Moving into the New Year

“Let’s go dance!”

I was a plus one, coming as a favor to a friend. I didn’t have to impress anyone, and there was free food and a DJ. Her Co-worker’s wife had been talking with me life she was my new BFF and that was fine with me.

But the music was playing, and that was the real reason I wanted to be there. Let’s get this party started!

We made our way to the dance floor, ducking around the buffets and the elegantly dressed men and women. 

At Last!

I found a spot near the front with enough room to move and got my groove on.

Except the people to the side were coming at me. What?

I moved over, and they moved over. 

My new BFF said “It’s the electric slide.”

I don’t know the electric slide. I mean, I know  it but…

“It’s easy I’ll show you.”

This is a club I am not a member of. It seems all of America–maybe other countries too, for all I know–can line up in a row and their left foot out and tap and turn and then bump into me.

I like the song. Leave me alone, I’ll just groove to the song.

But no! Everyone must teach me the RIGHT way to dance THIS song.

I don’t want to do it the way everyone does it.

I want to dance the way I want.

That’s what dancing means to me.

That cannot be permitted. This one has rules.

Unsurprisingly, this song is only played in situation of great conformity:


Bar Mitzvahs

Corporate parties

So my klutzy ignorance burns extra fierce as I turn the opposite direction and move counter to the wall of shuffling bodies.

I’m the one who is out of step. Literally, and holistically.

The one who was picked last

The one who stopped conversations when I entered the girl’s bathroom in Jr high

The one who doesn’t understand what the plan was

They’ll come after me, you know. I could leave the dance floor, but someone will take my elbow and say “It’s easy! I’ll show you”

Then I’m back in, crashing my misdirected body into the path of the ones who did get the memo.

This is not who I am! I can do things! I can be coordinated and keep the rhythm with elegance!

Not here. Not now.

Until at last the song ENDS. The sweet release of Wild Thing comes on and I’m set free.

I got this. This space it mine. I can move here. Just get out of my way. You do your thing and I do mine.

I’ve caught this drift. No conversations are stopping because of ME. 

I’ve come a  long way, Baby.

Happy New Year


Merry Christmas

I’m celebrating Christmas tomorrow. Actually, I’ve been celebrating it for at least a month now. It’s a big holiday, and it’s part of my family traditions.

All the songs, and the stories

The story of the baby Jesus born in a manger.
Away in a manger
No crib for a bed

We were telling the kids in Sunday school about it. Poor humble Jesus.
Poor Mary on the road because of some highly inconvenient government mandate.

I had to look it up. There are only two gospels that mention Jesus’s birth. Matthew and Luke. Matthew is the headliner in the New Testament, because he leads it. Matthew chapter 1 tells us about Jesus’ birth, with a big “begat” section of genealogy.

Mary is skipped over, mostly. Joseph gets the angel visit in a dream and:

“When Joseph woke up, he did what the angel of the Lord had commanded him and took Mary home as his wife.”

Matthew is supposed to show the human-ness of Jesus. The “Man”ness of him. So, mom is off screen.

Two whole gospels later, Luke spices up the story. He was writing for a non-Jewish audience, and there is more drama in the popular Greek and Roman mythologies. His audience expects more. He gives some drama, including a solo for Mary.

Adding a musical number gives it some juice! The Angels got an ensemble piece later and the whole thing got wheels. It’s still a hit.

Luke was the one who staged it in a barn, with live animals and a manger and everything.

As far as Matthew was concerned, humble wasn’t the theme. Jesus pops out and almost immediately is gifted gold by leading scholars. He did have a fleeing-from-the-king problem, but that is a high-class problem to be singled out as the usurper.

Luke brought out the humility. And as we were telling the kids about poor poor Jesus in his barn I remembered Milton.

I remembered Satan from Paradise Lost.

We were in the world of Biblical stories with Luke and his ensemble cast. It was within easy reach.

Remember Satan? Starting out as Lucifer, clothed in light, he got jealous and started a coup d’etats up in heaven. Bad move.

He loses and is exiled to fire-and-brimstone hell. Yuck.

There he has time to plot, as well as be described in fantastical detail by Milton. He plots to sneak into this “Earth” place God just built and make some mischief.

The part that zinged my memory was when he lands his big old sneaky snakey body on earth.

He loses his mind by how beautiful it is. Milton puts line after line of archaic poetry in his mouth to express it:
O Earth, how like to Heav’n, if not preferr’d

He is homesick for heaven, missing its glory and when he lands on earth he says that God was just practicing on heaven and made earth even better!


This place where we keep our stuff.

The sun, the stars, and the cows and the straw.

All the little parts of it in small and in aggregate are glorious.

Hi Jesus! Welcome to Earth!

We have stars and straw!

And moms and cows!

It turns out that even if there had been room at the Inn, it would only have been incrementally more glorious than what this place has to offer.

This whole place–all of it–is a fantastic Christmas present.

I’m so grateful for it all.

And I thank you, my readers, for being here with me.

Merry Christmas! And may your dreams be bright.


Now that I have digital camera in my phone, like almost everyone, I have become a much better photographer. The instant feedback showing how my photo turned out helps me make choices about framing my picture.

But there is one thing a camera can’t change. It shows everything in the range of the lens.

When I look with my eyes, I focus on only a few things. A camera looks at everything.

This is why I find it hard to take a photo of the moon. The moon fills my eyes. It’s the only thing I’m looking at in the sky.

A camera is not that choosy. The ugly power lines can seem even bigger than the magic moon.

I went to the Art Institute of Chicago this weekend, and saw paintings. Paintings are the thing, the first definition of art. Are you an artist? You must be a painter.

The painting does what the camera cannot. It draws the eye to the desired object.

The world, the literal world of the camera, is always much bigger than we can take in. Our eyes choose a few things. What we value, what we fear–this is what pulls our eyes.

I saw a painting by Sargent wherein the ladies face was distinct, but her dress was blurry. The impression of dress was enough as we looked at her face, at how she stood.

The artist is arranging us, as much as he arranged the paint.

I paid for the experience of seeing this art. I am glad to be so manipulated.

I know I am manipulated all the time in my life, with messages and advertisement and instructions.

Professionals also create most of those, too.

Somehow, this is not that. These arrangements, this portrayal of impressions and ideas, are a window outside of my daily life. That makes all the difference.

Charlie Brown’s Christmas tree


It’s the season to smile for the camera. It’s the season to decorate and put on a big show. Costumes and pageants and lights.

Everything has to be perfect.

Don’t ruin it! It’s always in danger and needs to be saved.

it is nice, when everyone gets together. When we take the time to take the time to be together and show our loved ones how we feel.

But it’s a lot of pressure.

People mock each other with ugly sweaters. It was supposed to be real, but now you can buy a brand new ugly sweater, No need to keep the one from the craft Aunt.

Poor Aunty.

Get in the flow of the season! Put on the show even when the show is making fund of the show.

Instagram must be fed. Find the right filter.

get the perfect angle of the tree.

I’m tired of the perfect.

I don’t have that kind of time anymore.

This weekend we picked out our tree. You can buy a tree that is spindly and small in exactly the same way as Charlie Brown’s Christmas tree.

But Charlie Brown said,“I won’t let all this commercialism ruin my Christmas”

I suppose the Charlie Brown Christmas tree for sale is trademarked.

We got our Christmas tree this Saturday. I was desperate to get it done, because I am going on a trip for a week. I had wanted to do it for several days, but my husband didn’t want to get it while it was raining.

I was not convinced hat this was a problem, but he didn’t want to and some things require consensus.

so Saturday it was. We had our tiny window of time and we drove over to the appointed lot. It wasn’t raining that day.

Until we walked onto the lot. Then it came down buckets.

This sped up the choosing quite a bit. I found one that seemed okay, and we cursorily looked for gaps. Then we got out of there. 10 minutes tops.

I didn’t take the time to capture the moment. I was exhausted and it was a task that needed to be done

Maybe one day I will have the perfect Christmas. Maybe i will learn the skills and gain the classy taste to put it all together.

Maybe we will have a family photos in perfect Christmas background for instagram.

Not this Christmas. Good grief.


The Battle

I’ve done a lot this year. But I have done less writing than many previous years. People–even other writers–will ask “Do you have writer’s block?”

It’s not like that. I am never dry facing a blank page. That’s not the block.

The block comes way before that.

Virginia Wolfe writes beautifully about a write getting “a room of one’s own” in which to write.

I imagine that room. I have had that room. It is wonderful. This oasis of creativity, a place to form sentences and metaphors, I know it well.

If I could get to that spot, it would be glorious. But that room is fortified. I have to storm the castle to get there.

It’s a scary castle, surrounded by a moat. I can’t just waltz into that castle and skip up to the room of creativity. Oh no!

A battle is raging. The castle is inviting me, but it’s not that easy. I can’t walk directly forward unimpeded. My phone will buzz, with calls and texts and emails. Take care of those first.

And oh that’s right, I am supposed to do this paperwork the deadline is coming up. And what about the school trip?

It’s a mountain to climb to earn that room.

Steven Pressfield talks about The War of Art. How we’ll do anything to avoid the final act of creation, because it’s so terrifying.

But I did not invent these things coming at me! Every single one of them is important.

As I write this out, I am talking myself into recognition. To paraphrase, the important will always be with us.

I want that room.

Can it be important if I just want it?

Only if I decide it.

I can read stories about how other people get to the castle.

For me, I know, it takes a lot of deciding.

And planning.

It will take a while. But I want back in that room.

On how to be Polite

The awkward actor is doing a recital badly, tripping over his lines as Cyrano. All his friends are there to support him, and one literal-minded friend leans to his neighbor to say, “His performance is merely adequate. Why is everyone applauding so much?”

“It’s polite,” comes the reply.

Our thanksgiving holiday has a lot of traditions. Politeness is one.

It is also a tradition that women make the food, and women remind everyone of the traditions. Women are especially concerned with politeness.

In Stay Sexy and Don’t Get Murdered, the authors talk about true crimes. They have a successful podcast on the topic and could not avoid noticing that women are so often murder victims. There is not an easy answer for how to protect oneself, woman or not, from murderers. But one of them told her story:

She was young, and was in the cool part of town. She met some new people, and the one guy was very interested in her dreams of acting and modeling. He told her she was a natural, and that he was a photographer. He had his equipment with him and knew the perfect spot to take her pictures.

She got in the car. I barely need to fill in the details. She did not get murdered, but she was taken to a remote spot and the photographer persuaded her to take her clothes off for the camera.

After she got back, she sobbed. This was not what she wanted. So many steps along the way she had gone against her instincts and wishes because of her overriding desire to be polite.

Polite does not deserve that primacy. Politeness does not require self-immolation.

We get to protect ourselves. Politeness can and should include “no.”

At thanksgiving, I can say no. I can politely say No thank you.”

I can impolitely say NO.

Hell No.

There are ways to do it. Politeness is not nearly as important as love, really. In my first story, the actor’s recital got applause because the audience loved him and was encouraging him.

Love holds the door open. I can say politely with love, “I don’t agree with you, but I love you. I need to talk about something different.” That leaves the door open. The other side might slam it shut. Everyone is allowed to make their choices. I’m also allowed to choose to leave if my needs are ignored.

Politeness exists in relationship. And relationship is two ways. It creates something new out of what we bring to it. Stiff self-denying politeness often ends in tears. I’ve had more than one thanksgiving that left me feeling betrayed.

I think the betrayal started with myself. When I learned to ask for what I need, it opened the gates to better outcomes. My new tradition for my loved ones is seconds on what we need.