Fellow Chief Domestic Joy Spreaders: Christmas is Still on December 25th. You Have Time.

Under normal circumstances there's a lot of pressure on moms to turn it the eff on during the holiday experience to make it oh-so-magical for our kids. And I  admittedly have totally bought into this expectations every year since my son was little, planning fun outings, decorating, doing crafts, and purchasing meaningful gifts. We have traditions, okay?

But, then came 2020 and all it has entailed. My son is an only child (he's six, prime Christmas-is-magical age) and we have abided by all the social distancing requirements. I basically wear all the hats in my house- I work 10ish hours a day, I am responsible for Sawyer's schooling, I am chief puppy-wrangler (cue Sheryl Crow's "Favorite Mistake"), I deal with all domestic matters, and I try to entertain the idea of some sort of life that involves my own need and interests.* And now, now, I'm supposed to make life magical when most days I feel like my head is barely above water? Really?

And my situation isn't unique to me- this is moms everywhere. We are barely hanging on by a thread and this whole Christmas Thing is now dropped in our lap? Like, out of nowhere? All of a sudden? Like, what, it happens every year or something? And, let's be super effing honest: 9 out of 10 dads aren't feeling it like we are. Sure, maybe they lift some boxes and plug some stuff in outisde, but at the end of the day they're not carefully arranging decorative snowmen on bookshelves and curling ribbon packages (and if they are, awesome, this doesn't apply).

Everywhere I turn, there's Christmas. I means for shit's sake, Christmas threw up all over Target a few days before Halloween even happened! There's the marketing emails from every company under the sun, neighbors who have decorated their houses, people putting up their trees, and family members asking for gift ideas for my son. And if you aren't in the mood you're a Scrooge and you're trying to rip away people's happiness after a horrid year. Bahumbug. 

I am oscillating between giving in to the pressure and resisting. I have gotten done most of my shopping (more because of how afraid I am of covid-related shipping delays as the rates of infection are skyrocketing) and have stockpiled all of my baking supplies (I am hearing rumbling of another flour shortage). I've planned some socially-distanced activities for my son (a virtual Santa run, a drive-through light show, and a Zoom with Santa) and I've bought a few new decorations. But I refuse, REFUSE, to decorate until Thanksgiving is over. There will be no Christmas crafts, Christmas music, or Christmas cooking until next weekend at the earliest. I have to give myself the time and the grace to start climbing the next mountain that 2020 is putting in front of us.

And that's the point of this post- a gentle reminder that you don't have to rush. If you want to, that's totally okay and fine, but if you want to wait that's great too! Guess what? Christmas is still December 25. It wasn't moved up, it wasn't rescheduled, and it wasn't extended. Nope. Still the end of NEXT month, as always. So, for those of us who are Chief Domestic Joy Spreaders, it's okay to wait.

And guess what? It's okay to feel a little resentful about having yet something else to do. Right now it's completely how I feel, but I also know that I'll probably experience a shift in attitude in a week or two. I'm not advising anyone to tell their four-year-olds Santa isn't real or tell your eight-year-olds to wrap their own damn presents, but I don't think anyone needs to feel guilty if they don't feel as festive this year. Our memories of 2020 are not going to focus around Christmas, let's be honest. 

All I know is that I am so damn glad I never committed to that goddamn Elf on a Shelf. I cannot imagine dealing with that every night- mad props to those moms who do. 

*I know, I'm a broken record and have stated this fact about 489845 in the past eight months, but when you feel it so acutely 24:7 it's hard not to. 


5 thing I plan to do as soon as I am vaccinated:
- Get a pedicure
- Get a massage
- See my family (and assuming they get it too, bring Sawyer! He misses my mom and siblings so much)
- Eat at a restaurant with my friends
- Go stay at a hotel for a night or two alone (but somewhere boring for Sawyer like Palm Springs so I don't feel guilty)

4 things I'm listening to: 
- American Royals II by Catherine McGee (these are so bad they're good- perfect for treadmill or dog walking)
- Greenlight by Matthew McConaughey (I haven't started yet, but I heard an interview with him and it sounds fascinating)
- The Daily- I took a looooooooooooooooooooong break from this podcast, since I just couldn't keep up and then couldn't handle the daily doom and gloom. Now that the election is over-ish it is easier to digest
- Smartless- Still in love with this one, and I can't wait to listen to the David Chang episode that just came out yesterday!

3 books I'm currently reading:
- The Lost Children Archive be Valeria Luiselli 
-Miracle in the Andes by Nando Parrado
- Here by Richard Maguire 

2 not-so-bookish blog posts I'm working on:
- On how it's okay to not be ball-to-the-wall decking the halls right now (and how this holiday season is going to be exponentially more challenging on moms this year).
- Owning my productivity addiction (+ my favorite tips right now) 

1 thing getting me through today:
- the rest of my Ben & Jerry's Cannoli Ice Cream that I have secretly stashed in the freezer. It's the simple things....

End-of-the-Year Bookish Goals

[insert witty introduction that references this insane year and how I somehow spent a ton of time at home but still feel behind at life]

1. Finish my 2019 (yes, 2019...) book symbol embroidery hoop- I have all the symbols sketched on it, so at least that part of the project is done. I should commit to doing one a day and it will be done in no time! 

2. ... and start my 2020 one- What can you do? I LOVE this concept and can't wait to frame them and display them in my class one day, so I don't want to give up. 

3. Meet my 2020 Goodreads challenge- Push it, push it real good. 

4. Help Sawyer crush his class-reading competition- We won't the fundraising component, but I am not going to sit here and pretend to not want to conquer the pages-read part. Right now we're several hundred pages up, but there's this kid (whose mom happens to be the PTA president) that will randomly log one book and say it took him 100 minutes to read. Grrr. 

5. Get some more book recommendation videos up for my students- They get a lot of views, so they're watching them at least! Many have taken ideas from them for outside reading, so I guess I'm selling some of them pretty well (Stephen King's Misery was very popular, as was Crazy Rich Asians). 

6. Blog here at least 12 more times in November and December- You guys are never getting rid of me.

7. Start thinking about the Plath poems I have to teach starting in January- That's it- no doing, just thinking. Doing poetry virtually is going to be tough, since I usually have a "no internet/phone" policy when I introduce each one we have to read. I want their interpretation first! Not the internet's! 

Bookish (and not so Bookish) Thoughts

1. Thank goodness for a day off. I gave myself permission to be a sloth after walking with Ellie for fifty minutes this morning and alternated between sleeping and reading for a few hours. I actually hate napping, since I never feel great afterwards, but there was no way I was going to survive without one. Now I'm alternating between blogging and grading. 

2. I started subscribing to the Melissa Wood Health app a few months ago and I really like it (only $10 a month!). There are over a hundred workouts, plus a new new one each week, that vary in time and focus area, which is great. I love that there are ones that focus on arms or abs and are only ten minutes, so I can bust one out while, say, supervising Sawyer's shower. Right now she's doing a two week challenge that combines a workout plus a meditation each day, so I've committed to that. I'm on day three and hurt all over, so clearly it's working. 

3. I have a lot of problems with distance teaching, but I do feel some sense of victory that I have figured out how to really help my students with their analysis. I have seen so much improvement that I'm nearly giddy! Each week I assign them a quote from out book to analyze and they have to do three levels of analysis- one example that's really horrible and basic, one that's mediocre, and one that represents their very best. Making them do a bad job is actually making them do a good job! I can't really describe why it's happening, but it's pushing them to work harder and I am so happy with results. 

4. I found out this morning that my son's school, which now has a district from the county to reopen, will start back on January 11, 2021. The waiver grants them permission to open on a hybrid schedule no matter what the local numbers are, so it feels pretty definite. I've talked a lot here about my conflicting emotions about it all, but it feels nice to have a date to hold on to right now. I am, supposedly, going back the week after, but considering the rate of spread I feel fairly doubtful.

5. Last week, with the election, was brutal. I stayed up late every single night listening, reading, and watching the news, and yet still got up bright and early to walk my furry friend. On one hand it was so wonderful to have a distraction from the other struggles in life, but it was also so frustrating as well. Obviously I am pleased with the outcome, but I still feel pretty annoyed with all the roadblocks the current administration is deliberately placing.

6. I think Sawyer and I are going to go to the beach to walk around this weekend (and maybe a little hiking, since there are some trails at the one we go to, in the hills right above). We didn't go all summer, so it will be good to be back by the water, even if it will be cool and gloomy. We also haven't really done much lately, so a trip out of our little bubble will be so nice! Last weekend I was supposed to see a friend, but the weather ruined everything- this week will be much better. 

7. I can't believe I did this, but I bought myself the LEGO Treehouse set (let's call it an early birthday present?), which is about 762993 pieces and will take me 893332 hours to put together. I LOVE trees, of course, and I adore tree houses, so I've been wanting this one since they released it while ago. During the first month or two of stay-at-home I thought about getting it, but they sold out. When it came back in stock recently I bit the bullet and got it. It probably won't get put together until Christmas or spring break, but at least I have it.

8. My dog's tail is wagging in her sleep right now. I'm jealous of her happy dreams.

9. I know I've been saying this for ages, but I wish I had time to write more personal essays and post them here. You know, because I am so fascinating and everyone wants to read my inner monologue. 

October Reads

October was long. I mean, so are all the other months, but October seemed like a marathon. I think it was just... well everything, right? I had some moments where I really had to rally and keep moving, but that's everyone these days. The month definitely ended on a high note, though, since I spent the evening with one of my best friends outside in her lovely backyard on Friday and then we had a super festive Halloween at home. Sawyer went as Harry Potter and we walked around the neighborhood to see the decorations and ended the night with excessive candy eating and screen time.

Reading was another bright spot, the five books I finished each being outstanding. I read two two foodie memoirs this month, David Chang's Eat a Peach and Hungry by Jeff Gordinier. Chang's book is about his rise from a young golfing prodigy who choked to the king of Momofuku. He writes in his typical voice, one part ego and one part self-deprecating (he's a lot like Anthony Bourdain in that way). Jeff Gordinier, a food writer, wrote about his time with one of the best chefs in the world, Rene Redzepi, traveling the world and learning about foraging. I loved that this was part travelogue and part restaurant industry homage.

For work I read "Master Harold"...and the boys (yes, the punctuation is intentional) by Athol Fugard, a play set in South Africa during the Apartheid. This is my fourth time reading and teaching the text, but it felt so much more relevant this year, given the racial inequality in our current times.

Our English department book club read Ocean Vuong's On Earth We're Briefly Gorgeous and lemme tell ya, that book is all-the-way gorgeous. The writing, the raw emotion, the narrator's honesty... just so good (probably a contender for my top ten of the year). Little Dog tells a story about being the son a single mom who is struggling from severe PTSD after the Vietnam war, his sexuality, and finding his voice. It's the perfect example of how to do a coming-of-age story right. 

Finally, I just finished Olive, Again by Elizabeth Strout and I loved very second of it, just like I did the first Olive book (which I might go back and reread). Strout crafts stories about the people in the small Maine town and weaves in Olive's life around them, so that it feels like a short story collection and novel at the same time. This book made me miss my grandparents so much and simultaneously look forward to aging and be terrified of it.