night and very little sleep as I continue to function as I must during the day. And know that even on our fixed income, I’ll still be able to get my son some decent little clothes and toys for Christmas – especially since it’s all started to be put out so early.

Easter

So. Easter happened! Around that time, and in the weeks leading up to it, I’m sure many people (especially on Facebook) saw memes decrying that Christians stole the holiday and other some-such nonsense that includes Ishtar, who has nothing at all to do with Easter even in the most broad and uninformed sense of the occasion. And true, my family is not Christian, but we still celebrate Easter. Not because Jesus rose from the tomb, or because of a pagan Goddess named Oestre, but because it’s a day when families get together, and kids have fun with giant bunnies and eggs. It’s a celebration of new life and spring, no matter what your belief or religion. As such, we dyed our eggs and hid our candy and my son got a visit from the Easter bunny.

I am very proud of my eggs this year. I got one of those super cheap kits with just the stickers and the dye (I refuse to spend more than $0.88 on a egg dye kit) and used my son’s broken crayon bits to decorate them before dropping them in the colors.

In other news, Flonase and I do not get along well, but I’m still using it because it’s making me breathe better. My son may have another ear infection¬† so I’ll be taking him in for a recheck sometime this week. And now my husband is sick with his twice a year bronchitis. And our bills are the lowest they’ve been in 2 years for this next month so I’m really happy about that. Good thing, too, because we need to replace our washing machine. It crapped out in the middle of a load last weekend. Thankfully, one of the local laundromats has a free dry with your wash on Tuesdays. I HATE that laundromat, but until we’ve got a new washer, it’ll be a huge money saver. Dropping my weekly trip down from $20+ for both wash and dry to $10 at the most for just wash. So long as I go during school hours, that laundromat is relatively less crowded than any other day of the week at that same time.

COOKIES!

Tonight, I am making the dough for my special holiday cookies so that I may bake them tomorrow. Each of the 3 main recipes I use have to chill, so I usually do the dough the night before and then bake the next day. I HATE waiting for the dough to properly chill!

Anyway, I’ll post pictures when the cookies themselves are done. Until then, I suppose…

THIS SUPER AWESOME DOWNLOAD OF THE COOKIE RECIPES I BAKE WILL HAVE TO DO!!!!!!

These 3 recipes come from the 1998 edition of the 1950 classic Betty Crocker’s Picture Cook Book. The 1998 edition is simply a reprinting. All the recipes inside the cover remain unchanged from the original printing. And I freaking LOVE IT! This cook book has saved my butt so many times. And I have yet to come across cake, cookie, and pie recipes that are better than the ones in this book. So, if you ever run across a copy, be sure to snatch it up! (I found this in box. I have no idea where it was or who it came from. But it was in a box with other stuff my dad just dumped off at home one day. I fell in love with it the first Christmas I used it. And it’s gone everywhere with me. Every time I’ve moved, it gets packed in with the Doctor Who stuff. So yeah, it’s a big deal!)

PS – the file will ALSO be available on my Downloads page. Link at the top-o-the-blog!

Holiday Decorating Part 2 – The Living-room

So in my previous 2 posts, I talked about rearranging my living-room before decorating for the holidays. Well, that was done and now the tree is up! After hunting down my box of ornaments, and digging out the rest of our decorations, I came to the realization that we don’t have enough decorations. So, I’m going to be getting more today. Some for the outside as well. I’m also going to make a wreath using some bendable greenery from Dollar Tree. I’ll post pictures when it’s done. Here’s my living-room so far today!

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Christmas Cards from over the years. We hope to add more this year!

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We haven’t got a chimney, so the TV where we’ll play the Yule Log DVD will have to do!

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Christmas Cards from over the years. We hope to add more this year!

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Last year I decided to do a painting for Christmas every year. This is the one I did last night for this year. I want to do one every year so that when my son is older, he can help me make one each year for a fun family tradition.

Happy Gobble Gobble!

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“Random Thursday” – Artist: Z. Bryan; Year: 2009

To all of my American and US followers, Happy Thanksgiving! For everyone else, Happy Random Thursday! Regardless of if you celebrate this holiday or not, for whatever your reasons may be, I hope everyone’s day is a good and pleasant day filled with happiness and joy.

As I sit reflecting on what I am most thankful for in my life, which is of course my little family. And to have a home to call my own… But as I reflect back, I remember the horrid holidays of my childhood. There was always happy memories to be found, true, but there were also the bad times. My siblings and I could always tell when it would be a horrible holiday when my mom woke up in a good mood. It meant that my dad would go out of his way to upset her, and thus ruin another holiday. If she woke up in a bad mood, then we knew it would be a typical holiday in our house (which wasn’t necessarily a good one, but it wouldn’t be horrid either). It wasn’t until 2009, when I made this comic panel, that I came to realize that just because my dad was an asshole, and my mom was in a bad mood, that didn’t mean I had to be in a bad mood and not enjoy the day.

In 2009, one of my older sisters came to visit for the holiday. She didn’t exactly want to, but she had to. I forget the reason, but she couldn’t go to my grandmother’s, as she usually did. So she came to Florida to stay with us for the week. Mom was working (she lost her job not long after this) and I was unemployed and not in college at the time, but going back to school at the start of 2010. So, all but the turkey were left for me to do for Thanksgiving dinner that evening. I woke up in a good mood, my mom in a good mood, and my sister… along with our baby sister… in a terrible mood. Because they saw mom in a good mood to start with. That day, I just chose to keep smiling. At the time, as well, I was in treatment for Bipolar type 2 Disorder and was responding well to my medication. I was in therapy, and life was pretty good. So I made the choice to just have a good day. My sisters on the other hand, kept getting angry because I wouldn’t get angry. I wouldn’t get upset or worry. I was just happy, smiling, and even humming and singing Christmas carols in the kitchen as I worked away on dinner prep.

The result was, yeah, mom got angry later – but that was only after she saw that my sisters were being deliberately bitchy on the holiday, and didn’t even help like they’d been asked. But my positive attitude throughout the day was, for mom, a pleasant surprise when she got home, and it helped keep her in good spirits. Not even my dad could piss her off that Thanksgiving. And yeah, she was angry at my sisters, it wasn’t enough to ruin the holiday, and in the end we both decided that if they wanted to be miserable, then fuck ’em. We were still having a good day.

Ever since that year, even if a holiday is going to be terrible, I’ve approached it from this angle. I might wake up in a sour mood, but if I set out to have a good day, and just do the best that I can, I’ve found that I almost always have a great holiday. People around me could be the most miserable person on Earth, but I smile. I laugh. I CHOOSE not to be angry or upset because it takes far more energy to tell someone off than it does to just be nice.

And in recent years, this approach has helped me so much, in so many ways with so many people, that now I’m not dreading the holidays, any holiday. Hell, I woke up 2 hours early today because I simply couldn’t wait to greet the day, and get started on the cooking, and just enjoy watching my son’s second Thanksgiving unfold, and to just spend time with my family.

So, I’m thankful for my family, for my home, for food on the table, and even for our dog. I’m thankful for the time I have to spend with the people I love, and that I’ve been able to change as much as I have to ensure I build happy memories to go along with the bad ones.