Thursday, December 31, 2009

why i love the interwebs.

The other day, I was perusing the interwebs and stumbled across—vis-à-vis a random blog—a post about one of my favorite bloggers. Turns out her boyfriend (or her dude, as she calls him) may have an incurable form of cancer: multiple myeloma. Survival rate? Five years max. They're both in their twenties.

I did a double-take. And then I put my hand to my heart. And I uttered, “Oh, my God,” out loud, in the silence of my bedroom.

I’ve never met this blogger, never exchanged emails with her, never talked to her on the phone. I just know her through her words. But I know her nonetheless. And I could feel her sadness and shock and “WTF, world?!” And all I wanted to do was reach through my computer and touch her. Hug her. Hold her hand. Let her lean on my shoulder. Let her cry in my arms.


I always make sure to read this blog. Every day. Because I know that it will always be 1) honest, b) raw, iii) human, and four) often hilarious. She doesn’t hold back. She shows what it means to be a messy-clean-perfectlyimperfect-real-searching-curious-strong-vulnerable human being, and she doesn’t apologize for it. Ever. And I love her for that. Even though we’ve never met. And she reads my blog sometimes, and when I was going through some of the darkest minutes of my life recently, she reached out. Sent me emails. Wrote soothing words. Hugged me through the interwebs' ether. Gave me her phone number. Made sure I'd made it through another day, even though I swore I didn't want to and hadn't planned on it. She loved me from afar.


And this lovely? I wish she lived in Pittsburgh, because I’d hang out with her every.chance.possible. She leaves comments all the time on my blog. She visits my words and she takes them in and gives back her own. And I love her for that. And the words she gives back to me? Always full of love and wisdom and I-believe-in-you. Like a big sister. Arms wrapped around me from the other side of the country. Even though we’ve never met.

And the words on her blog? Living, breathing, heart. I let myself get wrapped up in them, and then I want to hug her.


People who don’t blog often don’t understand those of us who do. “You just want attention,” they say. “Why do you want the world to know about your life?” “What’s so special about what goes on in your day-to-day existence?”

Everything, I want to say to them.

Every moment, every experience, every encounter. Because I only get it once. And that, to me, is pretty special.

But it’s not just about my existence. It’s about a shared humanity. A shared, lived experience. All of us bloggers out there. The reality of being human, being messy, being scared, being uncertain, being confused, being happy, being alive, being here.


These women I write about? They help to remind me that I’m not alone in this world. That life is messy and funny and hard and overwhelming and exhilarating and full of so many things we’ll never understand but will embrace nonetheless. Because we only get it once. The interwebs make me feel like we’re one big family, getting through this life together, holding on to one another, even though our arms and hands don't touch. Because our hearts ultimately end up doing so when those parts can't.

And isn’t that what life is really about? Us? Together? Here? Holding on to each other? Don’t we always feel better when we hold someone or let someone hold us?

with love from Pittsburgh,

Saturday, December 26, 2009

that one time when jesus had a birthday and there was much taking of pictures.

Jesus had a birthday, and my camera got a workout. It all started at Midnight Mass with the Ross-a-tron. And no, the blurriness isn't from having too much of the communion wine. Ha, ha, ha!

And there was much singing:

And on Christmas Day, it was off to my parents' home to celebrate with the family. It's always so nice to walk into the house and see our tree, artificial though it may be, standing sentry in the living room. That tree has been in our family for over 20 years, and it still looks brand new. I love the ol' girl.

Of course, we also had our family photo taken:

L to R: 10 year-old nephew Isaac, my brother Geoff, my sister-in-law Danielle, my dad, my mom, and me

And a close-up of us young-ins:

Opening presents is always fun. We don't go overboard (i.e. dozens and dozens of presents, expensive gifts, etc.), but my dad makes sure to make my mom smile. After 36 years of marriage, he's got it down to a science. And wrapping the gifts in all manner of hilarious ways is his specialty. This year? He wrapped a lovely little gem of a gift (no pun intended, as you'll see) in none other than a Kleenex box:

We all cracked up, Mom especially, as the Hunt for the Gift began. Eventually, she found it:

My mom cried when she opened it, saying, "I've never had a cross. I always wanted one." And that, of course, made me cry. And then my dad got all sweet and put the necklace on my mom:

Not too shabby, huh? Dad was Very Proud of his gift to her. Of course!

My nephew Isaac had a nice Christmas, complete with Star Wars Legos...

...and a new bike. Awe.some.

And, as always, he got his annual measurement taken by Peepaw (Grandpa):

My sister-in-law? (Yes, this beauty:)

She got me this gorgeous breast cancer awareness bracelet, in honor of my own struggles with breast health issues (i.e. atypical papilloma and increased risk for breast cancer):

I'll wear it to each mammogram in February and each oncologist visit.

And this lady?

Oh, my sweet mama. She had the house all warm and welcoming, complete with candles and special dishes and tea and treats. She had a wonderful brunch ready for us, complete with this delicious fruit salad...

...and lovely table set for the family:

And then there's this guy:

Oh, Daddy. You're such a goof.

He plays the violin (and the piano!), and had his beloved instrument waiting in the wings until he serenaded us with a lovely classical piece.

And you know what else is so great about my dad? He's a heck of an artist. All during my chidhood, he used to set up his creative shop somewhere in the house: the dining room table, the kitchen table, the garage, the basement. And he'd paint. All kinds of things. And at Christmas, we were sure to get something pretty special. Ornaments have always been his "thing":

And he made this Noel train about 20 years ago. To this day, it's one of my favorite pieces of my father's love and talent:

But, by far, the most amazing things he ever made for Christmas were his famous clothes-pin soldier ornaments, complete with moving arms:

And to show his love for me and my brother, acorns made to look like our heads/faces:

Those loving artifacts bring tears to my eyes every Christmas. I will always remember my dad painting with his Testor oil paints, tiny brushes laid out ever-so-neatly, his huge hands as nimble as those of someone half his size. Such love in every.single.thing.

There was so much love at our house:

And, not to mention, food:

After being with my family for nearly 10 hours, I drove to spend some time with the Ross-a-tron and his family:

And one of my most favorite boys of all? The Ross-a-tron's sweet-as-can-be nephew, Henry, who's just as silly as me:

I loved Jesus's birthday this year. I hope you did, too.

with love from Pittsburgh,

Thursday, December 24, 2009

who needs presents when you have gifts?

My favorite family Christmas photo ever: 2005
L to R: me (with long hair!), Mom, Dad, sister-in-law Danielle, brother Geoff, nephew Isaac

It's different this year
, but that's okay. Not as many wrapped presents (if any), not as much traveling, not as much hoopla. But somehow, it still feels special.

Despite the fact that there aren't a lot of presents wrapped under the tree, I still feel like I've been showered with gifts: My mom is doing so the point where I want to exclaim, "It's a miracle!" I have a job that I love. My apartment is an absolute sanctuary for me. I've reconnected with my Catholic faith more than I could have imagined. My health is relatively stable. And my favorite gift this year? Forgiveness. Because it helped to bring the Ross-a-tron back into my life.

Merry Christmas, my lovelies. I can't wait to hear all about the gifts you've received this year.

with love from Pittsburgh,

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

'fraidy cat.

I like lists. This fact is, I think it's safe to say, pretty obvious to you all as of late. Also, lists are easier than coming up with witty writing. Don't pressure me. It's the holidays. I have very little left to give. I actually resorted to Googling "blog prompt" tonight because my brain is that fried. I feel like I have all this stuff to write about, but I don't actually know what that stuff is exactly. Thus, Google. Oh, dear, sweet, lovely Google.

Tonight's list? My 10 biggest fears. Ready? Go.

I'm afraid of a lot of things, actually. I mean, my nickname isn't Worst Case Scenario Girl for nothing.

1. I'm afraid of the day I lose my parents.

2. I'm afraid of getting into a car accident and becoming paralyzed or disfigured.

3. I'm afraid of burning down my house.

4. I'm afraid of being held up at gunpoint.

5. I'm afraid that if I ever get pregnant, I won't like it.

6. I'm afraid I'll be a horrible mother.

7. I'm afraid that every time I go to get my mammogram in February, they'll finally find "it."

8. I'm afraid I'll be penniless one day.

9. I'm afraid of losing other people I love.

10. I'm afraid of dying in a plane crash.

Do you know that I think about these things fairly often? I know, I know--make sure to tell my therapist. Does anyone else think about stuff like this? I don't want to dwell, and I don't want to be one of those people who worries about stuff when it hasn't even happened, but still--I'm human. I worry. It's what I do. I am, without a doubt, Worst Case Scenario Girl.

Excuse me while I go put on my cape. And then check the Velcro on the neck to make sure it's not so tight that it'll strangle me to death.

with love from Pittsburgh,
p.s. I just realized what a morose post this is. I'll try to do better next time.

Monday, December 21, 2009

stuff and things.

I like:
Vidalia onion salad dressing
Doing laundry
Old homes
Going to bed with clean feet
Visiting my parents
Playing the piano
Going to Mass
The quiet in the air after the first real snowfall
Waking up to the sun streaming into my bedroom
The courtesy wave you get from drivers when you let them in front of you
Design/craft/fashion blogs and websites
People who are courageous
Hanging out in bookstores for hours
Orange juice
Target, Michael’s Craft Store, and Anthropologie
Sitting outside in the summer, on my deck, drinking a glass of wine at twilight
The following TV shows: Scrubs (old-school), The Penguins of Madagascar, The George Lopez Show, Friends, The Simpsons, and The Office
Meeting new people
To clean
Paper products

I rully, rully like (read: love):
Jesus (a.k.a. J-Dawg, the J-Man, Jaysus)
The Ross-a-tron
Hot baths
Nice people
Hot tea
Boston Terriers
Being warm
Pittsburgh and Pittsburghers
Little old men, especially grandfatherly types who fought in WWII
My dad’s stories
My job
Watching people hug
Emails and text messages from my mom
Period movies (i.e. The Young Victoria, Charlotte Gray, Elizabeth, etc.)
The smell of incense at church
Puppies. Big and small.
My family. In all its dysfunctional glory.
Lists (too obvious? *note to self: be less obvious*)

I dislike:
People’s feet
French manicures and pedicures
Chipped nail polish
How loud and clomp-y my upstairs neighbor is
Poor spelling and grammar
Talking on the phone
Soggy sandwiches
Hearing people blow their noses
Seeing young girls sexualized
Hearing people breathe loudly
Washing dishes, especially the silverware
Being on or in large bodies of water
Managing my money

I rully, rully dislike (read: would rather shove bamboo shoots under my fingernails than endure any of this stuff):
Anything having to do with mushrooms (the sight, the smell, etc.)
People who are mean
Ugg boots
Victoria’s Secret’s marketing
Lima beans
Anti-homosexual messages/slogans/preaching
Impatient drivers

I don’t:
Own an iPod
Know how to throw a Frisbee. Well. Or at all, really.
Like to fly
Know what a cigarette or marijuana tastes/smells/feels like
Speak another language fluently
Understand our country’s obsession with sports and glorification of sports players

I’m not:
On Facebook. And never will be.
Able to tan
Happy with my intestines. Ever.
Good at apologizing

I won’t:
Eat food past its expiration date. No matter what.
Go to bed without brushing my teeth
Go on a cruise. That involves large bodies of water, and I am afraid of such.
Ever move to L.A. or N.Y.C., unless it’s a matter of life and death
Shop at Abercrombie, Express, or Wal-Mart
Live with the Ross-a-tron before we’re married
Dye my hair

What about you? Tell me some stuff and things.

With love from Pittsburgh,

Sunday, December 20, 2009

2009: also known as "what i learned this year."

My girlfriends and I (collectively known as The Divas) decide together what each year will be or should have been called. Examples include: 2006: The Year of the Scholar (because we were all up to our eyeballs in research, coursework, dissertation-writing, etc.); 2007: The Year of the Body (because we were all experiencing some sort of health issue—lumps in breasts for me, cancer in thyroids for someone else, etc.); 2008: The Year of the Diva (because we were all reclaiming our lives and celebrating good things that were happening to us).

This year, 2009, has yet to be named, but I can tell you right now, whatever name we finally agree on will not—I repeat, will not—have a happy ring to it. This year has been filled with so.much.shit. I’m tempted to suggest that we call it 2009: The Year of WTF? And I’m 99% certain that none of my fellow Divas will argue against that suggestion.

2009 included: two bouts of Pancreatitis, two trips to the ER, a cancer scare, a horrible-gut-wrenching-break-up, the return of an abusive ex-boyfriend, teeth falling out, the death of a friend’s sister to H1N1, more bouts of flu and colds than any of us could keep track of, and on and on and on. Needless to say, We Are Over 2009. Completely.

We’ve already decided, however, that 2010 shall be called 2010: The Year of Eyes on the Prize. One of us will begin (and finish) writing her dissertation while living on the other side of the country. Another one of us will pay off two of the three credit cards she has. A third will defend her dissertation and go on the national job market for a tenure-track position. It is the year that we set goals and reach them. It is the year that we take a look at our lives and realize that there are things we want, things we want to work towards, things we want to achieve. Our eyes are on the prize. And we are determined.

But while 2009 has been Ridiculously Disappointing (to say the least), it has not been without some value. I’ve learned some stuff. Yeah, I know, right?! And here, in no particular order, are some of those things I’ve learned:

1. The importance of forgiveness. I never really understood how forgiveness worked, let alone actually engaged in the process of it. I just held grudges. Brushed away certain hurts while simultaneously Never Forgetting What Was Done To Me. The result: a heart that never really felt as light as I wanted it to. Thus, after the most recent hurt done to me, I tried something new. I read a book on forgiveness. I prayed about it. I engaged in it. And I did it. I forgave. And the lightness I always wanted in my heart manifested itself.

2. Speaking up for what you need. Coming from a world of chaos and instability (schizophrenia will do that), I learned that the most important thing was not to rock the boat—to try whatever I could to maintain some semblance of stability. That meant worrying about others and their needs/opinions/demands, and putting myself aside. After certain events of this year, I’ve realized that not speaking up and not having a voice has really hurt me. And so I decided not to take it anymore. I’ve found my voice, and I’m practicing using it. Regardless of what others’ reactions are. I have a right to speak. I have a right to have a voice.

3. My parents aren't perfect. They don’t belong on a pedestal. They may not always understand why I do what I do, they may not always like it or agree with it or want it for me. And that’s okay.

4. Prayer works. Period.

5. There really is a lot of beauty in this world. Not just physical beauty, like the color of the sky or the ground after a quiet snowfall. There’s beauty in the people around me, around you. In their hearts, in their words, in their actions.

6. It’s never too late to: say you’re sorry, to accept an apology, to ask for forgiveness, or to forgive. As long as you have a pulse, it’s not too late.

7. Not everyone is going to like me. Some people will even say nasty things about me. But that doesn’t mean I have no worth, that the world will implode/explode, or that I’m any less of a person. Despite the reality of #5, there will always be a lot of ugly in this world, too. And I don’t have to engage in it.

8. Sometimes I am right. Even if the other person is older, wiser, more educated, or more experienced.

9. Taking time to rest the body and the mind are crucial to being able to give of yourself fully later on. And we shouldn’t feel guilty—ever—about resting. Even if we do it every single day.

10. I’m not missing out At All by being the only remaining human on the planet who’s not on Facebook.

I hope that your 2009 has helped you learn things, celebrate things, and overcome things.

What will you call your 2010?

with love from Pittsburgh,

Thursday, December 17, 2009

five photos in five days: photo #5.

All I want for Christmas.


with love from Pittsburgh,

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

five photos in five days: photo #4.

The first time I ever went to an audition at my agency, I had no idea what to wear. A button-down blouse, suggested one of my agent’s assistants. I was a college kid, 19-years-old to be exact, who lived in jeans and hoodies. Button-down blouses were for moms and lawyers. Besides, my arms have always been like those of an orangutan's, so I could never find any shirts that fit me.

But I went out to buy one anyway. It was blue. I bought it about an hour before my audition. I was as busy back then as I am today, and an hour before the audition was the only time I could go get this button-down blouse everyone was so keen on.

It was blue. That lovely cobalt blue that was so popular back in the late 90s. (Did I really just say late 90s like it was decades ago?) And it had ¾ sleeves, so in reality, it fit just fine. It was blue, it fit, and it was a button-down blouse. Jackpot.

I arrived at the agency, rockin’ my new button-down blouse, running my memorized lines in my head (it was an audition for the now bankrupt Adelphia Cable), batting my bright-eyed, well, eyes, and ready to go. In other words, I had the word “NEWBIE” written right. across. my. forehead.

My agent’s assistant, Monica, welcomed me in. “How do I look?” I asked, proud of myself for following directions and being so prepared.

“Next time,” she replied, “make sure you iron it before you put it on.”

Right across my middle was a crease from where the shirt had been folded—folded right on the sale table I’d picked it up from at the store. I looked like someone had stuck a bottom half and a top half of me together, the crease being the seam of the parts.

The photo above is from a commercial shoot I did last month for an eyeglasses company.

I wore a sweater.

with love from Pittsburgh,

five photos in five days: photo #3.

Do you know what it’s like to get stuck in an elevator with your older brother? You do? Great.

Do you know what it’s like to get stuck in an elevator with your older brother because he was being a typical boy and pushing on the door of said elevator while it was moving, ultimately triggering the safety mechanism and subsequently causing said stuck-ness? You do? Fantastic.

Do you know what it’s like to get stuck in an elevator with your older brother because he was being a typical boy and pushing on the door of said elevator while it was moving, ultimately triggering the safety mechanism and subsequently causing said stuck-ness, only to eventually push open the door and have you crawl out of the elevator and on to the floor of a nun’s convent? You don’t? Hmm. Too bad.

Because I do.

When our family lived in Mansfield, Ohio, back in the mid 80s to early 90s, my mom used to help run our parish’s CCD program (Catholic Sunday School) at the high school. The high school was enormous, and several floors in the middle of the building were converted into a nun’s convent. Those floors were always forbidden to anyone other than the nun’s for, well, obvious reasons.

On Sundays, my brother and I would attend CCD, my mom busy attending to the needs of the program “behind the scenes.” Once CCD was over for the day, we’d have to stick around while my mom cleaned up. Naturally, for two kids, this left plenty of time to a) get bored and b) remedy that boredom by getting into some sort of trouble.

Hence, the Elevator Situation of 1987.

It’s not like we planned on getting stuck in the elevator. At least I didn’t. Of the two of us, I was definitely the more timid, the more goody-two-shoes, the more Geoff-ohmygosh-what-are-you-DOING-you’re-going-to-totally-get-us-into-trouble! one. My brother, on the other hand, was fearless. And so, he opted to show me that fearlessness that morning in the elevator.

Pushpushpush went his hand against the elevator door as we sped up towards the next several floors. My nine-year-old brain was imagining us plummeting to our young deaths all because of my stupid brother’s fearlessness.

Stop! I squealed. Doooon’t! You’re gonna make it break! He ignored me, his twelve-year-old superhero mentality oblivious to his kid sister’s panic. In his eyes, I clearly hadn’t earned my sidekick cape and costume yet.

And then, ka-clunk! We stopped moving, the elevator frozen in a state of shock not unlike the one I was experiencing.

And so, I started to cry. That’s what kid sisters do when their older brothers do stupid crap that ultimately involves them. I cried and cried and cried.

We’re gonna die! I sobbed. You’re such a jerk! I KNEW you’d break it. Oooooh, we’re gonna diiiiiiiiiiiiiiiie!!!

My brother, of course, responded with the typical superhero statement: No we won’t. And I, of course, totally didn’t believe him.

So what did he do? He continued to push on the elevator door.

What are you DOING?! I shrieked, waiting for the elevator to drop us to our deaths. (Thus began the making of my alter-ego, Worst-Case Scenario Girl.)

I’m going to get us out of here, he responded coolly.

Pushpushpush. Pushpushpushpushpushpush.

And not less than a minute later, he managed to push open the door, revealing that the elevator was stuck roughly three feet below the actual floor of the nun’s convent. After the panic that we were going to die finally became obsolete, the panic that we were going to get caught—by nuns!—sent me back into hysterics.

Ohmygosh! We’re soooo gonna get in trouble, Geoff! We’re not supposed to BE here! We’re gonna die! We’re gonna diiiiiiiiiie!

We crawled out of the elevator and up onto the floor of the convent, the soft carpet a welcome sign of life, if only for a second. And then, my worst fear.

A nun. Walking by. As we were crawling out of the elevator. Into her home.

She stopped, surprised at the sight before her, and then made her way towards us to make sure we were okay. She wasn’t angry, she didn’t scold us. We told her that we got stuck in the elevator (was omitting the it’s-my-stupid-brother’s-fault part lying??) and that when we tried to get out, this was where we landed. She immediately led us out of the convent via the stairwell (WHY couldn’t we have just taken those in the first place?) and gently wished us better luck next time.

Needless to say, it was a long time before I got in an elevator with my brother again.

with love from Pittsburgh,

Monday, December 14, 2009

five photos in five days: photo #2.

My mom has an extremely tender heart. Despite battling schizophrenia for the majority of the past two decades, she still manages to express that tenderness, sometimes in the smallest—but most profound—of ways.

My happiest memories of my mom center around Christmas. It’s like her illness went into hiding during the month of December, and in its place emerged a walking heart with arms. Christmas was, and always will be, my mom. I can remember feeling like the luckiest kid on the planet when she’d bring up the boxes of decorations from the basement, each one labeled with her handwriting, the unique sometimes half-lowercase-half-uppercase style that has always felt like home to me.

She’d let me help her open each box and watch me squeal with delight at the memories packed inside. And I’d watch her open some of those boxes, carefully lifting out and unwrapping from white tissue paper the many treasures that had become a part of our family story. Snow globes, angel candle holders, plush snow dolls… Everything was wrapped in white tissue paper, and you could see just how much that tissue paper represented the tenderness of my mom’s heart, her desire to care for whatever small things she could when the big things—like me or my brother—were too much for her illness to handle.

That was the thing about my mom—and still is: tender. Despite the psychotic episodes, the delusions, obsessive-compulsive behaviors, or utter personality change, there were still moments of tenderness in between. And I cherished them. Wrapped myself up in them. Tucked them away within me. She was in there, not her illness.

Decorating the Christmas tree with the family—me, my mom, my dad, and my older brother, Geoff—was one of the moments of Christmas that felt so normal, safe, and free from the disease that had made a permanent home inside of my mother. And when we came to the boxes marked Ornaments, I always knew that the love my mother had for us, but couldn’t always show, would emerge from within them.

Within the larger, brown moving boxes we’d collected over the years were smaller boxes of all shapes and sizes: old stationary boxes, shoe boxes, gift boxes. And on each box my mother’s half-lowercase-half-uppercase handwriting appeared: LauRa, GEoff, Mom & DAd, GEoff, GeoFf, LAuRa. She had taken the time at the end of each Christmas, when it was time to dismantle the tree, to individually wrap each ornament in white tissue paper and place it in a box labeled for the person whose ornaments were inside. That way, during the next Christmas season, we’d each have our own boxes of treasures to unwrap from the white tissue paper that had become a part of our family history, and place those treasures upon our beloved tree.

Just last night, as I decorated my own tree here in my apartment, I unwrapped some of those boxes labeled with my mother’s handwriting. And for the first time, schizophrenia didn’t exist. She was right there. Just my mom. Her tender heart beating in my hands, beating in the shape of a small box with my name on it.

with love from Pittsburgh,

Sunday, December 13, 2009

five photos in five days: photo #1.

Life has an interesting way of doing whatever the hell it wants, regardless of your opinion. And by "interesting," I actually mean "WTF?"

Back in August, some life events occurred that caused a painful and sudden separation between me and the Ross-a-tron. I won't go into details, as I believe in protecting the intimate and deeply personal experiences that resulted due to those life events, but I will say that my heart was utterly broken. Many of you felt that pain through my words here. And I thank you for all of the love and support you showed to me during that time.

Months later, in October, more life events occurred that caused a hopeful and life-changing reunion between me and the Ross-a-tron. Like any relationship, there are ebbs and flows, mountains and valleys, sun and rain. Our relationship has not been spared from them. And for that, I can say, I am grateful. Painful as some of those difficult times can be, they often lead to stronger, deeper, and more blessed unions.

The photo above, taken last night at a Christmas party, is a testament to new beginnings. Just as Advent is a time of waiting, a time of preparation for something new, something amazing, so can be the moments of a relationship.

with love from Pittsburgh,

Thursday, December 10, 2009

i've lost (maybe?) that lovin' feeling.

I’m having a really hard time getting into the Christmas spirit this year. Maybe because I’m convinced that all the snow will fall before the big day, and, once again, we’ll have a green Christmas here in Pittsburgh. (Wasn’t last year, like, in the 50s?) Not that I wish I lived in Minnesota, where snow probably falls from September to May. No, of course not. But the white fluffy stuff sure would help. Yes, I confess: I want a Courier and Ives Christmas. Is that so wrong?

I don’t even feel like putting up my tree. I don’t feel like making cookies or any of that. Even at work, with decorations oozing out of every corner of my office and Bing crooning at me through Pandora Radio, I just.can’t.get.excited. And I can’t figure out why. I mean, the real reason why.

Is this what happens once you’re, like, not 7 anymore? Christmas just feels like another day.

I miss my grandparents being around at Christmas. I miss the smell of the house as my mom baked her Swedish snowball cookies and pecan nut cups. I miss the magic I felt as we brought the boxes of decorations up from the basement, opening each one as if it were a present itself. I miss putting up the Nativity set, checking the index card my mom left in the box each year that indicated whose turn it was—mine or my older brother’s—to put the baby Jesus in the manger.

I miss decorating the tree with my parents, pulling smaller boxes out of bigger boxes, each labeled “Laura’s Ornaments”, “Geoff’s Ornaments”, or “Mom and Dad’s Ornaments.” I miss unwrapping those ornaments, each one carefully wrapped in tissue paper by my mother the year before (after she dusted each and every single one upon removing it from the tree). I miss being in charge of the strings of lights with my dad, each of us holding onto one end and stretching the strand the whole length of the living room to make sure we got the kinks out.

I miss going to Midnight Mass with my family, snuggling in the car on the way to and from church, giggling about how late it was and ooh-ing and aah-ing at how magical the air felt. I miss—oh, how I miss!—the powerful and majestic voice of my father singing the Alleluia Chorus from our pew while the choir sang in the loft, tears welling up in my eyes because he sounded like heaven itself. I miss sitting around the kitchen table when we got home, eating Christmas cookies and drinking tea by candlelight, my brother and I periodically dashing from our chairs to take one more peek under the tree to decide what the one present would be that we were allowed to open on Christmas Eve.

The other night, I watched part of Merry Christmas, Charlie Brown! on ABC. It brought back so many memories of me and my brother curled up on the living room couch in our house outside of Chicago back in the early 80s, eyes glued to the television as Christmas special after Christmas special aired on every channel of our black and white 16” set. And towards the end of the show, when Linus tells the audience of the Christmas pageant what Christmas is really about, he says this:

Maybe if I listen to Linus again and again over the next several days, the spirit of Christmas will finally fill my heart like it used to. Because my heart swelled a little bit when I heard what he said. I thought to myself How did I—how did we—lose sight of this?

Linus, you’re a very wise man. No pun intended.

with love from Pittsburgh,

pinky swear.

I'm gonna write a post. I rully, rully am. Soon.

Like, maybe even later tonight.

with love from Pittsburgh,