writer, listener

Merry ambiguously interpretive wintertime holidays.

Is it just me or is there a harder-than-usual sell this year to keep the Christ in Christmas via Facebook campaigns and holiday cards complete with pleas, demands, and dares to see the light? I got pamphlets in some cards this year. Pamphlets.

That would be a little disingenuous, don’t you think? For me to take up Jesus once a year to avoid scrutiny and judgment during my Christmas celebration?

I’m convinced there are double HeavenRewards points awarded for each heathen saved during the month of December. And hey, I’m easygoing enough. I’ll watch the demo or sign something if it’ll help your end-of-year numbers. I just can’t promise my soul.

Likewise, I don’t understand why “Xmas” makes some people gasp, genuflect, and perform the sign of the cross. Or why generically inclusive “happy holidays” greetings are so offensive. And I know I’m not even sort-of alone on this.

If you enjoy a season full of Jesus and you’re genuinely afraid these things could strip Jesus out of Christmas against the will of those who share your convictions, that’s fascinating to me. But then, I also think there’s more than one way to Good, so what do I know about convictions?

I grew up celebrating Christmas. It makes me feel happy and sparkly and squishy in the heart. Even the godless love pretty lights, traditions, warm memories, and cookies, after all. Still, my hosanna-free celebration is of great concern to a few of my family members and that makes me sad.  I adore almost every single one of them, so I hate that their time and energy is being chucked down the black hole that is my lost soul.

Nonetheless, the only time they’ll hear me say “Jesus Christ” this month is if they’re in the room when I open my post-Christmas shopping bank statement.

The spending pain will subside, though, just in time to watch the kids open stuff, even if they aren’t doing it in the name of God. Stuff! New stuff! LOOK MOM! Santa brought us MORE STUFF! For our stuff collection! And yes, I expect them to be charitable and to think of others, too. At least during the Xmas season. After that, they can turn their bedroom crucifixes back upside down and resume eating puppies in their closets.

Even more than I like watching the kids enjoy their shiny new stuff, I like our Martha Stewart pre-lit Christmas tree. It takes five minutes to assemble and inspires awe for a month. We got it at an after-Christmas sale a few years ago at our island Kmart and it’s still delivering. If it dies next year, it will only have cost us ten bucks per Christmas!

I love catching the two youngest lying on their backs, faces up with heads jammed against the green metal trunk base. Is there anything more beautiful than the inside of a cheap, fake tree? My kids think not.

I’d tell you the reason we don’t use real trees is that they’re fire hazards or because we dislike the idea of cutting down living trees (actually, those things really are about 20 percent of it). But the truth is that decent pine trees are hard to come by in Key West. And they’re pretty fucking expensive, too. See, if we buy a real tree, our kids will get less stuff. And I’m not sacrificing their true happiness for some earth-grown tree experience. They can see real pine trees when we visit my God-fearing relatives (and the other ones) up north.

Yep, I enjoy Christmas for lots of reasons. And as much as I love my bible-thumping extended family and friends, there’s nothing about how they feel that compels me to believe Christmas is any more theirs than mine.


Boogers for Jesus

We pulled Number Five out of preschool after half a year. But it wasn’t even preschool, per se. It was pre-preschool for three-year-olds, which is more like daycare. I know he needs to interact with other kids, but at what cost? And what’s the mad rush to get kids sent off to school, anyway?

He was picking up more bad habits than good ones, and he was getting sick all the time because there’s snot and drool everywhere in a preschool classroom. That’s just the way it is.

Sure, he’ll acquire a few key skills (sharing, for example) a little later than some other kids. But I’ll also know he isn’t getting kicked in the nads by that tiny, innocent-looking devil girl who attacks when the teacher and aide are otherwise engaged during drop off and pick up.

I already miss those few peaceful hours every day. Very much. But even I couldn’t keep sending him just for that reason, knowing I wasn’t completely comfortable with it anymore.

I’ll also admit that pre-preschool was a little too churchy for me. And I know, I know: YOU SENT HIM TO A GODDAMN CHURCH SCHOOL, RHONDA, WHAT DID YOU THINK WAS GOING TO HAPPEN? But I did ask about the religious aspect of the curriculum and got the impression that it wouldn’t be so, well, religious.

It’s not that I’m afraid to expose my son to Christianity. It’s a big part of our culture and I get that. So I guess my Jesus beef, if I really even have one, is that the churchy stuff seemed like it was to the exclusion of other things. He came home singing about Jesus loving him, and asked me if every book in the house over an inch thick was a bible. But he wasn’t singing about letters and numbers, or about taking care of the Earth, or about the periodic table of elements, or whatever. It doesn’t mean that stuff didn’t go on; it just means I didn’t witness it.

Speaking of witnessing things, where my other kids went to preschool (far away from Key West), parents were encouraged to observe. They even built a giant Mirropane window so parents could stay and watch all day if they felt like it. And I did, so shut up.

But at Number Five’s school, I just didn’t feel like I knew what was going on. Does he have friends at school? How often does he get time out, and what are the infractions? Is Spongebob on A LOT or only when I happen to be there picking my kid up before the full-day kids start the second half of their day? Because I can park him in front of Spongebob at home. For free.

Am I just a total bitchmom who wouldn’t be pleased with any program? Maybe. Probably. Either way, though, Number Five is stuck here with me for the second half of the pre-preschool year. If he’s going to watch Spongebob and/or sing about Jesus, he can do it at home. Without some kid wiping infectious boogers on his arm or kicking him in the package.

Like my old column, but not

Nope, I’m not going back to Key West the Newspaper (either as associate editor or columnist) now that publication has resumed. There’s really no scandal–I just changed my mind. But thank you so much for the kind words about the 4.5-year run of my column there. OH MY GOD you made me cry. And that’s why I’m attempting a blog.
We’ve been through a lot together in my column space, after all: divorce, marriage, birth, postpartum mania, postpartum depression (when does that end?), toddler antics, teenager-induced stress, school district junk, public figures’ antics, phone threats, parental guilt of all sorts, local creatures who live to make my skin crawl and/or to eat my children (cockroaches, scorpions, alligators, sharks, dogs), storage envy/basement nostalgia, buying and selling a house, rants from the Antichrist, small-town girl’s travel tales, and so much more.
So while I’ve broken up with all the other stuff, (read: Contact Dr. Dennis Reeves Cooper at 305-292-2108 with all your KWTN-related correspondence, story tips, questions, gripes, drunken rants, and advertising dollars), I’ll still be around and we’ll still be BFFs, just like always. I’ll still tell you how painfully cute or irritating my kids are, and you can beg to differ because YOURS ARE. And we’ll laugh about that and drink cybercoffee (and wine after 7 p.m., or after the kids are in bed, whichever comes first).
But you’d better believe I’ll still enjoy KWTN for its ball-busting page one stories, Bitchin’ Paradise, Gayfly, Key West Reactor, and Matt Gardi.
With my newly rearranged schedule I’ll be working on other projects, including a rewrite of a middle grade manuscript (that means it’s for middle graders, not a novel of average quality). And listen, I’m THIS CLOSE to finding representation for it. THIS CLOSE. I can feel it in my bones. So you’ll hear a lot about that, poor things. Especially if it takes years instead of months. You may as well just start that novel you’ve been meaning to write and join me in the painful journey to publication. Come on–it’ll be fun! And also torture!
And if the traditional publishing route isn’t in the cards for me, I’ll figure something else out. I always have a backup plan. And a backup for the backup. I’m tenacious, if nothing else.
Feel free to share your own triumphs and tragedies with me (writing or otherwise) here, or at RhondaSaunders@gmail.com (my KWTN email address is no longer valid).

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