## Random equations in the mathematics of life

### Around and Around

A few years ago, I planned a trip for the family.

It was a crappy time in our lives. The Scientist and I had just barely come off of a 6 month legal separation. My father died after 4 months of being in and out of the hospital. The Ambassador was dealing with the disintegration of his relationship with a cousin whom he used to worship, who had now turned into a bully. His physical bruises were numerous, but the emotional ones took a lot longer to heal. The Professor and the Artist were navigating the treacherous waters of teenagers. All in all, it was a mess.

So I planned a trip.

I told the kids I’d chosen a spot with “something for all of us”. We were going to Idaho. At first, they were shocked, incredulous, and even protesting. Then they figured out I was outright lying, but couldn’t figure out the real destination. I explained that they’d need passports in case we crossed over into the Canadian Rockies. Those beautiful dress clothes? Well, they’re for the formal barbecue and hayride, of course. All throughout the spring, I would expound on the beauty of Idaho, and all the cool stuff we would see there. The kids would roll their eyes, and wonder out loud where we were really going.

The week before we left, I gave the kids a puzzle with about two dozen questions on it. The answers fit into numbered spaces, and all were about, you guessed it, Idaho. They hunted down the answers, and kept the papers until the day we left, salivating over the final clue they’d unscramble.

We packed the car, got in, started driving, and stopped for breakfast. I handed them the last piece of paper – the holy grail containing our true destination, simply by placing numbered letters into the spaces.

Almost.

Remember Ralphie, from A Christmas Story, and his secret decoder ring? Yeeeah. Theirs said, “Be sure to drink your Ovaltine” too!  I found this hilarious. The kids? Not so much. The Ambassador didn’t speak to me for half an hour!

We got back in the car, and I handed over my laptop. On it was a Power Point, set to music (Two Tickets to Paradise and Guitars and Tiki Bars), detailing our cruise ship, along with each port and what we’d be doing there. The kids freaked out. They forgave me incredibly fast, amazingly enough, and the fun began.

That trip was really good for us. We spent time together, away from the outside world, reassuring each other that no matter what else, we would always be a family. But there were tensions. The Scientist and I were in a really bad place, and though we covered pretty well, we both felt it just the same. I was fine being on the trip with him, but would’ve preferred not to share a cabin with him. We do pretty well when we travel together, but even the Caribbean couldn’t erase the problems in our relationship. Our friendship was crumbling around us, and that had always been the foundation for the rest of the family. We were in danger of losing everything.

2 months after that trip, I asked for a divorce. We separated once again, starting the one year clock required by our state before a divorce would be granted. A month after that, we started therapy, not to rebuild a lost marriage, but to at least attempt to sew back together the shredded fabric of a long standing friendship. Quite honestly, I thought it was a lost cause. While I would never speak against their father, I was done, and simply wanted to move on to parent the kids and try to pick up the pieces of my life.

Now, 4 ½ years later, we are headed back to Idaho. We’re going to a different area, but Idaho just the same. This time, our friendship is in a really good place. Our relationship has changed in so, so many ways, but we are still best friends, and now we’re both much better parents to our kids.

This year, like 2009, has also been tough. The Scientist lost his father after almost the same amount of time as my own father. We’ve lost some friends in sudden, tragic ways. The stresses have slowly eroded us, but we know the island sunshine, and the bond we have as a family will help us put each other back together.

We’ll miss our friends while we’re off the grid for a few days, but it’s a much needed break. There are times in which social media is great, and times when it gets in the way. This week, it would get in the way of the rest and reconnection we so desperately need.

Hopefully, everyone will find the peace they seek this holiday season. There is no perfect world, but maybe, just for a little slice of time, we can find our own version.

### Divisions

The holiday season is one of my favorites.  Despite not being religious, I still sing the traditional “Christmas” songs of my childhood at St. Madeleine Sophie church/school.  I’m the person who has lights wrapped around the ski rack on top of my car (yes, they work and yes I get complimented on them!).  I actually love finding cool gifts for the people I love, and even wrapping them.  I have fun finding goofy, hilarious cards, and even writing the letter and taking the photo to slip inside.  Decking the halls is fun, spending the day going to the mountains with my family to choose and cut a tree is one of my favorites.

But I have to say that there is one thing that brings out the Grinchy McScroogerson inside me.

I cannot stand people who whine and complain about the phrase, “Happy Holidays.”  There is no “war on Christmas.”  No one is cursing Christianity by using the phrase, “Happy Holidays.”  What they’re doing is recognizing the fact that there are a bunch of holidays that occur this time, and making a genuine attempt to show respect to ALL of them.  People who crow about “Jesus is the reason for the season” need to check their history books.  The birth of Christ has been definitively shown to have occurred some time in August.  The celebration was moved to December in a vain attempt to overshadow Saturnalia and Solstice.  Yet, in as much as the Christian faith wanted to abolish the Pagan holidays, it has no issue with bogarting several Pagan traditions such as mistletoe, decorated trees, and wreaths.  In fact, I would absolutely love to have a Christian reader explain to me why, since Pagan religions are so evil, they fly in the face of their own bible to have Christmas trees in their house?  Jeremiah 10: 1-5 certainly seems clear to me.  Hmm.

So instead of whining and complaining when someone doesn’t look at you and inherently know what faith you practice, and which holidays you celebrate, maybe you could step back, remove your head from your colon, and just accept the fact that someone is being nice to you.  Smile.  Say something back.  If you prefer to use “Merry Christmas” simply because it’s what you celebrate, and you don’t care what those other heathens say, Jesus would never want you to acknowledge or respect other traditions, fine.  Rock on.  But stop acting like a self-righteous douchecanoe when someone wishes you peace, love, and joy in a greeting.

*****

The holiday season also brings out family issues for me, and I realize that I am not the least bit unique in this.  Guilt is slathered on thickly in my family, wielded by an expert in the application.  My mother has always sought to have things exactly as she wants them, no matter what the cost to anyone else.  She decides how the scene will unfold, and Dog help anyone who dares deviate from her wishes.  When we were kids, she refused to tolerate even the hint of a lie.  Yet in her own world, she will say whatever she feels needs to be said to maintain the level of control she seeks over her children, her friends, her whole existence.  She would, at the same time, insist that she doesn’t lie.  She “forgets” or “misunderstood” but how dare you suggest that she lied?  What she actually does is interpret things differently, and then conveys those interpretations in the most convenient translations.  But lie? Noooooo.

I have crumbled in the face of “family first” so many times I can’t even count.  I have betrayed my own heart and soul to accommodate the whims and wishes of my mother, to bend over backwards to keep peace, holding silent on episode after episode of bullshit.  So this year, I’ve decided to listen to my therapist and try to stay true to me.  I have no desire to pretend to be happy to hang out with Golden Boy and his new girlfriend, or my aunt who is so utterly clueless that she hasn’t figured out that her wardrobe needs to evolve beyond that of a 25 year old (she’s nearly 60).  My sister approached me last year with the decision that our families should not get together anymore.  I was more than a little surprised, as my family, while not enthused at attending these holiday farces, were at least willing to do so with a shrug.  That her family was “absolutely on board” as she put it, hurt my kids a lot.  They had issues with one of their cousins but not so much with the other.  So when the one cousin made an attempt with an olive branch this year, it truly was too little too late, I guess.  I don’t get in the middle of it anymore; they’re nearly adults and need to figure out their own way.  But they’ve seen quite clearly from my own life that genetics do not make “family”.  Love, trust, and loyalty do.

My holiday season will have its share of stresses, as my in-laws will be with us for my entire break.  They’re good people, but have no hobbies or interest beyond sitting around the house.  It doesn’t mesh well with our family, but we’re going to hopefully make it work for everyone.  That being said, I am determined to have my own peaceful few weeks.  My Zen Holiday.  I’ve got presents wrapped as they come in the house, cards ready to be sent tomorrow, shopping done, menus planned.  I have definitely decided not to work over the break, unlike the chaotic deadlines of last year.  But most of all, I am not attending my “family gathering”.  My mother flew at me when I mentioned possibly being away for the weekend on which it’s planned.  She swore that my sister said she told me the date and everyone said it was fine.  Not true.  I know to double check with my sister on anything my mother says, and she confirmed that my mother hadn’t even mentioned the date to her.  Then last night, when my mother was out to dinner with my sister’s family, my sister mentioned my being absent that weekend.  My mother furiously denied this, swearing up and down that she checked the date with me and that I’d said it was great.  See what I mean?

This season is going to be about my family – the Scientist, the Professor, the Artist, and the Ambassador.  It’ll be about the people who mean the most to me, my chosen family, outside of those four, and it’ll be about that elusive Zen.

Wishing you and your family love, joy, Zen, and  “Happy Holidays”, no matter which ones you celebrate!

### Balanced Equations

I was a little surprised that the kids wanted to spend Christmas at the beach again this year.  Last year, we made the decision based on a lot of things hitting several fans, and the fact that we wanted to get the kids away from all of them.  V was absolutely supportive of this; she encouraged us to do it and to just sequester ourselves as a family for the weekend.  It was absolutely the right decision, but it does alter the norm of Christmas morning at home, opening gifts while having our traditional breakfast, and such.

But we do all agree that “Christmas” isn’t a single day for us.  It’s always a time period of about two weeks or so, so really, the day we open Santa’s gifts doesn’t have to match the calendar designation of  “Christmas.”

I’d gotten the family a “message center” that has a white board, Post-It notes, and a little video message recorder.  It was definitely useful for us, but also a lot of fun for the kids, who love to leave goofy videos for each other.  That arrived on the 16th, and I allowed them to open it and set it up.  We celebrate Solstice, so on the 21st, everyone got their “cool, surprise” gift.  I try to get one “big” gift for each person, that’s not on their wish list, that they don’t expect.  Yule is an important day in our family, so that gift was opened then and a little celebration was had.  On the 22nd, we did Santa.  My living room looked like a cyclone of wrapping paper and boxes had hit it, but it was a blast.  The kids and the Scientist loved their gifts, and I did too.  I love having them open the things I chose for them and get excited.  It’s such a rush for me.  Stockings, however, weren’t touched; those came to the beach with us.

Christmas Eve was spent together watching movies, especially A Christmas Story, just hanging out in the living room enjoying each others’ company.  We woke up on Dec 25th to crashing waves and a gorgeous sunrise.  The Artist and the Scientist came down to the beach with me to photograph it – the Scientist then went out geocaching while the Artist and I went upstairs and back to our cozy warm beds!  The place where we’re staying has a full kitchen (as well as a LOT more space than last year’s place!), so our traditional Christmas breakfast of bacon, hot cocoa, and cinnamon rolls/orange rolls (yes, from a can!) was easily made.  We opened our stockings and reveled in more fun gifties and then spent the day relaxing.  The Scientist went back out geocaching, and I’m glad he did.  Shortly after he left, the Artist mentioned that she might be brewing a UTI – crud!!  I texted him and he found an open Rite-Aid and got her unsweetened cranberry-pomegranate juice and Azo.  It seems to be working, thankfully.  We hit the pool, lazy river, and hot tub later that afternoon, and then I worked on my project and we watched more movies.  Dinner was a fantastic lasagna that I’d made and brought, along with salad and garlic bread.  Yum!  The Ambassador and I weren’t feeling great, so we went to bed around 10ish.  We all crashed and slept in a bit, which helped us all, I think.

At home, there’s about 6-7″ of snow on the ground from the storm, but it’s just swirling around here.  I was pretty stunned, though, to look out the balcony door to watch the waves for a bit and see surfers in the water!  Alejandro and I bundled up and went down; that was too good to miss.  Yeesh.  It was really cold!  I got some good pics, though, so it was worth it.  We’re going to play cards and watch football for the rest of today; we thought about going out originally, but it’s cold enough that we’d all rather just stay cozy and warm instead!

Maybe this is the last year the kids will want to do this, maybe it’s the start of a new tradition…either way, it’s been a blissful, nearly-no-stress holiday season.  Success!

### Off on a tangent

Every year, the “holiday” stuff seems to come out earlier and earlier.  Now, don’t get me wrong; I love the holiday season.  All of it.  The music, the lights, the decorations, the food…but the one little irritant for me is the timing.  I like to revel in each one of them, to immerse myself in the fun and the spirit of them, but I like to do so one. at. a. time.  Halloween is a favorite holiday of mine.  I don’t want to hear Rudolph and his one horse, open sleigh while I’m carving pumpkins.  No, no, and no.

Thanksgiving was just perfect this year.  I worked at home on Wednesday such that I could supervise my amazing sous chefs.  They helped me get the stuff that needed to be cooked in the oven done, along with a few other things.   That way on Thursday, all I had to do was do the turkey and a few other last minute things.  My family had gone to Golden Boy’s house, so it was just us and the Teacher.  She has been with me every Thanksgiving for several years now, since her family is on the west coast.  I love having her; she is part of my family.  The Artist’s ex-boyfriend came too, because his fucktarded parents went to spend the weekend with family in NY and left him home, despite the fact that he loves going up there.  Why, you ask, would they do such a stupid, mean thing?  Because someone had to watch the dogs.  It’s too expensive to kennel them.  *blink*  Yeah.  That’s what I said, too.  So anyhow, it was the 7 of us, and it was blissful.  No stress, no drama, just relaxation and great food.  The Teacher and I hung out on the couch and chatted, I did some online xmas shopping, scoring Black Friday deals without setting foot outside my door.  (More on this later.)  The Professor worked on calculus and a paper, The Ambassador watched football with the Scientist and trash talked his friend.  The Artist chilled with The Ex and all was mellow.

I have been absolutely bound and determined that I would have a low-stress holiday season.  People bitch and whine every year about “hating the holidays” and whatever; I don’t really listen because I don’t really care.  I have three coworkers who are notorious for this; it’s almost become comical now, because we make fun of them quite a bit over it amongst ourselves.  The holidays, like any other day, are what you make it. If you allow it to be an overwhelming thing, that’s your own fault.  No one forces you at gunpoint to do anything.  One of the coworkers is particularly fond of regaling us with stories of how stressed she is because she has to host a craft party for her neighborhood, and she has to have an open house for her entire family the weekend after Christmas, and it goes on and on.  Stop acting like a damn victim and take some responsibility in your life.  If you’re overscheduled, learn to say “No.”  There is no excuse for getting in a snit over a season of friends and family and joy unless you personally get caught up in the bullshit that’s out there.

I know that my schedule is generally chaotic; I have an hour commute each way every day.  Physically, my legs do not tolerate jostling crowds and long lines well.  And really, my budget cannot handle doing all of the shopping that I choose to do for people in one month.  So I get stuff ahead of time, I scour online sales, and I have nearly all of my shopping done.  I  scaled down my card list — if I don’t get a card back after two consecutive years, I drop your name.  I’m not doing it to be snarky, but I truly want to exchange cards and photos and letters with people who actually want to hear from me and want me to hear about them.  Like most people, I can be slack at letter writing and such, so the Christmas card can be used as a “catch up” kind of thing.  Facebook has been a great toy that’s allowed me to reconnect with old friends from HS and college.  I love hearing from them!  So even if I don’t necessarily exchange cards, we can keep in touch there.  I decorate in small doses, wrap in small doses, and refuse to succumb to the crap.