Exit 224. I need to be patient with myself.

It’s time for another hiatus.

Life is just overwhelming right now.  I’ve been really busy with the usual work responsibilities.  My schedule got disrupted a couple weeks ago, with two days of school canceled because of smoke blowing down from the recent fire in Butte County.  (Just so you know, I’m about 100 miles from any areas that were actively burning, so I was never in imminent danger.  But the fire was so big and the wind so strong that smoke spread all over Jefferson and northern and central California.)  Although those two days gave me plenty of time to relax and prepare for my trip to visit my family for Thanksgiving, it also gave me more work to do this last week to adjust for having missed those two days.  I also have a lot to do around the house.  Laundry and dishes pile up so quickly, and I have a few home repairs I need to address as soon as possible.  Life definitely isn’t all work; I’ve been making time for fun too.  It’s December, which means lots of fun holiday events with friends, in addition to the usual game night group and my Dungeons & Dragons game.  The UC Davis football team is also in the playoffs at their level (NCAA Division I-FCS) for the first time since the school’s athletic program moved up to that level in 2004.  We won, and going to that game was totally worth it, but it also took up half of my day.  (There are eight teams still alive in the FCS playoffs, and there won’t be any more home games for UC Davis, so I won’t have any more games to go to this year.)

I need to take time for myself sometimes.  I need to be patient with myself that I can’t get everything done.  And I need to realize that sometimes it’s okay to spend money to get something repaired, rather than trying to do half of the things myself, and not doing a good job of it, and letting the other half of the things go until they cause worse problems down the road.  That’s especially true now that money isn’t as tight since I’m not barely scraping by on a private school salary anymore.

So in the interest of not trying to do too much, I’m going to take a few weeks off from this blog.  Whatever holidays you might be celebrating during this time of year, I hope they go well, and I’ll see all of you in 2019.

Exit 84. Things I hate about Christmas that everyone else loves.

It’s December.  That means everyone is thinking and talking about Christmas.  No, wait, December means I’m finally thinking and talking about Christmas, along with everyone else who has been thinking and talking about Christmas since early November.

I have a love-hate relationship with Christmas.  I love the thought that God loves us enough to send his Son, Jesus Christ, to Earth in human form to show us the way back to Him.  I love having two weeks off from work (or, as I’ve come to call it, a 16-day weekend).  I love getting to visit my family.  I love Christmas caroling, which wasn’t part of my traditional childhood Christmas, but in recent years I’ve been a few times with church groups, and since 2013 a friend whose family has a big Christmas caroling event in their neighborhood has been inviting me to this event.  (By the way, why is knocking on strangers’ doors and singing only acceptable at Christmas time?  Why don’t we go caroling for any other holidays?  Why not, say, Independence Day caroling?  I think I’m going to do that next July, walk around and knock on people’s doors and sing the Star Spangled Banner and America the Beautiful.  Who else is in?)

But there are also some things I absolutely detest about this holiday season.  I don’t mean to be negative, but it seems like in recent years, I’ve found more and more things that I hate about Christmas that everyone else loves.  We’ll start with what is traditionally called the start of the Christmas season:

  1. The Friday of Thanksgiving week.  I refuse to call it by the name used by the media, since the media and the retail industry lie about the origin of the name, in order to legitimize the practice.  But seriously, my idea of a wonderful Friday of Thanksgiving week is to sit around and be with my family and friends, eating leftovers and avoiding stress and crowds.  I realize that some families turn shopping into a family outing; if that’s your thing, more power to you.  I’m not going to advocate making it illegal for stores to open before a certain hour, nor will I boycott stores whose practices on this matter I don’t agree with.  I will, however, boycott them on that one day.
  2. The movie “A Christmas Story.”  I think this is one of those movies that I would like a lot better had I first seen it as a kid.  I would have been seven years old when the movie was first released, but I saw it for the first time in my mid-20s.  My friends who were watching it couldn’t believe that I had never seen it, and never even heard of it.  I’m always a little sensitive about things that remind me of how sheltered I was as a kid, and how I don’t share a lot of the collective life experiences of my peers, so this movie and its ongoing popularity have been a constant reminder of that.  But more importantly, I just didn’t really think it was all that special.  Maybe just not my kind of story, or maybe it’s the kind of story that just isn’t all that great when it isn’t tied to memories of childhood.  Regardless, though, it isn’t as bad as…
  3. The movie “Elf.”  Will Ferrell is one of those actors that either you love him or you hate him.  I’m one of the few people who are neutral toward Will Ferrell in principle.  But I really didn’t enjoy this movie.  The movie was just way too much of strangers being mean to poor Buddy, just because he doesn’t understand New York City culture.  That just hit home too much for me.  Social outcasts are one of the few groups that it’s still okay to make fun of, and that just isn’t right.
  4. The song “Last Christmas” by Wham!, or any of twelve billion other pop stars who have covered it.  It’s repetitive and banal.  But, again, at least the lyrics are something I can kind of relate to.  Heartbreak isn’t something I normally associate with Christmas, but it’s something I associate with many other times of year.  Last year I made it until something like December 17 before hearing this song, but this year I heard it on November 12.  Ugh.  I can’t decide which is worse, though, Last Christmas or…
  5. The song “Baby It’s Cold Outside,” by… I don’t even know who, and it has also been covered many times.  Because rape.  “Say, what’s in this drink?”  It’s ROOFIES!  GET AWAY FROM THAT CREEP NOW!
  6. Anything Christmas-related before December 1, or at least before Thanksgiving.  Growing up, I thought everyone hated it just as much as I did when stores started playing Christmas music and putting out their Christmas displays in October or August or February or whenever they do them now.  Then I discovered that some people love Christmas so much that they listen to Christmas music year round.  I’m not anti-Christmas, but if we start celebrating Christmas year-round, the season loses some of the things that make it special.  It’s the same reason why I have mixed feelings about the expansion of regional restaurant chains beyond their original reason.  It’s great that you can get In-N-Out Burger in Texas or Culver’s in Arizona now, but it makes the West Coast a little less special when you don’t have to be there to eat In-N-Out, and it makes the Midwest a little less special when you don’t have to be there to eat Culver’s.  (I still haven’t eaten at a Culver’s since 2005, when the westernmost location was in Colorado or Wyoming or somewhere like that… mmm.)  Same thing… it makes December a little less special when Christmas encroaches into November (especially since I love Thanksgiving) and October.

But it’s December now, so I can enjoy the Christmas season.  And it’s never too early in the year to remember that Jesus Christ gave up heavenly glory to be born to a lowly family of humans and show us the way to God.  Merry Christmas.