Tag Archives: Holidays

Tangled Lights for a Tangled Brain, my review of Tangled Lights and Silent Nights: A Holiday Anthology

I’m one of those weirdos who hates Christmas.  I don’t mean in that Grinchy I’m going to steal everyone’s roast beast and presents way. No. Christmas just gives me a good case of the winter blues.  Part of it is due to messed up holiday memories from my youth, and part of it because it is SOFRIGGINGGRAY here in corn country during the holidays.  So, I’m always looking for a way to make the holidays brighter that doesn’t involve the Hallmark channel and spoonfuls of cookie dough.  I think I’ve found it with Tangled Lights and Silent Nights: A Holiday Anthology.

Usually, holiday anthologies are full of angels, and miracles, and recipes for cranberry sauce framed in stories of long dead, sweet grandmothers.  This one is so different.  It’s not all heartwarming reality.  There is something in this book for everyone.

My favorite story is “Convergence” by Stacey Roberts because it is humor, as it is labeled, but it is also relatable to anyone who felt like they didn’t fit in as a kid. I don’t want to give too much away, but if you are from a “broken home” you will really get this story.

Since my mind tends to go dark at Christmas, I also loved Yuletide Homicide: A Liz Boyle Short Mystery, by Kate Birdsall. I love a good murder mystery, especially one set in Ohio, my current home state.

Those are just my top two favorite stories.  Really, the entire book is great. Tangled Lights and Silent Nights: A Holiday Anthology is one of those books that you will want to read in one sitting with a big Yeti full of coffee, while sitting next to a fire. And given my seasonal and all year depression and anxiety, it helps that all profits go to The Life After—Visions of Hope Project.

Whether you love or hate Christmas and the entire holiday season, which now begins at 11:59pm on October 31, you will love this book.  Buy it now while it’s cheap because once Oprah catches wind of this, and she will, it will be much more expensive.

 

Guest Blog Post – Tangled Lights and Silent Nights: A Holiday Anthology By Stacey Roberts

My mother was in a state of high dudgeon.

“SSSSo,” she hissed. (I learned early in life that she was deadly serious when her sibilants extended). “You’re a TOKEN.”

“A what?”

“A token! You wrote a story for a Christmas whatchamacallit—anthology. What kind of word IS that? Sounds Yiddish. Anyway, nineteen Christmas stories from the goyim and one Hanukkah story from you. You’re a token!”

“Come on, Ma. That isn’t even remotely true.”

“Really, smarty pants? All these other authors in this collection – they’ve written great books! That Kristy Gamble – she’s on the USA Today Bestseller List!”

“Kelly, Ma. Kelly Gamble.” (My mother is no good with names).

“That’s what I said. Bestseller!”

“You would love her books. Her heroine whapped her husband in the head with a shovel.”

“If we’d had a shovel I would have whapped the crap out of your father, that son of a bitch.”

“I know you would, Ma.”

“There’s another writer in this book, this Justin Bog character. What kind of name is Bog? Is he from Scotland or something?”

“Actually, I think Bog is short for something unpronounceable. Possibly Eastern European.”

“He can’t be Jewish. He wrote a book of Christmas stories. Very well-received by the critics. Not like YOUR chazerai.” (‘Chazerai’ is the Yiddish word for ‘bullshit’. I didn’t even have to look it up. It was in the Amazon review my mom left about my first book).

“Ma—“

“And I checked him out on the Tweeter—”

“Twitter.”

“That’s what I said. There’s no way he’s Jewish. He’s got German shepherds!”

“Ma, that’s ridiculous. Dog-ownership isn’t relevant to—“

“My point is that these are accomplished writers. That Kate Birdsall. I got one of her books. They’re so good. Mysteries. That’s what you should write. Or even that Claude Bouchard. Also a bestseller. Lotta violence, but ok. And Diane Byington? She’s won AWARDS, Stace. Awardssssss. What kind of awards do YOU have?”

“I got an honorable mention by the Recreational Vehicle Enthusiasts Society of Missoula, Montana.”

“Big deal. Nicole Evelina won three Book of the Year designations. Maybe she could give you some writing tips, since you’re so interested in concocting Christian stories all of a sudden.”

“Ciara Ballintyne wrote a non-denominational story about a winter festival. It’s got wizards and demons in it. Nothing Christian about THAT.”

“SSSSStace. ‘Winter festival’ is just another way to say Christmas. And goyim are all about demons. They’re everywhere in their heathen Bible. Piles and piles of demons.”

“Anyway, my reason for calling is to let you know that the book is available for pre-order—“

“Just send me a copy.”

“You should buy one. The proceeds go to benefit a great charity. It’s a really good cause—“

“These goyim. They should have asked your brother to write a story. He’s got a real way with words.”

“I’m sure he does. The charity is The LifeAfter—Visions of Hope Project. They spread awareness about suicide, substance abuse and domestic violence.”

“There would have been a lot more domestic violence in our house if I’d had me a shovel.”

“I’ll buy you one for Christmas.”

“We do NOT celebrate Christmassssssss!”

“Hanukkah then. But really, any occasion is good for a shovel.”

“Yeah, like now. You’re a lot like your father, you know.”

“So you keep telling me. Will you pre-order the book?”

“You should send me a copy. And get that Barbara Vicars to sign it.”

“Brenda.”

“That’s what I said. You could at least get it autographed by some real authors, couldn’t you? Even though you’re just their mascot or whatever you are.”

“I’ll see what I can do.”

“You should, Buster. I’m your mother.”

 

The good news is that none of you will have to go to all this trouble to get your own copy of Tangled Lights and Silent Nights: A Holiday Anthology. Some of the best writers in the business contributed holiday-themed stories based on the characters from their books. The proceeds from all sales will benefit a great cause. This will make a perfect gift to put under your own Christmas tree, if you’re into that sort of thing.

And, my mom wants you to know there’s a Hanukkah story in it.

 

Help Stacey show his mom his IS a real author! You can pre-order Tangled Lights and Silent Nights: A Holiday Anthology here:  https://www.amazon.com/Tangled-Lights-Silent-Nights-Anthology-ebook/dp/B07JDVSMK5

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Unsucky Holidays the Scary Mommy Way

ScaryMommyCover1I’m not sure what I did to Tom the turkey, Santa Claus, or the New Year baby to piss them off. I must have done something offensive because the shittiest things happen every holiday season. It all started twenty years ago, when my then fiancé, who became my first husband, threw me out of our apartment ten days before Christmas. I’m not sure why we got married after that, but anyway, the holiday suckiness didn’t end there. A few years ago, my father-in-law had a horrific accident while sharpening a gardening shovel (he is fine now). Two years ago, I was diagnosed with a DVT one day after Christmas. Last year, my husband had to have UPPP (in laymen’s terms – a melon-balling of the throat) surgery EIGHT days before Christmas. This year we had to euthanize our cat the week before Thanksgiving. Happy Frickin’ Holdays? No, how about HAPPY FUCKING HOLIDAYS!!

As you can imagine, I needed something to distract me from feeling like an evil pet parent after putting my sweet Morris to sleep. I needed to laugh, possibly drink a few cocktails, and eat delicious food.  So, it was perfect timing when Crystal from Mommifried, offered me a free copy of Scary Mommy’s Guide to Surviving the Holidays in exchange for an honest review. Crystal contributed a tasty and healthy Crock Pot cranberry sauce recipe to the book.

Since the book is full of humor and recipes, I couldn’t put Scary Mommy’s Guide down.  I read the whole thing in one afternoon, and there wasn’t any chapter I didn’t like, but, of course, I have my favorites. This is why I only have one kid; I always play favorites.

Before I could get into the funny stuff, I read Jill Smokler’s introduction to The Thanksgiving Project, a Scary Mommy Nation charity. Jill started The Thanksgiving Project in 2011 after reading posts in the Scary Mommy Confessions section from moms who could not afford to buy food. This made me a little teary-eyed, and a lot grateful for what I have. It also made me want to help, and if you want to help, click the link above for more information.

After I wiped my tears, I was ready to laugh. I NEEDED to laugh, damn it, and the wonderful contributors to Scary Mommy’s Guide did not let me down. My favorite humor piece was The Dysfunctional Family Drinking Game. This story made me laugh my ass off and want to go to Kathryn Leehane’s house for Thanksgiving. It also made me want a martini something fierce, but that is not unusual, especially considering the week I’ve had. I don’t want to give too much away, but basically Kathryn and her husband play a secret game involving liquor and their family’s bad behavior. Reading about it made me glad that I live nowhere near any of my family. I would have alcohol poisoning.

Speaking of cocktails, there are drink recipes in this book. Did I mention that I LOVE this book? Take a look at Sharon Green’s Seasonal Cocktails for Moms. There are enough recipes in her list to make you and your holidays merry and bright. If you are like me, and your nose turns red after two sips of any alcoholic beverage, you may also be able to replace Rudolph in Santa’s line-up.

If you’re going to be drinking, and you don’t want to barf all over your favorite ugly Christmas sweater (I buy mine here), you will need some food. In my chubby little opinion, all food should come in the form of cookies. I intend to make Jessica Griffin’s Show-Stealing Molasses Cookies many times this holiday season. Unlike 98% of the world, I am not in love with chocolate. I will eat dark chocolate in small doses, but for the most part, chocolate gathers in the back of my throat and makes me want to spit a loogie that would make a drunk, congested college boy jealous. Jessica’s yummy molasses cookies have no chocolate in them, so they are low on the loogie index. SCORE!

I could go on and on about this book, but it would not make sense to you because you haven’t read it, yet. So, stop reading this and head over to Amazon, or Barnes and Noble, or Simon and Schuster, and buy this book. Purchasing Scary Mommy’s Guide to Surviving the Holidays is a great way to help keep your own spirits up during the most stressful time of the year, and it is also a way to contribute to the Scary Mommy Nation. So, it is truly WINNING and I don’t mean that in a Charlie Sheen kind of way, even with all of the booze jokes.

Paying it Forward, Hermit Style

A lot of people who do not understand introverts may think of us as hateful.  They think that if we don’t want to be surrounded by people every second of the day, we must hate people.  This is not true. Remember: as introverts, we don’t hate people; we just hate talking to them.  There is a difference. Let’s face it; we hermits don’t like to socialize a lot because we are THINKING. We are trying to cure cancer and invent a Star Trek-like beaming device to replace air travel.  At least, that is what I spend my time thinking about.  Oh, and cats.  I think about cats a lot. So, being solitary, quiet creatures, we aren’t likely to help build a house with Habitat for Humanity, or work in a soup kitchen.  Those things involve being around other people, for hours, or days, or longer.  Most of us DO want to help others, though.  The good news is that there are nice things that we can do for others from a distance.

It’s easier to go out and do something helpful, if you are already out anyway.  Last Friday, the 13th, I went to Five Below, which is way better than any dollar store, to donate to Toys for Tots.  I got the inspiration to do this from my friend Tasha on Facebook.  Since Facebook is my social life for the most part, I tend to be on there daily.  Anyway, my friend posted about how she and her family received presents from Toys for Tots when she was a kid.  This brought tears to my eyes and energy to my body.  I wasn’t planning to leave the house, but after reading Tasha’s post, I looked online for the closest Toys for Tot drop off box.  It just so happens that I was planning to go to Five Below, the closest place, some time soon to shop for stocking stuff for my son.  So, I was able to take care of an errand AND donate toys.  When I got there, the clerk told me that they were no longer collecting for Toys for Tots, but they were collecting for the toy drive for the local fire department.  I donated two toys and got some awesome stocking stuffers.   Win-win.

For some reason, every year, I forget to tip the mail carrier.  I can remember my mom putting McDonald’s gift certificates in the mailbox when I was a kid.  So, this year, since I was at Five Below anyway, I bought some cute Santa cash cards.  As soon as I got home, I put some money in the card and stuck it in the mailbox, with the flag up.  Then, I worried that he may want to ring the doorbell and say thank you.  As you may know, I HATE it when people ring the doorbell.  This sends the dogs into a tizzy, and one of the dogs weighs 70 pounds.  It is impossible to answer the door and hold them both back.  So, when I saw the mail truck coming down the street, I went up to my son’s room and put his laundry away. (Yes, I put my 16 year-old son’s laundry away.) The doorbell never rang.  I’m not sure if I was relieved or disappointed.

I usually forget about my UPS delivery person, too.  With my Amazon addiction, I SHOULD tip the guy who lugs my packages to the porch, and sometimes inside my house.  So, like the mail carrier, my UPS guy got a Santa envelope with two twenties inside.  I was able to hand it to him as he was carrying my packages in the front door.  Since my husband and I saw the truck, we were able to grab both dogs before they went flying out of the house.  He was thrilled said thank you at least three times.   He even attempted to pet the crazy jumping dogs.

Back when we lived in Indiana (I really need to blog about my tour of duty in Fort Wayne), my husband and I were secret Santas to a woman we really didn’t even like much.  She is my son’s friend’s mother.   She ended up losing her job right before the holidays.  My son came home from school telling me about how his friend was living on Ramen noodles and free lunch at school.  Now, keep in mind, he was not allowed to spend time with this friend, a really nice boy, out of school because the friend’s mom believed my son to be gay.  So, she told her son that he was not allowed to hang out with my son.  Um, first of all, my son is not gay.  Second of all, that is a really ignorant thing to say.  Did she think her son was going to “catch the gay” from my son?  Plus, of course, she was super religious, and we all know that Jesus hates gay people, right?  I’m being sarcastic here.  Anyway, even though we did not like this woman, we felt bad for her and her kids.  So, we sent some anonymous Walmart gift cards.  To this day, I don’t think she knows that that gay kid’s parents sent her the cards.

Last year, my husband, son, and I went out to dinner at a local Big Boy restaurant.  As we were eating our fries and burgers, we noticed a large family sitting in the next section.  There were a few children with this family, but my husband and I immediately noticed one child in particular.  To this day, I don’t know if the kid was a boy or a girl.  The child was completely bald, like chemo bald, and we didn’t want to stare, but we couldn’t help but notice.  We just wanted to help, some how. So, we asked the manager for their check.  We paid it, and got the heck out of there.   One free dinner didn’t make their child healthy, but that is all we could think to do.

I’m not telling you all this to brag about what a wonderful and caring individual I am.  I just wanted to share some ways that you can help others without really being around others.  I fully understand that there are some of us out there who would just rather not be around gobs of people, but still want to help.  Happy Holidays, everyone!

 

 

 

 

The Six Ways I Almost Died this Holiday Season

Until recently, Deep Vein Thrombosis (DVT) was one of the many things that happened to other people.  It never crossed my mind that it could ever happen to me.  I don’t take super long flights.  I’m only 41, but 27 in my own imaginary world.  I’m not thin, but I’m not obese.  Sure, I was always a birth control pill user, but I have never smoked, other than that time in seventh grade in the band practice room, which caused me to vomit.  Anyway, I’m not the most likely candidate for a DVT.  So, when I got calf pain this holiday season, I ignored it.  Now, that I KNOW what was causing the pain, I need two hands to count the ways I almost died.

  1. I ignored the pain for five days.  I first noticed the calf pain on Christmas Eve, a Monday.  It hurt A LOT, bIMG_0841ut I assumed it was due to the walking boot cast.  Plus, we had plans to go to a Christmas Eve party at our good friends’ house.  I really like this family, and I wanted to go. So, I ignored the pain. The next day, Christmas, it hurt so bad that I almost cried.  I thought maybe I should go to the ER, just to get it checked, but we were supposed to leave the next day to visit our parents in Florida.  I didn’t want to ruin our visit.  I was really convinced that it HAD to be muscular.  At this point, blood clots were still on that list of things that happened to other people.
  2. I relied on the Internet instead of seeing a real health professional during those five days.   My well-meaning Facebook friends told me to get Biofreeze or Bengay when I asked for help with muscular leg pain.  Google searches led me to sites detailing how to deal with muscular calf pain after a cast.  Apparently, this is a common issue.  These same sites also told me that my skin would be hot and red if I had a clot.  My skin was never and still isn’t hot or red.
  3. I rubbed my leg.  A lot.  I figured I could massage that knotted muscle back to being normal. My husband and I even considered going to a massage therapist.  Since I didn’t know this before I had a clot, I’m assuming that you don’t know.  RUBBING OR MASSAGING A CLOT CAN KILL YOU. When you have a clot, you don’t want it to move to your heart, lungs or brain.  So, you don’t want to loosen it up and HELP IT MOVE at all.
  4. The doctor’s office took 8 hours to call back. I finally called the orthopedist’s office to ask about the post cast pain at 9:00 AM on Friday.  When they still hadn’t called back when we were about to eat dinner, I was going to turn off my ringer and deal with it when I got home.  When the nurse finally called back and told me to get a DVT test, I panicked, and I almost lied to my husband and told him it was nothing.  After all, I didn’t want to ruin the holidays, and I really didn’t want to face reality.
  5. I was almost given an overdose of a blood thinner. Doctors have messy writing, and ER doctors don’t sleep much.  With this combination, it was no surprise that the pharmacist was confused by the way the doctor wrote my prescription for the Lovenox injections, the first medication for DVT’s.  The doctor wrote it for prefilled syrIMG_0872inges, but needed me to take a lower dose.  So, he wrote unclear instructions about shooting some of the medicine out before injecting it.  Lucky for me, instead of worrying about being politically correct, the pharmacist asked my husband, “Is your wife a big lady?”  My husband said no and told him my height and weight, and the pharmacist was able to decipher the dosage with that information.
  6. I let fear cloud my judgment.  I have taken the birth control pill to regulate my menstrual cycle most of my adult life.  I will spare you the gory details, but I will tell you that my monthly visits are a little slice of hell.  Of course, the ER doctor told me to stop taking the birth control pill immediately.  I didn’t listen. I took it for two IMG_0874more days because I figured since I was taking blood thinners and quitting the pill mid cycle, I was setting myself up for more hell WHILE TRAVELING.  My husband finally talked sense in to me and put my pills in the “sharps” container. Since my husband has to give me the Lovenox shots, we have our very own sharps container.

My son goIMG_0875t me a pink leather bracelet with “Seek Wisdom” on it for my 40th birthday.  I have been wearing that as a reminder to seek out professional help when I need it. As of today, I’m still alive.  I’m following the doctor’s orders, and I hope to be off of all of this blood thinner medication soon.  I hope anyone reading this will share it, just to educate others.  A lot of people have heard of blood clots, but who really thinks they will get one?