About a year ago, I realized there was a NYT best selling fiction author living in my town.
I KNOW, RIGHT?
I almost lost my mind when I realized that she was a mother and a writer just like me and I immediately decided that I had to meet her.
Not in a stalkery, creepy, I’m going to wear your skin kind of way, obviously. More like a “hey, we do the same thing and we are moms and OMG YOU ARE ON THE NYT LIST AND HOW CAN I DO THAT, TOO??” kind of way. I followed her on Facebook, bought her books and waited for my chance to run into her at our local grocery store.
As luck would have it, my chance to
pounce introduce myself came in the most unlikely of ways: we “met” in a Facebook group that was formed in support of our local teachers and an impending teacher strike. I SQUEEEEEEED my pants when I put two and two together that her daughters attend school in the same district as the Fruit Loops. It was like the universe was gift wrapping my encounter. Shut up. I get excited about famous people. We all know how I reacted when I met Jen Mann. And Toby Keith. And Elin Hildebrand. Celebrities love me, I swear.
As she commented under several posts regarding our teachers, I slowly worked up the nerve to “introduce” myself. And by introduce myself, I mean send her a Facebook IM that basically said, “Omg I’m a writer and OMG I’ve been following you forever and OMG I can’t believe I’m writing to you and don’t think I’m a creepy stalker and can we meet sometime so we can talk about writer stuff and OMG will you sign my books?”.
I swear, the IM was *just* that bad.
Now, here’s where the story takes one of those movie twists where the whole audience yells, “No way!!”: SHE KNEW ABOUT MY BLOG BUT DIDN’T KNOW IT WAS ME!!!
I. KNOW. RIGHT?
We are two small town writers with big city dreams living practically shoulder to shoulder. I mean, the Lifetime movie practically writes itself.
After much IMing, much SQUEEEEEEING and much discussion, a friendship was born and I’m delighted to say she seemingly hasn’t blocked me from Facebook after getting to know me.
And, today, when we met for a “business breakfast” (read: an excuse to drink coffee, brag about our writing and discuss small town gossip), she gladly paid for breakfast when I realized had neither cash OR check in the restaurant that didn’t accept credit cards (seriously??). I paid her back by giving her two copies of my books….because that’s not arrogant or unprofessional at all, right?
When she asked me if she could guest post on my blog, I dropped the mic and exited the stage. A NYT BEST SELLING AUTHOR WANTS TO BE IN MY PART OF THE INTERWEBS?
In Defense of Christmas (It’s Not About The Red Cup)
There’s a “War on Christmas”, or so I’ve heard. I don’t exactly know who is doing the warring, or against whom, but this isn’t really about that. My family is Christian-based, some meld of Catholic-Methodist-Lutheran so we choose to put up a tree and give presents on December 25th, but I wouldn’t call myself particularly religious. We do a half-assed Elf thing where he moves like maybe three times and at least one of those is to tell Santa that the little M children have switched lists. So I wouldn’t call myself particularly fanatic about the holiday, either.
In an anti-red cup world, we’ve all forgotten the reason for the season and we are “X”-ing out Christ. The hipsters and cynics tell me it’s a Hallmark season, commercialism is out of control (this is sort of inarguable), Black Friday has bled into Thanksgiving and corporate greed is ruining families.
And yet, despite all this shouting, I still unwaveringly love the season. To me, all of December is warm and fuzzy and filled with sepia-toned Bing Crosby and Old Blue Eyes. Whether it’s Hanukkah or Christmas or Happy Holidays or Festivus, count me in. My month of December is less about what God you pray to, and maybe more about who sits around your real, tangible table, laughing and drinking wine and exchanging cookies well into the night.
I know this much is true:
- In December, I give easily three times as much to charity as any other month, probably combined. You should do this all year round, the purists tell me. I agree, ideally. But I don’t. This doesn’t make me a bad person, it makes me a real person with two kids and two jobs and missing permission slips and lost lunches and mismatched socks and midnight dioramas. In December, I seek out Angel trees and Toys for Tots and homeless shelters’ winter wish lists. I give to food pantries and bell-ringers and anyone outside the grocery store with a bucket. I take tax receipts for maybe half of it. While I’m keenly aware of my privilege the other 335 days, for the last thirty days of the year, between all the days off and the sheer availability of charity giving spots, I easily triple my contribution. I fail to see the negative.
- December is like a giant time-out. People work less between Thanksgiving and Christmas (unless you’re in retail, then I’m sorry. I used to be you. I get it, I’m sorry). There are more parties, more family get-togethers, more neighborhood gatherings, more office shenanigans, more FUN. We are bombarded daily with headlines: Sryian refugees and Donald Trump and terrorism and mass shootings. December becomes somewhat necessary to unknot my stomach, take a deep breath, and look at the real people that fill my life, my real village and say THANK YOU. I LOVE YOU. I NEED YOU. HERE’S A COFFE MUG AND A PINTEREST COCOA RECIPE BUT I MADE IT SO I’M SORRY ABOUT ALL THE EXTRA TAPE.
- It actually IS magical. If you have kids, especially. It’s not just about the presents. Most kids aren’t entitled little brats, no matter what you see in that one slice of a moment meltdown in the Wal-mart parking lot. They’re not. Most kids are sweet and funny and filled with wide-eyed wonder at all things sparkly and magic and elfin and Santa-ish. They hug tighter, they handmake Christmas cards, they ASK TO GIVE TO KIDS IN NEED, they LOVE SO HARD in December. Do they brat, too? Absolutely. But they LOVE MORE. Trust me. (They’re also high as a kite on chocolate and sugar, so I can’t speak to causation here).
- Is it all about the presents? Sure. But it’s the only time of year, I mentally run down the list of everyone I love. Everyone in my monkey-sphere, and think about them. REALLY THINK ABOUT THEM. Every other month of the year, your people live on the periphery of your mind. You love them. You think of them fleetingly and smile, or call. Maybe you send a card. Or visit. They love you. But, you don’t spend HOURS contemplating their lives. This isn’t a bad thing, they don’t spend hours on you in, say, April either. But in December, I really, REALLY think about my people. What happened to them this year? What has changed in their life? What would they like this year that they wouldn’t have wanted last year? What new, interesting hobby can I set them off on? What movie did they say they loved at Thanksgiving again? Sometimes I write them poems, too. I don’t spend a fortune on everyone but I try to spend A LOT OF TIME. Time that I have more of because I’m working less and loving more.
Are there people in the world who are still hurting or have lost someone or don’t have the luxury of all that I’ve described? Yes. I’m still keenly aware of that. My heart hurts for these people. I wish I could do more, I wish I could save everyone, help everyone. I can’t. I’m one person.
I still think the holiday season, despite all the flaws and fallacies, brings more good than harm to the world. If you look close enough, in the faces of haggard shoppers, and the “pay it backards” lines at coffee shops, in the layaway line at Kmart or the Angel Trees with no remaining tags, you’ll see an absolute abundance of compassion and kindness that is truly like no other. Like my favorite movie says, Love actually is all around.
Isn’t she adorable??? Now you can see why I love her and her writing….and I’m not just saying that so she’ll pay for breakfast again the next time I see her….make sure to add her books to your Christmas wish list!!