The Fifth Christmas

We had our annual holiday brunch over the weekend. As usual, it was a great day celebrating the season with our friends and family. That evening, I logged onto Facebook to see that, exactly five years ago, we held our brunch on the same day. Here’s the photo I posted from that day, in which we expressed our feelings about cancer:

Suck it, cancer.

I didn’t know it then, but December 3, 2011 was the last time Dad was ever in my house. He stayed all day and into the evening (the term “brunch” always ends up being a euphemism with this party), being fun and chatting with people and just ruling the party. My oldest, dearest friends Georgann, Ann, Jane, Sheri, and Ali (all of whom Dad loved) saw him for the last time that day, although they didn’t know it then. We took that group photo that day, which would be one of our last photos with him (although we didn’t know it then). He was just fun and amazing the whole time. I know now how sick he was, and I understand how difficult it was for him to even get dressed to leave the house– but while he was clearly ill, you would never have known just how sick he felt. He was the same on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day 2011: fun and loving, and– although I didn’t know it then– dedicated to giving us the gift of one more precious holiday together. Now– on the other side of this great divide in our family’s life– I am beginning to understand the great heroics performed by Dad in those last days, rising above his illness to immerse himself in the holidays with us, this last time. I have great memories of that last holiday season. None of us was wearing blinders– Dad’s illness was present at all times– but we worked around it, and we found joy in being all together.

We have spent four subsequent Christmases without Dad, and we’re on the cusp of the fifth. In some ways it’s hard every year. However, as time goes by, I remember more and more Dad’s determination to give us all one last great Christmas. I was lucky enough to have 39 years with Dad– almost twice the number that he got with his own father– and a lifetime’s worth of happy Christmas memories. I’m going to try to be as strong and brave as he was, and honor his gift to us by focusing on the good.

But for real, still and always: suck it, cancer.


    Mattress update

    Yesterday, we thought our new hopefully-dreamy-and-perfect mattress was being delivered. Dave tore apart our room and put our mattress in the hallway (this is a really classy look, by the way).

    No mattress.

    Now it’s supposed to arrive today. Meanwhile, I’ve been reading about people who have bought memory foam mattresses and then say things like, “I love it…. now,” or, “It took me about a month to stop missing my old mattress,” or, “This is just what we have now, so I sleep on it.” So I’m utterly convinced that last night was my last night of comfortable sleep. Don’t tell Dave because he’s really excited about the new mattress… and also: if I have to get used to sleeping on the bed equivalent of packing peanuts, then honestly let’s just get the show on the road.

    It is currently 2:55pm and still nothing. (We did get our new printer yesterday, though, and our new club chair will be here on Friday, thus preventing us from having to explain to everyone at our annual party, “Um, that chair is going to be thrown out next week…” –so we’ve got that going for us.) My guess– since the mattress is supposed to require 4 hours to fully expand from being compressed under tremendous pressure (I’m hoping that the “expansion” is more like a “cartoon explosion,” so I want to be home to witness and photograph it)– is that it will arrive tonight around 930pm.

    I’ll let you know!

      Gabby, the dancer

      Gabby’s big competition was yesterday. The one that takes the best 150 Irish dancers in 14 states (well, this year the number was around 150, if you take out the no-shows) and tries to find the best of the best. Every year, Gabby has worked hard and qualified to dance in this competition (through her performance at other regional competitions, this sport is so complicated). All the girls dance two rounds, and then they keep the top half to compete further. Gabby has only made it into the top 50% one time in the 6 years she has competed. Yesterday was not that time.

      One of the other mothers texted me later, calling Gabby a “such a strong dancer and a fierce competitor.” I got that text while sitting on the couch, Gabby’s head in my lap. It was about 7:30 last night. She had gone through all the nerves and the anticipation and the letdown and the tears- followed always by her resolve to try again. Gabby believes in herself more than anyone I have ever met (not always a helpful trait, by the way). She IS a strong dancer and a fierce competitor– in part because that kid just will never, ever, ever, ever, EVER give up. I read her that text last night. I told her last night that hundreds of girls fail each year to even qualify, and she should be proud to make that high benchmark every year (she has already qualified for next year). I reminded her that it’s about the journey too. I said that it was okay to be disappointed, but not okay if she allowed her disappointment to be the most important thing about the journey. I reminded her of the hours she had spent in the studio with the other girls, supporting each other and laughing and getting better every day, and I said that that was the most important part.

      And she said, her voice muffled by the blanket in which she was wrapped, “Thanks, Mom. I don’t want to make you feel bad, but I’m okay and I’m trying to watch The Walking Dead.

      “Also, can I bring cupcakes to dance this week?”

      –So she’s fine.

        In which Dave and I have a mature discussion about a large purchase.

        Actual conversation I had yesterday:
        DAVE: Take a look at those mattresses I pulled up online.
        JULIE: ….You want to get a new mattress?
        DAVE: What do you think about the memory foam?
        JULIE: Well, you know how I hate the memory foam pillows.
        DAVE: Right, but remember how much we liked that memory foam mattress topper at the cabin in Michigan?
        JULIE: Didn’t we hate it the following year though, like it wasn’t comfortable anymore?
        DAVE: I think so, yes. Here, you can customize your side. I did yours for you. You should do it yourself, though.
        JULIE [reading]: “Because you have a lower BMI..” that’s fine… “Because you have broader shoulders and hips?”
        DAVE: Well, I chose the Hourglass figure for you.
        DAVE: That’s why I said you should do it!!! Look at your options!!!!
        JULIE: ……oh. Fine. Hourglass. But I don’t like that term.
        DAVE [with great weariness]: I know.
        JULIE [still reading]: Oh my gosh, this shows up in a mini-fridge box?
        DAVE: It pops open and then it takes about 4 hours to decompress.
        JULIE: ….I don’t think I want to sleep on a mattress that can be stuffed into a mini-fridge box.
        DAVE: That’s just how the hybrid mattresses are packed to ship. This is exactly how they arrive in a mattress store, and then the store opens them up and they take their shape. If we get an innerspring mattress, they’ll deliver it like always but I thought we might try a hybrid.
        JULIE: This says it takes some time to get used to.
        DAVE: Oh my God, you’ll pass out in thirty seconds like always.
        JULIE: But what if I don’t? What if I don’t like it?
        DAVE: We can return it within 100 days and get a regular innerspring mattress. I already picked one out for you to look at.
        JULIE: Would we have to stuff it back into the mini-fridge box?
        DAVE: No, that is obviously impossible. Someone would pick it up.
        JULIE: This feels like the purchase of a grad school student. Look at this picture of these two hipsters, unpacking the box.
        JULIE: I don’t know, man.
        The moral of the story is that the mattress will be here in a couple of weeks. In a mini fridge box. My skepticism level is high, but I’ll keep you posted.


          Here are the things I am grateful for, as I sit in my kitchen on Thanksgiving morning:

          • That the dog no longer requires me to go outside and walk him first thing, but has figured it it’s best for us all if he just pees in the back yard.
          • Coffee.
          • A husband who both gets my clever literary-reference jokes AND can explain sports rules to me.
          • That Thanksgiving takes place at the START of the holiday weekend, not the end (looking at you, Easter).
          • I recently discovered that treasure trove of gifs in my text menu.
          • Addie J, after making her oddly gritty “test pie” on Sunday, choose to make a different pie for today.
          • It isn’t raining, so I can go for my Thanksgiving morning run in peace.
          • We aren’t eating until later in the afternoon, so I don’t have to go for my Thanksgiving run right this second.
          • My three children who are happy, healthy, and usually keep the smart remarks to a minimum.

          Happy Thanksgiving!


            GABBY: Hey Mom: do you ever run readiness drills in your classes?

            JULIE: What do you mean?

            GABBY: Well, I was thinking. Like our teachers ask us to think about what we would do in different situations.

            JULIE: Oh. Not really. Why?

            GABBY: Well, because like I was thinking, one of the things they ask us is, what would you do if your teacher got hurt by someone?

            JULIE: …..Okay…..

            GABBY: And I was thinking, what would you say if you asked that question, and one of your students said, “I would avenge you”?

            JULIE: …..I would say, “Thank you, that is correct.”

            GABBY: That’s awesome. Okayseeyabye!!!!!!! [flounces off as though she’s settled an important matter]

            It’s a strange new world our children are living in. Thank God they have a sense of humor about it.


              I know just how you feel.

              Last night, I was all “How did this happen?” and “What kind of person falls for this nonsense?” and “RIP USA” and all. I know how you feel. I am worried about all the things you’re worried about too.

              This morning, though, I have regained my perspective. Americans have persevered through way worse than a rogue orange buffoon sitting in the Oval Office. We have always worked to persevere.  We don’t give up: we keep believing, and we keep working, and we rise above. So we have 3 jobs now:

              1. Hope that we are wrong to call him the rogue orange buffoon. Hope that he is a president who can unite us all in a time of prosperity and peace.
              2. Believe that, even if he doesn’t, everything will eventually be okay.
              3. Continue to persevere. Continue to believe. Continue to rise.

              That’s what’s next for me, anyway. I send positive thoughts to the new president and all my best hopes for a successful term. I believe that, even if his time in office is exactly the giant dumpster fire I see in my nightmares, his term will end and we will get through it. And regardless of what happens in the Oval Office, I will continue to move forward.

                Fly The W

                I keep checking to see if my employer will allow us to stay home and celebrate today, but they must be too busy celebrating to put out that notice just yet. In the meantime:

                Never, ever, ever, ever, EVER give up.

                  Halloween Crafting Redux

                  I knew you would want to see how the girls’ costumes turned out:

                  Addie J, the jellyfish.

                  Addie J, the jellyfish.

                  Lishie in her Day of the Dead costume.

                  Lishie in her Day of the Dead costume.


                  I TOTALLY thought these two costumes were going to end up as the, “Nailed it!!” side of a Pinterest Fails meme. I feel like I got away with something here. (To be fair: Cam, leaving for his friend’s house, came downstairs in a brown Hot Chocolate 5K hoodie– serving as his costume– and asked me what else he could do to look like Scooby-Doo. I just gave him a black dog nose and sent him on his way. That could easily fit the Pinterest Fails bill.)


                    How Gabby handles Dave.

                    [Background info: earlier this week, Gabby left a Post-It note that she had an after-school activity and needed a pickup. Dave read her the riot act about not planning ahead. I wasn’t home to witness, but from what I heard later, it was apparently quite the riot.]

                    GABBY: Mom, when Dad gets off the phone, can you please tell him I have student council today?

                    JULIE: …Okay…

                    GABBY: So he has to pick me up at 3:45?

                    JULIE: …Okaaaaaaay….

                    GABBY: Oh! No, he already knows. He asked me to remind him, that’s all.

                    JULIE: Oh. Okay, then.

                    GABBY: Don’t worry. It’s not like I’m asking you to tame the beast or anything. I already tamed him.

                    This is who we’re dealing with, folks. This is Peak Gabby right here.


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