Monday, December 24, 2012


Being a Christmas ornament is a pretty high pressure job. Let's face it, for 95% of the year, ornaments are tucked away, stored for the proper season. Some might say it's an easy gig but I don't see it that way. How many other jobs have such high pressure seasons? If you're a Christmas ornament, do you spend the off season hoping your glue won't fail leading to an embarrassing malfunction that could get you kicked off the A-Squad?

What happens if you get nibbled on by moths? You'll never make it to the tree that way. Ornaments are totally at the mercy of their owners. There are no guarantees of making the cut. As I unpacked my ornaments this year I swear some of them were looking at me with sad panda eyes. They knew they weren't aging well. This didn't change their desire to be a part of the celebration and I felt a little sad leaving them in their boxes. I hate disappointing people. Apparently I also hate disappointing things that aren't actually alive. Damn you giant conscience!

It was hard for me to look some of those older, more frail ornaments in the eye and give them the bad news. They weren't going to the big show. They were to remain in their packaging, nestled among the decades old newspaper and tissue.

I also noticed this year, mixed in with my ornaments was an very old piano with an angel singing at it. It has my mother's name on it and I believe she received it as a young child. I looked at that ornament and although I didn't hang it on the tree this year, I made a mental note that there was a ticking time bomb in my Christmas tote. Some day my mother will be be gone and I will open that box of ornaments and there it will be. A kick right in the dick. That's going to suck. But at least I know it's in there.

Go Christmas! Get goofy! Have fun and go over the top!

Also - what the hell do I do with ornaments given to me by my former mother-in-law? She gave me some things in good faith - mainly butterfly related and a box of balls. (Ha! Balls....) What am I to do with these things? I tried to throw a particularly ugly gold butterfly creation away but then felt so guilty I removed it from the trash can. I really, really did. I don't know what's wrong with me. Is this normal? My ex is a super douche but his mom was okay. She tried really hard. Too hard sometimes.

Who feels guilty over a damn ornament they don't even like??

May your holidays be filled with the magic of the season. Truly, I wish any and all who read this blog my sincere Christmas love. Don't sweat the small stuff. Hang your favorite ornaments, eat your favorite holiday treats, and enjoy your crazy families. I intend to do all that and then some.

Merry Christmas peepers!

Friday, December 21, 2012


I apologize for my slacking ways this week. I have a new website I have no idea how to use. I'll be learning ASAP and will soon be moving the blog over to the official webpage. Woo-hoo!

In personal news, my grandfather passed away at 82 years old this week. He and my grandmother were married for 54 years and the two of them were the best team ever. I miss them both but I did get to deliver the eulogy for both of their funeral ceremonies. It's my way of honoring them. The following is the eulogy I gave today.

It’s almost impossible to think of my grandfather without thinking of my grandmother. I can’t help but to think, Memere had a lot of input here. Christmas was her favorite time of the year. At Memere and Pepere’s house, the Christmas Carols started in October and went pretty much through February.  

Christmas at the Granger house was truly a sight to behold. A lot of people can say they had great family Christmases and traditions but how many of them can say they had a musical, spinning Christmas tree? Memere and Pepere did Christmas like nobody’s business. My last conversation with Pepere, before he left The Village, was, ironically, about Christmas. Or, more precisely, Christmas ornaments.

In my family every year, Memere and Pepere would give each grandkid an ornament. We usually received these on Christmas Eve so we could put them right on the tree in time for Santa to see them when he stopped by. The past few years, Christmas hasn’t really felt good to me. In fact, I think I may have been holding a grudge because the holiday reminded me so strongly of my grandmother and I wasn’t ready for that. It hurt too much, it felt too soon, and when Pepere moved out of the house on Hackmatack, a little part of me went with him. I didn’t realize it at the time, but I was really angry.

I was angry that he was old and frail. I was angry that she was gone. I was angry that despite all our best efforts, the job of keeping him in that house was simply too big. I felt like a failure. I know it sounds crazy but I really thought I was letting him and Memere down. I believed she was disappointed. I buried that hurt under layers of anger because feeling angry is so much easier than feeling grief or accepting change.

I buried it so well I forgot it was there. But this year, something inside of me shifted. For the first time since I became an adult and left the nest, I had a real Christmas tree to decorate. I had a real plan to do something really fun and totally for myself and my husband’s pleasure and all of you who received our Christmas card have seen the end result of my letting go of that anger.

A funny thing happened this year as I decorated my tree. I had Christmas carols playing and was decorating by myself. It was then that I realized, almost every ornament on my tree came from Memere and Pepere. I have almost 30 years worth of ornaments, painstakingly wrapped in tissue and saved for me by my mother, the planner. I’m so grateful to her for keeping those ornaments for me and making sure I had them when I was ready for them. Even more than the ornaments given to me by my grandparents, I had ornaments from their home to put on my tree this year. Ornaments I have been looking at my entire life, that I used to decorate the tree at Memere and Pepere’s house when we were all together.

I told Pepere that. I told him how smart they were to have given us something we would have forever without even trying.
I also told him about a funny thing that happened to me this season as I was decorating my tree a few days after Thanksgiving. The first ornaments to go on my tree were the ones from their home on Hackmatack Street. As I hung them on the tree I began to feel something warming in my chest and my heart. I began to smile without realizing it and as I continued to hang those ornaments I felt the most intense sensation of love. Of being loved. Of deep happiness and peace. I knew what I was feeling was special. I know it was my grandmother. She came to me to let me know, I didn’t need to be angry at Christmas anymore. She reminded me that Christmas was her absolute favorite time of year and, as I pointed out to Pepere in our last conversation, Memere never gave me bad advice. She wanted me to feel her presence to remind me of that. I truly believe she was visiting me to let me know she was close by and she knew I would pass the message along to Pepere.

He smiled when I told him that. He said, “Your grandmother loved Christmas. It was her favorite.” I realized then, in that moment that while she was the front of the operation, he was the one behind the curtain making sure she had everything she needed or wanted to make Christmas (or, actually, any other day of the year) really special. Pepere made sure the tree was cut straight on the bottom so it would fit precisely in that spinning, singing, stand. He was the one who painstakingly stored the ornaments and decorations each and every year. He was the one who would build our toys for us when they required assembly. Pepere was the one who let her have the spotlight while he made sure things ran with precision. The only time he commanded attention was when he was playing Santa and passing out the mounds of presents beneath the tree.

It wasn’t only at Christmas that he quietly ensured things ran according to plan. Memere and Pepere were a team in every sense of the word. Well, by team I mean, she wished for something, he made it come true. Even when - well especially when I think - she needed him to be the bad guy and deliver unpopular news. No matter the request, large or small, he lived to make her happy. And I think we can all say, he did a great job.

So remember that today, we celebrate the life of Pepere. A life that started out small in the town of New Bedford, Massachusetts that grew and grew into what you see around you today. Six children. Six loved daughter and son-in-laws. 13 Grandchildren. And one, great-grandson. This is not a time to mourn a loss. This is a time to open ourselves to the joy of reunion. By no means do I believe this timing is accidental. He wanted to go out on a high note and Memere wanted to say hi to us all and let us know, by virtue of the season, she’s with us. She wants us to know it’s okay. She called and he went, he’s with her, where he’s meant to be, where he wanted to be. Some things never change. Open your hearts to the love they had, let that be your comfort.

Merry Christmas Memere and Pepere and all of you.

Saturday, December 15, 2012

Talking to Your Kids About Sandy Hook

A parent asked me today how to talk to her son about the tragic school shooting here in our small home state. He's already freaked out by school and the thought of someone stealing him thanks to the joys of being six years old in 2012. Kids today are exposed to levels of hatred and violence there is simply no excuse or precedent for. Throughout history children have borne witness to and carried the scars from brushes with the adult world's evil. Forever changed they grow into adults who know the depths of depravity a human being is capable of. They walk among us with wise eyes and quietly carry the burden of guilt and memory only those who survive a catastrophic event can understand. Survivors survive. We call them survivors because they will carry this inside them for life. Eventually the brain and the body will work together to knit a protective scar over the horrors they have seen but the horror will come up to haunt them forever.

Still others of us are blessed enough to have traveled through life without more than glimpses of what the worst could look like. For that we should all take a moment and say Thank You - to God or the Universe or whatever higher power you connect with.

You have to talk to your kids about this. And you have to protect them from seeing the news, newspaper, blogs, Facebook, whatever. They have seen and heard enough. Secondary traumatization is what can happen when we are exposed to graphic scenes or images over and over and over again. If adults can suffer from it - and without doubt we are all grieving right now - children will suffer from it that much more. Children are truly not able to comprehend the immensity of what happened this morning when a 20-year old gunman walked into a school and murdered 20 students, six teachers, his mother (at her home), then killed himself. As an adult I can hardly wrap my head around it. It's still soaking in and I wish that it wouldn't.

Ask your kids if they have any questions before you start talking. Listen to them. Let them find their own words - words have power, let your children find their voices. Expect to hear questions such as  "Can this happen to me?" "What if that happens here?" "Am I safe? Is my school safe?" "What would you do if that happened to me?" "Why did that guy kill those people?" "Were those kids bad?"

Stay calm, keep your voice neutral and assure them, over and over, that they are safe. Their school is safe. This is a one in a million event. The bad guy is dead. We have police and firemen and hospitals and doctors here to keep us safe. Their school will be making new ways to keep them safe. We don't know why that man did that. Sometimes people do bad things and we never find out why but what's most important is that we remember those who were hurt by those bad things.  We love the children who were lost. We never, ever, say kids are bad. There's no such thing as a bad kid and the kids in that school did everything they were supposed to do. They followed their teachers instructions and they had parents and siblings and friends who loved them very much. Just as much as we love you.

Don't allow the kids to perseverate on the topic. We are going to talk about this one time tonight then we are going to make popcorn and watch a movie or read a book. We can talk about it tomorrow and the next day and the next day after that if you have to. We'll be here. You'll be here with us. We'll be together every day forever and you will always be safe and loved with us.

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Tree Envy

This year is the first year Jacob and I have gotten an actual, nice Christmas tree. Yes, it's fake. Whatever, stop judging. The dogs would totally make out with a real tree and I don't have the time or extra skin available to dive in and pull my cat out of the tree seventeen times a day.

Initially I had a bit of trouble feeling the tree love. I mean, it's lovely to look at but do fake trees have souls? A sense of humor? Do they know they're the star of the show? Real trees come with all sorts of adventures including the epic sawing of the bottom of the trunk to make it even. Watching someone attempt to do this can be stressful. Until you realize it's fun watching your loved ones struggle. That's when you break out the iPhone video camera and post to YouTube.

A fake tree will never bring fun extra friends into your home the way a real tree can. We've all seen the magic of Clark Griswald  being attacked by a squirrel. I'll tell you right now, if my tree came with a free squirrel I would call that a Win. I would name him Sparkles and he would wear a tiny elf hat and sit on my shoulder wherever I went. Like a pirate with a parrot but better. Because parrots don't have fluffy tails. Sparkles and I would become a holiday favorite, we could make appearances at local schools and sign autographs and take pictures. We'd be local celebrities and perhaps even receive a key to the city.

None of that is going to happen with a fake tree okay?

However, fake trees do come with their own set of frustrations and struggles. I'll leave you with a quote from my friend, Dawn. She is the coolest, most Christmas spirited girl I know.

All right Christmas tree. Even though I bought you at a flea market over the summer for $20, I expect more from you. A missing stand? Random sections of blinking lights? Tree top blackout? A severe lean to the left? 3 collapses? You may have eluded me this far but today I am putting an end to your bullshit. You will be perfect if I have to strangle it out of you. We're gonna take treehugger to a whole new level motherfucker.

If that doesn't say Christmas I don't what will.


Sunday, December 9, 2012

Tis' the Season of...Creepy?

I'll admit that I probably wasn't the most normal of little kids. I can roll with that and, in fact, even celebrate it now that I'm old enough to appreciate it. While most kids loved Santa and the Easter Bunny fervently, I hated and feared them. I mean, I liked presents and candy - don't get me wrong. But the idea of someone - anyone - breaking into my house while I was sleeping was just not okay.

I would lie awake every Christmas Eve (and Easter Eve if that's a real thing) and quietly freak out. I would try not to blink because I knew they were magical beings and, therefore, extremely fast. I feared if I blinked I would miss something and they would be able to steal me away. So there I would lay, eyes wide open, sometimes holding my lids apart with my fingers, staring up at the ceiling. I'm pretty sure I took this too far on a couple of occasions because I can actually remember "seeing" Santa. Looking back I suspect this was more a hallucination on the part of a young girl who'd had too much eggnog. At the time, however, it was very real and scared the shit out of me.

Fast forward to the present. I'm not a parent but that doesn't mean I live under a rock. I know about this whole "Elf on the Shelf" thing. It appears to be some sort of torture/manipulation device used by parents to get their kids to behave around the holidays. While I applaud the creativity, I also shudder a bit in horror. If I were a little kid and my parents told me a stuffed toy was watching me I would have been completely freaked out. I probably would have made that elf disappear and to hell with the risk of Santa finding out.

Creepy little eyes that follow me around the house is a little too Big Brother for my taste even as an adult. Parents? What do your kids think of this? Are they creeped out or on board? Does the elf write them little notes as it moves about the house?

If I were a parent I suspect I would not be able to resist messing with the kids. As in "Henry. I know what you did with the Victoria's Secret catalog. Is there something you'd like to talk to Santa about?"

Or perhaps, "Dear little Janey, I noticed that all your Barbie heads have been chopped off and you seem to have decided the toilet is the proper receptacle for them. Cut the shit or you're totally getting coal."

Yet another reason why I stick with cats and dogs.

The only upside? Apparently these elves shit Hershey Kisses....

Friday, December 7, 2012

It's On My To-Do List Okay?

Tis the Christmas season and as I am writing this I have about 37 thoughts banging around in my head. I have to admit, I have never been a huge Christmas person. Sure I love buying presents for my loved and I love receiving presents for damn sure, but as for the rest - the music, decorations, mania, and general chaos of the season, well, not a fan. Not to mention awkward family events.

Thankfully, as I've gotten older I have been able to care less and less about what people think of me and more and more about how they interact with me. Do they take any interest at all in me as a person? Do they have any idea what I do? Have I spoken to them at any other time over the past year? I have a big family on both my dad and mom's sides. It's inevitable that I will be closer to some family members than others and I'm okay with that.

Growing up a musician in the family comes back to bite me in the ass every year. Sweet Jesus. I know I took piano lessons for my entire life and yes I went to music school. Yes I loved it and still do but I have absolutely no way to play on any type of regular basis and I haven't since I graduated from The Hartt School of Music in 2000. I was 22. I'm 34 now. That's 12 years of no piano or music of any kind in my life. This is not okay with me. I miss it - something I never thought I would say.

When I went to Hartt I was already insecure about my abilities. Being surrounded by people who are off the charts talented and driven will make that happen. I also didn't have the extensive music theory training a lot of my peers did. I took piano lessons, I was naturally good at it so I didn't have to practice for hours every day.  It came pretty naturally. Until I had to perform or be put on the spot. My piano teacher at Hartt was kind of a nightmare. To this day I still have no idea what country she was from but she had an accent that made it hard to take her seriously and she clearly did not care about teaching me theory. She was a whiner you guys. I can't stand whiners. I spent most of my time with her trying not to say anything rude. It was a battle.

Having to play in front of juries every year killed me. I had horrible stage fright about playing and having to perform on command basically froze my fingers into stiff claws that refused to cooperate. I pretty much passed by the skin of my teeth and got out of that room as fast as possible, passing with C's was fine by me. Until my senior year when I was finally able to channel my dislike for my teacher and, by that point, my school, into some kind of piano rage. I practiced my ass off and when I went in for my senior jury I killed it. Killed the shit out of it. The jury members were shocked and excited and my teacher was speechless. Hah! Take that mean lady! The student you gave up on just made you look like an asshole (because I found out later you'd "warned" them I wasn't very good.)

Who got the "A"? This girl that's who! Suck it bitches!

And thus ended my piano career. I didn't follow the path I'd laid out for myself of a job in the music industry because by the time I was 22, I was over it. I outgrew it and wanted to do something meaningful with my life. So I took jobs that didn't pay squat, worked entry-level paraprofessional positions you didn't even need a college degree for, and purposely exposed myself to every sector of the mental health field I could get my hands on. I worked three jobs in special education at the same time my first year out of college. I was a paraprofessional in an alternative middle/high school, tutored students who'd been expelled, and taught night school English and reading.

I have poured so much more energy into becoming the person I am today than I ever did when learning to play the piano or sing. I have worked so freaking hard to be so good at what I do I am able to support myself, by myself. Not to seem unappreciative but when people ask me to play the piano my instant reaction is "No!" Because it's been 12 years. Because my hands aren't the way they used to be. Because pianos are large and heavy and it's not like I can just have one in every place I live. That's not an option.

I sure wish sometimes I'd been a guitarist or violinist or something. At least those instruments are portable. Piano? Not so much. So I'm sorry if you want me to play for you. I wish I'd known you when I was a different person and much younger. I wish you could have seen it because I put a lot of love into it and someday maybe I'll be able to again. When I'm all grown up and settled somewhere I will have a piano and I will probably take some lessons again.

You can't have everything all at once. I have to accept that some things take more time than others and some things take a lot more time. It's in my mind and in my heart, someday it will be in my home.

Sunday, December 2, 2012

Yoga Give-Away! WOW!

Darling Shrinkers,

Here's the thing. I hate exercise. I loathe it, detest it, avoid it like the plague. Except for yoga! Yoga allows me to genuinely feel better immediately. I walk into class stiff, sore, stressed and maybe a little drained. I walk out feeling loose, restored, and smiling. You just can't beat that y'all.

I have, out of sheer luck, stumbled upon a wonderful yoga studio right here in South Windsor. And by right here, I mean it is literally in the plaza across the street from my office. So even on days I don't get my lazy ass into yoga pants, I am still reminded of it daily.

Yoga Born in South Windsor has become my happy place for all things yoga. I have brought clients there, friends there, and, my greatest and most favorite achievement - I have brought Jacob there. He took his very first yoga class ever yesterday and he is hooked! I could not be more thrilled! Remember guys - Jacob is a DUDE. Like, big, tattooed, dude. Real men take yoga. (And it's super cute that mine does!)

The owner, Dawn Greenfield, is an absolute gem. She is super laid-back and friendly not to mention insanely knowledgeable. A very smart lady, she has organized an excellent web site where you can see class schedules, make a reservation to attend a class, and pay for the class all at the same time. Genius! All I have to do is go on my iPad and click some stuff so when I get to Yoga Born, all I have to worry about is participating.

Because I love all of you out there so very much, I am giving away a Groupon for 10 Yoga Classes AT Yoga Born to be used by you howsoever you desire. All I ask is for you to tell me one thing about yourself and pick a number between 1 - 200. So easy! Like me on Facebook for even easier access!

Now go my babies! Tell me something cool! You have until Wednesday! Smooches!