Monday, November 26, 2012

When There's No Fun in Dysfunctional

The holiday season is upon us. And since it's my turn at bat here at Honestly YA, I'm thinking of Christmases of yore. 'Cause nothing saying holiday cheer like a walk down good ole Dysfunctional Family Lane.
Oops, was that out loud? 

I know, everyone's supposed to be happy during the holiday, skipping around singing Christmas songs, hauling out the holly, lighting candles in the window, and playing carols on the spinet. 

Well what if the most wonderful time of year...isn't? What if it's just another day, albeit one with festively wrapped gifts, that ends with you shaking your head wondering why the f*@k your family members can't just get along?

Sound familiar? If so, my condolences. We're fellow veterans of Holiday Hell. If not, I'm envious because evidently Hallmark Christmas specials really do come true.

You see, my family wasn't one of those cute, semi-dysfunctional ones where Dad's goofy and embarrassing, mom's dotting yet exasperated, and the kids are wretched but adorable, a al A Christmas Story. 
Nope, it was a lot more like The Ref. Especially the beginning and middle sections where everyone's yelling at each other and hurling insults.  

In fact, it wasn't Christmas if my mother didn't bellow, "Merry Christmas, family!" at some point during the day. Except she didn't say it like you'd imagine Santa Claus would, with his arms outstretched and a twinkle in his eye. No, her annual salutation was uttered in a gravely tone, dripping with disappointment and disgust. 

So what's the point of this sorry reminiscence? To offer a little glimmer of hope to others who experience the same kind of holiday madness. As a teen and young adult, I often wondered if my family craziness was normal, and if true happiness was just a marketing gimmick, painfully out of reach.  

I'm here to tell you it's not. I grew up and out of my past to build a happy and loving family with my husband. Our children are joyful, kind and sensitive, and genuinely enjoy each other's company. And the friends we've brought into our lives have become our true family who'd never pick a fight at a holiday dinner.

So if your family is as insane as my nuclear family was, hang on. You too will grow up and out of the insanity to create your own Hallmark Christmas special.

Happy holidays! 


Monday, November 19, 2012

How to Make a Traditional Holiday

When I look back on my childhood, there are three holiday traditions I recall vividly:

Thanksgiving: the day before, polish every single stinking piece of silver.

Christmas: the day before, scrub the bathrooms

New Year's: stay up until 12:10 if - and only if - you're very quiet.

As delightful as these traditions are, I wanted to create new and different traditions in my *cough* adult *cough* years. And I tried. I really tried hard. 

Here are some traditions that have developed in my household over the years...

Thanksgiving means orange juice and bacon are in the house at the same time! Except they're not for breakfast. They're for cooking sweet potatoes and turkey respectively. (I never said my traditions were normal, did I?)

Dinner is not complete without the traditional Thanksgiving flames, hence the festive, holiday-red fire extinguisher. Next year I may add glitter. (Totally not kidding. About the flames, that is. The glitter, probably.)

Not a tradition. (Seriously. Could you imagine the size of the fire extinguisher I would need?) 

My go-to gift for the Toys for Tots campaign. Still on the lookout for a good "boy" gift.

The Christmas season officially kicks of with the annual scavenger hunt for exterior light hooks. They need to be the right shape for the gutters and, more importantly, need to be durable enough to keep the lights in place until the week before Easter, when we traditionally get around to taking the lights down.

On Christmas Eve, we all call "beetlejuice" three times and sing "The Banana Boat Song" around the table. Day-O!
Totally kidding.
This is the opening few seconds of steaming King Crab legs. We're already getting our appetites on.

 Is any holiday complete without the humiliating pet photo? I'm thinking... no.

Okay, so the point is, not all holiday traditions are sugar-cookie warm and candy-cane sweet. Sometimes they're just plain fun or silly. Got any of those in your holiday? Tell us about them!


Monday, November 12, 2012

A Not So Silent Night

Dear lovely readers, Lorie here. As much as I hate to be a downer, today I want to share a holiday experience that was not so merry, but very close to my heart. So, grab a warm beverage of your choice and keep the tissues handy.

There are times when our most treasured holiday traditions are derailed. When customs we hold sacred get blown out of the water by tragedy, never to be the same again.

Since my earliest memories, my family would head to church on Christmas Eve for a candlelight service. After the pastor told the magical story of the baby in the manger, the angels trumpeting His arrival into our world, a reverent hush would fall over the congregation in anticipation of the climax of the evening. Gradually, all the lights in the sanctuary were extinguished, giving way to an all-encompassing darkness. 

In those long seconds of blackness, I would blink into nothingness, a bubble of panic forming in my chest. Then, a single flame drew my eye as the pastor spoke of the Christ child as the Light of the world, and a simple melody began to play into the quiet.

As I joined in singing the familiar words, the ushers lit their candles from the single flame and moved through the crowd, each of our little candles glowing as the light was passed from person to person, pew after pew, until the sanctuary shone like daylight.

Silent night, holy night
All is calm, all is bright
Round yon Virgin Mother and Child
Holy Infant so tender and mild
Sleep in heavenly peace…

Even as a child, my heart would swell as we neared the end of the familiar hymn and I raised my candle above my head, symbolizing the light that burned inside each one of us.

Radiant beams from Thy holy face
With the dawn of redeeming grace
Jesus, Lord, at Thy birth
Jesus, Lord, at Thy birth…

When I was eighteen, I came home from college for winter break and, as was our custom, my family attended the candlelight Christmas Eve service. It was moving and beautiful, as always. But what I didn’t know, is it would be the last one I would enjoy for many years to come.

Five days after Christmas, my cousin Robbie passed away in a tragic accident. He was two years younger than me, but we were so close we would lie and tell people we were brother and sister. He was one of my best friends.

As I stood at his funeral, trembling with the effort to keep myself from screaming, a familiar song began to play. Disembodied voices floated down from the choir loft, and the deranged words of my favorite carol filled the church.

Silent night, holy night
All is calm, all is bright
Holy Infant so tender and mild
Rob, sleep in heavenly peace
Rob, sleep in heavenly peace…          

Like a nightmare, the song seemed to go on forever, repeating the same verse, until the ruined lyrics became branded on my brain. Even through my grief, a deep anger resonated in my soul. How dare they defile this sacred hymn? Did it honor Rob’s memory to compare him to the Son of God? Somehow, I didn’t think so.

For years after, I couldn’t hear Silent Night without experiencing a fresh wave of grief. And on Christmas Eve, instead of raising my candle in reverence, I raised it in mourning, tears streaming down my face.

As an adult, I’ve continued the tradition of candlelight Christmas Eve service with my family, and through my children’s eyes, I’ve made peace with this song. A combination of time and faith now overrides my grief, and raising my candle and singing Silent Night is once again a highlight of my yearly celebration—part reverent worship and part memorial to the boy we lost. 

How about you, dear reader? Have any of your holiday traditions crashed and burned over the years? How were you able to salvage them over time?


Friday, November 9, 2012

Ten reasons I ♥ Adam Levine

Ten reasons I Adam Levine

He’s sexy and kind, crazy talented and badass—and that’s just the exterior. There so much more to shining star Adam Levine and he’s not afraid to let the world see his light.

My children and I are addicted to the show The Voice for a number of reasons. The talent is ridiculously good. The coaches are among the most nurturing celebrities on the face of the planet, not to mention host Carson Daly rooting for each singer like they were his own flesh and blood. The Voice is not merely an affirmation to musical hopefuls, but serves as a balm of encouragement to anyone who’s ever struggled in pursuit of their personal dream. Any of these reasons would be enough in itself to watch the artistic love-fest that is The Voice. But as I invest in the show’s third season, one aspect moves me more than all of the others combined—Adam Levine.

I LOVE Adam!

Wait—before his people file for a restraining order, I don’t mean I’m crushing on him or want to stalk him (I’m supremely happily married and far too exhausted with writing novels and my corporate job to stalk).


I don’t mean I Adam or I admire Adam. What I mean to say is I LOVE—so much that I would give him my kidney, LOVE—Adam. Here’s why: 


Adam Levine…

    1.   Is Cool –Whether listening intensely or bromancing fellow coach Blake, with his trademark t-shits and tats, his badassery is effortless. It’s wonderful to see a celebrity comfortable in their own skin.
    2.   Is Genuine – I want to audition for The Voice and not get picked just so I can get a hug from Adam on the way out the door. No air kisses or limp pats on the back from Adam Levine, he honestly cares for the people that cross his path and is adorably demonstrative. How can you not admire a guy who’s so fearless when it comes to hugging?
    3.   Is Positive – Like all The Voice coaches, he’s a natural encourager. But if you follow his tweets, you get a glimpse into his infectious enthusiasm. He’s a born cheerleader—but in a testosterone-y, badass way.
    4.   Is A Role Model – As I said before, I watch The Voice with my kids. They both adore Adam. My nine-year-old daughter feels a particular connection to him because he has ADHD. That she shares the same diagnosis and faces similar challenges as Adam makes her feel special. To see Adam’s accomplishments gives her hope that she, too, can conquer the world and fulfill her own unique dreams. Adam has influenced my eleven-year-old son in a different way. My son has been a HUGE Maroon 5 fan for a while. But in watching The Voice, he’s gotten a glimpse of the man behind the microphone. Thanks to Adam, it’s cool to be a sincerely nice guy. Often when we watch The Voice my son remarks on how “nice” Adam is or how he hopes he “can be like that” when he grows up—he aspires to be like Adam. Personally, I can’t think of a better celebrity to emulate.

    5.   Takes a Stand – In addition to being unashamedly vocal about his ADHD, he’s also dropped his drawers in the name of prostate cancer awareness. Adam has a history of engaging in causes with passionate abandon. Recently, he participated in a bit of impromptu Hurricane Sandy relief. After passing a local Red Cross blood drive, he stood on a street corner with a handwritten sign encouraging locals to get involved by texting the well-known Samaritan organization.
    What? Adam wants me to donate blood…sign me up!(And put me down for a kidney while you're at it.)
    6.   Is Über-Talented – Most of the world knows him as the lead singer of Maroon 5 and the serial-hugging coach on The Voice, but his talent, like his enthusiasm for life, is boundless. I love his collaborations and the new M5 album Overexposed, but I think I appreciate his talent even more when he’s stepping outside of his box to belt If I Ain’t Got You (Alicia Keys), or crooning Sinatra’s iconic The Way you Look Tonight. Right now, my absolute favorite song of his is the soulful Come Away to the Water (Hunger Games Soundtrack). It’s inspired! And I hope he sings it when I take my son to see M5 this February.
    7.   Has Range – In addition to being a rock god, Adam can add actor to his energetic artistic portfolio. Yes, I know he's been acting in videos forever. And he's always amazing. Have you seen the latest video, One More Night? Did any of you catch his acting debut on American Horror Story: Asylum? So ok—his cameo on AHS put my strict “no stalking” policy in serious jeopardy. He was thoroughly convincing as a horny, honeymooning horror-enthusiast. And even with his arm ripped off he was still scorchin’ hot! (Okay, so maybe I Adam a tiny bit.)
    8.   Is Open – Adam Levine has an accessibility that is rare among celebrities and I’m not just talking about the way he generously interacts with M5 fans. (Example: #Daylightproject) He has an emotional openness that is deeply moving to witness. In this season of The Voice, when De’borah first talked about being an outcast, Adam’s heart broke not just for her but for anyone who’s ever felt devalued. How do I know, because he let all of America see —at least the part that was watching. As an author, I’m mesmerized by vulnerabilities. Adam wears his emotions on his sleeve; he cusses like a sailor, and he seems to get naked a lot.
He’s got a bit of a rebellious streak. In last year’s feud with MTV he tweeted: i may be a pop singer. but every once in a while the angsty teenager in me just blurts out some raw honesty.  it's a reflex. (As a writer who channels her angsty teenager onto the page, I can relate!) Adam Levine is flawed, but that makes him real. He’s 100% relatable—well, except for the whole obscenely rich, playing for hundreds of thousands of people, dating supermodels thing. That’s what’s so cool about him…by the world’s standards he should be a total d*%!, but he’s not. Nor does he have an overreaching sense of entitlement. He’s down to earth.
    9.  Inspires – Whether is advocating a cause, generously mentoring on The Voice,  serial-hugging those at the crossroads of their dreams, or inspiring children to make the world a better place, Adam Levine’s spontaneity, passion and joy are infectious.

    10. Is AWESOME! Google Adam and you’ll find references to “The Perfect Man” ad nauseum. Many celebrities are touted as “perfect.” Many are cool, or talented, or passionate about their causes. Many celebrities manage to look scorchin’ hot with one arm ripped from the socket. But few people, celebrities or otherwise, have such a transparent code of ethics intrinsic to their human DNA. With all due respect to Adam’s abs, talent and badassery, I see him as something altogether different. And while far from perfect, it’s compellingly real. He’s an awesome human being. The kind of person who touches the world around him and changes it for the better. The kind of man who cares deeply and should be emulated. A true artist with a big talent and an even bigger heart. 
And when put that way, maybe I do Adam. Maybe I him a whole helluva lot!!!
Your Turn: If you’re an ALLAdam Levine Lover—chime in. If not, which celebrity do you think is worth emulating and why?


Carey Corp is the author of DOON, Brigadoon reimagined, co-written w/Lorie Langdon. Book 1 coming 8/20/13 from the new YA imprint BLINK (a division of Zondervan/HarperCollins).  

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