Please Celebrate Me Home

A roaring fire, twinkling lights, talking about holiday memories, a cold drink, frosted cut out cookies, holiday music in the background. This scene is so familiar for most of us. But this year, 2020, is different. For me, the fire is streaming on Netflix, the conversations are on text threads on my phone, and the cookies were left on my porch by my sweet sister, who knows I don’t have time to bake this time of year. And I am alone. So many people are #inexileforthegoodoftherealm (the hashtag my mom has been using for months on her social media, the most consistent contact she’s had with the outside world since March.) This is most definitely a holiday season like no other.

Last night was our Christmas Eve family Zoom call. My youngest sister posed a question of the group, “What was your most memorable Christmas gift?” And from the very youngest to the oldest, we gave our answer. My sister said one of hers was a box of Wheat Thins, and then we each shared what we received the year my parents wrapped up each of our favorite snacks as presents. Then my brother shared that his favorite was the galvanized steel garbage can he got when he was little, because he loved Oscar the Grouch and my mom told the story about how that Christmas he was in his garbage can with his flashlight and the rest of us were in an upstairs closet watching our Easy Show movie projector, and her parents came in and were stunned when they didn’t see any children (with 6 of us, we were hard to miss!) As the oldest sibling, I had some time to consider my answer and I changed it twice. When it was my turn I shared that when I was in my 20’s, my mom had made a cloth rabbit for Barbara, our Spanish exchange student. I told her I would really love one, so she made me one for Christmas, with an extra set of clothes so I could change it up. Everyone was really thoughtful with their answers and it was a wonderful way to share our holiday memories.

I have spent many Christmases alone, by choice. Despite their best intentions, I often felt left out and alone at family gatherings when my siblings all shared about the gifts they had received from in-laws and spouses, not realizing that I had not received any gifts that year from anyone. So at first, spending Christmas alone was a ‘head in the sand’ response for me, trying to will away the holiday. Then one year I went away for the weekend (well, 5 minutes away) in a hotel, ordering room service and sleeping in and reading books in bed. After that, every Christmas has been all me time and I love it!! Mimosas and lounging around in my Christmas pjs and watching holiday movies (or The Godfather) is now my usual routine. This year is no exception.

But for a lot of people, holidays depicted in Norman Rockwell paintings of yesteryear simply do not exist.  This spending time alone on Christmas is not a new concept for many people in our world. Blended families and fractured families needed to get creative to have time together and try and feel festive, and spent more time than they may like by themselves. So many people are alone because of geography or legal situations or family drama. Many people have careers or part time jobs that require them to work on a holiday. And for some, their mental or physical illnesses do not allow for gatherings, too exhausted or frayed to even think about spending time with people. And for others, financial difficulties preclude them from having a celebration that is usually taken for granted by so many.

So, 2020 has given us a unique holiday, with porch visits and zoom calls and family time and empty seats at a usually full table. Possibly some new traditions and family game night and jigsaw puzzles or reading books for hours on end. There are unexpected blessings that will come from this holiday season, with us finding new ways to connect and celebrate family and friends and community, and even ourselves. And one of the blessings this season, I think, is an inside look into what holidays are like for those who are usually alone, or live with chronic illness, or cannot afford basic necessities. And maybe it will give us the gift of patience and compassion for people who don’t live in a Christmas card tableau. Those who need our help or acceptance. Those who give of themselves selflessly. And maybe that will be the greatest gift of all. And if we can just stay the course and wear our masks and do our part by getting the vaccine so that everyone can be safe.  We can all imagine what Kenny Loggins feels when he is singing “Please Celebrate Me Home.”  Happy Christmas and God bless us, every one!

 

 

 

Could We Start Again, Please?

2020 has been a year like no other. No need to go into all the disturbing and disheartening details. There have been so many ups and downs in my life, bottoming out some of the time and starting to climb up other times. Everyone is currently living a version of this.

So here I am trying to climb up again. New month, new purpose. Full moon. Clear eyes, full hearts, can’t lose, as that cutie Kyle Chandler used to say in Friday Night Lights. I will look at each day in October with clear eyes and move through my day filling my heart. Then I feel like I would be ready to help others fill their hearts. That is one of the real challenges that I think so many of us are facing, how to help those around us with the anxiety and fear and loneliness and isolation that we are all dealing with. Thousands of dollars spent going to counseling school hasn’t helped me out with my own depression, and I haven’t felt able to help others with theirs.

So I am going to start small. I will spend time writing every day, for just 20 minutes a day. I will spend another 10 minutes every day being quiet, just sitting with myself with whatever emotions come bubbling to the surface. And I will commit to using my new and most favorite tool, my Everyday Joy journal.

I have been using this journal for a few weeks now, here and there. It was written to be used for 90 consecutive days and although it has brought me some joy and clarity, I have not been using every day. This will change during October. The Everyday Joy Journal was created by author Alexis Pierce to help navigate a tough time in her life, and it has in turned helped others. It has helped me to learn how to live each day, not just wait for the weekend or the next special occasion. It has given me the courage to get through countless days these last couple of months. We will have copies shortly at my Barnes & Noble, and I would encourage you to check it out at Amazon.com (this is how serious I am, mentioning the competitor!!)

I will post things in my life that are bringing me joy. Today it was going out for burgers with my nephew and friend, Diego. He makes me smile and laugh and gives the greatest hugs (don’t worry, it was safe). I hope that you find things in your life that are bringing joy for you. I would encourage you to share those things with those in your life who you love. It is what will get us through.

Remembering Dan

Raking leaves under a fall of snowflakes is status quo for me at the Great Camp Sagamore volunteer work weekends, whether it be May or October. It may seem extreme, but it is the mountains, after all. What a curious place, Great Camp Sagamore, existing in another time. No riding mowers or leaf blowers for this clean up crew, just rakes and shovels and tarps that had been previously been used for raven mitigation. That was a whole separate job that I was not willing to volunteer for (although Dana did!) that involved raven shit being cleaned off roofs. I get enough shit at work. I am Queen Pee after all.  Leaves piled on tarps are transported to a secluded section of woods and unceremoniously dumped onto other huge piles of leaves. And so it goes, every other season, fall and then spring and then fall again. No matter what the season, and what the weather, you could always find Dan wearing his trademark shorts.

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The Most Wonderful Time of the Year

Piles of boxes stacked taller than me, slivers of space to squeeze through to get to the back door where the UPS truck is waiting to load in 200 more packages. Books as far as the eye can see on every counter and spilled over onto the boxes. Sound like an episode of “Hoarders?” It’s the stockroom at Barnes & Noble, where booksellers now have to try and get the product out on the floor and in the hands of customers in the less than 6 weeks until Christmas.

It’s the same scene every year. Our back room is really too small to handle all the boxes delivered on a daily basis during the season and we have gotten pretty creative about how to maneuver, but it’s a tight fit for a few weeks and it is really stressful to try and scrape enough personnel together to take care of it all. Always too much to do and not enough time to get it done. But then we do. We will get it all out and spend the next several weeks delighting customers with all the gift ideas we have, then clean up the glitter and snowflakes and start the ‘new year new you’ theme, and then comes Valentine’s Day, and the year will continue. The circle of retail life.

The next six weeks will be a blur. I will put my heart and soul and extra hours in to make sure the store is ready for all those people looking to create an amazing holiday. I’ll make my special meatballs and bring in treats and try to keep everyone in the holiday spirit, and when they are not I quote my dad to them, who is fond of saying, “Ho ho ho your ass!” By New Year’s Eve I’ll bone tired, but also happy we made it through another holiday.

Why take the time to share all of this? To ask that every time you are out shopping, trying to make the perfect holiday for your family and loved ones, remember to thank a retail worker who spent the previous evening stocking the shelves. When you stop to eat somewhere because you are exhausted from holiday planning and you can’t even, give an extra smile and maybe a larger tip to your waitress who works so hard so you don’t have to.  Instead of cursing DPW workers who plow snow into your driveway, say a thank you that the roads are clear and salted. So many people toil every day in service so others can go on doing for their family and friends. Make sure to let them know how grateful you are. I know I am. Happy Holidays!

Sock Monkeys For The Win!

“Pittsburgh has over 400 of these…” the moderator said and we all looked at each other with blank stares. “Hills?” someone across the table asked the group. “No, I think bridges” Chick said. We all discussed the possibilities between bites of dinner, and decided on hills. Once the answer was handed in and the guesses scrutinized, the questions in that round were recapped and the correct answers were revealed. “Question number 4, the answer is bridges.” “See, you should have listened to me! I lived in Pittsburgh for a few months years ago” Chick said.  “You should have said so.” someone retorted. The scores were updated, “…and the Sock Monkeys in the lead with 240 points!” Everyone at our table erupted in applause, along with others at surrounding tables who were competing in the trivia game. Our usual trivia place was full up, so we traveled across town to give somewhere else a try. And we were rockin’ it!

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IAWABAD, My Own Version of NANOWRIMO

On This Day is one of my most fun things about Facebook. For those who don’t know, it shows all the things posted in that newsfeed on that date in previous years. Included in today’s list on mine were entries from different years that all had one thing in common, an optimistic and enthusiastic post talking about NANOWRIMO (National Novel Writing Month) and how THAT year would be the year I would hit the coveted 50000 words. I started out strong, mathematically calculating how many words per day (1667) and then recalculating at the end of each week as I fell short of the intended goal. By mid-month, things would look bleak, and by the time Thanksgiving week arrived, my retail life had taken over and I would slink toward November 30, vowing to do better next year.

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There’s Always Room For One More

My mom excitedly introduced me to John, a guy that she and her grandtwins got to know this past summer at Great Camp Sagamore. “This is John! Ty really enjoyed him this summer”, she exclaimed with a huge grin. I smiled.”Nice to meet you. It sounds like you had a great time with my mom!” This happens all the time, whether it is church or the bookstore or at one of my band gigs. So many times someone has said to me, “Are you a Horan? Are you related to Carole?” And my answer is always yes. My mom collects people the way some people collect stamps or shells.

 

 

From a very young age, our family dinners always included others, whether it was one of our friends or someone living with us. An overfull table didn’t seem out of place. It wasn’t until years later that I found out that most people only ate with their nuclear families. And it wasn’t just food we shared, it was also our space. We moved to the Near West Side when I was 11, and the two family house provided all the space we needed for our family of 9, plus whoever. Here’s a pic of the seven of us with some guy named Tony we picked up along the way. My parents wanted to help out in the neighborhood and at St Lucy’s church, and that included giving shelter to those who needed it. The upstairs mirrored the downstairs, and it was really fun for the kids to have our bedrooms be in the kitchen or the living room. I paired with most of my siblings throughout my time there, and once Judy and I got the front room with the balcony! There were a lot of us but there was always room for one more at Our Father’s House.

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My 12 Favorite Key West Party Places

Last February I was watching the world stroll by the porch where we were hanging out and sipping beer in the sunshine. I have been thinking about how I wanted to write about the places that the Band Wives (and husbands) visited in Key West last winter, then I crunched the numbers and realized we frequented 22 different restaurants and bars! How to get this down to a manageable number…to make it an even dozen, I’ve decided to leave the Hemingway bars Sloppy Joe’s and Capt Tony’s for a separate read. So here are 12 of the most fun places, all located in sunny Key West!

 

We started at the Grand Vin Wine Bar, the wives lured in by the chalkboard sign out front that said, “Free Wine Tasting!” The guys and I scrounged a couple of beers from a cooler in the back while the wives lined the bar. We got our drinks and headed out to the porch and the sunshine. A photo op led us to meet Liz and Dave (on the left), there on Key West for a long weekend from Indiana. She heard someone yell, “Troublemaker!” (it could have been meant for any one of us} and then offered to take a pic. They joined us for a drink and we became fast friends, joining in when the partiers on a balcony across the street started a yelling war, in which of course we participated. When it was time to get some dinner, Liz and Dave recommended The Salty Angler. We were charmed by the fish tacos and live music. It didn’t take long for the dancing to start when we heard Warren Zevon’s Lawyers, Guns, and Money, one of Bridgette’s faves.

https://www.facebook.com/Grand-Vin-Wine-Bar-98202908427/

https://www.facebook.com/Thesaltyangler/

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Clowns To The Left Of Me, Jokers To The Right

We all have those friends…ones that thrive on jokes and pranks and can at times be pretty clever.  My life is filled with people like that which makes for some pretty funny stories. How did Winnie The Pooh end up drunk on my bed? Once upon a time, a  few of the band guys and wives gathered at my house for dinner. It was going to be an outdoor work party, but with the rainy weather it turned into dinner. I had plans to see a play later in the evening, so when it was time for me to go, I told the gang I would clean up later, and that they could stay as long as they wanted and lock up when they were done. I should’ve paid more attention when I heard the first few notes of Old Time Rock and Roll being played on the guitar. As I drove away I hoped there would be no hookers and booze like when Tom Cruise was left alone.

On my way home after the play I texted Tonia and asked her how long they had stayed. She said they had left about a half hour before. As we approached, the curtains were wide open and every light was on. I said to Linda, “Who do they think is playing the light bill, Vanderbilt?” We had a good laugh and as I got out of the car to go in, my housemate arrived home. I went into the house first and as she rushed upstairs to go to the bathroom as I yelled after her, “OMG, come back down! I have no idea what happened here!”

The hallway looked emptier than usual. And why was the coffee table so tiny? It was made out of solid wood, and I knew it didn’t fold, so how was it so low to the ground? There were  books and knickknack on the surface, and when I lifted up the tablecloth underneath them, I finally realized it was actually the bookshelf from the hallway, laying flat on its side. The couches had been switched and the pillows moved back, so they were on the opposite couches. On to the dining room where all chairs were mysteriously missing, and the pictures on the wall had been switched and in some cases turned around backwards.

 

Everything on a surface of the dining room had switched shelves or furniture, and all the napkins were hanging from the curtains.  As we moved into the kitchen, every cupboard door was open and things were clean, just very out of place. Upstairs in the bathroom, things had changed places and more pictures were askew and backwards. Michelle and I kept laughing and laughing as we moved from space to space noticing everything. We put a few things back into place, then I decided it was time for bed; I had to work very early the next morning.

 

They left me an empty wineglass and a half empty bottle of wine, next to my Winnie The Pooh. I posed him for a drunken teddy bear picture to text out. I saw that the duvet had been moved and thus found their last trick, short sheeting my bed. It took me a while to get to sleep that night. I would like to say it was because I was busy plotting revenge, but my mind just doesn’t work that way. It’s just not in the cards for me. I still keep one picture in my bedroom purposely turned around just to make me laugh about the people in my life who keep me smiling every single day! And last weekend when I had some friends over working at the house, you can bet it wasn’t one of those hooligans I left in charge!

Just Another Day In Paradise

January 20, 2017. The day that so many of my friends and family have been dreading. It is another grayish day in Syracuse. Mornings like this are nothing new to us here in the Salt City and we still rise every day and go try to find some joy. I have been feeling unsettled all week and everything I have been paying attention to in the media has not been helping. So this morning I sat in my warm house and had a hot breakfast, took a hot shower and got ready for a job that provides me with a living wage and health care and vacation time. I thought about how I am living the American Dream. But really, what is the American Dream? I am fairly sure that just about every writer around will be posting about this today. This is a day that will go down in history, no matter what comes tomorrow and the next day and the next…everyone I know has strong thoughts and opinions about what will happen during the next four years.

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