You know you’re Jewish on Christmas…

1. You can hum along with every Christmas carol but can’t recite the words to any of them.

2. You stare in disbelief any time you see someone voluntarily consume eggnog.

3. You find the idea of a stranger sneaking into your house through the chimney to be terrifying, not magical.

4. Elf on the Shelf…What?

5. There are no childhood photos of you screaming bloody murder on  Santa’s lap. I’ve seen dozens of friends post these images of themselves and their kiddos this week, and I can’t say I regret missing this rite of passage.

6. The only holiday movie you’ve seen in its entirety is National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation.

7. You don’t know what the word “yule” means. Yuletide…Yule log…Clueless.

8. You desperately seek plans on December 24th to avoid #FOMO

9. It feels appropriate to crave Chinese food on December 25th.

10. You own Christmas pajamas but have no photos of yourself wearing them.

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Tuesday Confessions

1. Before leaving for work today I had the privilege of cleaning up a double whammy of dog urine AND dog vomit.

2. Last week I asked a delivery man at work to only speak to me in Spanish when he passed by. Today was our second conversation. “It’s all coming back, all coming back to me now” -Celine Dion

3. Everything on Facebook makes me cry lately. What gives. Inspirational stories of goodwill, pets up for adoption, sleep-deprived friends lamenting motherhood…I think it’s the holidays, but I may need to abstain so I can stop snotting all over my computer.

4. I have a knack for catching onto shows way behind everyone else. Usually two to five years behind. But I’m almost current with House of Cards (which is on, like, now), and I like it very much. Makes me miss working in the governor’s office and slightly remorseful that I never used my journalism degree to become an actual journalist.

5. I critique neighborhood Christmas light displays in my head with the intensity of a Romanian gymnastics judge. I have no experience but very competitive standards.

6. My oldest friend Amy lives in LA and lost her cell phone this week. This tragedy has been alleviated through several lengthy, humiliating and hysterical Facebook exchanges that culminated tonight in a photo of the cast of Dawson’s Creek.

7. Three jobs I’d be terribly suited to pursue are cab driver, calculus professor and exterminator. “Plumber,” adds my husband.

8. When I went home for Thanksgiving, I brought back about 120 plastic horses I’d collected as a child, that I’d forgotten about until I realized they’re now selling for a pretty penny on ebay. At the time, taking them from their safe stable at my mom’s seemed like an easy way to make some money, but now, I’m not wildly excited to begin selling and shipping plastic figurines in my spare time. Unfortunately, these giant boxes of horses are taking up a lot of space in the garage. I’m open to suggestions here.

9. Jim and I bought new living room furniture yesterday. I’m 30 and it still feels strange to buy furniture at places other than IKEA or Goodwill.

10. We painted the living room Wheat Bread and the bathroom Grey Goose. Guess we like grains. Draw your own conclusions on where the parties happen.

Since Last Thanksgiving (part 4)

Time for the 2013 edition. Lots of older Thanksgiving reflections went down in 2012,  2011 and 2010.

Since last Thanksgiving I…

Camped out at a four-day country music festival. Minimal showering, maximum entertainment.

Was elected to the Board of Directors of Big Brothers Big Sisters of Central Arizona.

Sold a first house, bought a house. We have a garage now, and a fireplace like legit grown ups.

Celebrated my second wedding anniversary.

Had surgery on my wrist.

Traveled to LA, Boston, San Diego, DC, Chicago, Philadelphia, San Fran and Denver.

Journeyed to Singapore and Vietnam for an epic two-week jaunt with Jim, Dan and Jenny.

Turned 30. It’s awesome. Great friends planned a surprise party that was perfect.

Became a big fan of The NewsroomHomeland and The Mindy Project.

Wandered across Arizona…threw axes at the Renaissance Festival, went tubing down the Salt River, toured the Queen Mine in Bisbee and tasted wine in Wilcox.

Paid off my car.

Watched a lot of friends become parents to adorable little humans.

Saw fun. perform for the fourth time, and Tegan and Sara for the first time (then found out my husband is related to T&S). Also saw and loved The Book of Mormon.

Did my first pull-up, ever. And mastered a whole bunch of other physical feats at an amazing new gym. To say this place is life-changing is an understatement.

Hiked a lot and went to brunch a lot. Two lovely but unrelated pastimes that I think are divine.

Created a freelance writing portfolio. Later broke up with a company I did freelance writing for, in a flurry of passive aggressiveness.

Got promoted.

Became mildly obsessed with antique stores.

Prayed more.

Gave more.

Nobody puts Thanksgiving in a corner

Can we talk for a minute about how much I love Thanksgiving? Because outside of my birthday, it’s the best holiday out there. A day that not only symbolizes togetherness and gratitude, but also emphasizes the cultural importance of eating carbs in excess.

I admit Halloween has a good thing going with the candy, a really good thing. But let’s be serious—a Kit Kat’s got nothing on sweet potato casserole with marshmallows. Yeah, Thanksgiving is so avant-garde it prompted the combination of marshmallows and root vegetables. Hallelujah!

You know, I also appreciate Thanksgiving for being so inclusive; anyone can celebrate and there are very few rules or things to remember. The whole basis of the day is that a long time ago, different cultures overcame some pretty dreadful first impressions to ultimately live and learn together. I’m not naïve enough to think it was as tranquil or picturesque as modern textbooks would have us to believe, but still, it represents a blending of ideas and I dig that. Although there are no reports of marshmallows at the first Thanksgiving, it’s believed to have taken place in 1621 in present-day Massachusetts –> home of the Red Sox –> more points to Thanksgiving’s coolness tally.

This year is the first occurrence in a lifetime when Hanukkah begins on Thanksgiving, and at first, I was skeptical. Could these two glorious occasions really intermingle without any drama? It seems they’ve worked out their differences, though, and hello—we’ve found a way to tactfully incorporate more potato-based treats into one sitting. Win!

So maybe I’m a bit too passionate about Thanksgiving, but the reason I find it necessary to SHOUT a little is because some people—no one I know personally, thank goodness—are pre-empting Thanksgiving this year. Yep. Bypassing it like it’s not a HUGE deal—like it’s Columbus Day or something.

This week I noticed Christmas lights already up around my neighborhood, and Christmas décor was in stores before the Halloween candy had a chance to take a final bow. And don’t get me started on Starbucks—they released red holiday cups on November 1, you know, 55 days before Christmas.

You guys, I’m nothing if not a freak about winter festivities, but I think we’re rushing just a bit. I vote we slow down just a smidge to make sure all the special occasions get their day in the sun (or snow).

Thanksgiving

L’shana tovah, y’all.

I’m admittedly bad at sticking to New Year’s resolutions. I really like the idea of them–starting fresh and committing to positive changes–but the hype and post-holiday wind down always prevent my success.

I’ll cut out processed sugar…after the Christmas cookies are gone. And I’ll walk the dog every night…until I work late and determine sleep is more important than dogercise.

That’s why it’s so exciting to celebrate Rosh Hashanah–it’s like a bonus round for resolutions–double or nothing.

I can revisit areas I’ve neglected and refocus on giving thanks and living with intention. It’s a privilege, really, to have this opportunity for reflection.

As a kid, it felt weird to have a separate New Year. I felt singled out for being different and never understood why the majority of the world’s calendars were several thousands years behind schedule.  But like most awkward, uncomfortable parts of childhood, I got over it, and now I love celebrating the high holidays. Well, except for the fasting, but that’s not ’til next week. Until then, it’s game on.

L’shana tovah, y’all.

 

everyday holiday

Regardless of your beliefs or traditions, your gift lists or vacation plans, I hope this holiday season is a time for reflection and thankfulness.

A time to contemplate the many opportunities and blessings we have in life, and also the less-than-ideal moments, as those are what spur our growth and provide perspective. It’s hard to do this, and do it consistently, but without this intentional kind of introspection, it’s easy to overlook how good everyday is.

I’m hardly a religious person. I find more sanctuary in a yoga studio than I do in temple, and often struggle to recognize that some things happen for no good reason. When really crappy things do happen, I try not to dwell on why, and instead focus on how … to help, counsel or move forward. How to take what happened and make a difference.

But man, sometimes I just don’t know how.

I’ve volunteered with Big Brothers Big Sisters for several years, and my little sister has one of the craziest lives you could imagine, with more challenges and hardships than one person should ever face.

Despite it all, she’s happy and hopeful and radiates a genuinely sweet nature. She never complains, and is always looking for ways to make others happy.

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This weekend, I stopped by her house to drop off her Christmas gift. It’s not unusual for a lot of her family to be present when I come over, and Saturday was no different. Only this weekend I got some upsetting news about her 14-month old nephew.

Her mom has been caring for him since his father (my little sister’s older brother) has been in jail since the child was born. His mother was too unstable to care for him full-time, but still saw him each week and was working to make changes in her life. But last week she was found murdered in her apartment.

Now, this adorable, happy baby has no parents. And that shook me to the core. How completely oblivious he was to the chaos surrounding his precious life. So many things that will completely shape his entire life have already unfolded, before he can even be aware of them.

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He’s very fortunate to be taken care of by his extended family, who also has full custody of my little sister’s niece, whose father died from cancer and mother overdosed on drugs by the time she was four. My little sister’s never met her own father – her three older siblings have two different fathers.

I don’t retell these stories to generate sympathetic feelings or to encourage anyone to volunteer in the community – although those are important things to feel and do – but more because it amazes me to see how much love and happiness bubbles out of this house that could be overcome with grief or negativity.

The family is grateful for all they have, and never complains.

It’s led me to this realization:

Everyday that we wake up happy, hopeful, healthy and able to do what we enjoy is such a blessing. To enjoy our routines and opportunities is all we can hope for. And to have people in our lives that we love and who love us back, is what makes everyday a holiday.