Category Archives: Memories

Then and Now: Weddings

Occasionally, I read through all blog posts just to see what I wrote (and if applicable, what people had to say in reply). During my most recently perusal, I rediscovered a post where considered what I might want to do for my wedding. Seeing as I just recently (16 months ago this coming Wednesday!) got married, I thought it would be good to take another look at that post and compared it to what actually happened.

It turns out that after dating many (mostly non-devout) Christian or non-theistic men, I found Hubby, who is a Witch like me.  So we ended up getting a handfasting like I wanted. Also, while members of my family became much more open to my relationships and might have come to a wedding, we decided to keep the whole thing private.  We asked the members of our coven to perform the handfasting and be the sole attendees of it as well.  Out of the six coven members (including Hubby and myself) at the time, five of us were able to make it for the big day.  We all met at one coven member’s cabin in the woods and performed the rite at one of the outdoor altars that had been constructed in the woods.  We wrote our own vows.  I don’t think I remember any of mine and very few of Hubby’s.  I will say that Hubby was creative and crafted vows that were both sweet and funny.

After the rite itself, we built a nice bonfire in the “front yard” and set our vows on fire as an offering to the gods.  Then we celebrated with food we all cooked together and some fireworks.

It also turned out that we had enough people that we were able to treat the handfasting as our marriage ceremony.  The person who presided over the rite signed the marriage license and the other two acted as witnesses.  So we didn’t have to do a civil ceremony afterward.

Overall, it turned out almost exactly as I wanted, but even better.


Memories: Super Mario Brothers

Super Mario Brothers ScreenshotMy birthday is on Tuesday, so I’ve decided to take it easy between now and then and just do some easy, rambling posts.  Today’s is about my favorite video game growing up.

I forget what grade I was in at the time, but at some point I ended up getting a Nintendo Entertainment System.  When I got it, they were giving out Super Mario Brothers with each game console.  I fell in love with that game.  I don’t know how many hours I ended up playing it.  I know that both my parents and my sister commented more than once they were often entertained by watching me play it, as we had the Nintendo set up in the living room at the time.

I don’t remember when I finally beat the game by playing through all eight worlds in order.  Prior to doing so, I used the “warp zones” that were hidden behind the end of various underground levels.  After exploring every possible warp zone, I eventually decided to go back and try winning the game by playing straight through with no shortcuts.  (I think I did use one of the tricks to get “infinite lives” by continuously jumping on a koopa troopa on steps, though.)

One of the other things I was completely proud of was the fact that at some point, I figured out the secret to both making sure I landed on the topmost part of the flagpole at the end of non-castle levels, but got the maximum possible fireworks each time as well.  It was a matter of figuring out when to start the running jump from the top of the stairs just in front of the flagpole.

Later, I got into other games, including The Legend of Zelda and the Dragon Warrior series of games.  (I have a thing for role-playing games like that.)  But there will always be something special about running around while eating magic mushrooms and stomping on turtles.


Choosing Your Friends

FriendsAs I’ve mentioned a couple of times, I spent some time in therapy back in 2011.  I ended up going because my codependency had reached a critical mass and my life was falling apart at the seams.  I have to say that making that choice and working through some of my own problems with the help of a professional was quite possibly the best decision I have ever made.  It’s certainly among the top five.

One of the things my therapist would occasionally ask me when I got talking about issues with a particular friend or acquaintance was, “Is this relationship really worth what you’re having to deal with?  What are you getting out of it?”  She never pushed me to answer the question in any particular way, but she insisted that I face the question.  I’d say it’s probably one of the best things she did for me.

You see, prior to going to therapy, I never would have thought to ask such a question.  In fact, I’d dare say that I never even considered that I was allowed to ask such a question.  I mean, if you’re friends, you’re friends, right?  Or that was my thinking.  Until I spent some time in therapy.  And then I realized, I get to choose my friends and I get to choose whether those friendships will continue.  That was a wonderful and powerful realization, albeit a scary one.

Sometimes, we’re better off without some people in our lives, no matter what our past with those people may have been.  It doesn’t matter if Roy1 and I have been friends since the second grade.  If he says and does things that tear me down, I have every right to protect my sense of self-esteem by telling him our friendship is now a thing of the past.  It doesn’t matter if Janet and I helped each other through some really tough breakups and a substance abuse problem.  If we’ve reached a point in our lives where we really have nothing in common, it’s okay to wish her the best and let our lives slip apart.

I’ve intentionally chosen two rather different situations in the last paragraph because I want to stress that there are many diverse reasons why I can end a friendship and am empowered to do so.  It can be because the friendship is toxic to me or because the friendship just isn’t what it used to be and trying to recapture the past may be a useless and exhausting endeavor.  My choice to end a friendship may be based on the fact that the other person is a source of pain in my life or it may be based on the fact that the other person is still wonderful, but simply not someone I have that special bond with anymore.  In either case, it’s okay.

Some days, the thought of ending a friendship really is scary.  I wonder if I’m making a mistake.  I wonder if I may regret it.  In some cases, I may wonder if I’ve really given the other person a fair chance.  But in the end, I take comfort in knowing that I ultimately have that choice and it’s okay to make it.

1All names in this post are randomly chosen and represent imaginary people.

Memories: Taking up the Runes

A bindrune for good fortune.
A bindrune for good fortune.

Back in 1998, my first boyfriend, Zech, stayed a few days.  We were driving somewhere and I mentioned in passing that I was thinking about learning to read tarot.  “Why don’t you learn runes instead,” he suggested.  “They’re a lot easier.”  As a result, I went to the bookstore and bought a set of runes with a well known but not very good (at least from a more traditional point of view) book.  I read through the book in a day and started doing readings for myself and friends.  I was amazed at how well I took to them.  Little did I know the key role they’d play in the journey I was about to undertake.

A couple months later, Zech and I broke up and I lost at least one friend in the aftermath.  As a result, my life was thrown into a sense of chaos.  Around Halloween, I decided to do a massive rune reading for myself, one that involved twelve runes.   That reading led me to search new spiritual paths, which brought me to the Pagan paths.

A couple years later, I started reading other books on runes, as i was still fascinating by them.  I began to read sources that were more traditional, which was difficult.  In time, I devoured books by Thorsson, Diana Paxson, Nigel Pennick, Freya Aswynn, Jan Fries, and a few other authors whose names escape me.  In fact, it was my love of runes and the lore surrounding them that caused a trusted mentor to suggest that I should look into following the Norse gods.  That’s how I ended up a devotee of Freyja.

I don’t use runes as much is my personal practice these days, though I still have a grand love for them.  Also, it led me to teach a rune class — and developing a follow-up mini-class — on runes for my local Pagan store.  I’ve also since learned tarot which I like as well.  I’m not sure I agree with Zech that runes are actually easier.  But they still have a special place in my heart and I probably have a bit of a preference for them.

Memories: Camping

Through much of my childhood, my family would often go camping.  My parents owned a small pop-up camper with plenty of bed space for them, my sister, and I.  We would often take it to the campground that was just a few miles outside of the town we lived in (well, near) for a weekend.  We liked that campground because it was run by the Army Corps of Engineers and unlike the campgrounds in Pennsylvania State Parks, they allowed pets.

A typical morning while camping normally started with me waking up and waiting for it to get light outside.  Then I would crawl out of my sleeping bag, shivering in the cool morning air as I put on some clothes.  I’d then step out into the sunlight and dig my bike out from under the end of the camper where we normally stowed them.  I’d hop on and peddle my way along the various roads throughout the campground and down the sidewalks leading to the beach.  I would to this for a couple of hours before returning to our campsite where Mom and Dad would finally be getting up.  Dad would set up the small two-burner gas-based stove.  I remember having to fill its tank and then pumping it to aerate the fuel before plugging the long pipe into the burner.  I’d often convince Dad to let me use the mechanical striker to ignite the burners, as I was fascinated by the way how it would spark.  Then Dad would get down to making eggs and toast for breakfast.  For some reason, the eggs cooked on that little stove always tasted different and better than the eggs we made at home.

After breakfast, I might go back to riding my bike.  Other times, Mom and Dad would be ready to take the canoe (when my sister and I got old enough that the four of us couldn’t share the same canoe, we’d borrow my uncle’s canoe as well) out and paddle it around the lake.  We’d paddle from one end to other and often swing by the nesting site the Corps set up, looking to see if we could spot any eagles or osprey.

Alternatively, we might hike one of the trails (though my favorite hiking experiences actually involve hinking the Falls Trail at Ricketts Glen State Park) surrounding the campground.  We would often walk into the tent-camping only trail that is only accessible on foot or via boat.  That particular walk usually took us an hour or so, if memory serves.

Of course, at some point during the day, my father would go fishing, often joined by the rest of us.  To be honest, I never really cared for fishing.  I was way too active of a youngster to appreciate an activity that mostly required me to sit their quietly and monitor a fishing pole (or the bobber, if one was attached to the line).

No day camping would be complete without swimming, so the whole family would don our swimsuits and head to the beach at some point.  At Ives run, the beach is mostly grass, though there are a couple sections that have been bounded by cement and filled with sand for those who are inclined to build castles and/or moats.  Also, the floor of the swimming area is cement.  Of course, that made for a few scraped knees in my youth.

Another fun thing about Ives run is that while they have a designated swimming area, you’re actually allowed to swim anywhere in the lake you choose.  You just have to remember that in other areas, you might have to be aware of boats and jet-skis.  (Fortunately, most boaters are pretty considerate and aware of their surroundings as well.)

At night, we always built a camp fire for roasting hot dogs and marshmallows.  When we were lucky, Mom made sure the camping budget allowed for graham crackers and chocolate bars for s’mores as well.  We’d much on our goodies and sit around the campfire until Mom and Dad sent my sister and I off to bed (or we went off to bed on our own when we were older).

Sometime in my early or mid teens, we quit going camping.  At first, we just started going less frequently.  Partly, it was because my sister joined a baton troop and had parades to attend most weekends.  This made it difficult to go camping those weekends.  Then the other problem was that because we were camping at campgrounds, the prices for sites increased.  This made it harder to justify going as the cost of going kept going up.

Every now and then, I think about camping again.  I miss the fires, the early mornings, the hiking, and all the other activities.  But then, I also miss what a key bit of family time those camping trips were.  Right now, if I were to go camping, I’d end up going by myself.  That just doesn’t feel right to me.


Memories: Being a ham

Today’s going to be just another light glimpse into my past.  I hope you enjoy the lightness of it all, dear readers.

Growing up, I enjoyed acting.  I was in just about every production my Sunday school or church production did, mostly Easter and Christmas pageants.  When  I made it to high school, I was excited to join drama club.

I wouldn’t say that I was ever Hollywood material.  Certainly not Broadway material.  However, I felt I did well enough, especially for my little corner of rural Pennsylvania.  I remember when i was in eighth or ninth grade and the drama club was planning on doing a fun little play called “Agatha Christie Made Me Do It.”  (See synopsis here.)  We were sitting through try-outs and the role of Waldo the butler was still up for grabs.  One of the upperclassmen suggested that maybe I should try out for the part.  The club adviser — who also acted as the director — said she just couldn’t see me in the part and couldn’t imagine me doing it.

As I’ve mentioned before, I love a good challenge.  So I snatched a copy of the script, found a scene in which Waldo played a prominent part, strolled onto the stage, and gave my audition.  I got the part instantly.  In fact, by the second week of rehearsals, our adviser had taken back her original assessment, but admitted that I played the part so convincingly that she half expected a British accent to start rolling off my tongue every time I took the stage.  (Alas, I wasn’t that good of an actor.)

We never made it to show-time, unfortunately.  Due to various issues, the production got canceled.  It’s a shame too, as I think that was my best role ever.  Though I did go on to take a speaking part in a musical a couple years later, which gave myself and all my classmates the chance to discover that I do an amazingly good imitation of Fred Rogers.  (“You know what?  You’re a wonderful person.  There’s no one else in this whole world just like you.  You’re special.  Very, very special.”)  Then where was the year that our new drama advisor proved how quickly I could pick up a part when she approached me a week before showtime because one of her actors had become ill and there was no understudy.  (The original actor recovered in time to play the role.)

After high school, I quit acting.  When I went to college, things changed.  We had a drama department, and most of the drama majors fought over the parts — and were incredible actors by virtue of the fact that they were actually going to school for it.  I figured that a simple computer science major who just used to do high school and church stuff was no match in that competition.  Some part of me wishes I had tried just once though, just to see what would’ve happened.

The most terrifying thing my therapist asked me to do

[I feel like this entry might need a Content Note or two, but I’m not sure exactly what for.  If anyone wants to offer any suggestions, I’d be quite grateful.]

I figured that since I’m in a writing mood, I’d schedule a blog post or two to go up while I’m at the Generous Spaciousness Conference Retreat.  This is another personal reflection/tell you a bit about me post.  The events I describe happened a little over two years ago.

I was sitting in my first therapy session and it was almost over.  Felicia and I had discussed a few different things.  Mostly she had asked me probing questions and I answered them, somewhat briefly.  Then she sprung the trap on me.

“We’re just about out of time for tonight, so here’s what I’d like to do.  For the next five minutes, I’m not going to say anything.  I want you to talk about whatever you want to talk about.”

That was it.  She was done talking.  I had five minutes I had to fill with whatever I wanted to fill it with.  Whatever was on my mind that I felt like sharing.

I hated it.  I filled with panic (and it had already been an emotional and exhausting session prior to this point).  I wondered how she could ask that of me.  I mean, didn’t we already establish that I didn’t know what to talk about, that I wasn’t sure what people would find interesting about me, or even if there was anything about me that people would find interesting?  Plus, I didn’t know what to say to her.  I mean, I was coming to her to sort out my problems —  which I felt we had already established and discussed.  What more was I supposed to say?  What was she looking for?  Why couldn’t she just give me some script to follow.  Or at least a general premise I could ad lib from.  I needed a role to play!

I’m not sure when — whether it was days or months — that my need to be given a role to play was exactly the issue she was trying to get me to face (at least I think that was her intent).  Much of my problem was that I tended to think of my life and even my worth in terms of “roles” to be played — often roles assigned by other people.  I think asking me to go “off script” for even just five minutes and choose my own words and my own topic to speak of was her way of getting me to choose my own “role” for the first time in a long time.

It’s something I still struggle with from time to time.  I’m still more comfortable in some situations — especially in situations where I’m around people I don’t know very well — having a script or at least a pre-planned topic of conversation.  But I’m also more likely to have a few possible topics or scripts picked out that I can try to introduce.  I’m also more likely to change the subject or steer a conversation where I’m not enjoying am not interested in the current topic.

And with people I’m closer to, I’m more likely to take initiative in steering the conversation.  Or torture them with talk about the progress on my novel or even excerpts from my most recent writing spree.  I’m more likely to put my interests out there and see if there is any mutual interest rather than automatically assuming there won’t be any.

It’s still a work in progress for me, but I don’t feel the need for a role — and certainly not the need for a role someone else assigns to me — to function or feel included to the degree I used to.  I think Felicia would be pleased.  I know I am.  And of course, I know Felicia would say that’s ultimately what counts.

On Challenges and Geekery

As I’m getting ready to head to Canada, I thought I’d take a step back and just offer a bit of insight into another area of my life and psyche.

I learned to program in machine code when I was in junior high school.  Some of my readers are probably somewhat impressed. A couple of them might be saying, “me too!”  I suppose some might have even learned at a younger age than I did.  The rest of my readers are going, “What the heck is machine code?”  For this group, let me give a quick explanation.  (Those who already know this or can’t handle so much geekery are welcome to skip over the next few paragraphs.  I’ll throw up a flag letting you know where you can rejoin me post-geekgasm.)

Machine code is the only programming language that the microprocessor that makes your computer work actually understands.  While most programs you use are written in C, Perl, Javascript, Java, Python, C#, or one of dozens of language, another program which is already in machine code either took the program written in that other language and converted it over to machine code or read the program in the other language and told the microprocessor what to do.

It’s much easier to write a program in C, C#, Pearl, Javascript, Java, or Python than it is to write one in machine code.  Machine code consists of very simple instructions, like:

  • Add the number stored here to the number stored there and store the result over there.
  • Check the number stored here and if it’s greater than the number that’s stored there, set this flag over here.
  • If that flag over there is set, jump back twenty instructions in this program and start running from that point.

Even the simplest of tasks can take dozens of instructions in machine code to complete.  Doing everything a word processor does would require hundreds of thousands of machine code instructions.  Maybe millions.  Only people who write device drivers and extreme masochists (and believe me, there’s a lot of overlap between those two groups) write in machine code.  Even then, they tend to write in assembly, which uses keywords to represent instructions.  So for example, if I was writing in assembly language, I might write:
ADD AX, BX  (Meaning:  Add the value in AX to the value in BX and store the result back in AX)

In machine code, that would just be a bunch of numbers:
102, 01, 208

The microprocessor would read in those three numbers and know that it was supposed to add the value it had in AX to the value it had in BX and store the result back in AX.  There are programs (conveniently called assemblers) that read programs written in assembly and translate them to machine code for you.

Like I said, in junior high school, I learned (taught myself, actually) to program in machine code.  Technically, I learned to program in assembly too.  But I had to learn to translate my assembly programs into machine code myself (this is called hand-assembling, by way) because I didn’t have an assembler.  You see, I was working on a VIC-20 (the predecessor to the Commodore 64, for those who remember them, and those who don’t, well, just assume we’re talking some really old computers that probably aren’t as powerful as the graphing calculator you used in your algebra class) that my father had gotten me at a garage sale.  I had the computer, the power supply, the old tape drive that you could use to save your programs to cassette tapes.  It was an ancient computer when I got it, so there was no way I was going to find an assembler for it.

Okay, the geek-talk is more or less over.  Welcome back to those who chose to skip it.
  So, why on earth did I decide to teach myself programming in machine code when I was so young?  Well, because I was bored.  As I said, I was playing around with a computer that I had nothing for, a computer that let you type in programs written in BASIC (an old programming language hardly anyone ever uses before — and no, VisuaBasic is not (quite) the same) and run them.  I had written all the programs in BASIC I could think of and I was bored with it.  I needed something new to do.  Something challenging.  Then I noticed that one of the manuals I got with the computer included a section on assembly code and listed all the machine code instructions that the microprocessor in the computer knew.  So my next challenging adventure presented itself.

My point in all of this isn’t to show off my geek cred or brag about what a smart (and possibly insufferably smart) kid I was.  It’s that I’ve always loved a challenge.  When I get bored, I want something to do.  I want something to tinker with.  I want a problem to solve.  I especially love those challenges where people tell me I can’t do something, especially when it comes to computers.  (I had college professor use that fact to trick me into taking on a project for him, actually.)  Learning to program in machine code on that old computer meant doing something that wasn’t easy.  (It also gave me the ability to do something with that computer that an uncle said I couldn’t possibly do.  Like I said, I especially love challenges where people tell me I can’t do something.)  It’s a trait that’s marked most of my life.

Granted, the downside is that it also means that I’m more interested in the challenge than the result at times.  There’s been a few times where once I’ve conquered the challenge, I’ve lost interest in the work that was actually related to the challenge.  “Why should I finish the program?  I figured out how to do the hard part.  The rest of it is easy tedious, and uninteresting.”  Needless to say, that’s an attitude the college professors found irritating.  Fortunately, I learned to suppress it on the job.  But I’ve also learned to let my boss know when I need another challenge.  Because I live for them.  And I falter without them.

I’m not doing that anymore, Dave

Given that it’s the last day of 2011, I want to use today’s post to personally reflect on the past year, particularly my recovery with regards to being codependent.  It’s a topic that has been on my mind a lot the past few weeks, and was one of the contributing factors to a recent bad day I mentioned.

This isn’t surprising, as the events that led to me seek therapy and uncover my codependency unfolded around this time last year.  That was when things really began to spin out of control in my friendship/relationship with a young man I will call Dave, and I realized I needed to get professional help for some my own reactions.  Then when things fell apart completely and I threw Dave out of my life, I went into therapy and started to really learned what codependency is and why I’m codependent.

For those who may not know what codependency is, I’d like to start with Melody Beattie’s definition:

A codependent person is one who has let another person’s behavior affect him or her, and who is obsessed with controlling the other person’s behavior.

My only problem with Ms. Beattie’s definition of what it means to be codependent is that devoid of any context, it sounds really awful.  That’s because being codependent is awful, in the sense that it’s hell on the person who is codependent and those who are around a codependent person.

What doesn’t come across in that definition very well is that “the other person’s behavior” is not minor behavior.  Ms. Beattie is talking about behavior that is truly out of control and usually committed by someone who does not wish to take responsibility for that behavior.  Codependent people end up taking responsibility for that behavior — usually out of a sense of obligation disguised as love — and trying to rescue the other person from their actions and their consequences of those actions.  We seek to control and “reel in” that behavior, to try to keep everything in that person’s life — and our own by extension — from flying apart at the seams.

Dave was the last person[1] I was codependent with before getting help.  He was out of control, not handling his own past well and acting out in ways that were self-destructive and destructive to those of us in his life.  And for the longest time, I made excuses for him and took responsibility — responsibility that Dave refused to take himself — for cleaning up the resulting mess.  As a result, my life fell apart — which is pretty common for codependent people.

So I went into therapy and began to examine my own behavior, why I tended to put other people’s needs before my own, and chose to attempt control other people who were out of control rather than taking care of myself.  I re-examined my self-perceptions, came to understand and appreciate my own boundaries, and learned to put far more of my energy into caring for myself.

Like recovery from most things, recovery from codependency is a process, and usually a never-ending one.  I still have moments where I slip into the old “care-taker” habits that marked my relationship with Dave and others.  In fact, Dave and I started hanging out again — and even started moving toward a relationship again — as I continued my therapy.  At the time, Dave seemed like a changed man, and I decided I wanted to give him another chance.

Unfortunately, I discovered appearances were deceiving toward the end of June, and that Dave was still up to his old games of deceit, manipulation, and using others (including me).[3]  So I eventually told Dave it was over again and told him I would not talk to him until he got help for his problems.

Before the second separation, I had felt the old patterns come back.  I had started to allow my life to center around Dave again.  However, I can proudly say that things hadn’t gotten as bad that time around than it was at the beginning of the year.  Plus, once I saw the truth about Dave’s continuing out-of-control behavior, I quickly cut it off.  For a codependent person, that is a victory.

I’ve heard from Dave since, and my response has been even stronger.  The last time I heard from him, I laid out the rules of what it would take to prove himself to me and convince me to let him back in my life.  Dave didn’t like the answer, said a few nasty things to me, and stormed off. I haven’t heard from him since, and while I’m a bit saddened he hasn’t changed, I will not accept an unchanged Dave.  I cannot change him, and I do not want him back unless he chooses to change himself.

I hope that Dave will be the last person I get into such a rough and out-of-control relationship.  I’d much rather find a great guy who understands and values his own integrity and a sense of responsibility.  But if I do meet another guy like Dave and even start getting involved with him, I now have the sense of self-worth and the tools to recognize it and put the brakes on.  And that is good enough.

[1]  It’s important to note that my codependency developed over a long period of time and is the cumulative result of taking responsible for many people over the many years of my life.  While Dave was a toxic person[2] and not good for me, it’s important to note that my codependency did not start with him.  Also, I am responsible for my codependency and my recovery from it now.  As Ms. Beattie also says, it may not be my fault that I’m the way I am, but it’s my responsibility to do something about it.

[2]  It’s important to note that toxic people are not worthless or irredeemable.  Saying a person is toxic simply means that they choose to behave in ways that hurt other people and are often unhealthy to be around.

[3]  The final straw for me was that we broke up and agreed to just be friends.  I was crushed by this decision.  While we were out together three days after the decision, a waitress asked if we had considered getting married, and Dave told her that we were actually engaged.  That was the moment that I realized that Dave would tell any lie that suits his purpose, even if his only purpose is to get a little extra attention from a random person in a restaurant.  I didn’t want anyone who had such a low regard of his own integrity.  Someone who can lie so easily for such a pointless reason cannot be trusted to treat others properly.

Christmas musings

I’m not a big fan of Clay Aiken’s rendition of this song, but my selection of YouTube videos was severely limited.  I first ran into “Merry Christmas with Love” back in the ninth grade (that’s be the 1988-1989 school year, for those of you who might be wondering) when our chorus teacher announced it as one of the songs we would be singing it as part of our Christmas concert.  I was deeply touched and moved by the central story and message of the song.[1]

In a small, not-exactly-the-same sort of way, I can also understand the sentiment on a personal level.  Since my mother began working at a hospital several years ago, Christmas has often been a bit strange in our home, and Christmas day itself often doesn’t seem like Christmas day.  Take this year as a good example of what I’m talking about.  My mother has to head to work at around 1pm.  Because of this, my parents and I celebrated our Christmas yesterday, exchanging gifts and having our big dinner.  As such, this morning feels like most other days, with my mother getting ready for work and me thinking about my impending drive back to Rochester after lunch.  When I used to live at home, such years were even odder, as my father and I would look at each other after Mom left for work and wonder “what do we do with the rest of our day.”

I can only imagine how much stranger it is for those people who don’t have loved ones around them at all during this season.  It must be difficult.  I actually admire some friends who discovered that a mutual friend had no Christmas plans and invited him to their house.  We should all have that sense of compassion for others.

So, dear readers, may you have a Merry Christmas.  If you find yourself surrounded by loved ones, hold them a little closer in appreciation.  And if you find yourself alone, drop me a line.  It’s not much, but at least you’ll know someone cares enough to talk.

[1]  This is actually why  don’t like Aiken’s rendition of it.  I felt he tried to “dress it up” way too much with his vocal talent.  Yeah, he’s a pretty good singer, but sometimes, the song itself is more important than how amazingly one can belt it out.  When the latter starts to detract from the former, there’s a problem.