December 24, 2011

Holiday Monster

It’s happening.  You can feel it.  You’re still dipping into the mall for that last something before you head home to the nog and cake, but there’s a humming in your veins that is definitely distracting.  There!  That woman feels it too! She’s stopped in the street and is smiling serenely at the world.  As you stop yourself to take in the charge in the air, you helplessly think, “Shouldn’t this be over?  Aren’t we adults now?” But it's never over. The goodness floating through the world today ignores your puzzlement as it spreads to every heart.

Holiday Monster is here.  She’s floating on the breeze, falling with the snow, settling on every window pane.  She’s in your house, spreading excitement on every gift being wrapped, every treat being prepared, and every holiday plan being laid.  She's chuckling at your grandmother’s use of hip-hop slang when talking to the dogs and giggling at your cousin’s attempt to use his Sneak-O-Scope to see what presents are being wrapped. 

You can’t see Holiday Monster.  She's invisible to humans, and barely visible to monsters.  But you can feel her.  You can feel her in the reluctance of children to go to bed and the visions of sugar-plums dancing in their heads once they do.  You can feel her in the way you wake up in the morning, like today is the first day of the rest of your life and you absolutely cannot wait to greet it.  You can feel her in the face of naked joy that every child wears and the barely restrained joy that all of the adults are modeling.  She’s there in the presents each of your family members hold for just a moment, savoring the surprise, before they open them. 

When a cough comes from behind her, she turns and smiles a welcome to the friends and relatives lost to us over the years.  They’re here today, too, just as excited about the festivities as we are.  And so, it seems, are the monsters.  First one, then another trickles into view outside the window. This is what they’ve been working all season, and they couldn’t be happier that the time is here.  They gaze at the brightness that is Holiday Monster, barely able to see past the joy she shines into their eyes. 

And when the time is through, and the gift givers and receivers are sleeping peacefully, they embrace and laugh one last time.  One by one, they make their way back to their homes and climb into bed themselves.  With one last goodnight they give in to sleep and dreams, dreams they will dream for days and nights and even more days, until the right one comes along.  On that day when we need them again, they’ll be here, waiting for us.

PS: Happy Holidays Everyone! 

Lucas and I are incredibly grateful you came on this adventure with us.  We hope your holidays are everything you could possibly wish for, and we can’t wait to see you on the other side of the new year!  And don’t think for even a second that the adventure is over - Stay tuned next week and you’re sure to find something fun to whet your appetite for new adventures ; )

December 23, 2011

Snowflake Monster

Far above the ground, higher than even the place where lost balloons go, there lives a monster.  A monster who is currently having a panic attack.

“I’ll never make it!  I’m totally behind!!”  He paces restlessly. “It’s not like anyone else is volunteering to do this!!”  The monster's wife dodges his worried steps, countering his panic in a long-suffering tone. “’s not like you would let them.”  His glare is icy when he responds. “None of them understand!  These must be quality!!  This is no ordinary snow!!!”  He stomps into his workshop and starts on another snowflake.

Each is its own masterpiece.  First, he freezes a single drop of water into a perfect disc of ice; he then uses his array of carving tools and a steady hand to carve the most perfect of ice sculptures.  Each one is as unique as the first one he ever made (back in the long long long long long, very very long ago.)

“Snow for the Holidays” is a very specific formula for Snowflake Monster, consisting of a combination of naps, Wintertime blend coffee and sugary snacks provided by Mrs. Monster.  There inevitably comes a time (today) where even the naps can’t keep him calm, and he loses his cool.  It is then up to Mrs. Monster to deliver her usual speech.

“Snowflake Monster, you listen to me!  It’s not all about you!!  Your snow is wonderful -- it really is a miracle to see those puffs of white falling to the ground -- but you are not the only miracle in town!  This time of year people are helping each other in ways they never have before, visiting friends they haven’t seen all year, sending loving gifts, and remembering all the wonderful things about being alive.  If there is a winter wonderland this time, that’s wonderful! But if the snow doesn’t happen, it doesn’t mean there is any less love or helping or wonder.  Whatever snow you have, send it out to those who really need it and call it a night!  There are two more months of winter, after all. Maybe three if we’re lucky!”

Snowflake Monster tries to hold on to his panic...but as the truth settles in, his face thaws, and he gives his wife a grudgingly fond look.  Tomorrow is another day and another 42,000 snowflakes, but tonight means a snuggle on the couch and that movie with the humongous elf.

December 22, 2011

Holiday Travel Monster

“Flight number: Very Flight You’re Supposed To Be On -- is delayed. Please feel free to mill about aimlessly, and be sure to visit our convenience store to buy all of those accessories that you forgot to pack!”

“Man, did you hear?  The traffic on that big highway you’re taking is insane today!  Too bad you didn’t leave before dawn!”

“Mooooom!  Daaaaad!  I was putting Sparky in the car and he ran off with a lady dog!  We’d better find hiiiim!”

Your headache is a living, breathing thing.  It glares at you while you try to wait patiently to get anywhere.  Anywhere at all.  Why can’t the holidays be different for each family?  “The Johnsons? Yes, here you are. Your holidays will be February 18th through the 22nd this year; make sure to book your tickets early, and enjoy your uncomplicated travel arrangements!”

Instead, literally everyone and their mother is trying to get to the complete other side of the country with half of what they own, plus gifts for every member of their extended family on the same day!

Holiday Travel Monster understands that today is going to be one of the top ten worst travel days of this year, and he’s hard at work doing the one thing that will make it all worthwhile.  He’s busy at your family’s house whipping everyone into a “we’ve been missing you all year” frenzy.  So the entire time that you’re facing delay after delay, he’s busy reminding your Aunt Robyn about that portrait you drew her a few years back, or your cousin Kinion about the time you met in New York and hit all the great cafes.  Such a thoughtful person! Wasn't that a nice time?

When you finally do drag yourself into the front room, wanting nothing more than to collapse onto a couch and never stand again, you’re met with a host of people who’ve been missing you desperately.  The resulting love tsunami has you standing for far longer than you ever thought you could, and you find yourself enjoying drinks and stories well into the night.  Eyes twinkling in the corner, Holiday Travel Monster knows that it's true what they say: there's no place like home for the holidays.

December 21, 2011

Holiday Treat Monster

Oh, sweet goodness...the break’s flooded.  Peppermint chocolate cake languishes on the main table with caramel s’more bites and Santa-shaped rice treats.  A yule log is taking center stage on the counter, and a Panettone is crowding the plates of cookies that have materialized by the coffee bar.  The entire office looks a candy sprinkler has gone off, tossing sweets in every direction.  No surface was spared.  And everything -- absolutely everything -- is covered in sparkling sugar.

As you clench your eyes shut, desperately trying not to grab a candy cane and start shoveling it all onto a plate, all you can think is:  “How did this happen again?!”   Yesterday it was the girls’ get together that was hit, the day before it was your mother’s house, and last night it was the holiday party.  It’s so unfair!!  How will you ever keep from becoming a holiday blimp?!!

Holiday Treat Monster isn’t listening.  She’s way too busy sneaking red and green after-dinner mints onto your desk while you’re out of the way.  She doesn’t understand what “target weight” even means.  She smiles broadly at you as you finally take a plate, then frowns slightly when you put as few items on it as possible.  You both smile, however, when you finally take that first heavenly bite.  Your defeat is a quiet one, as you think to yourself,  “Well...what would the season be without some of this, after all?  And what would New Year’s be without my usual resolution?”

December 20, 2011

Greeting Card Monster

Greeting Card Monster has recently been thinking about his own name. He’s worried it doesn’t quite fit him anymore.  This year it seems he has his tentacles in everything.  He’s delivering messages on Facebook and sending Twitter greetings, along with ecards, iPhone videos, and emoticon-filled texts. 

There was a time when the holiday season meant he would be crammed into his corner of a tiny post office, countless cards making their way through his department.  Between slugs of coffee and bites of candy cane, he would whip holiday cards in and out of mailbags, making sure that every single card was headed to the intended recipient.  He really enjoyed those days, filled with the smooth feel of crisp, newly printed cards and the crinkle of a handmade greeting scrawled upon with crayon., Once in a while he might even find a card carved of wood or made from banana leaves. 

Now it all feels like newfangled technology to him.  All these pixels and typefaces.  He has trouble telling what’s what half the time. Although he does still handle a few honest to goodness, actual paper greeting cards, the practice is mostly supported by older ladies and hipsters.  The endless parade of holiday kittens and ironic holiday kittens can sometimes get him down. 

This year the learning curve has been steep; all of the new ways to communicate have kept him busy with instruction manuals and tiny keypads. But finally it seems that the hard work is paying off.  When all the typefaces make sense and the graphics swim into focus, he can see that underneath all of his misunderstanding, these new messages are just as sweet and loving as all the paper ones he used to see.  How wonderful to know the world is still filled with the same love as before, even if it takes fewer stamps to send.

December 19, 2011

Holiday Insanity Monster

Oh no!  The day got away from you entirely!  You had all these plans!!  You were going to get so much done!  Laundry washed, dinner cooked, blog entry posted.....  How did it all get away from you this way?!!

Oh well.  I suppose there are just days where the holiday rush can overwhelm you.

Don’t worry, tomorrow’s accomplishments will feel that much better for having gotten away from you today.  And it should prove a lot easier without a certain monster giving you grief!

December 18, 2011

The Not-So-Holiday Monster

You quit.  You’ve sung your last carol, eaten your last frosted cookie, and downed your last hot chocolate.  You never ever want to see red and green together again -- and forget silver or gold anything!  And oh, holy night, if one more person sings a carol in your presence, they'd better be ready to sing them in the ER tonight!!!

You’re in the grip of the Not-So-Holiday Monster.  He trudges along beside you, grumbling quietly and rolling his eyes as sarcastically as possible.  The two of you mutter at every over-the-top display or current pop star's rendition of “All I Want For Christmas”.  You’re his puppet of holiday humbug.  “This is all so pointless!  All these people spending wildly and eating everything!!”  “It’s all so commercial and ridiculous!!”  “You’re not waiting for ME under the mistletoe, Justin Bieber!!!”

The two of you angrily make your way out of the town square.  You dodge well wishers to the left and laughing children on the right.  That is...all except one well wisher and her laughing child... A friend you haven’t seen in a while waves you over, her daughter already giggling.  Caught in the full tide of scroogery, you immediately demand of them: “Are you enjoying all of this?!”  There is a pause.  A very cold, very heavy pause.  Your friend starts to answer you, but her daughter cuts her off.  The little girl walks right up to you and takes your hand, looking into your eyes the way children are never afraid to do. Very softly, with a bright light of happiness shining from every bit of her, she simply says, “Yes, we are.  We are, very much.”

Your face screws itself up into a very small space.  You try so hard to hold onto the scroogery, but it’s just too late.  Not-So-Holiday Monster glances at your face, his mood souring even more.  He snorts in complete disgust at your growing merriment and waddles in a quick circle.  After one last glance at your now shining face, he sighs and slowly makes his way to another grump in the making. Bah humbug.

December 17, 2011

Holiday Fashion Monster

What are you wearing?  Seriously.  What is this ensemble you’re rocking today?  Have you looked in a mirror?

Are felt reindeer horns appropriate office attire?  And listen...I’m not sure the light-up sweater is energy efficient... Don't those holly earrings weigh down your earlobes?  And please, please, please explain to me the tinsel poncho you’re packing for the holiday party!!

Look at your life, look at your choices.  Nothing that has ever happened to you should authorize this sort of fashion insanity!  I don’t care how old you are.

From the beginning you really didn't have a prayer.  Long before I got a look at you, Holiday Fashion Monster had you firmly in her grip.  As you pulled hidden holiday treasures from drawers and closet organizers, she reveled in every new find: a Christmas cat cardigan, Nativity knickers, snowflake sneakers, the Blitzen bolo tie!  The both of you so drunk on the holiday cheeriness of it all you never realized how insane it all became!

There’s good news, however -- no one else will realize the insanity, either.  Holiday Fashion Monster has a serious grip on the entire population during this particular season.  Despite the fact that “fashion” shouldn't even remotely be in her name, she manages to get us all dressing insanely this time of year.   I suppose it’s all part and parcel of a season that is all about love and enthusiasm rather than rigid social norms or customs.  In any case, do your best to “make it work”.  Facebook photos can prove embarrassing come January.

December 16, 2011

Monster of Holiday Exasperation

It’s your eighth hour in the mall, and you’re seriously considering sleeping on a food court bench...

A voice in your head keeps yelling “Just get what you need and let’s go!”, along with “Can we get another snack?!” and “You don’t even like your aunt!  She doesn’t need a present!” 

You’ve been going over your list since 6:00 a.m., but the perfect gifts keep eluding you.  You’ve been all through the department store, with that voice along for every possible gift: Cashmere scarf? “Yes!  That’s it!  Get it!” But it isn’t really, not personal enough.  Universal Remote? “Absolutely!  Just do it!” But what if Uncle Bob has one?  A hot chocolate gift pack? “Yes! Yes! BAM! -- Merry Christmas!”  But Aunt Barbara doesn’t even celebrate Christmas, she’s Jewish! 

The Monster of Holiday Exasperation is rolling on the floor, howling with laughter.  He’s been pushing all your buttons since you got to the mall.  He does a perfect imitation of your inner voice and isn’t afraid to wreak havoc around this time of year.  He’s still giggling maniacally when you get your bearings.  No.  No, I won’t do this.  I’m going get my family and friends gifts that they’ll really love, not just something convenient! Because darn it, I care!!

As you turn back to the department store with a glint in your eye and a purposeful stride, the squat monster wipes the last laughing tear from his eye and waves goodbye.  Then he shrugs and moves to the next victim. Some of the other Monsters of the Holiday Season don’t approve of his antics. He doesn’t particularly mind.  He thinks of it as giving them a little competition.

December 15, 2011

Stillness Monster

What are you doing?  You’re outside and not at all dressed for it.  You weren’t supposed to end up here.  You were just going to get the mail and then rush back in, out of the cold.  Now you’re stuck, standing in the driveway.  It’s just too beautiful.

The night sky is lit from above and below; the stars shining crystal clear through the cool air while holiday lights glow soft and warm across the land.  You can smell the woodsmoke billowing out of chimneys and the holiday treats baking for children to take to school tomorrow.  A sound has you turning slightly; far-off neighbors pull into their drive and laugh before going inside.  When was the last time you stopped to listen this way?  You can’t even remember.  You’re so glad you’re doing it now.  All the worries you had are gone in a sudden cold snap.  You breathe deep and remember what it’s like to simply be.  To exist in the middle of this wonderful world.  What a great gig.

Stillness Monster looks down at you.  From his angle he almost never gets to see the reactions to his meddling -- just the tops of heads -- but he’s chuckling deep in his chest anyway.  Right before you walked outside, he managed to freeze time solid in that one particular spot on the driveway -- the one you walked into while worrying about your nephew’s life choices.  Now you can’t remember any of those things that were so important a moment ago, and he gets to finally share the beautiful view with an unsuspecting human. 

You both seem pretty happy.