Family Time = Fight Time?

On Friday, my husband and I spent the evening at my parents with my sister, brother, and future sister-in-law. The typical turkey dinner was prepared, and gifts were exchanged by the Christmas tree. It was rather enjoyable, and I hope we can keep it up year after year.

My immediate family does not typically have time to get together like that around the holidays. My brother has a job which can require him to work all seven days of the week, and varying hours. His fiancée helps manage a retail store, and her hours range as a result. My sister is in university, and works part time on the weekend. My mom is always off Sundays, but can work Saturdays. My dad and my husband are usually off on the weekends, provided there’s no overtime or last minute work to do. (I have a ton of ‘free’ time, so I am never the issue for scheduling.)

Add that in with the dislike siblings have for each other, and magic just seems to happen, doesn’t it?

I have an amazing relationship with my sister though. We have ups and downs, but in general we get one another and don’t mind hanging out just the two of us. In fact we often help each other out in rougher situations. It is nice we got over that rough patch all siblings seem to have.

However my brother and I don’t have a great relationship as of yet. When they moved, I helped out. I lent them our fake Christmas tree and some lights to have some holiday joy in their house. I try my damnedest not to annoy him or send him on a war path. I slip up every now and then, but I try. He just doesn’t get me quite yet or doesn’t care. Hard to say.

While I am 5-6 years apart in age from my sister, I am only 1 year and 10 months apart from my brother. I am also the older one, and ultimately we ended up a grade apart through school. I believe the closeness of our age is one of the biggest reasons we don’t get along. His friends are around our age, and don’t mind me at all, too. (Doesn’t help that I am on the weirder side of the scale.)

Anyways I went into our immediate family’s Christmas full of anxiety about messing it up, and starting a fight by accident. Thankfully it didn’t happen, but if I tried to tease my brother or offer help, he became defensive. It was hard to enjoy all of us being together when he seemed to go for blood with his verbal attacks.

He tends to insult what I am doing with my life, (no respect for the arts), or my house (which I maintain almost entirely by myself). These are obviously sore spots for me since (like every other writer, I’m sure), I doubt my life choice from time to time, and struggle with the burden it puts on my husband. Plus, I was raised to care about how others perceive me, and to keep a super clean/maintained house on all fronts.

Thus his barbed comments sting, and I try to brush them off, but… Deep down, it kills me that he refuses to see the truth of things, or ignores it. He also doesn’t seem to care how our ‘fights’ hurt our parents. I am told one day it will change, but it sure feels like it won’t right now.

Anyways, I know every family has their struggles, and not everyone will always get along within one. Just remember to pick your battles, and the time and place where they will be. It can be tough, but it typically works out for the better.

I gave my brother a Christmas card with a personally note from me. I’ll admit it was passive aggressive, but I hope it is whittling down whatever his issues are with me bit by bit.

 

 

 

That Time of Year

Today, I spent the morning wrapping Christmas presents with my husband. It was fun, and all that, but stressful too. In the past, my wrapping skills have been… critiqued. I try my hardest, but it doesn’t translate into the gift, it seems.

My mom wraps with crisp edges, like a bloody pro, and tries to be gentle, but I know she sees how bad my wrapping is. My husband wraps like a pro, too, and he has tried to teach me, but it takes practice and patience.

But I struggle with not being perfect from the get go. I slowly let it get to me, that my wrapping sucks, and always will which means my negative inner voice is winning. It is tough to acknowledge that since my negative inner voice has sway over me ninety percent of the time. It makes simple things seem way more difficult, and makes me feel like a failure.

And like all things, it spirals out of control especially if I am alone. It turns into everything I hate about myself, and grows to include everything I think everyone hates about me, too. It is annoying, and it takes sooooo much effort to shut it down before then. So kudos to anyone else with that negative inner voice who manages to stuff it back in a box, and beat the snot out of it too!

Anyway, that trigger today was wrapping gifts, and the longer I sat taping and folding, the quicker it crept up on me. Eventually I was in tears, because how the heck can’t I get crisp frickin’ edges on a bloody box?!?

Thankfully my husband intervened, and stared me down. He finally said, “Your wrapping is fine. I don’t know what you’re talking about!”

It was what I needed to beat my inner negative voice back into its cage, and say to myself, “Yeah, your wrapping may not be God’s gift to the world, but it was done with love and that’s all that matters! Plus… it is better than it used to be.”

Treat yourself with kindness this season, everyone! It is the effort that matters at the end of the day, and there is nothing wrong with falling. Friends and Family should take care of each other, and lend a hand when it is needed. Be it wrapping that is your downfall, or something else, YOU TRIED!

It is better to fail in originality than to succeed in imitation. ~ Herman Melville

 

 

 

Christmas Baking

Baking is something my mom does very well. She has been asked to do friends’ wedding cakes, birthday cakes, and the like. (She made my wedding cake too!) She loves baking, and despite being celiac, she makes gluten free desserts taste amazing! (She’ll agree that a chunk of gluten free products taste dense and gritty.)

Last night, I baked with my mom, and as always, we had a ton of fun making stuff together. You see, we have a weird dynamic. I cuss her out, jokingly, and she stares at me amazed at how I make the messes I do. We tease one another mercilessly, and to an outsider looking in, I am sure how we talk seems rather rude. You got to look for the smiles and laughter though to know the fun we are having.

My mom and I are friends, and it shows if you look at us that way. Anyways we have built gingerbread houses together, cakes, cookies, brownies, whatever we want. Last night, she prepped shortbread and sugar cookies while I got the messy peanut butter recipes.

The first recipe I made was peanut butter balls. It calls for four ingredients, and one is sugar. Frosting sugar to be exact, and I got it all over the stove. My mom turns to me the moment I say, ‘I didn’t do it’, and just shakes her head. However, she had dumped granulated sugar over her counter early so I teased her about that.

My mom loves a clean kitchen, but when I am in one, messes will cover the place. I don’t know if it is from my lack of care and knowing I will clean it up later, or if I am insanely clumsy. Who knows? But my mom is really good about not killing me when we’re in her kitchen, and so there is never any true anger or frustration when we bake together. In fact it is rather cathartic.

We talk about stuff in our lives, family, my writing, her knitting, all kinds of stuff. It is like a free therapy session for the both of us, and I wouldn’t give it up for the world!

So in hopes of helping others find fun with family in the kitchen, I am sharing two of my favourite recipes!

Peanut Butter Balls

Ingredients

-1 cup icing sugar                                                         -1 cup peanut butter

-2 tbsp butter                                                                 -1 1/2 or 2 cups rice krispies

Mix sugar, butter, and peanut butter together with fork.

Add in rice krispies, and mix into other ingredients

Roll into small balls, hide in container, and eat them all yourself!

 

If you want to make them ‘healthier’, you can use chopped candied cherries, chopped dates, chopped pecans, and such just use the measurement for the rice krispies.

Fiddle Diddles/Haystacks/Macarroons

Ingredients

-1/2 cup butter                                                               -3 cups old fashioned rolled oats

-1/2 cup milk                                                                  -1 cup shredded coconut

-1 1/2 cups sugar                                                           -1 tsp vanilla

-6 tbsps cocoa powder

Combine milk, butter, and sugar in a saucepan and melt ingredients over medium heat. Bring to a boil, stirring occasionally.

Once a rolling boil starts, cook 4-5 minutes, stirring often.

Remove from heat, add vanilla. (It will bubble up)

Mix cocoa, rolled oats, and coconut together until well blended. (I usually do this before stove work)

Add to hot mixture then spoon unto waxed paper and allow to set.

 

With the fiddles diddles, they taste amazing while still ‘wet’, but the drying allows them to stick together. They taste awesome after too! In fact, I am pretty sure they are the only reason my younger sister hung out with us in the kitchen as long as she did. Food is the best bribery after all!

I wouldn’t want to live with a novelist. Writers are highly voyeuristic and indiscreet. ~ Philip Roth

 

Blanket of Hope

Her hands worked hard for what had come to feel like ages, and the sound of knitting needles moving side by side comforted her. The progress she made was revealed, row after row, with a simple basket weave stitch. Longing for its completion, she finished it one day, and found a box to wrap it in, hoping to hide its truth.
For thirteen days, she kept the gift hidden, and decorated the house with her husband for Christmas. The evergreen tree they had cut down together sat in a stand of water, filling the room with a pine scent. It shone brightly with a wooden star wrapped in twinkly lights at the top, and her deceased grandmother’s multicoloured lights adorned the branches.
Her husband moved on to start the Christmas village, and she put decorations on the tree carefully since her cats viewed them as shimmering toys. Tears filled her eyes when she saw it completed, reminded of relatives who had passed years ago, and of a bright future she wished to share with them.
Blinking the sadness from her eyes, he came to hug her, comfort her, and they sat together on the couch. A holiday themed video lit the TV, and she lost herself in it, surrounded by the warmth of her loved one and their furry children.
Finally, it was the day she had waited ever so patiently for, having lied about the purpose of her knitting project to him. She had not been able to buy anything for Christmas for him, and it tore her apart, but she was able to make him something, just that one thing.
It sat alone underneath the bright tree, and he tentatively grabbed it while she watched from a distance. He looked at her once for approval, and with a nod, he started to pull the paper from it. Peering inside the box, he pulled out a knitted blanket, too small for him or her to use, and stared at his wife.
A faint smile lit her lips, unsure of what he would make of it, and she explained in a soft voice, “It is a baby blanket.”
“Oh, okay,” he replied in his own simple way, uncertain of what else to say since he knew she was not pregnant.
“I made it to show my hope for us,” she whispered, trying to hide tears from her eyes, “We both want children, and it isn’t time yet, but I wanted to show you I will always want that for us…. Regardless of how long it takes.”
Her voice broke, and tears fell silently down her cheeks. His arms wrapped around her, and he mumbled something she did not hear.
“What?” she asked through her sniffles and brushed her tears away.
“I love you,” he said louder, his eyes caring as he gazed at her, “It will happen for us one day, don’t worry.”
“I love you, too,” she whispered, barely heard as she snuggled into his arms.
They stayed entwined in the other’s embrace, the quiet filled with promise, and basked in the glow of the varied lights. The Christmas tree worked its magic on them, a secret promise had been made, and before they retired to bed that night, she was sure she felt her past loved ones approval.
All thanks to a baby blanket made with love.

Winter’s Bark

Paw prints decorate the snow,

Telling tales in winter’s glow,

Of their runs in bitter fluff,

Proving they are made of tougher stuff.

Dogs may shiver at the door,

Yet still they wish to play some more,

Chasing snowballs in the cold,

And barking, if they be so bold.

I wield my shovel to make a path,

So even tiny shih tzus,

May avoid a frozen bath.snowy.maze.jpg

Wrote this to commemorate another year of shovelling the backyard for my two dogs, Jasper the Shih Tzu and Raven the beagle. Raven freezes despite a sweater and coat, and refuses to wear any sort of bootie. Jasper will bark for days outside until we fetch him in, tired of waiting. You would think in the middle of winter, there’s not much to sniff at, but they find something or other. [Jasper on the left, Raven on the right]