Bursting in Air

I have never been an outwardly patriotic person. I don’t wear flag tees, I don’t have an American flag banner displayed outside my house, I don’t sing along to the national anthem at sporting events, and I stood during, but didn’t recite, the pledge of allegiance during junior high and high school. That doesn’t mean I don’t care about my country. I could go on a long rant about my feelings on patriotism versus what certain people seem to think patriotism and national pride is, especially in our tumultuous and occasionally hostile economic, political, and social climate, but I’ll tell this story instead.

On the night of the 3rd, I tagged along to the local fireworks show with my best friend and her sister. I’m not big on fireworks, especially due to the adverse effects they have on wildlife, pets, and folks (especially veterans) with PTSD, but hey, it got me out of the house and I got to spend time with people I care about. We got snow-cones and snagged excellent seats with a stellar view, at a table up on a patio area right outside our old high school.

As soon as we sat down, there was a drastic shift in the weather. It’s been broiling hot in PA this week – it’s felt like 100+ degrees the last few days – and just the walk from my friend’s car to the high school had me dripping sweat. But when we got to out vantage point, the wind kicked up, and we could see a froth of grey clouds swirling on the horizon, encroaching on the fading blue-gold sky. A few droplets of rain splattered down, but we still had about a half hour before the show would start, so we got a bit nervous that they’d have to cancel.

Then, the first rockets launched into the air – fifteen or so minutes early, likely an effort to beat the oncoming storm. The cloud-filled sky was full of sparkling, glittering colors, explosions and showers of radiant light, crackling gold dust, like stars bursting into the air then fading to ashes. We could feel the intensity of the ear-shattering ‘booms’ and ‘bangs’ down in our marrow. Many people view fireworks as a celebration of national pride, a joyous reminder of our independence, and I get that – it is a marvelous sight to behold. I found myself smiling throughout the display, enjoying my time with friends.

The rain held off, but the lightning didn’t. There’s be a pop of golden light and arcing beams of red and blue, and then a flash of lightning. The crowd would “ooh” and “ahh” at all the splendor, then cringe as the gray clouds were illuminated by flickering white and the growl of approaching thunder. Almost as though the fireworks were at war with the elements, battling for dominion over the sky. And it struck me, then, just how appropriate it was. Our country, and our freedom, fending off the ever-present threat of a storm – a storm of our own making. What is meant to be a celebration, or a moment of pride, eclipsed by something growing and festering beyond our control. The image of what patriotism is meant to be in conjunction with a force that shaves some beauty from it, and sends shivers down the spine.

I hope everyone had a Happy 4th – or just a good week, whether you’re American or not.

(Ant Man and the Wasp review coming Monday!)

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If you’re in need of a new read, check out my YA novel, I’m With You! The ebook is only $1.99 or (£1.55) and paperback is $9.99 (£7.99) on Amazon Amazon UK.  Nook book is also $1.99 and paperback is $9.99 on BN.com.

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There’s something about…

…Popcorn.

Apparently, January 19th is National Popcorn Day. Everything gets a holiday, it seems.

Admittedly, I’m not the biggest popcorn fan in the world (and kettle corn is an abomination), but I’ll give credit where credit is due… popcorn is the ultimate movie theater snack. Besides M&Ms. I’m also really tempted, every time I go to the movies in the morning/early afternoon, to get the cinnamon roll bites they have for sale, but I have yet to do it.

Popcorn is a magical thing, and it works in mysterious ways. Right now, sitting here at my laptop and typing out this blog post, I have no desire for popcorn. Like, none whatsoever. But put me in a movie theater seat, dim the lights, and start showing previews on the screen, and I guarantee I’ll have a hankering for some salty, buttery goodness.

To satisfy such urges, I usually buy the refillable popcorn bucket my local theater offers every year, and it gets plenty of use. This past year, it had Matt Damon’s face on the cover, advertising The Great Wall. I look forward to replacing it with the 2018 bucket, whenever they come in.

Occasionally, I’ll feel like having popcorn at home, but for the most part I consider it to be a movie theater exclusive snack.  I don’t know why popcorn works in such a way, but it does – and I can eat a ton of it without my stomach hurting. My dad and nearly demolished an entire bucketful of popcorn before the previews were over when we went to see The Last Jedi for a second time, and my mom and I regularly finish off a bucket between the two of us. We are seasoned popcorn pros, but only in the perfect environment.

Happy National Popcorn day! Be sure to celebrate with some popcorn while you’re sitting down to watch Netflix tonight – or, if you’re like me, just hold off until your next trip to the movies.

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If you’re in need of a new read, check out my YA novel, I’m With You! The ebook is only $1.99 or (£1.55) and paperback is $9.99 (£7.99) on Amazon Amazon UK.  Paperback is also $9.99 on BN.com.

It Feels Like Christmas

When I think of Christmas, I think of the candlelight services at church on the 24th, with friends and family coming together to celebrate in the birth of Christ. The Christmas hymns, the haunting thrum of the organ and sailing voices of the choir. Over a hundred tiny candles glowing valiantly through the darkness as Silent Night pours from the congregation. Then, leaving the service and stepping out into the cold winter night, breath clouding through the air as departing friends share goodbyes and good tidings. A steam whistle in the distance, playing some cheery seasonal tune, announcing the arrival of Christmas as the clock chimes midnight.

I have long since ceased to believe in many things, and I don’t attend the Christmas Eve services anymore. I don’t want to go into detail about my loss of faith, but I bear no grudges or animosity toward those who believe, so long as they do not use their beliefs as a weapon, or as a way to push their agenda onto the unwilling.

Despite this, I still think of those nights, standing on the church steps as flurries dance in the sky, when I think of Christmas. They are memories I hold dear, and find comfort in, and I know the church doors are open for me should I have need of them, even though I no longer believe. The place is full of Christmas memories. Being the donkey in the Christmas pageant, then being promoted to narrator. Serving as an acolyte for several years, fearing I would accidentally light a wreath on fire. The beautiful Christmas hymns, my favorites being “God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen,” “O Come, All Ye Faithful” and “Hark! The Herald Angels Sing.” I still, and will always, contend that religious Christmas songs are far, far superior to secular ones, though I admit that Mariah Carey’s “All I Want for Christmas is You” is a jam.

Now, I attend a different sort of service on Christmas Eve each year. One that takes place long ago in a galaxy far, far away. New traditions have grabbed hold. Frozen pizza for dinner, a latte or two, and Star Wars to round out the night. And though it’s only been in place for a couple of years, that tradition is starting to feel a bit like Christmas, too. Because really, those nights at church and the nights in the movie theater are not so different. One just has more popcorn.

Family, friends, and a feeling of calm, and of belonging. That’s what Christmas is, for me. In the face of all the things I dislike about the holidays – and there are several – there are some ideas and values that are close to my heart this time of year. Even though traditions might change, memories of old remain.

Happy holidays!

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If you’re in need of a new read, or need something to spend your holiday money on, check out my YA novel, I’m With You! The ebook is only $1.99 or (£1.55) and paperback is $9.99 (£7.99) on Amazon Amazon UK.  Paperback is also $9.99 on BN.com.

Worth 1000 Words #11: In the Bleak Midwinter

*I will only be making Friday posts for the month of December. Regular Monday and Friday posting will resume in January.*

Now that December has blustered into my neck of the woods, bringing cold winds, the scent of pine, and absolutely ridiculous inflatable holiday decorations adorning the yards of my neighbors, I have a confession to make: I don’t particularly enjoy the holidays. In fact, I recently purchased a shirt that truly reflects my feelings toward the holidays, which is reminiscent of everyone’s favorite reformed Christmas naysayer, Ebenezer Scrooge. It suits me wonderfully, I have to say.

img_20171120_143441_3441212692033.jpgI know, I know… disliking this time of the year is blasphemy. Everyone loves Christmas! Everyone loves cookies and bulky sweaters and watching snow fall with a steaming cup of cocoa! Everyone loves Christmas movies and carols and figgy pudding and whatever! But hear me out, because I think my aversion to the holiday season is valid.

Firstly, I don’t like gingerbread or eggnog, and peppermint is a case-by-case basis, with the typical outcome being “no thanks.” So, like, half of the seasonal lattes at Starbucks aren’t options for me, and that’s a major bummer. I also dislike snow (when I have to drive in it) and bitter cold, and though I do love a good bulky sweater, they tend to be quite itchy, and no one wants to be itchy all day, fashion be damned.

But, the main reason why I dislike the holiday season is that I work retail full-time. So, you can imagine how that is during the holidays. Last year I worked third shift for all of December and part of January, and it was a magical experience. I didn’t have to interact with people for 6 weeks. I didn’t have to care about my appearance for 6 weeks, I didn’t have to fake holiday cheer for 6 weeks. I could just do my work, listen to my own music, and carry on my own way without being bothered by last-minute shoppers who somehow think it’s my fault that we sold out of a particular item, even though we’ve had it in stock for weeks prior. I’m eternally grateful that I don’t work in the toy department, though. I work across the store, but I’m already sick of hearing about “fingerlings,” whatever those are, and last years “hatchimal” craze was even worse.

This year, I didn’t fare so well with my schedule, as I am on the early/day shift until the week leading up to Christmas – though I will say, in my 9 years of retail, I had my easiest Black Friday shift of all time a couple of weeks ago, so the holiday season didn’t kick off in a majorly disastrous fashion. I enjoy my job most of the time, but this time of year, it is far too easy to spiral into a jumbled mess of stress, irritation, the whole “too much work and not enough time” mentality, impatience, and indulging in too much candy to try and improve my mood, then feeling terrible and spending extra time at the gym to make up for it. It’s difficult to scrounge up enough scraps of “holiday cheer” to convince people that I’m jolly and not grappling with negativity and anxiety at a near constant basis. Hearing people complain about having to buy gifts for people, and seeing dejected relatives buy something that someone “probably won’t like anyway” is flat-out depressing. Enduring the same Christmas songs day in and day out is exhausting – we definitely don’t need to play 6 versions of “Blue Christmas,” but we do, and I hereby elect “Christmas Wrapping” by the Waitresses to be the worst holiday song of all time, with the exception of “I want an Alien for Christmas,” by Fountains of Wayne, which is outright wrong. All of these factors combine to make “Bah Humbug” my personal slogan from late November into January, and it takes me until the tail end of March to actually shake off the lingering doldrums. The actual day of Christmas is so blink-and-you-miss-it in the retail world, because even though we don’t have to work on the actual day, on the 26th, the dreaded returns begin. And nothing is more soul-killing and makes me lose faith in humanity more than listening to people complain about the gifts they’ve gotten, then scoff at the amount of credit they receive for returning the gifts they didn’t want.

But every year, there are little things that make up for the dour feeling of holiday blues. Last weekend, I attended a holiday party hosted by a coworker with some of my favorite folks from work and had an absolute blast, laughing and joking and playing games and eating delicious food. I love buying gifts for friends and family, and seeing their faces light up when they open them. I love Christmas cookies (of the non-gingerbread variety) and decorating the tree. I love going to the movies in the winter, because it’s “Oscar contender” time and the quality of films gracing the screens is top notch. However, if The Disaster Artist and The Shape of Water don’t make their way to my town, I will be devastated. I can’t wait to see The Last Jedi on Christmas Eve, as has become tradition in my family. My mom and I went to see The Man Who Invented Christmas after a particularly stressful day of work last week, and it really did help me get a bit more into the Christmas spirit.

This year, to survive the holidays, I’ve chosen to focus on all the things that make this time of year happy, and not the ones that diminish what the Christmas season is supposed to be about. I’ll cherish time with my family, enjoy the seasonal lattes that aren’t tainted by the foul taste of gingerbread, and not let the cold or the flurries get me down. My “bah, humbugs” might not officially turn into far more chipper, “Ho, ho ho’s,” but I will make an effort to enjoy the little things, and slough off stress whenever I can, so I will not be vanquished by the bleak midwinter.

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If you’re in need of a new read, or want to get someone a book for the holidays, check out my YA novel, I’m With You! The ebook is only $1.99 or (£1.55) and paperback is $9.99 (£7.99) on Amazon Amazon UK.  Paperback is also $9.99 on BN.com.