Let me tell you exactly how much I hate christmas

Warning: This is a rant about how much I hate christmas (hint: a whole fucking lot). If you really like christmas, or if you don’t like profanity, you should maybe avert your eyes.

Grumpy Cat meme that says, "Dashing through the no."

I hate christmas. Why? Well, because people insist on pushing their religion on me and saying things like, “Jesus is the reason for the season” and “don’t take Jesus out of christmas by abbreviating it to xmas” and “YOU MEAN MERRY CHRISTMAS” when I say “Happy Holidays” because there is more than one holiday in December, and then think that somehow, despite this holiday being pervasive as fuck from September to January, there is an actual WAR on christmas*.

I’m sorry, no. Actually, I’m not sorry. Just no.

Jesus is NOT the reason for the season. Axial tilt is the reason for the season, and when you get right down to it, christmas is just Yule with a nativity scene thrown in. Everything from the date, to the tree, to the Yule log, to the lights is all pagan in origin. The only reason Christians celebrate Jesus’s birth on December 25 is because the Roman Catholic Church couldn’t totally wipe out pagan beliefs, so they just slapped Christian practices on the old pagan traditions. You still want to celebrate baby Jesus on December 25th? COOL. I support your excitement over baby Jesus.

But I don’t celebrate baby Jesus. I’m Wiccan. I celebrate Yule, which focuses on the returning of the light after the darkest day of the year. It’s a time to reflect on the past year and set intentions for the coming year. So again, Jesus is not the reason for my season or my celebration. Please stop trying to annoyingly convert me with cliche rhymes. It will not work.

Let’s also take a moment to talk about capitalism. People loooove to say how we should remember the true meaning of christmas is Jesus’s birth (remember, he was not born in December) and all that, while also gleefully flinging money at every store they go into to shower people they don’t even like with expensive but ultimately meaningless gifts. It’s just a bit too hypocritical for my tastes. You can say, “That’s not me! I only buy reasonably priced gifts for people I like!” and that’s cool, but you’re in the minority. And even Christians perpetuate the whole weird and kind of creepy Santa Claus thing, which probably didn’t start as capitalist but has been completely co-opted by corporations (example: pictures with Santa in every mall ever). Like, I’m sorry, but I do not want an old fat white man breaking into my house and leaving shit from goddess knows where under my Star Wars Yule tree.

Keep Calm and Bah Humbug

Then there’s the “music.” The “music” consisting of the same five songs, covered by every pop artist ever, recycled over and over and blasted at top volume for months. It’s fucking torture, and at least one clinical psychologist backs me up on this. Now you know why everyone’s so cranky in December. We all have to listen to that fucking awful “music” all the goddamned time. And half of it is explicitly religious. Which again, is probably great if you follow that particular religion, but if you don’t, it can all feel like a big FUCK YOU.

Okay. Now for the so-called “war on christmas.” No one (except me, maybe) is waging a fucking war on fucking christmas. You are a self-centered, self-righteous asshole if you think that. Because GUESS WHAT? There are other holidays in December! There’s Hannukah! And Kwanzaa! and Yule! And Saturnalia! And New Year’s Day is like, the day right after December! Also, see my point above about explicitly religious christmas music playing in every goddamned store from November to January. If explicitly religious christmas music is that pervasive, there is no war on christmas, only a war on my sanity. Just because people maybe want you to respect their holiday doesn’t mean they want to stop you from celebrating yours! I, christmas hater extraordinaire, don’t even want to stop you from celebrating your holiday! I just want you to leave me out of it. So please, do us all a favor and get the fuck over yourself. Enjoy christmas and stop trying to make everyone else enjoy it if they don’t want to!

And finally… “xmas.” Guess what the “x” stands for. Guess! It’s the first letter of Christ’s name in the Greek alphabet! And there’s a long tradition of abbreviating Christ’s name. So actually, you aren’t taking Christ out of christmas if you abbreviate, you’re just being lazy. Also, so what if someone wants to abbreviate? Does it affect you in any way? No? Didn’t think so. It’s fine if you prefer not to abbreviate, and it’s fine if you want to. Stop trying to make everyone do things your way. I mean, really. Who died and made you king of the universe?

So what, you say, you love christmas! That’s great! I’m glad there is something in this cold, cruel world that brings you joy. But just remember–not everyone is a Christian. Not everyone celebrates your holiday. So maybe try not being a dick about it?

*I have made christmas lowercase on purpose, because I hate it.

End of year resolutions

At the end of every calendar year, I like to take some time to reflect on what I’ve accomplished, any goals I failed to meet (and analyze why), and what my goals and intentions for the upcoming year will be.

For me, 2017 was particularly difficult, between the emotional and mental stress of the current administration, changing careers, dropping out of library school, dealing with my dog’s degenerative disease, and trying, through all of that, to make some progress on my house. I know many of my friends from more marginalized groups feel even worse.

Now, with the very real threat of this awful tax bill, a lot of those worries have come back. The bill is terrible for universities and grad students–my partner works at a university and is currently enrolled in graduate classes. I’m now teaching at a community college. If, as many are predicting, the corporate tax breaks create an investment bubble that bursts in 5 or so years, will I still have a job, any job?

There’s no way for me to predict the future. The bill hasn’t been signed into law yet; it still has to go through reconciliation. I’ve let my reps know how I feel about this bill, and will continue to do so. And certainly there are other actions to take, but ultimately, I can’t control what happens here, and I can’t control what might happen to the economy in a few years.

Instead of letting all this anxiety dictate my actions, I’m attempting to be sensible and to focus on the things I can control. Namely, my own actions. This month, as a sort of pre-New Year’s Resolution, I’m concentrating on the following things that sort of fell by the wayside this year: my health and various creative projects. I’ll also be thinking about ways to increase my financial security in the coming years, and setting goals for 2018. But for now, here’s what December’s all about for me.

My Health

Many years ago, I stopped eating processed food and most sugar. But I’m an emotional eater, and those bad habits have crept back over the past few years. Paired with a medication that exacerbates food cravings, I gained quite a bit of weight. I wish I could say it doesn’t bother me, but it does. More than that, though, is the simple fact that eating crap makes me feel like crap. Excess sugar consumption leads to all sorts of terrible things, from diabetes and heart disease to Alzheimer’s. That’s right. Eating too much added sugar can increase your risk for and ability to fight Alzheimer’s. Most processed foods contain added sugar, plus migraine-triggering preservatives, and very little in the way of nutrition.

For the rest of December, I’m going to cut out as much processed food as possible (pretty easy considering this just means I need to cook for myself instead of eating out and avoid Trader Joe’s delicious but deadly snack items), and stick to the WHO’s recommended max daily added sugar intake of 25 grams for women. I’m also going to go back to eating four smaller meals per day instead of three large ones–this is mostly because a steady flow of energy reduces migraine attacks for me.

I hate to spend the money, but I’m also considering investing in a membership at a yoga studio or gym. I can and do use yoga videos at home, but I think even going to a studio once per week would help with form, posture, and maintaining my motivation. If anyone has any recommendations, I’m all ears!

Creative Projects

Here’s the thing: creativity, whether in the form of writing, gardening, or sewing, is essential to my mental health and emotional well being. Making things makes me happy, and I know the things I create make others happy. Writing fiction always gets tough for me as winter sets in, because the limited daylight and cold make me want to hibernate. And that’s okay! I don’t feel like writing right now, so I’m going to give myself a “vacation” this month and allow myself to focus on other creative projects.

I’ve got a few home decor projects in the works, plus a Rey costume that’s half finished. I’m not going to get all of these things done by the end of the year, but I can probably finish the costume and make a set of fancy curtains for my dining room. And if I only get one of those projects done, that’s okay, too!

Sewing is relaxing to me in a way writing isn’t, probably because it’s so much more physical than writing. I like that as I sew, the thing I’m making takes shapes right in front of me. It’s physical and tangible, and in the case of curtains, very useful and pretty to look at.

 

December is also a time to spend with family and friends, and I’m looking forward to doing that, too. (Not to mention…. STAR WARS.)

A brave new world

Last month, I quit my job at the library and dropped out of library school. I want to talk about what happened, and I want to talk about it honestly and fairly, without malice.

I’m not sure I can do that yet, because frankly what happened is shitty and unfair, and because I don’t want my words or actions to harm anyone who still works at the library. And I don’t want you, potential library-user, to feel any sort of weird bad feelings toward the library, because you should absolutely not (which reminds me that a few of my books are a day late…)

So instead of detailing the events that led up to me quitting my job, let me talk about what I’m doing now.

First, I am teaching fiction writing classes at the Community College of Allegheny County, in the community education (non-credit) program. I’ve always enjoyed teaching, but got scared away by endless adjunct tales of woe and the need for affordable health insurance. Thankfully, I’m in a position now where I don’t have to worry about health insurance quite as much, making part-time teaching a possibility.

And I have to say, it feels good to be sharing the thing I most love doing (writing fiction) with people who are excited to learn. My students range in age from around my age to retirees, from judges to hydro geologists, and I am learning as much from them as they are from me, I’m sure. I’m going to give teaching a trial run for a year, and if I find at the end of the year that I still love it, I’m probably going to apply for PhD programs (creative writing PhD in Hawaii? Yes, please) to up my chances of getting a “real” teaching job (and also because I want to write an ecofeminist dissertation on Star Wars, but that’s a tale for another time).

Second, I am working part-time at Riverstone Books, a new bookstore in the North Hills that will open later this week. In addition to working the floor, I’ll be working on the store’s social media as well. Right now the main focus is on getting the store up and running for the grand opening tomorrow, but I’ve got lots of content ideas percolating, and I’m really excited about the store and this opportunity.

Third, I am freelancing, which is something that had to fall by the wayside while I was working full-time and taking classes. So far I’ve had work published in The Millions, Health.com, and Next Pittsburgh. Where will my name pop up next? Who knows! I missed writing nonfiction, so it feels good to dip my toes back into the business of facts.

Journalism has always felt like an odd side appendage I don’t know what to do with—I know I’m not really interested in hardcore investigative reporting, but getting to write about topics I’m passionate about (food! writing! migraines!) for more than my blog is only a good thing.

Fourth, and most importantly, I’m writing more. My writing sessions don’t have to be limited to fifteen- or thirty-minute sprints before I head into the library. My mornings are open, so I can write for one hour. Two hours. Even three hours. I am still giddy with delight at this bounty of time. So I am shopping my short story collection, revising a small collection of flash fiction, and plotting a serial novel for NaNoWriMo next month.

What’s more, my partner’s fears that I would just play Pokemon Go for eight hours a day if I quit my job have not come true! I still only play for a very moderate average of one hour a day!

This is all still new, and still a little scary, but ultimately, I’m hopeful that good things will come of this brave new world.