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The first cup of coffee I've drank in my life

To all the Christmas Eves of years past

There are no longer rhythms to my holidays. There are no longer notes of traditions. There are no longer plans. My family split as much in geography as ideology these days, and no one at the helm or even able to program the driverless car through the holiday motions. Where we always this split? Was everything always this much on autopilot?

We used to. I could talk about used tos. I could speak to putting up my own tree in my childhood bedroom the day after my mid-December birthday. I could speak to traveling on Greyhounds and watching the Nutcracker with my maternal grandmother. I could speak to how the holiday was perfectly divided between mom’s Catholic and Christmas Eve celebrating family and dad’s Christmas Day, and the 20 minute car ride separating two sets of family. Or how we ate oyster strew (at mom’s) and dry ass turkey (at dad’s).

Was there a crumble in the foundation? Are there essentials pillars of tradition that we just can’t be bothered to celebrate without? Is there not enough determination, only some passing feint of “Jesus’ birthday,” giving up on Christmas meaning the liberals have won, or just commercializing of familial obligation?

My paternal grandmother died on Christmas 2013, and I don’t talk to that side of the family anymore. 

It was the same Christmas we rushed my maternal grandfather to the ER after he fell getting out of the shower. And the last holiday he spent at home as his dementia worsened. It was the first Christmas Eve we didn’t go to mass. I cleaned my grandfather’s blood off the bathroom floor with bleach and deescalated my grandma’s ideas around what that Christmas was.

On the third morning my mom woke me up that year, I informed her that no one better be going to the ER or dead. She just wanted to say goodbye before she left for my stepfather’s family holiday celebrations.

Last year, I went with my partner and his mother over four snowy passes to visit his family. They are very nice and well intentioned, but I am an outsider. It was like watching someone else’s celebration through a glass window that keeps fogging up. Watching with a secret vantage where you know their loves, hates, dramas, and truths, but they are far away.

And then in early 2017, my mother — in her own struggles with holiday tradition — invited all her family to her home for Christmas in January. I volunteered to meal plan and cook because I am good at it, and as the sole vegetarian, there’s only so many white bread dinner rolls I can handle. We’d both hoped for new traditions, and so had grandma.

But you discover the lynchpin — cold, hard — when you run into an operational wall. When you can’t get your relatives to come to the dinner table, and you realize grandpa isn’t there to yell at them. When you can’t get them to focus on opening gifts, because grandpa isn’t there to push out orders and hand out packages. When, even grandma, can’t get them to play a game before the kids go to bed…

Well, you get the idea.

After the kids went to bed, we played Cards Against Humanity. If you’ve never seen its flaws up close, play it with those on the other side of the ideological divide. 2017 started with my mother furtively seeking approval that her answer of then-sitting President Barack Obama as the scariest person or thing on a plane was correct. Or my uncles thinking “heil, Trump” was hilarious until my cousins stopped them.

And maybe now’s the point where my Christmas decorations still sit in their boxes in the storage unit and the only thing on my holiday wish list is apology letters from Trump voters and 1,400 miles between us.

Bookworm corner

Let’s talk about books because they are more (sometimes) cheery. Here’s my Year In Books from Goodreads.

Alias Grace by Margaret Atwood ⭐ 4/5 stars

No one quite writes about how shitty women have it like Atwood. This historical fiction follows the life of famed Canadian murderess Grace Marks, and her eventual release back into society. In works like many (current and popular) crime podcasts where we don’t really know whether she did it or not, the story uncovers possible motives and personality flaws. It stresses Grace was only 16-years-old when another maid and her employer were found murdered and she was tried and convicted (initially to death) for their murders, along with a male servant. It’s not surprising that Netflix turned this into a TV show, which is on my to-watch list.

I’ve been carrying around this book for about 15-20 years, and my paternal grandma, lifelong conservative, read it at some point. Now she’s dead, and I cannot ask her what she thought. Considering Atwood’s works on the lives of women often serve as a warning for conservative women and “too close to truth” for liberal ones.

Bingo Love by Tee Franklin and Jenn St. Onge ⭐ 5/5 stars

A sweet love story about two black girls who fall in love in high school and what happens when they meet again, a lifetime later. Sometimes, you just need books to be a warm hug, and this was one was a warm hug. I did cry. But it was warm through and through.

Romancing the Inventor (Supernatural Society #1) by Gail Carriger ⭐ 5/5 stars

More adult books and books about lesbians from Carriger, please. This is the story of how Genevieve Lefoux finally found love, and what happened to her at the conclusion of Heartless. It’s a love story ultimately. Trigger warning for sexual harassment on the job.

The Stone Sky (The Broken Earth #3) by N.K. Jemisin ⭐ 5/5 stars

Give Jemisin all the Hugos. No seriously. If you like sci-fi, fantasy, or authors who play with genres and make it look easy (which it is not and there is serious craft here), read these.

The X-Files: Earth Children Are Weird by Kim Smith and Jason Rekulak ⭐ 4/5 stars

This is a cute children’s book. But I do wonder who the audience is besides X-Files fan parents who are sick of Goodnight, Moon.

Look forward to my top books of the year recommendation post. Coming to my blog soon!

Things I wrote recently

On Patreon:

I ended November with 30,000 words on an event management book. Taking a break from it right now, but hoping to tackle it in 2018. I’ve never (aggressively) sought to publish something so that will be an interesting journey.

I’ve also decide to keep my Patreon open as Patreon went back on their fee decisions, which seriously harmed some creators’ revenue and our connection with our patrons. But I’m unsure about the long-term viability of their company given how investors’ dollars don’t match their revenue and Kickstarter’s Drip is coming for them.

Reviews on my comics blog:

Political days

The tax bill passed. 22% popularity, and it’s time for the entire country to vote the GOP out. They sold us in exchange for permanent tax cuts to rich donors and corporations. I often don’t think our nation of “temporarily embarrassed millionaires” understands what “rich” really means. Read: $1 million (or more) in yearly income and $11 million (or more) in liquid assets.

Even bastions of economic awareness and totally not greedy hogs themselves, Goldman Sachs has predicted the economy to see serious troubles starting as early as 2019, and certainly by 2021 when we working and middle class folks will see our taxes go up. The $1.5 trillion added to the deficit will all be due when I’m “retirement” age.

I will never retire. Each corporate tax cut (Regan, Clinton, and W. Bush (twice) has landed us in a recession within 10 years of passing. And based on their ages and average life expectancy, 34% of the sitting Senators and 16% of sitting Reps will be dead by 2027. Jacob told me I was too morbid. 

The women in my political group has a celebration for Jones defeating Trump-supported pedophile Moore in Alabama. I made roasted banana cupcakes, but did a cream cheese and honey frosting instead. They were a hit.

Other Things

[WRITING] My blog’s been hold for the month of December while I do some much needed work on it. In software, it’s called “technical debt.” And there’s a mound of it. So I’ve been learning how to Git with the best of them.

[SCIENCE] Science fiction triggers 'poorer reading', study finds. Not because sci-fi is a lesser genre, but because readers themselves take it less seriously as they’ve been groomed to do.

“In comparison to narrative realism readers, science fiction readers reported lower transportation, experience taking, and empathy. Science fiction readers also reported exerting greater effort to understand the world of the story, but less effort to understand the minds of the characters.”

I bet this translates directly over to other genres. How can someone read the X-Men and not understand the allegory? Or how can Star Trek fans complain about Discovery’s diversity and “social justice warriors”? Well, we may finally have a glimpse at the answer.

[HUMANITY?] U.N. Investigator On Extreme Poverty Issues A Grim Report — On The U.S. "The reality is that the United States now has probably the lowest degree of social mobility among all the rich countries. And if you are born poor, guess where you're going to end up — poor."

[FILM] Ocean’s 8 trailer. May T**** not nuke us before I get to watch this and Black Panther.

[BIRTHDAY] I turned 34 on December 13th. Had a Bowie-themed party and friends to celebrate with. Lisa came to visit (yay), and I baked less cupcakes than last year. 😏 Did my lavender ones and Devil’s food, which I love chocolate, but don’t think I was a huge fan of. I may have not beat the sugar and butter together enough, until warm, which meant they weren’t as fluffy as possible.

Have some holiday time. Take some time off. You earned it.


Erica McGillivray

Copyright © 2017 Erica McGillivray, All rights reserved.

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