11/29/17

And so today’s moment of happiness despite the news.

In the shower today, I realized that my right armpit appears to be permanently bald.

Not your usual showertime discovery, that’s for sure.

My right lymph nodes were involved in the partial mastectomy and in the subsequent radiation treatments. I admit, I haven’t paid much attention to that area, or the area on the other side. Most of my summer was spent in sleeved shirts due to the surgery and treatment. Shaving was the least of my worries.

Then today…I noticed the difference between left and right armpits.

Well, how bizarre. I haven’t read of this side effect. And I suppose it’s not necessarily a bad one.

I began to think of all the time I could save from now on, with only the left armpit to shave. This past Sunday, in a fit of frustration and too-much-to-do, I yelled at Michael, “I don’t even have time to clip my own toenails! That’s how busy I am!”

Well, now, the gift of time. Armpit-shaving cut in half. So to speak.

Standing under the warm water, I tried to calculate just how much time this would save me over the course of a year. Let’s see…let’s say it takes me 5 seconds to do one armpit, and I do it twice a month. That would be 24 times a year. 5 seconds times 24 times would be 120 seconds. 120 seconds equals two minutes.

This was in my head, mind you. I didn’t have a calculator in the shower.

I could have two extra minutes a year from now on! If I live another 30 years, that’s 60 minutes, which is a whole hour! The year I turn 87, I could have a whole hour of free time, if I stockpiled those minutes, and…

It was round about then that I began to laugh.

Ten seconds a month is not even enough time to get my toenails clipped.

I guess I’ll just have to keep on being busy.

And honestly, except for the days I yell about it, which are infrequent, I’m perfectly fine with that. I yell about it only once in a while. Maybe once a month. And the yelling only lasts about two minutes.

So if I stop yelling about it, that would save me two minutes a month. If I combine that with the ten seconds a month I’m going to save by not shaving my right armpit, then I’ll have two minutes and ten seconds extra each month. If I live for another thirty years…

And I didn’t even figure in how much cash I’m going to save in razor blades! Bonus!

And yes, that helps. Despite. Anyway.

So long, shaver!

11/28/17

And so today’s moment of happiness despite the news.

This morning, I sat with a student and we talked for a bit before getting into her pages. She’d just finished reading The Home For Wayward Clocks.

“I think you wrote this book just for me,” she said.

In a way, I did. For her. For everyone.

Every week, I talk with students who try to place the value of writing on the number of words they produce, the number of pages written, or the possible pie-in-the-sky amount they might someday make on their books (despite the multitude of studies out there that tell us that just over 50% of traditionally published writers and 85% of self-published writers make less than $1000 a year on their books).

But see, that’s not the value. That’s not the worth. That’s not what makes the writing life so incredibly rich.

“I think you wrote the book just for me.”

There’s the richness. That’s why I write.

I’ve had students say to me, “I just want enough to pay off my mortgage,” and “I want to be able to stay at home and live off my writing.”

Oh, trust me. You can live off your writing. Please focus on the meaning of the word “live”.

For me, my writing has absolutely nothing to do with the number of words I write each day, the number of pages I produce each week, or the amount on my royalty checks. I asked my first publisher to please never ever tell me how many books were sold; I didn’t want to know.  Writing isn’t about numbers. It’s about words.

“I think you wrote the book just for me.”

And it’s about impact. I had my moment of happiness by 9:30 this morning.

But then this afternoon, in the AllWriters’ online chatroom with another student, I mentioned that I had a poem accepted for a magazine’s theme issue on love and I joked, “Yes, me. Someone who writes poetry about peeing beagles. I wrote a love poem.”

“But you write about love all the time,” my student said.

That one took me aback. This is a student who has read the majority of my books. I don’t think most people would say that I write about love all the time. They would cite some of my topics, which some consider dark (I consider it real) (though my latest novel has been described as “delightful!”). But you know what?

This student is right. I do write about love all the time. ALL the time. I learned something today.

Which is also why I write. That’s the value. The worth. The richness. Richness not from dollar signs or numbers. But from words. The words I write, and the ones brought back to me. The lessons learned.

“I think you wrote this book just for me.” “You write about love all the time.”

And I live off my writing.

And yes, that helps. Despite. Anyway.

Typewriter in the AllWriters’ on-site classroom.

11/27/17

And so today’s moment of happiness despite the news.

Words are important. Poetry and Story is important. Books are important. It’s amazing to me how often I wrap words around me. Like a blanket when I was a child. Like a showstopper black dress as I grew. Like a shawl now, not around stooped shoulders, but around a need for comfort and companionship and a sense of being all of a piece.

Last summer, in the middle of the breast cancer chaos, a surprise envelope arrived in my mailbox.  Inside, a book of poetry, How I Lost My Virginity to Michael Cohen and other heart-stab poems by Aleis Rhone Fancher. Sent to me by my best friend. A just-because present. It wasn’t my birthday nor any other gift-giving day. It was just a day. Part of the inscription read, “We are who no one else knows or is allowed to. I love you, Kathie.”

That day, I wrapped myself in the comfort of words intended only for me, and the sanctity and escape of a book of poetry.

Today, harried, I ran downstairs to that same mailbox and found another unexpected envelope. It was from Birchbark Books, Louise Erdrich’s bookstore in Minnesota. I love Louise Erdrich and I love her store and the deli right beside it. I set everything I was carrying down and opened the envelope. Inside, Erdrich’s new novel, and it was signed.

Years and years ago, I attended a luncheon at the Milwaukee Public Library, where Erdrich was the special guest. She had a new book out then too, and I stood in line to have it signed. When I got to her table, I told her my name, so she could personalize the book.

“Wait,” she said. “Are you the Kathie Giorgio who wrote…” and she pulled out a literary magazine from her bag that, yes, indeed, had a story of mine in it. “This is lovely,” she said.

And today, as I held Erdrich’s new book, I held that moment in my hands as well. I wrapped myself in a moment of personal history that made me stand straighter, look up, and realize even more deeply who I am.

There was no card, but I knew where the book came from. A student who traveled from Minnesota to the book club I visited in La Crosse brought me a beautiful wall hanging of a turtle from Birchbark. She confirmed her gift tonight.

I have amazing students.

Then after I taught an online workshop tonight, I found an email from the writer who used to be my student, is now on my faculty, and is also my personal assistant. There was an attachment, and she told me she made me a present.

I opened it and watched in stunned delight as a graphic of the covers of books traditionally published by AllWriters’ writers lit up my screen. 60 covers so far…More are already under contract and we’re just waiting for the cover designs.

With these books, I wrapped myself in accomplishment and pride. Look at my students. Look at them go and grow and fulfill their dreams and goals and wishes. And you know what?

I had a part in that.

I’m wrapped up tight in words tonight. I wouldn’t have it any other way.

And yes, that helps. Despite. Anyway.

Covers of books by AllWriters’ writers. All traditionally published. All amazing.

11/26/17

And so today’s moment of happiness despite the news.

One of the hardest things about the writing life is dealing with rejection. I recently bought the latest edition of the Pushcart Prize anthology, primarily because I wanted to see if I’d won, since how the winners are announced seems to be the biggest mystery in the literary world. I have a friend who didn’t know he’d won a Pushcart Prize for seventeen years. I always wondered how this could happen. Now, being a nominee myself from 2016, I understand. No one knows when, where or how the winners are announced. The dates on the anthologies are also misleading. The 2017 anthology has winners from 2015 in it. So I’m assuming the 2018 anthology has winners from 2016 in it, though you sure wouldn’t know from the book, which only tells you what magazines the stories were published in, not when.

Anyway, I was talking about rejection, and what I noticed as I looked through this anthology is all the names of the writers listed under the “Worth Mentioning” section. So many fabulous names! Writers I adore! But not winners. Oh, and if this is the appropriate anthology, I’m not a winner either. I’m not even Worth Mentioning.

But hey, I was nominated!

So writers are often told early on in writing that they have to develop a tough skin. I don’t quite believe that. A tough skin keeps you from being open to all that happens in the world worth writing about. A tough skin repels empathy, a fiction writer’s greatest tool. But writers do have to learn to feel the sting of rejection and then shake it off. Move on. And revel in the acceptances.

I’m not sure what the opposite of sting is – maybe zing? – okay, we’ll go with zing. The zing of acceptance doesn’t usually happen on a Sunday, a sleepy day in the literary world. Everyone is home reading the Sunday paper, not making decisions for magazines or publishing houses. But today, when I was home reading my Sunday paper, I got a zing when I discovered that my novel, In Grace’s Time, was selected as one of the top 47 Books For Holiday Gift-Giving by the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. I was in my recliner, doughnut to my right, coffee to my left, surrounded by sleeping beagles and sleeping cats, and I was definitely zinged into a straight-up position.

What a lovely way to start the day!

Then, when I returned to my desk and opened my email, I found a note from a magazine editor who was working on acceptances and rejections on a Sunday.  My poem, Rapture, was accepted for a special theme issue on Love. I submitted it three days ago.

Zing!

And in the meantime, Michael received a Twitter email, telling him he might want to check into what Kathie Giorgio, Harlan Coben and Ken Follett are tweeting.

Well, wow. What nice company to be in. Zing!

From the writer side of things, this was a great zingy Sunday. My skin didn’t need to be tough at all. It almost makes me look forward to Monday.

Almost.

And yes, that helps. Despite. Anyway.

Front page of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel’s Sunday Tap section.
And there’s Grace!

And the link to the article: https://www.jsonline.com/…/75-books-holiday…/875111001/

 

11/25/17

And so today’s moment of happiness despite the news.

Olivia and I drove out to Bay View, Wisconsin, to pick up the shiny silver aluminum Christmas tree I wrote about a few days ago. Well, not that exact same tree. But after that tree’s memory was a part of my Today’s Moment, a poet friend found one for me through a friend of his…and so I am suddenly the proud owner of a phenomenally ugly shiny silver aluminum Christmas tree. It was in an old warehouse. First, I got lost, of course. Naggie, my GPS, kept saying, “It’s HERE, it’s HERE, it’s right HERE, ya dipshit!”, but I sure didn’t see it. Okay, she didn’t really call me a dipshit, but it was the attitude. I called the woman selling me the tree and for a bit, that didn’t help either, because she kept saying words like north and east, and we already know that doesn’t mean diddly to me. But eventually, we got there.

The building was amazing…old, old brick, maybe cream city. We had to climb up two flights of those see-through metal stairs. Olivia asked me if I was all right, but then she had to quickly wonder if she was all right. It was a little disorienting. When we finally accomplished the see-through climb, we followed signs…and suddenly found ourselves in a room that housed everything my parents and my childhood friends’ parents ever owned.

Ohmygod. The lamps. The sharp-lined, skinny-legged furniture. Ashtrays made out of little tiles. Exaggerated figurines, all politically incorrect. Ceramic poodles. Wall hangings of the four seasons.

And then Olivia discovered a rotary phone. She tried to put her fingers in it. “Mama, how does this work?” she asked.

And so I showed her. As I stuck my fingers in the appropriate holes and dialed out our number, I might as well have stepped firmly into my past. Oh, that ratchet purr of the dial. Winding it up, watching it roll back. And the time it took!

I handed her the receiver and told her to try. I watched my girl of today dial our number like the girl of yesterday –me. And then I showed her how you hung up. I remembered the utter satisfaction of slamming down the receiver when I was angry. You can’t do that with a cell phone.

“Weird,” she said.

Yep. And still so familiar.

My cell phone, tucked in my purse, sang its fairy sound and let me know I had an email or a Facebook notification or a tweet. Olivia dialed and the rotary phone purred.

It was such an odd moment of here and there, then and now. Watching her in my past while I checked my present.

In the end, I didn’t buy anything. I only brought home the shiny silver aluminum Christmas tree. Olivia and I rode down the warehouse elevator, one with big double gates and lots of noise, and that was an experience in itself. And then we left my past behind, in that warehouse, although a piece of it came with me; a bright shiny aluminum piece.

And I’m okay with that.

At dinner tonight, Olivia told her father about dialing the rotary phone and they laughed. All three of us had our cell phones next to our plates. I remembered how, at home, if the phone rang at dinnertime, it was ignored. Now, our phones have a place right next to the silverware.

And I know I should complain about that, but I won’t. Because while our phones were present, we still talked to each other. Just as much as we did at the dinner table of my past.

I’m not quite sure where this piece is going. Except there was just something about that moment, watching my daughter dial a phone, that made me happy. She was doing something that I did. She was learning a piece of my past while I had my hand firmly on the present. And I was here to show it to her.

It made me smile. For who I was then. At my daughter, now.

And yes, that helps. Despite. Anyway.

Can’t take credit for the photo – found it online. But it’s perfect.

11/24/17

And so today’s moment of happiness despite the news.

Today was closet-cleaning day. I had to switch out my Spring/Summer clothes for my Fall/Winter clothes. Olivia got into the mood too and she plowed her way into her walk-in closet, going through clothes and old toys all at once. This prompted several runs up the stairs to show me something she’d found. “Oh, look, Mama!” she said over and over again, holding up a treasure from her childhood.

Several times, she said, “Oooooooooh…I miss the early 2000’s. It was such a simpler time.”

A simpler time.

In the early 2000’s, I gave birth to my fourth child after a gap of 13 years. I was forty years old, and I suddenly had three teenagers and a baby who shrieked inconsolably much of the time. I was teaching 65 hours a week in a bunch of different places online and “live”. And on top of it, I decided to go to grad school to earn my MFA in fiction.

Oh, and then in 2005, I decided to start the studio.

Simpler. Uh-huh.

Another time, Olivia ran up the stairs and said, “Look, Mama! It’s like the predecessor to virtual reality!” She carried a 3-D Viewmaster, given to her somewhere around 2005.

A Viewmaster. The predecessor to virtual reality.

Well, maybe. As I folded clothes, I thought back over my own walk through technological predecessors. Manual typewriter to electric typewriter to word processor to desktop computer to laptop. My first cell phone. I remember holding it and realizing, with a sense of both wonder and absolute horror, that I was now able to be reached no matter where I was, no matter what I was doing. LP to cassette to CDs, with a hiccup in there for 8-traks, to MP3 players. Sitting down at a certain time on a certain day of the week to watch a certain channel which had a certain television series, to now sitting down whenever I want and finding it streaming.

Olivia held her Viewmaster in amazement. I felt like a dinosaur.

But we worked steadily through the afternoon into the evening, each of us gathering bags of donations that filled Hemi’s trunk and his back seat. I decided to be vicious with myself this year. As I pulled out sweaters and shirts of similar colors, I chose only one and got rid of the rest, with the exception of burgundy. I love burgundy. As my closet gained space and the empty hangers on the floor grew, I felt lighter and could breathe easier. Olivia was giving away treasures from her childhood. I was getting rid of what I didn’t need.

And then, as I pulled clothes out and exposed the floor of my closet, I saw what I shoved there earlier, in an attempt to get it out of my sight, out of my mind, out of my life. On the first day that I visited my surgeon and learned of my partial mastectomy, I was given a cloth bag that looked like a cow hide. Inside, a huge accordion folder, its slots identified with labels. Appointments. Surgeries. Treatments. Medications. Resources. There were templates for lists tucked in each slot. There was also a magazine, and when I pulled it out, I saw a photograph of a woman wearing a pink knit hat.

I stopped looking. For a time, the bag sat where I could see it in my office. I didn’t want to get rid of it, because it was a nice gesture, and in case I was in denial. But eventually, I couldn’t stand it anymore. I shoved it on the floor of my closet, where it was hidden by my clothes. I still couldn’t get rid of it. Just in case.

Today, I didn’t wait. I carried it, bag and all, out to the dumpster and pitched it in. I am not in denial. But I deal with things my own way. And that bag wasn’t my way.

Olivia sorted through her treasures that she was happy to keep as memories of a simpler time now. And I got rid of what was weighing me down.

And yes, that helps. Despite. Anyway.

The stack of clothes heading to Goodwill and the pile of abandoned hangers.

 

11/23/17

And so today’s moment of happiness despite the news.

Well, Thanksgiving, of course. I spoke with a friend last week who told me that the whole “attitude is everything” deal is actually false. That there are studies that show people with cancer or other issues heal and survive just the same whether or not they have a great attitude or a toilet attitude.

I can see that, I guess. The body does what the body does. But I know that trying to find a moment of happiness each day has been a big part of my recovery and getting through 2017.

There was chaos in the house as all four kids, one daughter-in-law, one future son-in-law, one granddaughter and one boyfriend descended. But it was a good chaos. Having them all under one roof doesn’t happen much anymore. I’m happy when they’re here.

As I made two pumpkin pies, two pecan pies, fruit fluff and green bean casserole (my contribution to the meal), I thought about this year and about gratitude. It’s no exaggeration to say that 2017 has been hellish for me. It started with the assault just a couple months before 2017 began, From there, I plowed through Olivia experiencing bullying so extreme, we had to switch schools, to Michael losing not one, but two jobs, to my diagnosis of breast cancer and all that entailed. Ultrasounds, biopsies, MRI, surgery, radiation, medication. And then the loss of someone I considered my best friend – who couldn’t handle what I was going through and the changes that led to who I am now.

It’s been a rough year. It’s been a sad year.

So I thought about that today and figured I could easily focus on what I’m not grateful for. Which is all of the above. And there have been days that’s exactly where my focus was. All the what-if’s, all the why-me’s, all the why-now’s. I’m sure there will be more as I continue to move through recovery and learn to acclimate myself to what is now my life. With recovery, I really have my feet on two different paths – physical recovery and emotional recovery.

But I don’t want my focus to be on what I’m not grateful for. Because of that same not-grateful-for list, a whole lot happened that I am grateful for. I felt the circling of the wagons around me. Such intense and complete community. Family, friends, students, readers, writers, and absolute strangers.

The one thing I’ve learned over and over and over this year: kindness exists. Goodness exists. What is most often shoved in our faces is not what is most prevalent in this world. You have to push aside that ridiculous and maddening roar and listen to the quiet and persistent hum.

I’m listening.

More than anything, I’m grateful to be alive. I’m grateful the cancer was found when it was. I’m grateful it could be taken care of, despite all that entailed. My radiation oncologist said to me once, “You’re one of the lucky ones who is going to be okay.” And I am. I still have at least five years of medication to get through, with all the attending side effects, and the more frequent fearful mammograms, but ultimately, everything points toward my being just fine.

I am grateful to be alive. And I’m grateful that I can hear the hum.

I thought I lost myself there for a while. But as I looked around my living room today, saw my son hugging my granddaughter while my daughter-in-law laughed, saw my daughter holding hands with her fiancé who treats her like the amazing woman she is, saw my son teasing everyone, but still finding a moment to hug me, saw my daughter laughing with her new boyfriend who seems oh, so nice, and looked at my husband who was reassuring one of our naughty dogs that he wasn’t naughty at all, I realized I’m not lost at all. I’m right here. And I’m who I’ve always been, with just a few adjustments and awakenings. Improvements, really.

I’m grateful to be who I am.

I’m grateful for everyone who circled and stood firm. Thank you.

And yes, that helps. Despite. Anyway.

Glad to be here.

11/22/17

And so today’s moment of happiness despite the news.

Tonight, as we ate an impromptu dinner at Culver’s, I behaved like my mother. I performed a behavior I swore I would never ever do, because it was just too “old lady”.

I was freezing. So I draped my coat over my shoulders, pulled the collar tight to my throat, but left my arms free of the sleeves. As I watched my hands wave like disenfranchised limbs over my dinner (where are the sleeves? we need the sleeves!), I had an instant vision of my mother. Sitting in nice restaurants with her coat draped over whatever fancy dress she was wearing. Sitting at our own kitchen table at lunch with her eternal white sweater draped over her shoulders, even in summer, when her shoulders were bare. Riding in the car with her light coat draped over her shoulders and the seat belt strapping it to her body.

Each time, she looked like an old lady to me, even though she was likely in her forties the first time I saw her do it. And each time, I thought, Put your arms in your sleeves! Why are you wearing your coat like an old lady shawl?

Tonight, I was cold. Tonight, I draped my coat like a shawl over my shoulders. Tonight, I felt old. Like my mother.

Michael has been telling tales of the grocery store where he works, and one that pops up frequently is a customer complaining about being carded in the liquor department when the customer is clearly over 21. Sometimes the customer is closer to 81 than 21. But the grocery store’s policy is that everyone needs to be carded, and there are several security cameras trained on the cashier to prove that he or she follows that policy. I don’t understand the customer complaint. I love to be carded. I can pretend it’s because I’m so young-looking.

Last week, in the mall with my daughter, we were approaching one of those kiosks where they sell sea-salt skin products. The young man there stood, appraising us, rubbing his chin with one finger. “Hmmm,” he said as we drew near, “Are you two sisters?”

I laughed and patted his arm as we passed. “No thank you,” I said, “but very nice try.”

Afterwards, I thought that line was really akin to shooting himself in the foot. If I look like my 30-year old daughter already, without using his products, what did I need them for? His line should have been, to my daughter, “Dear, help your great-grandmother over here and we’ll fix her up with a lotion that will remove her elephant skin.”

Of course, I would have decked him.

Somewhere along the line last week, a young student complained to me about turning 37. “That’s practically 40!” she said.

And I answered, “Try 57. That’s practically 60.”

And it was like reverse déjà vu. I’d had this conversation before, only it was me complaining about turning 30. A mentor was turning 60 and she chided me the way I just did this young student. I remembered rolling my eyes and thinking, Wow, 60. That IS old. You must feel lucky to be alive.

My mother and her draped cardigans and coats. Being carded. An attempted seduction into skin products. Practically 60. I thought of all this tonight as I sat at Culvers, with my coat draped around my shoulders. Because it was cold. And the lack of sleeves allowed me better movement.

Oh. THAT’S why she did it.

But I still heard myself loud and clear as I thought, You must feel lucky to be alive.

Yes. I surely do.

And yes, that helps. Despite. Anyway.

17 years old. And I thought I was ready for anything.

11/21/17

And so today’s moment of happiness despite the news.

This one might be a little more political than most of my posts. But I’ve been thinking about this all day.

With today’s announcement of Disney/Pixar executive John Lasseter taking a leave of absence because of what he calls “missteps” (i.e. inappropriate behavior), and coming right on top of Charlie Rose’s firing, I put up a Facebook status that said, “Ohmygod, it’s raining dirty old men.”

It was meant to be funny, but also a statement of reality. One after another, bam, bam, bam, we’re all getting soaked with news releases about rapes, assaults, inappropriate touching, inappropriate language, and on and on and on, all involving older men.

Kinda like our president. Remember the “Grab’em by the pussy. You can do anything,” videotape?

I’ve watched this rainstorm with some stoicism. Several people expressed shock over Charlie Rose. I haven’t expressed shock over any of it. Why? Because we are the country that elected a man to the presidency who openly admitted that he didn’t like women and to assaulting women as well.

Have any of us forgotten the night of the debate where the Orange Asshat stood directly behind Clinton as she spoke and he glared and he glared and you just knew what he wanted to do to her.

Many applauded that.

No, not everyone, and no, we didn’t all vote for him. But enough of us did that he’s there.

Maybe this means that over the years, many of us have consciously or subconsciously released approval for that this kind of behavior. It’s normal. It’s okay. It’s just boys being boys. Maybe we’ve even tolerated it ourselves.

Years and years ago, I got into a discussion (argument) with my father. He was totally incredulous that I would say that patting a female co-worker on her ass was inappropriate. “I was just appreciating her!” he said. “I was just telling her she did a good job!”

“Would you tell a man he did a good job by patting him on the butt?” I was only fifteen. I couldn’t use the word ass in my parents’ house.

“No,” my father said. “It’s just a woman thing. They like it.”

Ah.

I bit my tongue then. My father was not someone you argued with. But I remember a few months later, as I walked through a shopping mall, a group of about six young men approached me. I thought it was odd that they lined up one right after the other as they got closer. And then, as I moved past, every single one smacked me across my ass. One grabbed my breast.

The boys laughed and cheered. I didn’t say a word. I didn’t scream. But I had tears in my eyes. I couldn’t have vocalized why I was upset. It was, after all, what men did to women. When they appreciated her. When they just wanted to say Good job! I was appreciated! I was supposed to like it!

I’ve battled a lot of appreciation.

Today, the realization that we’re in a rainstorm of dirty old men, dirty old men washing into the gutters and from there to the sewers made me happy. We have a misogynist in the White House. We have a sexual predator in the White House. At first, I worried that this might be a sign that this type of behavior was forever going to be given a go-ahead, it was forever going to be seen as all right, boys will be boys, they’re just showing their appreciation, and women like it. Good job! But now, it seems like we’re raising our hands and saying, “Hey, wait a minute.” Maybe something will finally be done.

It means we’ll see some heroes fall, along with the villains. But it’s a start. I hope.

Maybe it means that my daughters and my granddaughter will be able to walk the malls without having to keep an eye out for overappreciative men.

Keep raining. Clean the air. Let all the dirt wash to the sewer where it belongs.

And by the way – those men that don’t behave this way? Because I am well aware that not all men do. But these nice guys? The guys that truly know what appreciate and respect means? Well, they’re just going to shine like beacons in the clean air.

And yes, that helps. Despite. Anyway.

Let it rain.

11/20/17

And so today’s moment of happiness despite the news.

Right before I went to bed last night, a commercial came on television and told me that we’ve officially started the holiday season.

I thought of the Christmas decorations up in Walgreens right after Halloween, the Christmas parades that were done over this past weekend when we haven’t even had Thanksgiving yet, my turning on the radio in my car last week and hearing Christmas music, and my visiting the mall last Thursday, where I waved at Santa and he waved back.

“No kidding,” I said to the television.

I am not a fan of Christmas. I used to be. I actually used to decorate my house from top to bottom, filling shelves, counters, walls, even the bathroom with Santas and snowmen and reindeer. Now…yuk. Christmas to me is just more work.

Last year was a difficult Christmas. It was a little over a month after the assault. I didn’t want to celebrate anything, let alone peace on earth, good will to men who threw women off the sidewalk after attempting to kick their dogs. I didn’t want to decorate anything. I didn’t want to do anything.

It’s not like we do much. When we moved to the condo, we discovered we really don’t have the space to set up a tree. So we bought a four-foot tree and set it up on the kitchen island, which divides the kitchen and living room. It was a loaded four-foot tree, having to heft the sentimental ornaments of an 8-footer. We don’t have a basement here, so all Christmas decorations are kept off site in a storage unit, which means a trip out there and back, and then repeat on New Year’s Day.

I wanted none of it. But I have a child still at home. Eventually, I broke down and bought a teeny tiny tree from Walgreens, decorated it with some of Walgreen’s ornaments, bought a wreath and used it as a tree skirt. Instead of putting the presents under the tree last year, we put them under, around, and over the tree. It worked.

Well, I’m no more enthused about Christmas this year. But then I saw a photo. Of a shiny silver aluminum Christmas tree. Ugly. Ugly, ugly, ugly.

I WANT ONE.

When I was somewhere around eight years old and living in northern Minnesota, my parents bought a shiny silver aluminum Christmas tree. It came with a bunch of red velvet ornaments. And there were plug-in color wheels to set up on either side of the tree, changing it to green, red, orange, and blue. Sometimes my father timed the wheels so that the tree changed colors all at once, and other times, he staggered them, so the tree would wash from left to right. It was set up in front of our picture window for all the world to see. The real tree was put in the basement rec room with our usual ornaments and such. But I loved to lay with my head under that shiny silver aluminum Christmas tree. I looked up into the fluttering branches. The silver seemed to be made of a type of tinsel and so any breath of air caused it to tremble. And I watched with wonder as the tree turned impossible colors. It was an impossible thing. It was a phenomenally ugly thing. But it was magic.

“Michael,” I said last night, “I need a shiny aluminum Christmas tree.”

“Maybe painted pink!” he said in a perfect imitation of Lucy from a Charlie Brown Christmas.

All Charlie Brown’s little tree needed was some love.

And I’ve decided I need some wonder. Some magic. Some impossible. All from something phenomenally ugly.

Sorta sounds like a metaphor for my 2017, doesn’t it.

So my Moment Of Happiness? I’ve found a way to look forward to Christmas. I’m gonna find me a tree. Hopefully with color wheels and red velvet ornaments. I want to poke my head under it and look up.

Look up!

And yes, that helps. Despite. Anyway.

Yep. Just like this one.