Tag Archives: stress

For the Sake of Sanity, Can We Spread Some of This Cheer Around?

christmas cat

In the last 24 hours, I have:

  • bought cupcakes for Carlos’ class party
  • talked to my therapist about how to deal with grief at the holidays
  • made two wreaths to donate to a charity auction
  • texted with my mother to arrange Christmas lunch at Grandmama Irene’s house
  • wrapped gifts that my department is donating to a family in need
  • texted with my siblings to talk about how we’re going to get through Christmas Eve
  • explained why the elf didn’t move
  • drawn a red nose on my son for his school sing along then sat with him as he refused to both sing and go along (but we had a good time anyway)
  • made “reindeer food” with his classmates and decorated ice cream cone trees with green frosting and candies
  • performed my day job, which includes helping with the holiday party for 3000+ employees, advertising the carolers who visit the hospital, finding a photo of a surgeon in an ugly sweater, evacuating the building because someone’s kid pulled a fire alarm in midwifery, encouraging Toys for Tots donations, etc etc
  • picked up a plate of sweet treats from my friend Jo’s baking extravaganza
  • sung along to “A Very Soulful Christmas” with songs like “Back Door Santa” and Otis Redding’s “White Christmas”
  • wrapped 21 Little Golden Books for C’s classmates
  • agreed to make two more wreaths for the auction because we don’t have as many as we did last year and WHY NOT??

This last week of school before the Christmas break is NUTS. I know people are celebrating Hanukkah, Christmas, Yule, solstice, Kwanzaa, Las Posadas (…and the list goes on) for religious or cultural reasons right now, but why have we attached so many other activities to this time? Many of the things that have become associated with the holiday season don’t have to be tied specifically to Christmas.

I say we spread some of the holiday cheer around to other months–for the sake of our sanity and to inject some fun into the more neglected days on the calendar.

January – My friend got “elfed” the other night. It’s a game her neighborhood is playing where you leave a stocking of treats on the doorstep and challenge the recipient to “elf” two houses the next night. It’s a cute idea and all but who has time in December? I suggest we move this to New Year’s Eve. You sneak 100 firecrackers onto your neighbor’s front porch with a long fuse and a note that says, “You’ve Been Banged! Go bang your neighbors!”

February – Instead of Christmas cards, let’s send Valentines to each other. Include a gorgeous picture of your family, wearing all those new clothes they got for Christmas. And we all will have had six weeks to lose a few pounds after Thanksgiving and Christmas!

March – March is the perfect month for neighborhood potlucks and office parties. People need to let off some steam after the long winter. Let’s make office parties like grown up prom!

April – April Fools Day and Earth Day are both woefully under-celebrated. Let’s schedule big family dinners on April Fools Day so we can play pranks and get liquored up and tell funny stories. On Earth Day, how about we go outside and decorate a tree. If you don’t have a tree, plant one!

May – May is for MOTHER’S DAY and nothing else. In fact, let’s look into expanding this one.

June – Canned food drives always happen in November, around Thanksgiving. But food banks need support throughout the year. I say we move food drives to June and while we’re at it, we work in a community garden too!

July – Caroling moves to July. The weather is nice, the days are long so it’s safe to walk from house to house. There are tons of patriotic songs out there. Why not get all the neighborhood kids who do marching band to put on an impromptu show? Sparklers and singing!

August – This is the month to focus on teacher gifts. Instead of drowning our teachers in bath oils, infinity scarves and coffee gift cards in December, let’s treat them at the start of the school year. It will help ease the pain of saying goodbye to summer. If your kids are handfuls like mine, starting the year by greasing the wheel is a pretty wise investment.

September – Now it’s time for baking! Let’s make all those candies, cakes and cookies in September to celebrate the end of swimsuit season!

October – Forget about Elf on the Shelf. Get your family a Ghoul on a Stool. This terrifying stuffed toy (with optional shrieking) sneaks around your house at night to make sure kids stay in their beds. The Ghoul doesn’t tattle to Santa–it handles shit right then and there. Eats your kid’s face right off if they get out of line. By the time Halloween rolls around, your kids will be fighting over who gets to take out the trash. They won’t be sleeping, but they’ll behave.

November – It’s the perfect month for school programs, orchestra concerts, dance recitals, middle school poetry slams. All the events that require parents to sit on narrow chairs in an overheated gymnasium will be moved to November.

December – Now it’s time for Christmas and we’ve actually got time for Christmas because we moved all that other stuff around the year. Breathe in, breathe out. Every one is a gift.


No Spaghetti

spaghettiI don’t think I’ve ever made reference to this before, but my children may not be perfect in all ways.  And I sometimes worry that I’m not the Best Mother Ever.

I KNOW.  I’ll give you a second to regroup.  Put your head between your knees if you start to see sparkles.  

So I was blowing off to my friend Nicole yesterday about my worries regarding my kids and she said, “Hey, this is no spaghetti.”  

There’s nothing like having your own advice quoted back to you.  Here’s the story behind “no spaghetti.”  

Back in 2004 when Richard was sick, I spent 10 months traveling back and forth every other week between home and work in Athens and Baltimore where he was getting his treatments.  On a typical week, I would leave at lunch on Wednesday, take the dogs to Griffin, drive to the airport and fly to Baltimore that night.  Stay for a few days with him, marking hours in the hospital, running errands, waiting.  Then back home on the Sunday 7 p.m. flight.  Drive from the airport to Griffin where Daddy and Big Gay would have my puppies and a big Diet Coke waiting on me.  Then a two hour drive to Athens.  Hit the bed about 2 a.m. and get up for work Monday morning.  

One Monday morning was particularly hard.  That weekend, Richard had gotten bad news about his response to the latest treatment.  It was getting really hard to believe that he was ever going to get better.  He had been readmitted to the Oncology unit with pneumonia on Saturday.  After all that and the long journey home, I was used up by the time I got to work on Monday.  

At lunchtime, I dragged down to the cafeteria.  The line snaked all the way to the entrance because it was Spaghetti Day.  Our cafeteria makes some kickass spaghetti–tasty, cheap, and healthyish with turkey.  I got in line to wait my turn.  I was so tired I leaned up against the counter by the dessert case.  The line crept along.  

After a while, only one woman remained in front of me.  She automatically said, “Spaghetti for here.”  The steam tray that had been filled with spaghetti was scraped clean.  The woman behind the counter answered, “I’m sorry, we’re out of spaghetti.  Can I get you something else?”  

WHAM!  The disgruntled employee slammed her plastic tray down on the serving counter so hard that her silverware bounced into the air and scattered.  She snarled, “I’ve been waiting half my 30 minute lunch and y’all are out?  This is UNBELIEVABLE!!”  She turned to me like it was time to rise up in rebellion and asked, “Is this not unbelievable???”

The sudden noise and her ridiculously infantile behavior sent me over the edge.  I burst out in maniacal laughter.  “My fiance is 38 years old and DYING.  THAT is unbelievable.  THIS?  THIS IS NO SPAGHETTI!  NO SPAGHETTI!  GET OVER IT!”

She scooted over to the sandwich line without another peep.  

No spaghetti.  It’s good to have friends remind you of your own advice sometimes.  Pump the brakes, Ash, this is no spaghetti.  Thanks, Nicole!




You know those times when you have a day that should have been a really good day–and it WAS a really good day–but then one person says one pissant thing and bursts the whole bubble?  And you keep telling yourself “Let it go!  Let it go!  That’s about them, not about you!  Kumbayah, My Lord, Kumbayah!” but your mind floooooooaaaats back to that meanness?  And by the end of the day you think you’ve forgotten about it but as soon as you sit in the car and take a deep breath before turning your mind to what to cook for dinner and who has homework left to do…then all of a sudden you’re CRYING?  And it’s not sad crying, it’s MAD crying?  Then 20 minutes later you’re back to thinking about meanness and wondering if you still remember the finer points of rolling toilet paper all over someone’s yard?  But you can’t do that because your husband is at a conference and you can’t leave the kids alone long enough to go t.p. some trees…oh, and you’re out of toilet paper?  And you can’t take the kids with you because you’d be setting a bad example and besides they suck at being stealthy?


I may or may not have had a day like that today.  Mind keeps floating back to meanness.  Retaliation.  Comeuppance.  (That’s twice in a week I’ve used “comeuppance” in a post so I think it might be time for a spa day.)

Days like today, I recall an old Polish Proverb:  “Not my circus, not my monkeys.”  It’s their clever way of saying “Not my problem” at the same time recognizing that life is essentially a circus filled with shit-flinging monkeys.  Circuses are fun, but they do smell.  

So I made a little picture to unleash my creative side.  If you find yourself surrounded by monkeys some day, print this out and tape it above your desk at work.  Or home.  Depends on the monkeys.  


There Must Be a Better Word for That

Today I spent the whole day dragged down and wrapped up in words like

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My day was shaping up into a depressive haiku.

squirrelAbout 5:15, I gave up (or as I call it “threw my f*ck it flag) and left the office.  Walking back to my car, I passed a patch of tea olives and the scent tapped me on the shoulder. “Pardon me?  Miss?  The world is lovely and it’s right here.”  

A new word popped into my head:  waft.

I smiled…just a little.  The tense muscles around my face rearranged themselves gladly.  More words:  smirk, moue, whimsy.  

The sun pattering down through the oak canopy warmed my cheeks and I thought of another word:  dappled.  

A sleek squirrel scampered across the pebbled path.  We locked eyes–gazed–for a fleeting moment, then he was off.

I stopped there on the path and filled my mind with better words…


Then I continued on my way.  Rejuvenated.  Replenished.  Refreshed.  Hopeful.  Satisfied.  

What’s the most beautiful word you know?  The most peaceful?  The word that makes you stand still?  The one that gets you going?