Sunday, December 30, 2012

Happy New...whatever x

Ask my kids about the New Year and to them it's no big deal.  
The prospective arrival of a new dawn is met with the question:  "Is it a school day?'
When the answer is no, then the following question is "So, today, will we go buy Skylanders?"
From their point of view, nothing is particularly special about 'yesterday' or 'tomorrow', this year or last year. Everything's about getting the best out of what's going on today.

When I was a kid I never understood why people would say "Happy New Year"  with an air of melancholy.
As I've gotten older I do.

But a lot of things are different from when I was a kid. For a start, now I celebrate New Year three times.

The first: Hogmanay.

Hogamany is what New Year's Eve is called in Scotland. (and frankly the best title for it ever)
Round about 3pm, here in LA, sounds of Jimmy Shand will be heard echoing through the house along with the Alexander brothers, Andy Stewart and even the odd song from Glen Daly. Scotland enters the New Year at 4pm our time, so the Skype is on overtime.

Then we head over to some good friends from the East coast to celebrate, whilst we watch the Times Square ball drop live on TV from New York.
We write on little pieces of paper, what we wish to take with us into the New Year and what to leave behind, and silently throw them into the fire.

Then at midnight, LA time, when the rest of the world is already well into a new year, back here at Tweddley Towers, me and Mr Twed toast New Year Pacific time, sitting in the back yard looking up at the stars (you can see them briefly, in between the scores of helicopters that clutter up the LA night sky, all the bloody time.)

And  I see myself from the outside:  A middle aged woman with ridiculous hair and two magnificent children and a pretty spectacular bloke - which is bizarre because, inside, I'm certain I'm only 27 and only five minutes ago it was 1992.
And I think of New Years gone by. And I wonder where I'll be, when I look back on this one from a distance.
And I wish my parents could find a way to call me from the Bahamas. 

An uncle once said to me. "Be careful where you place your mind.  If you always have one foot in the past and one foot in the future, your arse will be dangling over the present." (my family have always been eloquent)

So this year, before throwing it into the fire, I'll write on my piece of paper "Is it today we get to go and buy Skylanders?"

Happy New Year to you wherever you are, and whatever time zone you find yourself in. xxx

Friday, December 28, 2012

Not sure this is very romantic, but...

I like this time of year. I really do.

It’s like the big comfortable hammock,  hanging between the stresser of Christmas,  and the upcoming resolutions of New Year:  
A sort of, kick back and do what you want time. Eat leftovers and wear pajama trousers time.
(Although if you’re the lady in the park this afternoon in the Christmas penguin flannelette combo,  I’m guessing that’s you most of the time. I mean, come on. A Christmas penguin two piece and Gucci sunglasses?  And completely unabashed. That’s the lifeshould be living!)

Anyway, this might be my favorite week of the year; even though we’ve a wedding anniversary right in the middle of it, and wedding anniversaries are one of those times when there’s an expectation. And I don't mean from my other half.

Honestly, tell people you haven’t so much as exchanged a card in the 11 years you’ve been married, and they can’t hide their alarm. 

Personally I blame the ancient Romans.
The Romans were always screwing everything up for everybody:  Building straight roads (when everybody knows the best roads are bendy) the whoopee cushion - and they called themselves a civilisation - and for, bloody well, making anyone have to try and understand Latin.
And then if that wasn't enough, in the Holy Roman Empire, they had a tradition that when a couple had been married 25 years, the husband should present his wife with a crown of silver laurels.
Those sort of traditions breed like kardasians , and now, on the first anniversary you give paper, second cotton, 4th fruit  and so it goes on.

We've been married 11 years, so I'm meant to give him steel. So I handed him a spoon to stir his coffee this morning. 

But my husband and I had two weddings, so although we've been married 11 years, technically this is our 21st wedding anniversary. - Yes, take that Romans!

Our first wedding on December 28th 2001, is what we called our legal marriage. We had the second wedding,  the following summer in Brittany, France.
A ridiculously fun affair, that lasted three days- in a chateau with a campsite and some bed and breakfasts nearby, so guests could be upmarket in a chateau,  and those who preferred, could be upmarket in a sleeping bag, in their own tent.

I won't go into the why's and the wherefores of France (unless of course I'm still blogging on that anniversary) but in short, the wine is great, the weather's pretty good and gay people can get married that way too.  My husband and I are both heterosexual but that doesn't mean we believe we're part of a club that has exclusive access to "spiritual commitment." 

Anyway, we had to be legally married somewhere else first, and so we chose a little snow-bound registry office in Dunoon on the west coast of Scotland, with only close family present.
The ceremony was short and sweet and then all 24 of us headed off to a reception in the local hotel function room (which boasted it could hold 250).

The hotel staff were pretty bewildered by the size of the party- one solitary table in the middle of what seemed like a great cavern. The flowers were sparse against the emptiness of the room,  and Frank Sinatra played from the CD player, whilst disco lights flashed on an empty dancefloor.
Ridiculous karaoke was sung by those who would normally NEVER sing publicly, but who didn't give a damn to be up on stage singing to 23 other people in a function suite that should be holding 250.
And as the snow fell outside, coal fires burned inside, and malt whisky in glasses and terrible versions of  "Sweet Caroline," and the silliest, silliest of parties.

If only all the signing of legal documents could be celebrated like that,  visiting an  attorney would be a whole lot more fun.

It's not that I'm not grateful. I am. But at this time of year both me and him feel kind of "gifted out."
As for cards,  Hallmark don't seem to make any that say, "Can't believe I still like you this much, after all this time.”

Personally,  I think you should celebrate your anniversaries the way you celebrate your wedding -  not to please other people, but exactly how it suits you. – (which for you, lady in the park this afternoon, may well have been in some flannelette penguin two piece)
That's right, screw you Caesar.

So, happy happy happy anniversary husband.
11 years. 21 anniversaries.
And so this year, I’ve erm…written you a blog xxx

Sunday, December 23, 2012

Letter to Santa from a middle-aged woman

Photo by rahego
Dear Santa

My kids want to know if you and I have a problem.
Busy with their letters, they asked why I'm not writing one too.

I said that you and I are totally fine (I left out the bit about 40 years ago when I wanted the talking Viewmaster but you gave it to my wee cousin Laura instead.)
I explained that adults don't really write letters to Santa, then my 10 year old (who's frankly too smart for his own good) shot me down in flames. Apparently, his Jewish friend had told him that, even though Santa Claus doesn't generally visit Jewish kids, as he feels it might be disrespectful to  their beliefs, he's more than happy to, providing their parents write a letter to Santa saying it's OK.

So, here it is. First letter in a good few decades.

What do I want for Christmas? -  Well...

Look, if you wanted to pay off the mortgage, or tell that douchebag who completely let me down that they're an ass, or if you could do something about my pant-size...
Any one of those things would be much appreciated, but the truth is, I'm grown up now, and I'm sort of used to handling that kind of stuff on my own.

There is one thing I 'd like though, and it's a favor.

Lose the "naughty or nice list."   That's right, you heard me. Lose it.

Because? Well, because the whole idea is crass.
You'll only give presents to kids who have been good. Kids who have been bad don't get anything and that this is all monitored by your trusty elves - who like magical little Stasi - keep note of everyone's behavior.

And I'm not even clear on the "why".
We tell our kids  they need to be good to get the reward and then what? Whilst they're obligatorily being good, they suddenly realise that "being good" is awesome -  as much fun as playing Minecraft but a whole lot more wholesome?

Kind of passive aggressive if you ask me.

But, the main reason is that, sometimes, you completely and spectacularly screw up. (And I am not talking cousin Laura here!)

We both know of  irritating, aggressive, spoiled and entitled miniature people who will awake,  Christmas morning, to great swathes of gifts that  - unless their reporting elf is drunk, stoned or absent -  there's no way they "deserve".

This year, my 5 year old's school 'adopted' several families who were in need.
These families are made up of decent people who, for whatever reason, have fallen on really hard times.
My friend, the school principal, told me, on receiving their gifts one of the mothers tearfully hugged her, thanking her on behalf of herself and her family, but also on behalf of another family who were there - one where the mother had just been diagnosed with breast cancer, and the way things were going, this may be the last Christmas she has.

I am telling you this Santa, because it seems that if the school hadn't adopted them,  you would have completely passed them by.
Any of this sinking in?

Those kids are 7 and 3.
What were they supposed to think on Christmas morning ?
Bad enough to be powerless in a terrible situation, without also being lead to believe that somehow you caused it.
Even if they're complete little psychopaths, how much damage can they have done in the time they've even been alive?

It's time to think about what message you're sending across here.

Look, I'm not saying you have to be perfect. Nobody is, and, in fact, that is exactly my point.
You screw up, I screw up. We all screw up, from time to time.
I'm trying to teach my kids that that's ok.

Life has its ups and downs, and I'll do whatever I can for my kids to make the ups much greater than the downs.
But downs will come.
And when they do, I want my kids to meet them with strength, not with guilt.
I want my kids, when they meet people who are in trouble, to feel compassion not superiority.
And I really DON'T want my kids not to go through life with the notion that there's an invisible elf somewhere taking stock.
(I've met way too many adults who still live their lives like that.)

My kids will get a ton of stuff for Christmas, from me and from you.
The fact they've been good this year is entirely a co-incidence and completely irrelevant.
That's what I'm telling them.
And that's what you're going to be telling them too.
In a letter. I've written. From you.

So, this Christmas, I will handle the mortgage, and that douchebag who let me down and I'll  cope with the pant-size thing. And you? - just  lose the "naughty or nice list."

Then, you and I can call it quits on the Talking Viewmaster.

Sort of.

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Letter to my 16 year old self.

Randomly a couple of months ago, I was asked to write a letter to my 16 year old self. 
Here it is.

43 Meadow View
Glasgow G67

Sometime in 1981

Dear 16-year-old self,

Ok, this is going to be a shocker, but Elton John is gay. 
Yes he is. 
I don’t care if he marries a woman. He’s gay. 
Oh and BTW (that means ‘by the way’ BTW)  I know you’re worried because that Rangers supporting, douchebag at school keeps telling everybody you’re a lesbian.  Relax. You’re not.  Because…?
That’s right, because you’re not attracted to women.  
Sexuality isn’t decided by what people shout at you.
But whilst we're on the subject, “bullying” someone for being a lesbian, makes as much sense as “bullying” someone for having feet, or curly hair, or a dimple when they smile. 
There’s nothing weird, shameful or unnatural about homosexuality.
The douchebag is an idiot.  If you can’t enlighten him, ignore him.
There will always be douchebags in the world.  
Paying them too much attention helps neither them nor you.

Right now, it feels like you’ll be living in this little town and going to school forever. You won’t.  In 3 years time, you’ll be living and working in New York.

New York won’t be easy.  You’ll witness drug addiction way too close, and what you see will put you off drugs forever.
Stand your ground.
That sweet little funny guy you like, but don’t want to sleep with, don’t.
His feelings will be hurt and you will feel bad, but instinct is an ally.
That sweet little guy has something called “AIDS”,  a horrible new disease that, very soon, will seem unstoppable.  
In 5 years time your smart, funny friend will be dead.
Life is not fair.
Don’t expect it to be.
And whilst you’re still breathing, don’t complain that it’s not.

Your heart will break a couple of times and (though you won’t believe it) it really does work out for the best: These relationships are merely practice runs.
You will meet “the one” by chance.
You will know and so will he.  Like I said before, instinct is your ally. Stop trying to ignore it.

You will lose your Mum and Dad and it will be excruciating and, even though you won’t want to, you will keep breathing.
You will tell yourself, they’re not really gone, and they’re just cruising round the Bahamas and don’t have phone contact. Some days you will remember.

You will marry ‘the one’ and have two, quite perfect, sons who drive you crazy, but who keep you breathing when you remember about the Bahamas.

Oh, one more thing.
There’s this amazing invention – even more impressive than a video recorder – called a computer.  And something called “the internet”. They will change the world (and when I say that, I mean it).

Anyway, back to Elton (I know, I can’t believe I’m using him as a metaphor either).
Right now he’s not happy. One day he will be, but to do that he has to stop being afraid.

Be as honest with yourself as you can bear to be, 16-year-old self , and you’ll be your own best friend.
Lie, and you will always be your own worst enemy.
And remember to be kind to people you meet along the way because,  though it might not appear so, their struggles are very very much like your own.

The big event of the year (aside from your 16th birthday) is that  Prince Charles is going to marry Lady Diana Spencer. 
They’ll have a much bigger party, but you’re going to have a much better time.

Sunday, December 16, 2012

Stars and Stripes

My eldest son is 10. Last night, we found his pet  hamster still and lifeless, curled up in its little bed, looking to the world to be fast asleep. My son, suddenly glassy eyed, asked me if he was going to be ok. Could I make him ok?

I said I didn't know, but we could try. 
We sat by the fire trying to warm the hamster's little body but, after a while, it was clear (to me) that he was dead.

Because Mark and I were going out and leaving the kids with a babysitter,  I said to my son that maybe  "Stripes" was just hibernating and that if we wrapped him in a warm blanket, maybe in the morning he might wake up.

This morning my son climbed into my bed. Snuggling up, tearful, he said he didn't think Stripes had moved, but he still had hope. Then (because he's the 10 year old he is) he went on to explain how there will always be hope, because that's what Pandora managed to hold on to, when she opened the box and let evil into the world.

Today I have two grieving kids.
It is sad and sorry and natural, and their comprehension of death is one furry wee body snuggled in pet bedding and buried in the corner of the garden.
I want to keep them away from the news.
As ridiculous as it is, I'm glad that tomorrow they don't need to be at school.
But there will be other tomorrows.
I'm grateful that bitch Pandora managed to hold on to something.

Stripes as an action hero...