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Archive for December, 2015

51e0vTQYw1LAs a child, I loved Christmas. It was three days of absolute magic and excitement. We were out of school, and there was a steady supply of cookies to eat as we played with our new toys. My grandma had a magpie instinct and decorated her house with twinkling lights and anything that glittered: cut glass figurines, mirrors, tinsel, crystal chandeliers. Her living room had that 1960s shag carpet so deep you could only rake it, not vacuum it. It dampened the sound from her massive console record player that was on a constant loop of the Rita Ford collection A Music Box Christmas.

Note: it was three magical days. Just three. Not ten. Not thirty. Not sixty. Not an endless barrage of commercials, cheap music, bellringers, and forced cheer. As a young adult, it lost its charm about the same time my grandma began her descent into Alzheimer’s. I developed a severe gift phobia that haunts me to this day. If you want to see a look of sheer panic in my eyes, hand me a wrapped present.

It only got worse as time went on: awkward family get togethers with in-laws, the crush of commercialism, the way tragedies pile up around this holiday. At one point in my marriage, we declared a moratorium. We stayed home alone and watched movies, christening our new holiday Cinemas. No more mediocre ham dinners. No more shopping for gifts nobody really wanted. No more faking a smile as I unwrapped a denim shirt embroidered with bird houses.

Then my pop got sick and I got sucked back into family Christmas events. But I am drawing the line. I’m only keeping what I love about this holiday from my childhood. I’m not agreeing to gift exchanges among adults who can afford to buy whatever they need and want. I’m not going to church. I’m not sitting through nieces and nephew’s musical performances. Seriously, you’ll find me in the garage drinking beer during those agonizing moments. I’m not even allowing anyone to ruin my Cinemas with depressing and serious movies.

The thing I’m embracing this year is butter spritz cookies. They were a staple of my childhood Christmases, and I inherited my grandmother’s cookie press in all its retro-future aluminum and copper glory. I pressed out a batch of traditional trees and poinsettias for my friend Robert, who felt he’d not received enough Christmas treats at work. Later in the week, when I go to my sister’s house, I’m taking the cookie press with me. I might even crank up the old Music Box Christmas album.

This year, be nice to yourself. Don’t gag down the whole monstrosity of Christmas, if you don’t want to. Keep what you love and leave the rest of it behind.

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It’s likely that if you follow me at all you have seen how completely I wrecked my Twitter feed last week by posting a dozen remarks about my time at Planned Parenthood. It’s also possible that even if you never heard of me a week ago, I’ll have cropped up on a website you visit.

The kinds of things I experienced as an employee at a women’s health center are not unusual. The 1990s were a time of heightened rhetoric about abortion and women’s rights, and they were also a time when there was less surveillance and fewer methods for tracking people who attacked clinics. Things have improved in that sense, but clinics all over America, whether they provide abortion or not, still get harassed on a regular basis. And the rhetoric that fuels that harassment is the same toxic message that encourages people to shoot up, bomb, or burn down clinics.

If my experiences weren’t that unusual, why did people all over the internet suddenly decide my story was worth talking about? Following the attack on the clinic in Colorado Springs, people were trying to make sense of the violence and hate. Above all else, what helps us make sense of the world? What helps us connect with our fellow humans?

Stories.

From back in our cave-dwelling days, humans have used stories to help us find our place in the world and process the things that happen to us. Stories have helped us to understand other people and the things they’ve been through. We may be hunched over a glowing electronic device instead of a fire now, but we’re still looking for sense. We’re still looking for stories. My small story got spread so far and wide, because it helped people understand and deal with the brutal attack that had just happened in Colorado Springs. That was the reason I shared it in the first place. Telling that story helped me process what I was feeling about people being murdered by someone motivated by extremist rhetoric.

I’m still trying to do clean up on aisle three, because my inbox contains about 200 unread messages. I imagine at some point, I’ll have something more to say about all of this, but for now, that’s my thought. We need stories. We need more of them. We need them from all kinds of people.

George TakeiIf you didn’t witness my Twitter madness, I hardly even know where to link you to. After George Takei RT’d me, I pretty much stopped keeping track of where my tweets had been shared, because I figured I could die happy. George Takei!!! That said, here are a few places, I ended up:

The tweets via Storify

Los Angeles Times

The Guardian

Buzzfeed

Huffington Post

International Business Times

The Alan Colmes Show

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