the unorthodox christmas

Holidays are a funny thing.   Not so much in the ‘ha ha’ sort of way, of course, but more in the ‘hmm, thats bloody peculiar’ sort of way.   This thought has continued to return to me over the past seven years or so, only becoming more frequent as the years go by.  To be fairly honest with you, I have had the opportunity of experiencing Christmas in some, well,  rather unusual/unique ways, and thus have had the chance to observe it from a different point of view on number of levels.

For example, six out of the past seven Christmas Eve’s (and some Christmas days)  I have spent, for the most part, alone.  Before you begin shaking your head and feeling sorry and pitiful for me- DON’T.  For goodness sakes don’t.  I assure you, it has been time well spent and each has been my own choice.  I’ve considered it a sort of study on my part, a chance to observe what most are too busy to see during one of the most beautiful times we are given on this earth.

You see (and I’m going to get a bit more personal for a moment than I normally do here, so skip this paragraph if you’d rather not sit so close) I do not believe in pretending to live a life one does not have.  The truth is that, for the time being, my own family is yet to be had….perhaps never to be had. God has me on this journey quite alone, and I’m ok with that.  I’m ok to have the unorthodox Christmas, for I have what some may consider an unorthodox life.  No children, no spouse, can’t really cook, I like to shoot guns more than I like to try on shoes, and if given the choice between a nursery and a dog shelter….well, lets just say I’m not your typical wanna-be-mom.

Sigh

But this is not about me and my flawed self, fortunately.  At some point I began to wonder why during the holidays everyone sort of begins to feel that they must set their unfinished, unique messy selves aside and suddenly stuff themselves in a box, tie a purdy ribbon atop and, ta da!  Get in the picture, make the parties, do the gift thing, smile big, sing the songs, go to all the gatherings, and for goodness sake, it’s all about the closeness of family.

Even though inside they’re not there at all.  Really, they are alone.

That is why I have spent the recent years quietly, sometimes entirely solitarily during Christmas.  That is the truth of things in my life for the time being, and I’m not about to begin masquerading about like some ninny on holiday who is having the time of her life singing ‘I’ll be Home for Christmas’.   First of all, that would be a lie (and a sad one at that) and secondly, that is not what Christmas is about.  Christmas, to me, is about love in it’s rawest, most human form.  It is about humanity and grace and truth, hope unrealized, yet on its way. The first Christmas didn’t look as the world thought it should either, so I don’t see why I should start celebrating it that way now.

Lest I be misunderstood, I do not at all mean to say that we oughtn’t celebrate what we do have and be grateful for our blessings in this life, during this or any other time of the year.  Quite the contrary.  I’m simply pointing out that we can do that whilst being honest with ourselves, accepting what it does and does not bring to the forefront of our hearts.

As I write this, I am keenly aware of that thought that continues to mercilessly return to me; that the holidays are a strange thing.  I say the holidays, not Christmas, because it is what we have made of Christmas and not Christmas itself that I find so peculiar.  This time of year seems to so clearly highlight what we value and love and treasure most…….and spaces in which our treasure and love once was.  The joy becomes greater, as does the pain.  Everything becomes so much more vivid somehow.

I think thats ok. Awful, but ok.  As I’ve spent Christmasas alone in coffee shops, boat harbors, hospitals, watching waves crash onto empty shores, my heart has broken many times over. But somehow, there is something healing in turning to face it, something that makes you understand the world and God’s heart for it a little better.  You begin to recognize others around you who may not be so merry as they first appear.  Others who may be consumed by the death of someone they loved, but feel somehow they must now forget.  Because its Christmas.

I urge you, don’t forget.   Because it’s Christmas, remember.   Let your heart beat fully and live as it is.  Broken and all.  I think that is how he wants us to celebrate Him anyhow.

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A hodgepodge

Never seen a hodgepodge in person, you say? Well here it is, you’re about to meet one up close and personal.

I figure I should say something about my recent trader joe’s finds before the month of December is up.  Trouble is, my quota has been sadly dwindling in the Amazing Discoveries arena, so I don’t have a lot to offer you this time I’m afraid.   Thus, you will have to listen to my nonsensical musings once the aforementioned items are shared, for as you know thats just what I tend to do when left alone with a blank page.

TJ’s Maple Leaf Cookies.

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So normally I’m not a fan of packaged cookies. Not at all.  I ‘discovered’ these whilst sitting in a 3 hour meeting at work after someone handed me one and demanded that I try it immediately. While normally I do not take well to demands of any kind (I actually tend to take deliberate opposing action) I could not think of what the opposite of eating a cookie would be.

So I tried it.

Though I hate to admit it, I’m so very glad I did. These are not your typical run of the mill cookie, they have a life all their own and are more maple than cookie, if that is possible.  I imagine Trader Joe’s only sells them during the holidays, so stock up my friend.

Or if you’re anything like me, don’t stock up (:

TJ’s Unexpected Chedder Cheese

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I think my exact words when I first tried this were, “Holy craaaap”.   Roughly translated this of course means “How can this taste so good and oh can I have more and why has this never graced my tongue before?”  This is a dangerous cheese my friend, one that should not be attempted without the company of other human beings.  Failure to do so may result in a meal of cheese and a very sad-looking piece of empty packaging.

TJ’s frozen tilapia

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I was reminded the other day that the time for my next blood work-up is fast approaching, and I’ve been less-than diligent in ensuring every meal include ‘lupus/anemia fighting food’. The reality is I already know the numbers are bad, and they are going to schedule me for more bloody infusions whenever they find out anyway (no pun intended). Nevertheless, the fighter in me decided to do my part and get in what I can before the dreaded date.

Hence, Tilapia.

I was quite happy with how this turned out, though I was initially unsure if it would turn out at all, seeing that I was the one cooking it.  As I was paying, I asked Adam, the TJ’s cashier (who happens to be a favorite of mine because he is a charming character)  if I could cook the tilapia in it’s frozen state.  He sort of stared at me with a wary look in his eye and began to shake his head.  “No, no I think that would be a very bad idea….bad bad idea. Something shocking will happen”

I wanted to say ‘well, something shocking usually does happen when I cook, so no surprise there’. Seeing, however, that he said it so very seriously, I just laughed merrily and thanked him for his advise.  Though oddly/dramatically put, he’s never steered me wrong before and I’m not about to take a chance now.  I put off eating my fish until the following evening, and it was delish.  Couldn’t tell it had been frozen at all.

Thats all I’ve got, unless you want to count the ‘nibs’ I grabbed on my way out.  To be quite honest, I think I am amused by their name than anything else.

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honey, thats coffee

Ever since my coffee maker broke down on me a few months ago (along with my microwave, they must be in cahoots), I’ve gotten into the habit of stopping at Panera every morning on my way to work.  I keep telling myself it’s temporary, and that I’m going to get a new coffee maker any day now, but you know as well as I that this is a blatant lie.

Ok, so I like Panera coffee, I like it much better than my own and I have no intention of switching back anytime soon.  Before you judge me…oh well, I guess you can judge me if you want, but you really should try it first before you do.  It’s delectably smooth.

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So anyway, the morning crew knows me there, perhaps a little too well, and usually has me rung up before I even get through the door.  Having nothing better to do while waiting in line, and in keeping with my regular habit of observing people around me with far more curiosity than what is good for anyone, I’ve come to notice a rather strange phenomenon.  People are putting honey into their coffee.

The first time it happened I thought I was seeing an anomaly, or maybe the poor chap had forgotten that he’d ordered coffee, not tea.

But then it kept happening. Time and time again people would walk over to the cream and sugar with a perfectly fine cup of coffee and pour honey into it.  I don’t know about you, but I find this exceedingly peculiar.   Perhaps it’s some european thing I haven’t caught onto yet, but if that be the case I think I’ll stick to the good ole’ american way of doing things.

Monday morning my morbid curiosity finally gets the better of me and I open my mouth.

“Um, excuse me.  I couldn’t help but notice you are putting honey in your coffee.  Is that, um….good?”

“Oh yes!”  (This he says with a sort of entranced look on his face, as if he’d been waiting for someone to ask him about it.)  “It’s absolutely amazing, you should really try it”

He holds up the his honey-drenched cup of coffee as if to offer me a taste.  I take an ample step back.

“Should I?  You know, I’ve been seeing a lot of people doing that lately, there must be something to it.”

“yes yes, it’s wonderful, but I had no idea any one else drank it this way….I thought I invented it “

Hmmm. Interesting.

I ask two more people doing the same thing the same question later that week, and in their own words they each say the exact same thing.

Well now isn’t this fascinating.  Apparently there are a significant number of individuals who are not only basting their java in honey, they all think it’s their personal chef-d’oeu·vre.

I’ve come to the conclusion that the only thing left to do is try this strange concoction for myself and risk losing a good cup of coffee in the meantime. To each his own, I always say, though this one may get the better of me.

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How not to open a bottle of beer

Did you know there are ways to open a bottle of beer without a corkscrew? Yes well there is.  I was not aware of this until tonight.

I was also not aware that there are ways in which you should NEVER  try to open a bottle of beer (or anything else for that matter).  These latter methods may result in things like broken knives, mangled corks and corks forever imprisoned within the bottle itself.

And yes, if  you’re wondering if my knowledge of these mishaps have something to do with firsthand experience with them, you’d be right.  Lets be honest, it is me, after-all.  After realizing I had no corkscrew, I was of course too stubborn to actually read through the instructions I had just googled, and thought skimming would suffice.

Before you judge me too harshly, keep in mind that it was the end of a rather long day which may or may not have involved a very unpleasant conversation,  food poisoning, a large and painful dog bite to my eye, surgical urgent care and a broken down car.    I had been looking forward to a drink for most of it, acutely aware that a framboise lambic was sitting happily in the backseat of my car teasing me the whole time.

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Not eyeshadow, my friend.  Sexy, huh?

You can imagine my chagrin when, finally ready to wrap myself in a blanket on the couch and pour myself a glass, my corkscrew is nowhere to be found.  After staring at the bottle for a while in hopes that doing so might cause it to suddenly pop open, I decide to google instructions on how to manage without one.  I have no intention of actually reading through the instructions, so my decision to do so is of little consequence, but it happens nonetheless.

I see the word ‘knife’ and a picture of one being used as a corkscrew.  Aha, easy. Yeeeaaah.

If I had actually read the thing it might have been.

As it turns out, its really important not to turn the knife quickly, lest the tip breaks off and goes flying acoss the room somewhere. At this point I set down my broken knife and realize that the stubborn and very tired part of me is going to find a way to get it open, despite the consequences.  This scares me a little so I put on my sunglasses and helmet to avoid any further face wounds.

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After considering just breaking the top of the bottle off outside and finding myself far too enthused by the thought, I decide to avoid any more sharp objects if at all possible.  I discover a screwdriver and try that, only to successfully destroy the top of the cork, leaving nothing but a very secured base of a cork inside the bottle.

At this point I do the only thing any reasonable person would do and push the thing down into the bottle until it allows some space for me to pour it out.  At first the space is very small and I am only getting it to come out a drip at a time.  For a very thirsty, worn out person, this is incredibly trying, at best.

“This must be what chinese water torture feels like”, I think to myself.

Finally, after much ado, I get it to the point where I can pour a glass and breathe a big sigh of relief.

Damn

Needless to say, I enjoy that drink more thoroughly then anything I’ve had in a very long time.

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Cheers to the tenacious spirit.