What a dear for a New Year

Today started with a text notification that my flight from Midway to Albany was cancelled–at 3:42AM. What followed shortly after was me scrambling to get dressed and figure out a)if that was true and b)how to resolve the issue to get me back to Upstate NY for my annual family Crimmas outing. The Chat client in the Southwest app wasn’t active. The Southwest website crashed with error messages every time I tried to use the link provided to change my flight. Their phone line had a 2.5 hour wait time that stretched behind the horizon of when my flight out of Grand Rapids was supposed to depart. I couldn’t just lose the flight, so I gathered my belongings and said goodbye to the cats (each get particular instructions on how to manage the household in my absence when I go on a trip), gathered Andy and into the blizzard we went.

The roads were…honestly, not great, but not the worst winter driving we’ve done. There were a couple of slick spots that made us nervous, and plenty of other drivers who clearly were uncomfortable with their surroundings and were making poor decisions. Like the guy straddling the center of BOTH lanes on MI-131, going 35MPH. That guy was worse that any of the squalls we drove through. But we got to GRR airport only 15 minutes later than originally intended. I waited patiently in line, Andy waited patiently in the cellphone lot. I was told my flight was cancelled. I was told there were no flights available for 2 days to get me to my family. This is because of the holiday, they said, but it’s also because Southwest has over the last few years curtailed a significant number of flights from Grand Rapids and Albany both–a perfect storm that leaves me just a few flights a day to choose from. Why not fly out of Kalamazoo? Because it’s double the price–and I end up with the same layovers in Chicago I try to avoid by having my connection in Baltimore this time of year where the snow and weather are rarely considerations.

So I checked other airlines. I checked about a refund. I checked, and rechecked, and outside of spending (and losing) a LOT of money, there was no choice but to take the delayed flight. And that sucks, not just because I was burning PTO to sit at home and do nothing–but because I only see my extended family once a year, and now for only 4 days. I’d spend half that in transit on either side of the visit! I was already exhausted contemplating the next week as it came into focus. Andy came and picked me up, and the roads were a bit better on our way back. I called work and asked to work today and put my PTO for today, anyway, back in my bucket. Work agreed. We came home, we fed the cats breakfast, and then I went to work on Day 1 of my “vacation.” It was the smartest decision I’d made in days.

For starters, me being there meant my other managers could focus on their own specialties while I focused on mine, making the whole team more productive. It gave me something to do rather than sit sullenly at home while Andy was at work and I was supposed to be half a continent away. But then I took a really hard look at next week, and realized I might be able to eke out some magic out of the situation. So after conversations with virtually every manager on my team, I suddenly had the 2 days AFTER when I was supposed to fly home off. I jumped on the chat client within the Southwest app seconds after my first break of the day began and confirmed it was possible to shift my return trip 2 days without penalty, and that there were indeed seats available. There was a $10 difference between the 2 flights, and the chat client prohibited currency exchange so I had to call Southwest’s customer service line. UGH. Yes, the same line that I sat on for HOURS earlier today trying to get answers and resolution to all of this in the first place. If the wait was 2.5 hours at 4am I shuddered to think what it was going to be now that the day was at full throttle and yet more flights wouldve been affected. My wait time? 1.37 minutes. I was on the phone with a lovely rep who took my payment, shifted my flight, and got me my full vacation back!

Then I called Mom, who cried, and I told her to call the rest of the crew cause I had to go back to work. During that conversation, though, Mom said something that sat with me for a bit: This would be the first New Years Eve I’d be home in at least a decade, due to my retail job forcing me to do family Crimmas back east usually on New Year’s Day. So when Andy picked me up after work, we went to Costco and got some champagne and some snacks, then to the liquor store, and finally to Meijer. We got home, and I put everything away while Andy fed the cats. Then I organized the kitchen–the clutter was killing me–and We settled down for an hour or two of quiet napping/relaxing before we fire up the kitchen and get started celebrating with games, and bubbly, and snacks.

It’s also the first time I’ve had to stop–really just STOP–and relax since the middle of October. No expectations, no gifts needing purchasing or shipping or fretting about arrival, no baking needing to be done, nor house nor tree to decorate. Just quiet and calm (and a bit of snoring from Andy–we HAVE been up since 4am…) And suddenly I found myself pulling out my laptop and writing this. It’s been ages since I’ve blogged, or written anything really. No real reason, except the shitshow that was 2019 really got me down. Still gets me down. It’s sometimes a struggle to retain any sort of optimism at all. In fact, if 2019 could be summed up in a word for me, its tired. Tired of Mr. Treason-in-Chief. Tired of those who support him, and those who pretend to for their own gain. Tired of watching the world literally burn. Tired of what should be obvious being obfuscated, and having to occasionally sell those lies to a public that seems thirsty for them. What’s the point of writing stories about self-transformation and the rebirth of hope if its only audience is a world that grows routinely and ever increasingly intolerant of both? I don’t know. The lack of answer–and my exhaustion–has silenced me for the better part of a year.

But I sit here tonight, with just hours left in the year, under the blue light of my Christmas tree surrounded by cats and a boyfriend who literally drives through blizzards just to put a smile on my face. I have a family who–though I don’t see them nearly as often as I’d like–were brought to tears by just having a couple of extra days to spend with me. I have a workplace thats becoming more collaborative, more supportive, and more of a “bookstore” than its been in ages. I have books by my favorite authors to nestle in during the coming monsoon of bad news 2020 will no doubt bring. I have a lot. I don’t see my friends enough. I obviously don’t write often enough. I don’t work out enough (god, I hate it, but its something I need to get back to doing regularly).

But under this small sliver of blue light, in this still moment, it all feels like enough. I didn’t always think we’d get to the other side of this year, but here we all are. Me with my words, rusty though they may be, and my hopes, dimmer under the onslaught of a year of challenges but not guttered, not failing.

That’s not nothing.

It might be everything.

Crimmas Time is Here.

I’m smelling the wafting scent that will encase my home for the next week as the Andy-Shaped-Entity is busy making Latkes to honor my Jewish side of the family.  Ysabel is keeping me company by cleaning my face as I type–she thinks I’m a goofball of a hairless cat that needs perpetual cleaning.  I suppose she’s not  wrong in most of the ways that matter.

Last night we decorated the fifth and final Crimmas tree of the season until just shy of 3am, and thus the decoration of the outside and inside of the house is complete!  I came home tonight and there was a warm glow inside of me as I thought of how festive each room looked, and the thought I put into each decoration, bauble, and piece of art.

Now, though, the heart of the holiday season is upon me.  Not gift buying–Im easily 70% done with that.  No, I’m talking about Cookie Week.  that 1 week a year where I channel the Great British Baking Show and make an assortment of holiday treats that i then bundle up and ship as gifts to friends and family.  I rarely bake cookies the rest of the year–this is a special event for all involved.  So tonight, I’ll queue up Delilah on the radio and bust out some Almond-Lime Zesties (snowballs made with powdered almonds, lime zest, and a not insignificant amount of powdered sugar)…and then the blitzkrieg will start!  I’ll be baking 1-3 different cookies a day until Monday, when I’ll give myself a day of rest (or catch-up, as I usually fall behind) and mail them out midweek next week.

So, in no particular order, these are the cookies on the agenda:

Almond Lime Zesties, Larfleeze Christmas Cookies, Anise Pizzelles, Butterscotch Pizzelles, Cream Cheese Spritz, Spritz Cherry Wreaths, Gingerbread Spritz, Rosemary Shortbreads, Ciambilline Al Vino, Madeleines dipped in Dark Chocolate, & Italian Ricotta Cookies.

Baking can be stressful, sure, but it also is an entire world where you control most of the variables.  Given the last year, I anticipate this year’s bake to be more therapeutic than traumatic.  Stay tuned.

Also…welcome to the return of this blog!