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Oh Christmas Tree, Oh Christmas Wee...

    I’m a sucker for the Christmas season. Always have been. Don’t know if it’s the deluded optimism the holiday thrusts upon us, or just a strange affinity for otherwise maudlin songs dressed up as cheerful seasonal chestnuts. I mean, let’s be honest, at any other time of year, who would actually listen wistfully to a yawner like “The Little Drummer Boy”?

    Whatever it is, I have always ensured that my family gets into the holiday spirit, starting with finding the perfect Christmas tree.

    When I was a kid, the search for the ultimate yuletide tree took us to the nearest gas station: hardly a romantic venue from which to choose the centerpiece of our holiday decor. We’d pile into the station wagon for the three-block drive to Buck’s Esso station, spill out onto the oil-slicked parking lot, mull over three or four already-netted spruce trees, and then dad would haggle down the price. End of story.

Ah, so I was determined to rewrite that tradition with my own family. Early in my marriage, we decided the most festive tree-acquisition could only be achieved by cutting down our own (plus you get the added benefit of the needles actually staying on the tree all month rather than littering the floor). Because we lived in citified Northern Virginia, the cachet of escaping to the “country”–i.e. the closest remaining patch of farmland untainted by greedy developers–only added to the allure.

    But one year, I found myself almost wishing for the chance to just pop down to the local gas station to buy a tree…

    That year, my husband and our three children, all under the age of four, trekked to the Clifton Christmas Tree Farm, where awaiting us were candy canes, hot chocolate, homemade wreaths and the typical abundance of forced holiday cheer that we craved.

    I had whipped my kids into a tree-chopping frenzy, and so they took their task quite seriously. For forty minutes, we foraged throughout the whopping half-acre “farm” until we found the perfect tree: seven feet of holiday splendor, as wide as it was tall, perfect to fill our cathedral-ceiling’ed living room and flood us with the Christmas spirit.

    The kids took turns on the ground with the saw while my husband supervised the chopping honors. Their excitement was palpable. We dragged the tree back to the cashier stand where the farmer’s son coiled the netting around our white pine. The kids stood by, sucking on candy canes, sipping hot cider and petting the farmer’s dog, who’d recently wandered over. I was just about to retrieve the car to load on the tree, when Fido lifted his leg.

    “Noooooo!” I shouted in what seemed like a frame-by-frame slow motion, as a steady stream was released onto our perfect tree.

    For a moment we stood stupefied, not knowing what to do. But we weren’t about to keep a tree covered in dog wee, so we grabbed the kids’ hands to head back into the wilds to hunt for a replacement one.

    Until our kids let us know in no uncertain terms, that this tree was the one, the only. They threw themselves on the ground, flailing and crying, thrashing and moaning, like something from a Greek tragedy. They wanted their special tree, and nothing else would suffice.

    Their wails did not subside until we relented, and agreed to load up the tainted tree.

    The farmer found a makeshift bucket, filled it from a nearby stream and doused the offending urine from the tree. We loaded it onto the roof of the car, and went home.

    I have admit, I sort of detached emotionally from the tree that year. Couldn’t quite get over the psychological hurdle of having a tree the dog peed on in my living room. Somehow it clashed with the whole festive notion.

    But for my kids, the tree was just about perfect, despite its incumbent flaws. And maybe that’s exactly why I like the holidays so much: because at this time of year, we’re all a little more likely to forgive the small things in order to see the bigger picture.

Here’s this year’s tree–note the nativity scene underneath it is Mary and Joseph (and Rudolph) made from toilet paper rolls, baby Jesus is a clothespin. My son made them in pre-school ;-).

   

 

Categories: News

Resolutions Schmesolutions!

I have mixed feelings about resolutions. I mean when it gets down to it, they seem like a self-flagellating set-up for failure (by the way, I was going to post a picture of self-flagellation just for a laugh, but all the pictures I found were absolutely gross!). As if something miraculous happens at the stroke of midnight that means all of a sudden you’re going to eliminate sugar while binging on kale, exercise two hours a day, write masterpieces and publish them at a rate of one per month, master the fine art of marketing, and oh, while you’re at it, make world peace a reality. 

Yeah, I’ll get right on that.

I know some folks who are serious goal-setters, with annotated bucket lists (I really do not love the whole bucket list concept—it feels really trite to me), but if it works for them, good on ’em. I know one gal who is a bucket lister-extraordinaire: somewhere hovering around # 70 was this bold ambition: go to medical school. Well, last spring, at the age of 54, she completed her undergraduate degree, and now, at age 55, is enrolled in medical school. I can’t tell you how impressive I think this is–I mean, damn, what an undertaking. While the rest of us are lamenting hot flashes and praying to God for an early retirement, she has undertaken a whopping commitment that will have her busting her ass (and never sleeping, though maybe she’s maximizing the downsides to hot flashing all night)) well into her 60’s—and that’s before she even ends her training. WOW! That is A-MAZING to me. That said, she’s left teenaged kids home with her husband, which is something I could never do. Although what a cool example to set for your kids. But then again, you only have your kids with you for such a short period, it would break my heart to leave them behind like that. But that’s just me.

Okay so on to my resolutions. I do have writing goals that I am determined to achieve, and I do believe it helps to write them down, not only to just have it there in black and white, but to help you see it and remind yourself of it and even, if you’re lucky, tick off some of those achievements when they occur (usually a few years later).

Now’s time for you to laugh. I just took a look at my 2016 Goals for Writing (which I’d forgotten to look at since I wrote it a month ago). Top of the list?

  1. Organize my life

Well, crap. So far, not so good on that one. Believe me, if/when I achieve this one, I’ll let y’all know.

the rest are in no particular order, and I’d just like you all to light a candle or two on my behalf if you have it in your heart that maybe I can get through these this year:

2. Master Facebook ads (i.e. listen to, then apply my 50-hour tutorial on FB ads)

3. Build mailing list

4. Write lots more books (haha, don’t ya like how I didn’t write a number. Though I’ve got 5 slated to publish and in my fantasies I’d write at least 3 more. Operative word being “fantasies”. Perhaps this is how I maximize that failure to sleep that menopause imposes on us at this age.

5. Have books made into audio books (this will be when the money starts falling from trees, or when I master Facebook ads, whichever comes first)

6. Have books translated into German (see #5 as far as realistic goal)

7. Make bestsellers lists.

So there you have it. I have my work cut out for me. And as I scramble to meet my deadline with a book to my editor by January 30, again, I will put it out there that I wouldn’t turn it down if you all wanted to light a candle for me to actually get it all together. 

And if I don’t? Well, there’s always 2017…

Oh hey! I accomplished something I forgot to write down. It was really an overlap from 2015 but it happened, so yay me: I overhauled my website, and it just got finalized last week. Feel free to check it out and tell me what you think! https://www.jennygardiner.net (now wish me luck with maintaining it, technophobe that I am…).

While you’re over there, I’ve got an awesome free book for you if you sign up for my newsletter: Something in the Heir, book 1 of my It’s Reigning Men series! Sign up here http://eepurl.com/baaewn and you’ll be first to hear about deals and giveaways.

Also, Throne for a Loop, book 6 of the It’s Reigning Men series, comes out March 8 and is available for pre-order here:

iBooks                           Kobo                       Kindle

Now it’s your turn: what are your goals and aspirations are for 2016 and beyond?

Categories: humor, Jenny Gardiner, Something in the Heir

The Trials and Tribulations of Losing Your Fat Clothes...

First and foremost, let me say this: never, ever, ever give away your fat clothes. I say this while sporting my current uniform: a grungy 20-year old Penn State sweatshirt and once generously stretchy yet now extremely stingy yoga pants that haven’t, alas, been donned for their true purpose in ages. My other uniform consists of a black shirt and jeans. Black because it’s slimming. Ish. And stretchy jeggings, to be exact. Thank the lord for tender mercies, i.e. stretchable cotton. Though I was probably better off in the more punitive Levi’s of yore, which kept me honest, size-wise (that is until I could no longer wedge myself into them, and then so much for that honesty, eh?).

trying to avoid this
trying to avoid this

A couple of years ago I got, well, not skinny, but more mainstream, size-wise. Skinny hasn’t happened since the Reagan administration (when I had a youthful metabolism, not that of a tree sloth). After slimming down, I waited over a year before donating my voluminous stockpile of fatwear. They were beautiful clothes, too, all styles that helped mask the added weight I was lugging around, sadly. In giving them away, I figured it would be nice if someone in need of them happily found their way into my, um, largesse. I think the very day I dropped them at Goodwill I gained four pounds. Which brings me to another pointer for this New Year’s resolution-minded message: never, ever, ever, ever stop getting on that damned scale. Years ago, I’m pretty sure it was during the holidays, when food and wine seem to just jump into my mouth when I’m not looking, a wise, thin friend urged me not to get on the scale every day. “Oh, your weight can fluctuate by several pounds daily!” she assured me. “Just get on once a week.” Evil Scale So I took this advice to heart. After all, it was from a skinny person. They must know, right? But if you get on the scale one day and weigh two more pounds, well, news flash: wait seven more days and nothing good comes of it. Trust me on this. My weight has fluctuated so much I should’ve been called Yo-Yo. And not the person who’s great with a violin. The person who can’t seem to stick in a healthy pants size to save her soul, that’s me. This time around it was a tumultuous series of life events that kneecapped me. Not that that’s any excuse, mind you, but hey, I am the first to tell you it is really quite easy to stuff your emotions with food; I’m a pro at it. In fact if there were an advanced degree in it, I’d surely have earned one. This time around I stupidly doubled down while outgrowing my wardrobe: I bailed on the gym. For pretty much my entire life, no matter how plump I was, I always, always, always worked out. Whether it was with the Jane Fonda record (yes, I’m dating myself with that reference), Tai Bo, P90X, lap-swimming, obsessive amounts of tennis, hiking, spinning. walking, or anything, I always made time for some form of daily exercise. Feel the Burn... But then I wasn’t being productive, professionally, failing to get in the writing hours I needed. I was dropping the ball, big time. So I couldn’t justify spending time at the gym. My girlfriend and I were just discussing this gym/work dilemma. Because I get my best work done in the morning. But I also get my best workout done in the morning. That inherent conflict means choosing one over the other (I know, I could technically force myself like the grown-up that I am to do one at an inopportune time of the day, but I haven’t, okay?). And so I made the grave mistake of bailing on exercise because I should be writing prolific amounts. But instead I spent a lot of time wrestling with all those stuffed emotions and not doing diddly squat (make that any squats). Occasionally I resumed working out, though didn’t dare show up at the gym because everyone knows you don’t want to be seen at the gym while fat. I got back on my spinning bike at home, until I had a rather weird spinning accident, requiring 16 stitches on my shin. That was enough to kibosh my biking career for a while. I got back into it later in the summer, even biking one day for about 36 miles, which was really fun since we didn’t get hit by any cars, but still, I was feeling guilty for not getting work done. So I have holed up for the past few months writing. The good news: I’ve got my writing mojo back. The bad news: I shudder to witness my reflection in a plate glass window and cringe to see pictures of myself. For sure ain’t no selfie-taking going on for me (while dressed in slimming black). I imagined my zaftig brethren this holiday season wearing my really pretty hot pink raw silk jacket, or that sparkly sequin top, and all those many outfits I gave away, while instead I jammed myself sausage-like into a stretch black velvet pantsuit that somehow escaped my closet purge. I refuse to buy more fat clothes, as it feels like I’m abandoning ship, figuring thin me is a thing of the past. But with my oversized clothes shrinking (they are just shrinking, right?), where to next? I don’t want to be Admiral Perry navigating the unchartered territory of what to do once the fat clothes don’t fit. But new beginnings can start at any time. Sure it feels cliché for that to be with the new year. But now’s as good a time as any, so here’s hoping I’ll eventually be able to give away my latest wardrobe, even though they’re not even cute, just functional. Wish me luck. If not at www.jennygardiner.net, let’s hope Jenny Gardiner is at the gym, rectifying her mistakes.


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Categories: A Family and a Whole Lot of Flesh Wounds, Accidentally on Purpose, Anywhere But Here, Bad to the Throne, Books, Chick Lit, exercise, Gone Tomorrow, humor, I'm Not the Biggest Bitch in this Relationship, It's Reigning Men, Jenny Gardiner, memoir, Naked Man on Main Street, Sleeping with Ward Cleaver, Slim to None, Something in the Heir, Where the Heart Is, Winging It: A Memoir of Caring for a Vengeful Parrot Who's Determined to Kill Me, women, women's fiction