My Not-So-Typical Christmas Tradition

Christmas.  It truly is the most wonderful time of the year.  I love the beautiful decorations, the food, the parties, the food, the excitement of opening presents, and of course, more food.

Growing up, December was always a special time for me.  We would decorate our tree on my father’s birthday, December 9, (and many years later would celebrate my son’s birth on that same day!), and then we would celebrate my mother’s Christmas Day birthday.  My grandfather used to tell us the story of how Santa Claus brought my mother down the chimney to him, which, as a child, made me extremely jealous.

Christmas was full of love and happiness.  I was blessed!

Then, the unthinkable happened to my fantasy Christmas:  I got divorced.  Not just some easy-peasy, that-was-mine-this-is-yours divorce, but the “I kind of wish he’d get hit by a bus” divorce.

In an instant, my holidays were totally disrupted.  Suddenly, I only had my son with me for the first half of Christmas vacation, after which he would go to his father’s house at noon on Christmas Day.  Then he would return home after New Year’s Day.  It was agonizing.

One day, while visiting my eighty-something-year-old grandmother, she asked why I hated my ex so much.  I explained all of the reasons, and she listened quietly before saying, “What does it matter?  You’re divorced, but you have a child that loves you both and needs you to get along, especially now that the holidays are close.”

So, I went back home feeling like a first grader who just got scolded, and spoke with my ex.  After deciding to meet at the library (so we couldn’t yell at each other), we had a much-needed, long discussion.  For the first time since our divorce, we both agreed that we needed to put aside our differences and be parents to our son.  Civility wasn’t always easy, but we did it.

By then, he had married a very sweet lady and had a precious daughter, and one day, my son made a comment of how hard it was having to split his time between his parents on Christmas.  He wanted to spend time with us all, but having a big Christmas lunch at my house, followed by a big Christmas dinner at his dad’s house was just too much for him.

So, after great thought, and a few glasses of chardonnay, I reluctantly invited them over for Christmas lunch one year.

I know, I know….I can just hear many of you now saying, “I could never do that!”  But, let me tell you, when you know you’re doing something for your child, you can literally do ANYTHING.  It wasn’t easy, and there were times during dinner that I was tempted to stab my ex with a fork…but I digress.

It worked.

And just like that, we began a new Christmas tradition.  Each year, we would all have Christmas lunch together:  my son and his sister, my ex and his wife, my parents and grandmother.  When I remarried many years later, my sweet and understanding husband accepted our arrangement like it was no big deal. He saw that it was a good thing and welcomed my ex and his family into our house like they were old friends.

A few years have passed since we shared our last Christmas together.  Our son is nearly 23-years-old, and is venturing out as a young man, with a wonderful girlfriend who I hope will become part of our family one day.  My father passed away last year, and my mother moved to live with my 97-year-old grandmother.

Christmases are different, but I will be forever grateful for those wise words encouraging us to set aside our anger, forgive past mistakes, and put our child first.

After all, isn’t that what the holidays are really about?

 

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Along Came A Spider

I’m a girl. I have a God-given right to be afraid of a lot of things. Mice, snakes, bugs, etc.

Those things, however, do not scare me at all. I mean, I’m not crazy about them and I certainly don’t want them on me, but I’m not really all that scared of them.

I am, however, terrified beyond belief, of spiders.

I don’t care if they are big or small. As a matter of fact, there is no such thing as a spider that is “small”. They are ALL enormous.

Every hair on my body will stand on end when I see one.

I think it all started when we would spend summers at my grandmother’s house. My cousin, Brian, who is four years younger than me, would throw granddaddy long-legs at me. My hair was really long at the time, so they would get stuck in my hair. Sometimes I didn’t realize he had thrown them in my hair until hours later, when they would get untangled and would scoot across my face, causing me to scream in terror until the culprit was found and destroyed. Although I love him now, I was not Brian’s biggest fan back then.

As an adult my fear of spiders has not faded. If anything, it’s gotten worse.

My ex-husband and I were visiting my great-uncle in Alabama on his farm. We had to drive through a wooded road to get to the farm and I saw him out in the field on his tractor. I rolled down the window to wave at him, when suddenly a huge gray and black spider with equally huge hairy legs appeared out of nowhere and began crawling through the open window into the car.

And disappeared inside.

Did I mention I was in the driver’s seat?

And the car was still moving?

And I jumped out of the moving car on the passenger side?

While somehow my seat belt remained buckled?

My ex-husband and my uncle searched the car high and low until they found it. Which was very smart of them because otherwise I would have just sold the car as is to the highest bidder.

After my divorce, and until my son got older, it was my job to be the spider killer in the house. I was prepared. I kept cans of raid within an arms reach.

Spiders in my house should know upon arrival that they are in serious danger if I see them. You know that old saying “They’re probably just as scared of you as you are of them?” Well that’s just a bunch of malarkey. Even armed with a can of Raid, old shoes and a vacuum cleaner to suck up the bodies, I still break out into a cold sweat at just the sight of them.

One morning I woke up all sleepy and snuggly in my bed. I laid there listening to the bird chirp outside my window and allowed my eyes to adjust to the light.

What a wonderful morning.

That’s when I saw it.

Dead center above my head, on the ceiling, was the enemy.

And he was big. Actually he wasn’t big-big, but as I said earlier, there is no such thing as a small spider.

And he was looking down at me.

I stealth-rolled out of bed, smooth like a Navy Seal. I slowly pulled the pillows off the bed and then the sheets. (After I counter-attacked, I didn’t want spider guts or the occasional severed leg to end up on sheets! Or even worse, God forbid that it should get LOST in my sheets, so I put them in the bathroom. Just in case.)

My son, Matthew walked in the room as I was standing on top of the mattress, shoe in hand, armed and ready to kill. However, I was startled and started to lose my balance when I heard his voice saying “WHAT. ARE. YOU. DOING. MOM?”

At that moment, the spider jumped like he was kung-fu fighting.

At me.

Or so I thought.

I threw the shoe at the ceiling and somehow hit my target. I fell on the bed and bounced onto the floor
as if I had hit the trampoline safety netting of a trapeze artist.

I looked around.

Where the heck was it?

Matthew was laughing hysterically.

I tried to calm myself. I mean, good grief – I was almost ambushed by my nemesis WHILE I WAS SLEEPING. He was going to get me while all of my defenses were down. What kind of fair fight is that?

I looked around and found it’s crumpled dead body right where my pillow would have been. And his leg was still hanging from my ceiling.

Gag.

Thankfully his family never came after me for revenge.

Because otherwise I would have just sold the house.

Do You Suffer From Mom Brain?


I’ve always said that our intelligence is highest when we are babies. We probably know all of the answers to the universe but we just can’t say anything or let anyone know what we are thinking.

As we get older, we start losing some of our brain power. It comes to a head with what I call “Mom Brain.” It’s very similar to what my cancer-survivor father calls “Chemo-brain”, but “Mom Brain” isn’t caused by cancer. It’s caused by children.

Mom Brain Sufferer

Mom Brain was diagnosed for me when my son was young, but really went active when he was about ten years old. I was divorced, working crazy hours to make ends meet, taking my son to his hockey practices and weekly games, and trying to have enough energy to cook dinner, (which was apparently very rare since the Domino’s delivery guy knew me by name.)

In other words, I was exhausted. ALL THE TIME.

“Hey Mom, Is this milk still good?”
“It should be. Smell it.”
“It smells like… milk. Should I drink it?”
“It’ll be fine.”
“Is it supposed to be thick?”

In a nutshell, Mom Brain means that you when have a baby, you lose a ton of brain cells along with the afterbirth. Unfortunately more kids could mean a more severe case of Mom Brain. I’m not a doctor so this isn’t medically proven. it’s just my excuse for why I am forgetful and frazzled for 99% of my day.

I’m naturally blonde, which is a strike against me in the first place, so I’m lucky I only gave birth to one child. Any more than that and I’d need to be institutionalized or at least heavily medicated.

The best (or should I say funniest?) case of Mom Brain comes from my dearest friend, who I will not name or else she will probably end our friendship. She is the mother of two beautiful young daughters, both under the age of two. To her horror, her oldest has finally started the terrible two phase, and it seems that she wants to stay there until she’s 10. Her youngest has been screaming with colic since coming out of the birth canal. This has now caused my friend to lose endless hours of sleep and put 147 extra miles each week on her car due to driving around the neighborhood at 3am to help put the baby to sleep.

We were discussing the effects of Mom Brain and she said she was certain she had it. She was telling me about a conversation she had with a girl she ran into at the gym a few months after her daughter was born.

“Hey! You had the baby! Was it a girl or a boy?”
My friend replied, “I had a little girl!”
“Oh that’s wonderful! What did you name her?”
“I named her Anna!” she said. (Long pause here as she thought to herself). “No, actually I didn’t name her Anna. I named her Abby.”

This conversation is absolute proof that Mom Brain exists. I think that maybe webMD should add Mom Brain to their list of diseases so we can self-diagnose ourselves. It kind of makes it a little better to deal with when you know what you have.

I can see it now. The list of symptoms is as follows:
Short term memory loss?
Difficulty performing familiar tasks?
Disorientation?
Increasing problems with planning and managing?
Trouble with language?
Rapid, unpredictable mood swings?
Lack of motivation?
Changes in sleep?

If you answered yes to any of these, then you either have Mom Brain, Dissociative Identity Disorder, Dementia or Alzheimer’s disease. Because the symptoms are EXACTLY THE SAME.

And like me, if you too suffer from Mom Brain then I’m not even sure why I wrote this blog entry, because by tomorrow you will probably have forgotten you even read this post.

An Unconventional Friendship

Two young girls are playing together upstairs at my house. Even from downstairs, I can hear them giggling and dancing around the bedroom. One is trying to teach the other how to dance “Gangnam Style”. The song plays over and over and over. I shake my head. I have no idea what that song means, but it really doesn’t matter.

They are best friends, but these two girls do not have what many would call a “typical” friendship.

One is my step-daughter.

The other is the daughter of my ex-husband.

Yes, you read that right.

How did this unusual friendship happen? Well, let me explain.

Being silly

My ex-husband and I divorced 12 years ago and believe me, it wasn’t cordial. Our divorce was finalized after two years of name calling of words that hadn’t even been invented yet, playing “This is Mine, You Can Keep That”, and paying barrels of money to our lawyers who loved us for basically covering their mortgages each month.

Fast forward another year when I was out visiting my then 85-year old grandmother in rural Mississippi. I had been griping about something my ex had done, when she looked at me and said “Why do you hate him so much? You were best friends until you divorced.”

“Well”, I began, “He did this, and this and this…” (of course, not taking any of the blame for myself!)

Pitifully, she just shook her head and said “You’re divorced. You don’t love him. He doesn’t love you. But you have a small child together and you both need to stop acting so selfish and start acting like parents. Forgive each other and move on.”

Ok. Let me tell you that when your grandmother (who normally has you on a pedestal and thinks you can do absolutely nothing wrong) begins to notice that you’ve become nothing more than a griping whiner, you have to really look at yourself. What I saw wasn’t pretty. I had always been a cheery, happy, funny Mommy but somewhere I had turned into an extremely bitter person, and I didn’t like myself like that.

Upon returning home, I called my ex and told him what my grandmother said. We decided we needed to try to work out his – I mean our “communication” issues. Although we had never argued in front of our son, we realized that if we wanted to bring up a good, well rounded child, we would need to stop the constant complaining and arguing. The plan worked. Over time we actually were able to become friends again.

We realized the important thing was for our son to be able to see his parents as respectable friends who just couldn’t stay married. He didn’t have to choose sides: he could spend weekends or holidays with either one of us and it was okay.

My ex married a wonderful lady who has become a very good friend to me. I have said before that I would have been drawn to her as a friend if we had just met at an office or school. We really get along and I especially appreciate how much she loves my son.

My ex and his wife now have a ten year old daughter. I would babysit her when she was a baby and I’ve watched her grow over the years into an amazing young girl. I have been to her birthday parties and I have cheered her on at her soccer games. I adore her.

I remarried three years ago, and as unconventional as it sounds, I invited them to my wedding. We introduced their little girl to my new little step-daughter. At first they were shy around each other, but soon they began running around the reception like old friends. They danced out on the dance floor and giggled over slices of wedding cake.

Making Monster Wreaths (idea by @babyrabies)

They truly hit it off. They now spend the night at each others houses as many times as possible. They do arts and crafts together. They build tents on the catwalk overlooking our living room.

Although they have both voiced that they would love to have more siblings, (sorry, but this baby factory is CLOSED) neither of the girls has a sister. One afternoon when I was putting away freshly laundered clothes, I overheard them trying to figure out how they could possibly be sisters because they sort of share the same brother….my son.

And now as I sit at my desk writing this post, I hear them upstairs laughing and playing, and my heart giggles along with them. It is so amazing to me that out of a sad and hurtful past, a beautiful new friendship was born. And what could be sweeter than that?

But I still don’t get what “Gangnam Style” means.

Confessions of a Former Dating Loser

I met my husband three years ago on Match.com.  Many times when I tell people that they get this shocked look on their face as if to say “What were you thinking by dating on-line????”   Well to be honest, it wasn’t my idea.

I was a 10+ year Realtor who was suddenly faced with limited commissions when the housing bubble burst. I had a client who wanted me to list the house I had helped her purchase five years earlier because she had gotten engaged.  I met with  her and we talked about the house and our lives.  She said she had gotten tired of the single life and her teenage daughter talked her into going on Match.com.  I just giggled and thought to myself  “I may be a total dating loser, but I could never do that.”

I’m serious, I was a LOSER.  If there was another loser within a five mile vicinity, I was completely enamoured with him.

After she realized I was still painfully single since the last time we had talked (FIVE YEARS EARLIER) she said “I won’t give you my house listing unless you promise to go on Match.”  I got nervous.  What if someone I knew were to see me on a dating site?  Would my loser dating status just be confirmed?  Would it be embarrassing?  What kind of guy would sign up for online dating?  A serial killer?  Someone already married?

Then reality kicked in.   I started thinking of the fact that my mortgage and car payments were coming up and how desperately I needed the commission.  I reluctantly agreed.

I put my profile together and realized that it was sort of like writing about myself as if I were going into a catalog.  Interests?  I like camping, triathlons, anything outdoorsy but I’m still girly-girl enough to enjoy getting a mani/pedi on occasion.  Smokers?   Nope – not interested.   I did want someone who went to church but not someone who was going to make me feel horrible about a cuss-word slip up or a glass of wine.  I was also very serious about my political views (but won’t post them here!)  but I knew we definitely needed to agree on politics.

For about three weeks I received messages from some of the most interesting people I’ve ever come across.  (One guy actually sent me a picture of himself dressed as Abe Lincoln ….and another wearing a Superhero helmet.  One guy sent me pictures of his house.  One sent pictures of his pit-bulls.  One sent a picture of himself from what appeared to be 1985 leaning against a Trans Am, looking like Tom Selleck with the thick mustache.  But at least I didn’t receive a message like another friend of mine who I later found out was also on Match – her potential suitor immediately wanted to know her weight because he needed to ensure that she wouldn’t put them over the weight limit on his motorcycle if they were to get together.  Nice.  That one was definitely a keeper…said no one.)

Just when I thought I was destined to be forever single, the picture of the one that would steal my heart popped onto my computer screen…and the rest is history.  I sent him a “wink” which is sort of a computer cat-call.  He responded within a few hours with a long e-mail, to which I promptly replied.  We began e-mailing each other several times a day and then within a week moved up to phone calls before deciding to meet in person.

We decided  to meet up at a park where we could be out in public but we could talk and see if there was any chemistry.  If we didn’t like each other we wouldn’t be stuck sitting through a very uncomfortable dinner.  Meeting at the park was perfect because I had just gotten out of a cast after breaking my foot but was still scheduled to participate in a triathlon three weeks later. We could talk and exercise at the same time.  If there wasn’t any chemistry, one of us could just leave.

When I pulled into the park, I saw that there were two vehicles matching what he said he drove.  Both drivers got out at the same time:  one was in good shape, had a great smile and was dressed in black, and the other guy was wearing a dirty t-shirt and cutoff blue jeans, and looked like the only exercise he got was lifting twelve Budweisers a day.   I remember saying a little prayer that the fit one was my guy…and thankfully he was.

We thought we were going to only walk about 2 miles that afternoon since my foot was still healing but when I turned on my iPhone and checked out my pedometer, I realized we had walked 7 miles.  As I got in my car to go home I called my mom.  I told her I knew this one was “the one” and we would be married within six months.  Little did I know…

A mere four weeks later we were engaged, and eight more weeks later we were married.  We will celebrate our third anniversary this week.

Wedding day

Some people might think it was crazy of us to get married after knowing each other for only 12 weeks, but somehow we both knew we were a match made in heaven.

Finding the love of my life at an online dating website is something that I never could have imagined.  I used to think online dating was for the most desperate daters and although I easily fell into that category, I was completely in denial.  Why do online dating sites have such a bad reputation?  It’s really isn’t much different than being set up on a blind date through friends.  People realize you have something in common and you meet.  Sometimes it works out – my parents met on a blind date and just celebrated their 52nd wedding anniversary.  Sometimes it doesn’t work out…but even then you at least  gave it a shot.

Who knows?   You may end up meeting your perfect match and living in your own love story.

And every love story is unique and amazing.  Ours is just my favorite.

Wedding day