Holiday Card Spiral of Self-Hatred

Here are the steps to a holiday card self-hate spiral…

1. Sometime around September, have a brilliant holiday card idea. Congratulate yourself for your infinite cleverness and creativity. Promptly forget about it in favor of Halloween preparations. Don’t worry- you have plenty of time.

2. Wait too long to execute whatever elaborate machinations said card requires until you wind up doing things like schlepping your family to the mall dressed like the Addams family and then waiting on line for 3 hours to see the mall Santa.

3. Ask some super stoned copy shop employees to help with the layout.

4. Beg your graphic designer friend to re-do the layout.

5. Now it’s December 20. Check the calender again. Yup- sure is. Pay for a rush printing job.

6. Lay out all the card-sending paraphernalia.

7. Begin feeling warm and fuzzy as you write out each address- enjoying the memories, the feeling of connection, the sense of pride in your still-sort-of-clever card.

8. Start to get depressed as you cross off all the friends and family members who don’t like you anymore.

9. How many more pages of addresses left to go? Start to get relieved as you cross off all the friends and family members who don’t like you anymore.

10. The hours wear on. You’re neglecting your child. You’ve ordered pizza for dinner two nights in a row. You have other things to do- like your job for instance. You swear to never do holiday cards ever again.

11. Walk the final stack down to the mailbox. So neat. So satisfying. But still, you’re never doing this again.

12. Let the coming months erase the pain until September rolls around again. See step 1.

All I Want for Christmas is a Less Confused Identity

I one day anticipate having to explain that celebrating two holidays doesn’t equal getting double presents, but for now T just thinks having two holidays means having candles he’s not supposed to blow out and balls he’s not supposed to throw.

It took me a few years to get the hang of it, but I have to admit that there’s a real decadent joy for me in doing all the traditional Christmas stuff. Sometimes I feel like an imposter. Other times I feel guilty- like I’ve totally assimilated and lost all sense of my own culture. But most times I just feel like we’re carving out our own space in the world and figuring out by trial and error who we are as a family. We’re constantly in a process of discovering where we’re going to find a sense of community. It’s different for us than it was for my parents, who had a social and religious network that had been in place for generations.

I grew up Jewish and Scott grew up Christian and we both fluctuate in our commitment to any sort of religion. But when it comes to explaining spiritual principles to our son, I see how useful it would be to have the sort of framework that Judaism provided for me as a kid. I envy many of my friends the simplicity of having an organized set of beliefs. Because when it comes to explaining things like God and Jesus and the meaning of these holidays in a developmentally appropriate way, I’m pretty much stumped.

But for the time being, we haven’t found a religious community that fully makes sense to us, so we’re still out here floating around with our latkes and gluten-free Christmas cookies and grab bag of holiday stories.

And anyway, look at us. Simplicity would be so out of character.

Taking this Show on the Road…

I can’t believe I’m about to do this. I can’t believe I’m even about to write this, but here goes. We’re packing up the whole operation and going to New York for the month of January so that I can perform, along with DJ Mendel and Jenny Greer, in Cattywampus, written and directed by Robert Cucuzza, at Incubator Arts Project. Here’s the trailer for the show.

And here’s a description:

In this backwoods reinvention of August Strindberg’s classic Miss Julie, writer and director Robert Cucuzza hones an essential tale of class and power, and stages it in modern-day Appalachia. Cucuzza and his collaborators orchestrate a multidisciplinary approach highlighted by distinctly American forms—country-western music written by Juli Crockett, line dancing choreographed by Jordana Che Toback—that binds Strindberg’s characters, both the rich and the poor, by exposing their shared vulnerability in a time of economic collapse.

As some of you know, I did a run of Cattywampus this summer and it was an incredible experience. I adored working with this cast and crew. So much so that I’m willing to learn the whole snowsuit drill of having a toddler in NY in the wintertime.

I’ve promised Tariku snow. He’s talking about it day and night. That and the fact that he’s going to get to watch endless shows on the airplane. I have a “go ahead and watch TV until your eyes bleed” airplane DVD policy.

We’ve actually been wanting to have an extended stay in NY. I don’t think we pictured it being in the middle of January, but then things rarely happen exactly as planned. We decided to go ahead and embrace the adventure.

There’s a Kickstarter campaign for Transit Authority, the non-profit production company behind Cattywampus. Please consider donating even a few tax-deductible buckaroos to help make art happen.

Once Upon a Vaguely Ethnic Evil Adoptive Mom

I love fairy tales. I’ve always been fascinated by fairy tale archetypes and story structure. And my husband will tell you that I’m obsessive about seeing every contemporary adaptation of a fairy tale that comes down the pike, however cheesy it may be.

So I really wanted to like ABC’s new show, Once Upon a Time. I almost even did like Once Upon a Time, in a guilty late-night, real-butter-on-my-popcorn, to-hell-with-the-fifteen-huge-holes-in-the-premise kind of way. But in the end I choked on the fact that the only vaguely ethnic or at least kinda swarthy characters in the show are the evil queen/adoptive mom (you know- same difference) and the evil Jewish banker/Rumpelstilskin (you know- same difference).

It’s pretty much de-rigeur for fairy tales to deal with adoption in some way. Protagonists of fanciful stories are often orphans. As an adopted child, this was always important to me. I cast myself in my own fairy tale, in which I had been left on my parents’ doorstep by a princess mother who couldn’t care for me because she had been transformed into a swan by an evil spell. It was the only explanation for how I had landed with such regrettably normal people.

The archetypal orphan embodies the broad and magical possibilities that lie in having an origin that is shrouded, at least partially, in mystery. Also, there is a mystical quality associated with borders- with the edges between one thing and another. Adopted children live in two worlds, on some metaphysical level. We hold two stories at the same time. This makes us uniquely suited to stand at the helm of a fairy tale.

In any adaptation of a fairy tale, I’m expecting some evil step-mom dynamics at the very least. As a fairy tale connoisseur, I have a high tolerance for this sort of thing. But I think I’m going to have to say that this show is over the line. As an adoptive mom, it sticks in my craw to watch a face off between evil adoptive mom and savior birth mom that contains dialogue like, “I will destroy you if it’s the last thing I ever do.”

And the racial stereotyping is subtle (mostly because the only ethnic diversity is in tiny variations on shades of white), but it’s there. Don’t get me started on the usurious Mr. Gold…

I hung in there for a couple of episodes, but I’m afraid that I’m not going to wait around for the happy ending with this one.

Have anyone else caught this show? I’d love to hear your thoughts? Adoptive mommies? Evil queens?