Why I Hate Christmas Trees | Guest Post by Gina Fenton of Extreme Mom

nutcracker

Having sex with a hostile, sticky porcupine (also known as a live Christmas tree) is número six on my “Things That Make the Season JOYFUL” list.

NOT! I hate live Christmas trees. They are sap-regurgitating pines that contain eleventy gazillion pine needles that end up in my underwear—and other dark recesses.

For the record, it’s not just the sap and needles that make my hair stand straight up like Marge Simpson’s; it’s a combination of that and the ceremonial wrapping and unwrapping of the Screw-You Lights, which are inevitably tangled, dead, or both, EVERY—SINGLE —TIME.

I absolutely despise dancing the tango with lights. The end of that chapter almost always involves scissors, alcohol, and singing the annual holiday overture called Screw This and Screw That.

I especially hate said sap-bleeding monstrosities if one is acquired when it’s 10 degrees outside and the snow is blowing.

Jack Frost definitely blows.

Heck NO, I won’t cut a tree down like a pioneer woman. Leaving my warm castle and driving to the farm stand  in frigid conditions is already  extra credit in my Mom-Call-of-Duty book.

This Christmas it went something like this: “That one looks good.” A new Christmas-tree-picking-out record of less than five minutes was made; and my eeny-meeny-miney-mo blind selection wasn’t half bad. I won at Christmas tree roulette.

Technically, she’s not fully decorated yet, but that’s all I’m going to do for tonight. If my minion-elf family would like the remaining dozen or so bulbs and tinsel hung up around the house, they can do it themselves.

My family still uses tinsel. No kidding. What a shiny disaster it has become. The only real perk is glittery cat turds.

Really.

Yes, even our pets help decorate: We end up with a yard and a litter box that are beauteous.

Live trees for Christmas are lovely and they smell amazing, but after 20-something years of pine needle enemas, I’ve finally had enough. Who needs the extra work and aggravation during this joyful season of stress, exhaustion, and pulling the last hair out of my head?

“Why not use a fake pine?” you ask.

A couple of years ago, and against my family’s wishes, I bought an artificial tree. I figured it would grow on them. I presented my fake tree as now-we’re-one-of-those-hip-families-with-two-trees kinda thing, hoping sooner or later they’d accept it and I’d be free from tree muckery forever.

Technically, I lost by a vote of five to one in favor of a real, muthermucking mess of a tree.

So, for the next few months, I will be dissecting pine needles out of my unmentionables and chanting The Muck It overture.

Next year, count me out. No more Christmas trees, dead or alive (or fake).

 

END

 

“Why I Hate Christmas Trees” is an excerpt from the new anthology Mom for the Holidays: Stories of Love, Laughter, and Tantrums at Christmas and Hanukkah. Visit them at momfortheholidays.com! You couldn’t ask for a better gift to a fellow mom! (Want the UNCENSORED VERSION? It’s available on Kindle here!)

 

Gina Fenton of Extreme Mom: There’s the painfully boring PERFECT mom, and then there’s . . . Extreme Mom. Gina’s blog is the uncut and uncensored thoughts bouncing around in her head, except on speakerphone. Matriarch extraordinaire of four teens including an extra credit bundle called ADHD, OCD, Aspergers, Bipolar, and every other quirk not yet recognized in the DSM Proud member of the Parental Special Forces. That’s like a Green Beret, but with more practical skills. She’d like to advise a rating of M for mature, but mature is not exactly a word she’d use to describe herself. She is more like a fun grown-up. (extrememom.net)

 

Photo credit: Romain Brami via Foter.com / CC BY

 

When Living In The Past Keeps You From Building A Future

Castle In The Air

All I ever wanted was a castle in the air: a place to stretch my legs as far as they would go, and beyond, but my parents could not see that vision through their murky breakup. Living in the past can ruin your life if you let it, especially when you are too young to comprehend its magnitude. I was eight-years-old the first time my parents split up. They separated for what seemed like an eternity but in all actuality, it was only a couple of months. I remember sliding across the kitchen floor one day; examining the faded pattern that splashed against the linoleum while pretending not to listen to my mother. It was obvious—as she spun the yellow phone cord around her fingertip and let it bounce and twirl to the ground—that she was speaking with my father. Her tone, though knotted and strained, oozed a quiet calm that piqued my big-eyed curiosity, but the nervous energy of her body exuded a language I did not understand. Still, I knew this was an important conversation and did not want to miss a word. As I inched my way closer, she announced that she had found a new place for him to live. This was it, I thought; he was never coming back. My heart turned to stone as I scooted in closer to hear and just then, she looked down to me, smiled and finished her sentence, “…with us.” It was the happiest three seconds of my life.

 

The next time dad left would be his last. He moved out a few years later and never returned. It was, according to him, easier to walk away and start over than to keep coming back to face us. Whenever we did see one another, I was reminded that he was only a phone call away, but as I learned much later in life, actions speak louder than words. My only regret is that I allowed his leaving to affect my desire to stay. By the time senior year rolled around, my grades were at an all-time low and any hopes of graduating had been replaced by an overwhelming fear of repeating the twelfth grade. Thankfully, the school administrators gave me a reason to start over by handing me a diploma and sending me on my way.

 

For the next twenty years, I focused on becoming a workhorse; hurdling obstacles and climbing corporate ladders for minimal pay, but never quite reaching the top. It would have been easy for me to stop there and never dig deep enough to discover my purpose in life, but everything changed on the morning of September 11, 2001. As I sat on the couch watching people jump to their deaths from twin tower windows, I realized how quickly life could end. “What have I got to lose?” I wondered. “Tomorrow may never come.” The next day, I threw together a poorly executed business plan and started a company, but despite how fast it grew, I still felt like a teenage dropout. In 2007, the year my daughter was born—just as everything seemed to be falling into place—the company my husband worked for filed for bankruptcy and we lost everything. Once again, everything I had worked so hard to create had been taken away and we were forced to start over.

 

I am firm believer that every decision you make leads you to where you need to be, even when it doesn’t feel right. When I told friends and family of my decision to become a writer, there was quite a bit of pushback. They could not understand why anyone facing financial hardship would choose a career as uncertain as freelance writing, and their questions traveled like weighted bullets. “How are you going to pay the bills? Why can’t you get a real job? Do you even know what you’re doing?” The answer was no. No, I did not. But somehow, I knew I would survive.

“We blame past circumstances for our failures and keep our fingers crossed that society will throw us a lucky bone.”

To this day, when people ask where I went to college, I typically respond with my go-to method for handling uncomfortable situations: diversion and sarcasm. I tell them that there was never any time for school because I was too busy having fun, but that is far from the truth. What I should say is that I did not attend college because I stopped believing in myself, that I turned abandonment into something personal and forfeited my academic achievements for a lengthy walk down a spiritual path. What I have learned over the past few years is that the only voices worth listening to are those that believe in your ability to conquer fear because life is hard and will knock you down—repeatedly. It takes every ounce of spirit and restraint to look adversity in the eye and keep walking, but we must if we wish to survive. There are a lot of people, myself included, who have made a career out of feeling sorry for themselves. We blame past circumstances for our failures and keep our fingers crossed that society will throw us a lucky bone. The truth is that there is no bone; there are only cards and we are each dealt a different hand, but is up to each individual how he or she will choose to play. The only way to truly fail in life is to throw down your hand and give up, which is something I will never do. Perhaps I should stop playing solitaire.

 

Anyone up for some crazy eights?

Overcoming Stage Fright While Listening To Your Mother

Like most people, one of my phobias is getting up on stage in front of a live audience and uttering more than a sneeze. I am in awe of those who can do it calmly (and without carrying a flask in their purse); the ones that seem to have mastered the art of confidence and kicked anxiety to the curb. But this year, I vowed to step outside of my comfort zone and tackle that angst to the ground. It is 2016: my year of no fear.

When the producers of the LISTEN TO YOUR MOTHER (LTYM) in Atlanta approached me last year to audition, I declined with a hardy chuckle, along with 99 reasons explaining why it was a bad idea. “I don’t do public speaking,” I told them, “I am much better on paper.” A few weeks later, I was invited to attend a BlogHer Experts Among Us pre-party for the LTYM show. As is always the case, I was the first to arrive and the only one at the bar. As I scanned the room, watching bodies rush past in a last ditch effort to hang another sign, I saw a woman sitting alone at a table nearby.

“Hello!” I cheered; hoping she would invite me to sit down, “Are you here for the BlogHer event?”

She smiled and said that she was, and then asked if I was performing in the LTYM show that weekend. “Hell no,” I shouted, “I don’t do that sort of thing.” As we continued discussing the program and my exaggerated neurosis over participating, she assured me that it was a worthwhile experience and told me to consider it for next year. Then, she asked for my business card and made me promise to think it over. That woman turned out to be Elisa Camahort Page: Co-Founder of BlogHer and she called me out in front of the entire crowd later that night when she asked Sassypiehole to stand up and face everyone. I almost died while hiding underneath a brown pleather chair, until a voice shook me back to reality… “Hi!” she said, “Remember me? I’m the one who sent you that tweet a while back asking if you would audition. Now you have to do it!”

I have always believed that if something is meant to be it will be and for me, that something was Listen To Your Mother. Though my application was submitted a day late, and I had no idea what I was going to write about, the producers of the show believed in me enough to talk me off the ledge and aid me in conquering self-doubt. I won’t say that I killed it on stage because there is nothing worse than arrogance, but I do feel like I took a giant step forward, and there is nothing stopping me from doing it again. It’s a shame it took me forty-nine years to listen to my mother because she knew I had it in me all along. Below is my story, as told during the 2016 LISTEN TO YOUR MOTHER SHOW in Atlanta—LIVE, on stage! The video will be available on their YouTube channel this summer. Be sure to subscribe to my page and/or follow me online for more information.

Hair Today, Gone Tomorrow

My mother was a scientist in the 1970s. Okay, I lied… she was a hairdresser, but that’s kind of the same thing, isn’t it? I mean, minus the tissue samples and shrunken heads? The woman LIVED to experiment, and for those of us lucky enough to share space with her in small-town suburbia, she was more than just mom; she was Arlene Scissorhands, the Nutty Professor of symmetry.

At some point during her career as an amateur stylist, my father built a salon in our basement. He installed everything a budding beautician would need, including a salon chair, shampoo bowls, and a wall-mounted mirror that I used to glide my jelly-covered fingers down while listening to scandalous rumors and choking on massive amounts of hairspray.

From the time I was in diapers until I was old enough to ride the school bus, ”The Mom Squad” remained in our basement. They became like family to us, and my mother could not have been happier because the one thing they all had in common was that each of them was a close friend–of hers. They went to high school together, had dinner together, and knew her well enough to turn down any progressive offers she might have up her sleeve in regard to their bristly tresses. I wish it had been the same for me.

It was easy for my brothers; being boys and all, but I was the only girl. I had long, straight, mousy brown hair that kissed my back when I walked, and for some reason, my mother despised it. She would uproot it daily, into the tightest bun imaginable, and threaten to ground me if it ever came loose. On days when a bun didn’t strike her fancy, she would either substitute it for a super-tight ponytail or pigtails that wouldn’t budge. Either way, it always felt like I was wearing a stone helmet dipped in superglue, and I was miserable.

In the summer of 1973, there was a power struggle between my mother and me. She wanted to “try something new with my hair,” and refused to take no for an answer. Looking back now, I believe she must have been channeling her inner Mia Farrow because she was desperate to give me a Pixie. For weeks, I rejected her proposal and, whenever I complained about the heat, she would laugh maniacally and tell me how much cooler I’d be if I just cut my hair. So, after listening to her over-glamified portrayal of movie-star madness for an entire season, I finally caved. “Seriously, how bad could it be?”

The morning I gave her permission was like Christmas to my mother. She didn’t spray me in the face like she usually did when I leaned back into the sink, and she never once pinched me for squirming. Instead, she smiled as if it were her wedding day, joyfully clipping off the last of my hopes and dreams. I remember looking down with tears in my eyes; watching, as the elongated filaments of my youth cascaded down to the black, rubber mat on the floor. The battle between us was over and that bitch won by a landslide.

Imagine, if you will, Uncle Jesse from Full House or Mel Gibson in Lethal Weapon 2, remember the hair? My mother hadn’t given me a Pixie; she gave a freakin’ mullet. My right ear stuck out like it was permanently looking for something and my oversized teeth had doubled in size. I looked like a damn Chia Pet with the face of a six-year-old girl: a man-child with sprightly attributes. My brothers had better-looking hair. It was horrifying—the kind of thing that drives a person to chug a glass of Barbicide; it’s a good thing she kept that shit up high.

From that point forward, hair was no longer a necessity for me; it was an extension of my mother’s fictitious personality. Farrah Fawcett? Brigitte Bardot? I think not. To her, those were styles designed for ordinary people and I was anything but. For the next ten years, I was Liza Minnelli, Dorothy Hamill, Florence Henderson, Joan Jett, and Burt Reynolds. And while my mother continued to hone her craft on my resilient short head of hair, everyone else’s kept growing.

For as long as I can remember, my hair has been a spinning wheel of uncertainty. It’s been every color under the sun and each one a different shade of short, but my daughter’s is quite the opposite.

The other day, I was combing through the rat’s nest that IS her hair. She was whining like she always does, screaming at me to stop pulling so hard, when I located the origin of pain. It had woven itself into her Rapunzelesque braids like a crotched afghan made from recycled yarn. There were tiny bits of blue bubblemint gum plastered throughout her disheveled mane and NO WAY to get it all out. In the minutes that followed, we both said things we shouldn’t have, until I found myself holding a pair of scissors and ending our fight in tears.

I now understand why mom cursed my long hair all those years. It wasn’t envy or beauty school wisdom; it was pure aggravation from listening to me gripe and moan while she did best to make me look presentable. My mother was a classic mix of cosmetology and desperation. She did what needed to be done to maintain her sanity and perfect her artistry. She was a beautician and, as much as she might hate to admit it, I know one day her granddaughter will look back on this time in her life and think, “Thank GOD my mom was a writer.”