with Lynne and Leslie
Category Archives: Holidays

Pamela Smart, TV murder and who’s writing your story in the New Year

by SweetMidlife
Bang your own drum, or be content with someone else doing it for you. And that means they get to pick the tune.

Bang your own drum, or be content with someone else doing it for you. And that means they get to pick the tune.

Leslie here! One of my New Year’s resolutions – yeah, they’re mostly poppycock, but hear me out – is to spend less time reading other people’s writing and actually writing myself. I’m a writer after all. Says so on my business card and my tax returns. It’s almost embarrassing how not proactive I’ve been, particularly when you consider that I always thought I was. But if you don’t take careful possession of who you actually appear to be, and who is telling your truth, you are doomed. Like, “doomed” if you were reading it in Vincent Price’s voice. Like you’re screwed.

I was reminded of this on New Year’s Day, watching “Captivated: The Trials of Pamela Smart,” a 2014 HBO documentary that’s not so much about the murder of a young husband by his wife’s teen lover and his friends that she’s accused of setting up, but why we think we know what we know about it. Smart, a former school New England school media coordinator who is serving life without parole for engineering the plot, still maintains her innocence, and director Jeremiah Zagar seems to think that’s possible. But that’s not what his movie is about. It’s about how Smart herself was set up as the unfortunate subject of a “ripped-from-the-headlines” culture in the early ’90s, before myriad studies on how media coverage effects both juries and public opinion. There were several books, a widely-scene TV movie starring Helen Hunt and even a wickedly excellent Gus Van Zandt movie, “To Die For” that was loosely based on the case. Even though the movies came after the verdict, there is evidence that they have tainted any chance Smart has of getting a new trial. Person after person involved in the case, from co-conspirators to reporters to even the filmmakers and writers who recorded it as history, admit that they have a hard time separating fact from fiction. They sometimes forget which details were in evidence and which were lines spouted by Helen Hunt on a TV set.

It’s eerie to imagine that a real woman could be sitting in jail for the rest of her life – she’s spent more than half of it there already – because she had the dumb luck of falling into a salacious situation of her own making. It possessed all sorts of nasty little made-for-Geraldo details like the seduction of a teen boy,  old found bikini photos made to look like they were taken explicitly to seduce the kid, a secret, damning tape and the like. Smart’s defense team, who decided that they didn’t want to try the case in the press, didn’t insist that she tell her own story. What they didn’t appreciate is that this story was going to be told for her, in so many televised testimonies and talk show punditry. Watching the court of public opinion bury Smart two decades later, in glorious early-90s big hair and shoulder pads, is claustrophobic, because of what we know now about how media can bury or salvage you depending on its whims. The case predated the present Casey Anthonys and even the Dalia Dippolitos – troubled women with a whiff of sexual inappropriateness and big doe eyes that make people either want to save them or smack them. Maybe they’re all guilty. But if they weren’t – like if there was video of someone else committing their crimes – some people would still refuse to believe it because we’ve all discussed it and decided that they did it.

So what I’m saying is this – whether you’re the First Lady or the lunch lady, you are a public person to someone. There are people who are curious about you, who are forming opinions about you based on your Facebook profile or your last ten Tweets, or your Pinterest boards or even what they saw you buy at the Winn-Dixie last week. They probably don’t even realize that these opinions are being formed, but they are being formed, all the same. I respect the right of everyone to have their own lives, to curate the details of those lives accordingly and to not have to justify anything they do to a bunch of strangers. But “Captivated” reminded me that if you don’t take an active role in telling your own story, it’s still being told. I will take that lesson this year as a person who posts about working out but doesn’t lose weight because I keep eating things you don’t see, as a writer who sometimes spends too much time watching TV someone else wrote and not writing herself. Stuff like that. I can say I’m one thing, in all the Pinterest and Facebook and Twitter I want, but if I don’t actively inhabit those things, I am not them. I am telling a different story. Be aware of who you are and how your life tells that story. It might be speaking louder than your words.


2016: The year that was…sucky…and great…and a good set-up for something better

by SweetMidlife
Keep on rocking in the new year!

Keep on rocking in the new year!

This is Leslie, who does not write nearly as much as she should on this blog. My previous excuse has been that I write full-time as a newspaper columnist so I don’t always want to sit down and write some more, but time is money, and as a single mother I can tell you that making money is worth my time. So even though we don’t really make any money on this labor of love because we don’t write enough, we certainly won’t make any if we don’t write. Synergy and stuff.

So this is why I’m up at 1-ish a.m. on the last day of 2016, briefly writing about how even though this year sucked for so many reasons, it was OK or even transcendent in some cases. Yes, yes, I’m talking about the same year that killed Prince, David Bowie, Carrie Fisher and her mother Debbie Reynolds, Glenn Frey and George Michael, among others. (Hide, Betty White!) And then there’s the fact of some major nastiness, racism and ugliness that seems to be bolder about showing itself. It was always there,  but now it’s just braver and not hiding (and if you’re attempting to blame racism on people who note that there is racism, this blog is not for you and you can go now, seriously. Get out of here with that mess.)

But bad and good things happen in every year – 2015 was the year I lost my husband, and 2016 was the year that the adoption of our son became final. So I’m a bigger fan of 2016. I am sure that in all of your lives, there are highs and lows in any 12-month period. I can’t speak for you, but here is a list of the reasons that 2017 might be better than 2016:

1) If 2016 did not kill you, you can make 2017 better.

Yep, that’s it. That’s my list. If you are still breathing, you have the opportunity to find something about 2017 to like. I am not attempting to downplay the very real pain that you may have about politics, or that rise in nastiness and sharp drop in courtesy and civility. It sucks. It’s real. And it might get worse before it gets better. (Again, go hide somewhere, Betty White, until the smoke clears.)

But let me lay something real on you – in 2015 I got the wind kicked out of me. In an instant I was a widow, a single mom, the primary breadwinner and a matriarch. Stuff got real. I was doubled over. And then I crawled to my feet and kept moving. I am not a hero. I am not special. I am not Beyonce. I’m a person who had to keep breathing, broken heart and all. For a while, I was just treading water. But now I’m doing something approximating thriving. It’s not the way I would have defined that before, but I now have some joy. And a new beginning. 2016 was a new beginning for my family – actually, everything that came after my husband’s death in July 2015 was a new beginning. And this year represents another one.

It is another year to fight the injustice we see, to slap down ignorance and buffalo racism, sexism, homophobia and other isms and phobias till they run screaming. It’s another year to lick our wounds, to regroup, It’s another year to hug your babies, to kiss your partner, to fall in love. To love on your mama and your grandma, or, if you don’t have one of those, to hold close whoever you have. It is a year to be better.

Because we are still here. Which is better than the alternative. Happy 2017, guys. It might not be the most awesome new year, but it’s awesome because it’s a new year we have.


Spring Cleaning Can Include Taking Down Your Christmas Tree.

by SweetMidlife

Hi! Lynne here!

This past weekend, my family and I went to church on Saturday night as a family, so on Sunday morning, we ate breakfast together at home, welcomed the coming of Spring while also bemoaning the lost hour of sleep that comes with Daylight Savings Time, since toddlers don’t care and that dude got up anyway because his body clock said so. And we took down our artificial Christmas tree and put away the rest of the Yuletide decorations.

Tis the season! But not that season anymore.

Sunshine and tinsel and Spring and Baby Jesus. But he isn't in this picture. So here is my baby.

Sunshine and tinsel and Spring and Baby Jesus. But he isn’t in this picture. So here is my baby.

Yeah, so what had happened was that, as I have told you, I had major surgery in January, a week after New Years. Since we like to leave our tree up at least until then, because taking it down so early is too abrupt for me and I need to ease out of the holidays and back to normal non-sparkly times, we thought that we would pace ourselves and take it down when things got normal. But even after the initial period of my mom and sister and Bestie Maria coming to stay at different times, and friends and family giving us rides when I couldn’t drive, and friends sending and bringing food, and my husband literally doing all of the heavy lifting, it took us awhile to get back to normal. Which we mostly are, but I know that this whole thing takes awhile, and in all of that we had never set a deadline for the tree coming down.

For awhile it was fine, because we knew what we were capable of, and it wasn’t a priority, and friends who came over knew where we were with that, and that was like late-January/early February. It was actually kinda nice to have the tree there, all shiny, and we knew we would get to it. We took down most of the other decorations and, because we knew it would help us with finishing it up, put them on the floor in front of the tree. And then it got later, and then it snowed, so the tree fit in, but then it melted, and that tree started to look strange, and friends would come over then in late February/early March, and we would say “The tree is still up. Don’t judge.”, and they would say “Shoot, we don’t care.”

And then I realized I was judging me. Because it was time.

So on Sunday morning, we went downstairs and got the box that holds the Christmas stuff, and we turned on a warm weather playlist (“Here Comes the Sun”, “Walking On Sunshine”, “Everyday Sunshine” and the like) while wrapping up the Baby Jesus in our Nativity and disassembling the tree. It was a nice family time to spend with each other, looking at the gifts people gave us and remembering how nice it is to have people who give you things, and remembering the meaning of the ornaments and when we got them and why, like the Blue Crab one we got in memory of my Dad, who loved him some crabs, and also remembering who gave us certain ones, like my late former neighbor who did the alterations on my wedding dress and gave us a beautiful “First Christmas” ornament, and Bestie Johnette’s mom, who adopted her friends and gives us beautiful angel ornaments every year. And it was cathartic to complete something, and bring some order and get rid of clutter, and to literally move into a  new season.

It was good. It’s okay to do things on your own time. And then it’s good to know when it’s REALLY time.

This is the favorite warm weather song of both Streeter Twins. What is yours?


Lynne and Leslie Ask Each Other Random Christmas Questions. You Are Welcome.

by SweetMidlife

Merry Christmas from The Sweet Midlife! This has been a year of many ups, and many downs, and we have had a bunch of both in our families. And here we are, at Christmas, determined to have a good holiday not in spite of the losses we have gone through this year, but to savor this holiday BECAUSE we know how precious it is to still have what we do have. We also hold onto the part of the holiday that celebrates the coming of Jesus, and that gives us hope, but even if you don’t celebrate that part, our wish for you is that you find that hope somewhere this season, and find some joy.

Since we can’t be together this Christmas, we, Lynne and Leslie, thought that we would have an online conversation of sorts by asking each other Holiday-themed questions. Let’s see what happens. Leslie answers first.

Leslie being Christmasy.

Leslie being Christmasy.

Lynne asks: “What are you doing tomorrow? Also, Willis, what are you saying?”

Leslie: I am going to a friend’s for dinner and bringing wine. Is it bad when people only want you to bring wine? What are you trying to say, Friend? You’re saying I can’t cook? Boom. I’m making a banana pudding just because and I like it so if you don’t want it I’ll take it. Why am I arguing with myself?

Also…Willis is over your tired question. Since, like, 1979.

Lynne asks: “What is the best Hallmark-y type movie you have watched this year? And was Hayley Duff in it? She is in all the movies. 

Leslie: The only Hayley movie I saw was “His Secret Family,” and it was NOT a Christmas movie. It was a “Girl, background checks! Hello?” movie. Also, when your insane husband who had a secret family says he only needs one family now, he’s coming to kill you. Why are you still in your house? My favorite was “A Baby For Christmas” on Up, because Neil and Drucilla were back together! (Amirite, “Young and the Restless” fans?)

Lynne asks: “Holiday baking question: Why should we believe it’s not butter? Shouldn’t it always be butter?”

Leslie: Butter is the reason I will likely never be vegan. Sorry, cows. I appreciate your service.

Lynne asks: “What was your favorite Christmas memory from our childhood? I can’t wait to hear this.”

Leslie: That time that we didn’t get our tree until Christmas Eve, again, and a family friend said she knew a guy who delivered them door-to-door and I was like “If this tree is fugly we can’t take it back and you’re gonna feel obligated to pay for it and then we have a fugly tree,” but we were all lazy and Daddy was like “I’m not paying for an ugly tree” and sure enough the dude came at like 8 p.m. and it was the Charlie Brown tree’s sicklier cousin. I mean, he was coughing like Satine in “Moulin Rouge!” But we had no more options and we paid for it, because the guy was there and no one wanted to turn it down and seem rude. #getyourtree

Lynne asks: “Snow Miser: Misunderstood Genius over-shadowed by his flashier brother?”

Leslie: Snow Miser is the Jan Brady of Christmas, meaning that he has to discover his own groove. #I’mtoomuch

OK, this is Leslie. Lynne’s turn to answer. Let’s do this.

 

I always feel like a snowman's watching me... actually, I don't. That would be weird.

I always feel like a snowman’s watching me… actually, I don’t. That would be weird.

Leslie asks: “Do you suppose Rudolph ever snapped because of childhood memories of being bullied and then totally used for his nose-glowing, or just waited till he had tenure and started his own rival delivery service? Cause I would have.”

Lynne: I don’t think he snapped. I think that he held onto that and became famous after writing his memoirs, titled “Turn On Your Noselight: How I Overcame Oppression and Now Run This Reindeer Thing.” The alternate title was “How You Like Me Now, Blitzen?”

Leslie asks: “If last Christmas I gave you my heart, but the very next day you gave it away, how did I get it back to be able to give it to someone special? And how bad of a friend was Andrew Ridgely for poaching George’s girl in that video?”

Lynne: I think the guy she gave it to pawned it so he could buy more short-shorts, because that’s what people wore in Wham! videos. George heard it was at the shop, and got it back. And I can’t hate on Andrew. He wanted something to do afterawhile.

Leslie asks: “Is making “My Favorite Things’ into a holiday song just a naked ode to materialism? And would Maria approve?”

Lynne: It might be. Maria was all about recycling, hence curtain-based playclothes. And you didn’t ask, but I feel like I should shout out to The Baronness. Whattup, Barronness. Oh, what if Maria remade Salt N Pepa’s “I’ll Take Your Man” and sang it to the Baronness and had Gretel as her own Spinderella? Huh? I would buy that record.

Leslie asks: “Where is this Barnes and Noble that Lady Gaga and Tony Bennett hang out, and can you think of any other duo it would be fun to run into while holiday shopping?”

Lynne: I WISH I could run into them, but if they showed up at our B&N, we probably would have missed them because we had to go home because we wouldn’t let the 3 year-old eat all the Starbucks cake pops.

Leslie asks: So what’s your favorite Christmas memory at Casa Streeter?

So many. Ooh, you started it with the Christmas Eve tree procrastination-turned-tradition tales. There was the year we waited so late on Christmas Eve to get our tree from the lot at the parking lot of Memorial Stadium in Baltimore, where the Orioles and Colts used to play, and by the time we got there, the dude who worked there had gone home and left all of the trees there for people to take for free.. And this was before everyone had cell phones, but I remember people on their carphones (Daddy had one!) calling their friends going “Pookie! You better come get you a tree, Yo. It’s free!”

SO, thus concludes Streeter Twin Christmas Convo time. What’s your favorite Christmas memory?

 

 

 

 

 


Ring of Fire, or The Saga of the Wreath

by SweetMidlife

Happy 3 Days Before Christmas from Lynne!

I have always wanted to be a crafty person. Not Beastie Boys-crafty, but Martha Stewart-crafty. However, to be successfully crafty, you have to have follow-through and adequate preparation, 2 things that I have not always had at the same time. There have been some successful projects, like when a friend gave me an old wooden table and chair set that had been in her attic, and I painted the table blue and decoupaged a big yellow sunflower in the middle, and I painted the chairs alternately blue and yellow. Then I had this idea that I was going to decoupage a lot of stuff and sell it, after only successfully doing it once, but umm, that went nowhere. Over the years, I have been alternately crafty, sometimes having great momentum and just doing the thing, while other times talking myself out of whatever project I had in mind because I hadn’t really thought about what it took to do it well.

Which brings me to the wreath.

My husband and I bought our house in 2011, and found out that we were pregnant the day that we closed on the place, which was the day before we moved. The combination of being new homeowners, finding out that we were going to be parents, and also being in a new city where we didn’t really know anyone (we had friends in family within 40 minutes of here, but that’s not the same as having people RIGHT THERE), made me really want to establish this place as ours. To really add something to our home that was made with our hands. And that inspired me, if I am remembering it right, to buy a copy of some magazine not long before Christmas time. I think that it was like Better Homes and Gardens, or Women’s Day, or something like that, and as I flipped through the pages of do-it-yourself ideas, I saw something that would look amazing in our house: it was a door wreath made out of actual hot peppers.

“Oh my gosh!”, I thought. “This is perfect.” My husband is from San Antonio, TX, and loved Mexican food and all things spicy, so this would be a fitting thing for our front door. Plus, it was unique, and I just knew that whoever came to our place over the holidays would see it and laugh, and be impressed by my talent.

Yeah.

So I went to JoAnn’s Fabrics and bought a wreath frame, and I think I got ties to attach the peppers to the wreath. And I took the magazine with me to the grocery store, and I picked a peck of peppers (yeah I said it!),  and I went home to start my project. I was so very excited, because I knew that I was going to knock this thing out of the park, y’all. And I started tying peppers to the frame, and it was looking really fresh and lovely, and then my fingers started to hurt from the pepper juice, and my hands were getting red and raw and irritated. When my husband got home from work, I was like, “I have no idea how the people in the magazine could stand this. My hands are burning!”

And my patient husband looked at me, and he looked at the picture in the magazine, and he looked back at me, took a deep breath, and he said, “Babe. It’s because the ones in the picture were dried first. That’s why your fingers hurt. You are working with fresh peppers.”

Ahh. That makes sense. And when I looked at the picture again myself, I saw that this was true. My zeal had overrun my actually taking a good look at what I was doing. I don’t have photographic evidence of my sad craft, but here is my recollection of it.

Yes.

Yes.

So I think that we cooked with some of the peppers I bought, and held onto the rest in the fridge for as long as I could so I wasn’t totally defeated. Now, what to do with the wreath? And I had this idea, but this one was actually good. I went out to CVS and bought a large bag of gift bows. And I stuck them all over the wreath, and they looked way festive, and I put the wreath on the door. And some of the bows fell off. Pretty much every time we closed and opened the door, we lost some, and I spent that winter taping and re-taping bows to the frame, and for the most part, it looked non-jacked-up. Pretty, actually. But bow wreaths don’t keep well in the shed. So when I fished it out the next December, some had fallen off, so I did more bow surgery. And that lasted that Christmas season, but I think last year I looked at the trash bag we had it in in the shed, and saw wayward bows, and decided that I didn’t want to even be bothered. But this year, though, I decided that I was gonna do something with this thing. This is what it looked like when I got it out this year.

Yeah.

Yeah.

When my son and I decorated our tree, which is pre-lit, we started with the ornaments and loaded it up with dangly goodness. Then I looked over and saw the bag of garland we forgot to put on. But I think that was meant to be, because then I remembered my mostly-naked wreath, and decided to do this….

20151222_082040

Ooh ooh ooh ooh ooh, I like it, I like it.

It was easy, and it used stuff I already had, and my kid got to supervise, and it didn’t hurt me. Those are good things in decorations, I say. Yes, I do.

How about you? Have you had any decoration-fails? Any decoration wins? In-betweens? Tell us!

 


Deck Your Halls With Macy’s Heart of Haiti, Fa la la la la, La la la la

by SweetMidlife

Hi! Lynne here!

This past summer, we told you in Sweet Midlife Land (a real place, we have decided) about Macy’s Heart of Haiti home decor line, a fair trade initiative that partners with Haitian artisans and sells their creations in selected Macy’s stores as well as online. Now is a perfect time to check out Heart of Haiti as you finalize your Christmas lists: the products are way beautiful, very unique, and your friends and family not only have a beautiful piece for their house, but they get to know that they are truly helping an artisan who depends on these purchases for their livelihood. It’s pretty, and with a heart.

In case you don’t remember from when we wrote about it back in June, Heart of Haiti was started shortly after the island nation was devastated by a massive earthquake in 2010. It helps the country’s large artisan community of 400,000 which makes up Haiti’s largest sector of employment. 550 artisans work for Heart of Haiti, and in turn, they support 4500 of their families and extended family. Buying their work actually puts food on tables and sends kids to school. This is no small thing, friends. No small thing at all.

The piece that we are featuring is a beautiful papier mache vase made by artisans in the seaside Haitian town of Jacmel, where they have been practicing this technique for hundreds of years. And this isn’t like the papier mache that you did in 6th grade art class that your mom put in her living room just because she wanted to be nice. No, these are really beautiful and sophisticated pieces that add a decorative touch to your home. Look at this video of one artisan talking about her pieces, and about how being about of this initiative helps her and those around her.

I was thrilled to receive one of these vases to put in my home and make a part of our holiday decorating. It comes with a glass insert that you could use to put fresh flowers in, but you could certainly remove that if you wanted to display dry things. You could even just put nothing in it, because it’s that pretty. I myself put a Christmas-y bouquet in mine, and put it on our bookshelf above the TV, where my guests can ooh and ahh over it. Actually, I am looking at it from the couch where as I am sitting and I love it. Wanna see?

20151208_142332

There’s a tight shot so you can see it up close in all of its handcrafted glory.

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Here’s another where you can see how it pairs with not only my Christmas decorations, but also how good it looks with my everyday decor.  This is good, because when the holidays are over, I plan to keep using the vase by itself, like this.

20151208_161908

So, as you complete your holiday shopping, you should really check out Macy’s Heart of Haiti. You can give to your friends while giving back. And that’s a perfect gift. You can find the Heart of Haiti line here online (as well as pieces from Macy’s other Gifts That Give Hope initiatives, including Paths of Peace, that works towards economic sustainability in Rwanda) and also at these select Macy’s stores: Herald Square, Downtown Brooklyn, Downtown DC’s Metro Center, Chicago’s State Street, San Francisco’s Union Park, Downtown Seattle, Dallas Gallaria, Downtown Portland (Ore), Atlanta’s Lenox Square, Dallas Galleria Mall, Miami.

This post is sponsored by Everywhere Agency; however, all thoughts and opinions expressed are my own.

 


Things to be thankful for this Thanksgiving, on the way to the cheese…er, family dinner

by SweetMidlife

IMG_04211

So this is Thanksgiving, and what have you done? Well, if you’re me, Leslie, you’ve run/walked a half an hour, made (and eaten a lot of) a cauliflower gratin, taken out the trash, introduced a toddler to the joys of “The Wiz,” observed that Mariah Carey is still the queen of all she surveys and if you don’t agree she’ll just excommunicate you from her reality. It’s been a good day so far and it’s not nearly over. We’ve got more cooking, and dinner, and whatever’s on TV tonight that I’ll DVR and watch when I wake up after passing out in a food coma at 8.

You might know that this has not been the most awesome year around these parts. Actually, for me, it’s been pretty much the worst. But I’m still standing, yeah yeah yeah (Thanks Elton!) and I’ve gotta get this thing rocking, and am covered in gratitude for the people who have risen up to help me. Here are five random things I’m thankful for, just right now:

1) New running shoes, right out the box.

2) Overcast, windy days in November in Florida where you can run on Thanksgiving and counteract the fat to come.

IMG_0420

3) The Macy’s parade, and the many many kids who fly in from all over the country to get their 10 seconds of recognition. Never ever be too jaded to capture how important that is.

4) Toddler hugs, because in between the hugs, toddler crazy.

5) Knowing you guys are out there.

HAPPY THANKSGIVING FROM THE SWEET MIDLIFE!


The twins and Dolly wish you a “Hard Candy Christmas”

by SweetMidlife

Merry Christmas! This is Leslie, and behalf on Lynne, our family, humanity, the 1984 Duran Duran fanckub, people who love cheese and Grumpy Cat, we would like to wish you a happy holiday. And we’d like to do it with the help of Miss Dolly, and some sad hookers.

You see, Miss Mona and the former employees of the Chicken Ranch in 1982’s “The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas” are parting ways, because…well, it’s a long story. And even though they are not a traditional or even legal family (or involved in legal, family things) they are very unhappy to have to leave each other. But Miss Mona, who is Dolly, tells them that sometimes they have to get through things even if it’s hardscrabble, like a Christmas so thread-bare that you only get hard candy for Christmas. You’ll be fine and dandy.

So whether today finds you flush or flushed, hardy or hapless, go hug someone you love. Or call them. You won’t let sorrow bring you way down. Tell ’em Dolly.


Black Jewish Chrismukkah Part Two: The tree-ing!

by SweetMidlife

jewish tree

Leslie here!

Here’s a quick one, because we’re in the last lap of our Holidaypalooza – this year kind of snuck up on me, which is ridiculous since no one in the world other than mail carriers and pre-school teachers who do crafts should be more attuned to the holiday schedule than a Features reporter for a newspaper. It’s been non-stop holiday stories and blogs and Tweets and whatnot since Thanksgiving, but when my husband suggested we both take the day off Friday to finish our shopping since it was the last weekend, I was like “No it’s not!….Wait…what?”

So on our trips around the greater South Florida area on the the holiday tip, we ran across the cutest thing – I think it was on “Shark Tank,” a show I am trying to create a fabulous invention just to get onto. Anyway it’s a Hanukkah tree topper, a Star of David instead of a traditional tree star. And it was a no-brainer. We also have the menorah (read of the road to finding it here) so this just adds to it! What do you think? The kid we live with likes it. And if our cat were still alive, she’d vow on her nine lives to get to it and destroy it because it makes us happy. Because annoying the humans is like cat Christmas.


The weird, friendly adventures of a black Christian lady looking for a Hanukkah menorah

by SweetMidlife
And behold, a menorah grows at Marshall's.

And behold, a menorah grows at Marshall’s.

“Happy Hanukkah!”

Over my shoulder as I (being Leslie) rush out of a fancy chain home decor store here in West Palm Beach, I hear the very sweet and apologetic clerk, who has just explained that her establishment is the latest on my crossed-off list of places that do not carry menorahs. This is my fifth Hanukkah season with my husband, who is Jewish, and the beautiful candle holder that his late mom got us for our wedding seems to have vanished in our last move, or in the ether, or with a tiny Jewish group of Borrowers who also seem to have stolen the mate to every one of his socks.

Because we already had one – or used to – I have never had to go shopping for a menorah before, and foolishly believed that in an area whose populace that no less an expert than Jason Alexander described as “a preponderance of Jews” would be a hotbed of menorah-hood. That it would be the Menorahhood.

Oh, foolish silly Goy.

I am not Jewish, but I am a wife, so in the last five years or so I have become our household’s procurer of most holiday and special-occasion paraphernalia and accoutrements, including wandering into Judaica stores looking for seder plates, making Passover reservations, ordering matzo ball soup en masse, hunting for High Holiday tickets and, as today, driving around the greater West Palm Beach area looking for a menorah. When I first began these errands years ago, I braced for the weird looks – and boy, did I get them! – at the red Afro’d black woman wandering, confused, through the Kosher cookbooks, looking like the loser in a very specific scavenger hunt.

But you know what always wound up happening, on those trips and today, on my menorah hunt? Everybody, pretty much to a number, was awesome. Welcoming. The guy in the Judaica store could not have been more helpful. The ladies in the various delis looked bemused but walked me through the rugelach and smoked fish dips with patience and kindness, because it was clear I was out of my depth.

And today, two separate clerks, the aforementioned lady at Restoration Hardware and the one at chi chi stationary store at Paper Goods, said “Happy Hanukkah” to me. And it made my heart grow a gazillion sizes. Understand that I am a Christian, and my celebration of Hanukkah is because of my husband, who in turn goes to Easter services with me. It’s also a nod to the Jewish roots of my own beliefs.

The ladies at those stores do not know this. I assume that I look different than the other people who have come in looking for menorahs and candles and stuff. But they listened to what I wanted and greeted me accordingly, and it was sublime.

Many of my Facebook friends of several religions have recently pondered the downright nasty response they have gotten from some strangers who have received their sincere “Happy Holidays” and spit it right back at the giver, to strike a blow for the War on Christmas. I can see standing up for your beliefs, but don’t be nasty about it. (Those people, no matter how fervent their Christian beliefs, are being bad citizens and, if you think about it, not exemplary Christians, because we all know the best way to interest people in your beliefs is to take their heads off when they say something nice to you and can’t tell if you’re Christian, Jewish, Hindu, Muslim, atheist, Druid or otherwise. But go on being outraged. That’s such a good look on you. Said no one ever.)

So I loved that these women wished me the happiest version of the holiday that corresponds with the thing I was looking for, because that makes sense, regardless of my appearance, or of fear of insulting me – it wouldn’t make sense for me to be insulted, but you’ve met humans, so you know they sometimes take operatic-level offense to the stupidest thing.

I wind up finding not one but three different menorahs in the most random of places – the stockroom at a nearby Marshall’s, where a nice clerk was about to discount them and put them on display. She, too, doesn’t blink an eye when I happily swoop in and grab one, because a sold menorah is a sold menorah. When I light the candles tonight, I’ll be grateful for my family, and the joining of two cultures, and for the resilience that the holiday celebrates, as well as for people who understand that what these holidays have in common is Divine love and the love we’re supposed to show to each other.

And that’s something to be happy about.


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