Love, Charlotte

Due to an unexpected medical situation in my immediate family, the release of Love, Charlotte that was scheduled for today has been temporarily postponed. I’m sorry to disappoint you all, but this is one of those times when the real people in my life have to come before the imaginary ones I put in my books.

Thank you for understanding.

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Love or Money

Several years ago, I was faced with a difficult decision of whether or not to accept a new job that didn’t exactly line up with some of my beliefs and ethics.  We were struggling for money and the pay offered by the new employer was great. Beyond great, actually. Sort of an answer to our prayers.

But something about it didn’t feel right.

I asked my then-husband what he thought. “They aren’t breaking any laws,” I told him. “Technically, they aren’t really doing anything wrong. Would it be wrong to work for them?”

“If you have to ask that question, then you already know the answer,” he said.

We may be divorced now, but I’ll always be the first to admit that he can be a very wise man. I turned down the job offer and we went back to struggling financially and cursing my minimum-wage job. But I’ve never regretted that decision.

Recently, I’ve been thinking a lot about his words of wisdom because of something going on in the writing community. Specifically, within the self-publishing area of the writing community.

Before I dive into that, I want to explain to some of my non-writer friends out there that most writers engage in a never-ending debate about “writing for love” versus “writing for money.”  Those in the “love” camp are the kind of artistes who can be heard saying things like, “I write what I love, what’s in my heart, and if no one ever reads it … well, at least I’ll die knowing I was true to myself.”

Those in the “money” camp are quick to counter with, “I want to earn a living with this, no matter what it takes.”

For the record, I’ve always considered myself pretty firmly lodged halfway between the two camps, where I want to write what I love, but I also really want to make a living with it. I’ve never believed the two are mutually exclusive, and so I’ve been bumping along with a sale here and an award there, just hoping to earn a little more than I spend each month on marketing. Hoping that soon, I’m finally going to write that book that pushes me up to the next level.

In the meantime, I fritter away far too much time at a place called KBoards Writers’ Cafe. It’s a forum where my fellow writers gather to share ideas about writing and publishing. Most of the authors there are way out of my league; they are the type of professionals who have reached a level I don’t even dare dream of. And yet the majority of them are the type of professionals who are also willing to share a little of what they’ve learned, constantly reaching out to offer advice and guidance to piddly little nobodies like me.

In recent days, there have been some really eye-opening conversations at the ol’ Writers’ Cafe. And I’ve come away feeling depressed, overwhelmed, and … well, doomed to obscurity.

A man came into the forum and freely admitted that he publishes under a number of pen names and uses ghostwriters to churn out multiple books each month. Okay, nothing too bad so far. I find it a bit distasteful, but not horrible.

But the kicker is that he uses female pen-names and then pretends to be a woman in order to connect with his female readers. On a personal level. As in, discussing things like sex, orgasms, virginity, etc. with his fans, encouraging them to open up because he is, after all, one of them. Just one of the girls.

Under another pen name, he pretends to be a gay man so fans of his homosexual romances will trust him and chat with him.

Under yet another, he is a black woman gleaning information from trusting readers who enjoy his multicultural novels.

The list goes on and on. And although the majority of KBoards authors were quick to denounce him, a significant number stepped up to say that they see nothing wrong with what he is doing. After all, they argued, he’s not breaking any laws. He’s not hurting anyone. Besides, his readers and fans should know better than to share personal information with someone on the internet, right?

He’s successful, and isn’t that all that matters?

Well, yeah, but …

It’s paying off for him, and for others like him, to the tune of thousands of dollars. Tens of thousands. Hundreds of thousands, if he is to be believed. He and his group of friends have books that dominate the bestseller lists, so obviously it’s working.

I’ve learned a lot since I started self-publishing four years ago, but I think these past few days have been the most educational of all. His posts have inspired some intense discussions that have left my mind reeling. In addition to his creepy deception (yup, I’m gonna go there and call it creepy), he’s also shared information about  buying circles and mega-marketing groups that work together to push each other’s books up the charts by throwing huge sums of money around in order make even more money.

In the debate between writing for love or writing for money, these people are leaving the “love” writers in the dust.

It’s becoming clear to me that one little ol’ writer, sitting at my computer in a tiny town in Michigan, is never going to be able to compete with that.

I’ve got to admit, I haven’t done much writing over the past few days.  I’ve been terribly discouraged, and I’ve wondered if maybe I’ve just been fooling myself this whole time. Yeah, I thought about giving up.

And then I thought about that age-old debate between writing for love versus writing for money, and I realized that I’m no longer lodged halfway between the two camps. I finally know what kind of writer I am: I write for love. Plain and simple.

I write because I want to tell stories and entertain people. I write because I’ve always written; I write because I’m a writer. It’s not who I am. It’s what I am.

I write because I’m not happy if I don’t write.

I’m not giving up; I’m just shifting my goals a little bit. Changing my focus. I’ll keep on writing my books — and enjoying myself — and I’ll keep publishing them because it’s fun. It makes me happy, and it makes a little bit of money. And I accept that it’s probably never going to earn me a fortune.

I’m okay with that now.

Because, basically, it all comes down to this: If I think about being the other kind of writer, a writer like the man who challenged my viewpoint this week, I’d have to ask myself, “Is it really wrong?”

And if I have to ask that question, I already know the answer.

 

 

 

Finally!

Well, after an unexpected delay that I still don’t understand, My Mirror Lies to Me is finally available on Amazon — only nine days later than the date I had promised. Better late than never, right?

Just to give you a little taste, I’m sharing a small sample of my new book. If you enjoy the sample, you can read the rest through Kindle Unlimited or buy it here for only $2.99.

My Mirror Lies to Me

My Aunt Marian always told people that when I was a small child I would wake up from naps, blink a few times, and say, “…and, um–” before launching into a story of some sort.

I’ve always been a talker. A storyteller. Most of my stories are true, or at the very least possess a small kernel of truth somewhere in either the exposition or fine details. What can I say? I like to make people smile. Maybe even make them laugh out loud. If I can make them laugh so hard they pee, that’s just a bonus.

“Amy stories” have prompted a lot of eye-rolling and grimacing over the years, along with polite suggestions that I write them down in a book someday. Suggestions which, let’s be honest, are less about encouraging me to share my tales than about asking me to please, for the love of God, shut up for five minutes.

“I know, Mom,” my kids will groan. “You’ve told this one, like, a thousand times.”

“Is this another one about your aunts? Yes, I’ve heard them all before,” a more polite co-worker might say. “You should really write a book, you know.”

I used to get embarrassed or offended when people said things like that. Now? Now, I just nod and smile and probably tell yet another story, perhaps about a time when I embarrassed myself by talking too much.

Like the time my soft-spoken, very intelligent sister took me to hear one of her favorite authors speak. She is the quintessential big sister, one of the most organized and efficient people I have ever met. On that particular night, she took care of everything, from getting the tickets to arranging a babysitter to driving us to the theater. In return, she asked for only one thing from me.

“Please let me go ahead of you in the line to meet him,” she asked. “Let me talk to him first and get his autograph. Please?”

Of course I agreed. In spirit, anyway. But as my sister, she should have known she was asking the impossible.

Several moments later, we stood at the table, looking down at David Sedaris. And let me just say here that he was an amiable gentleman who seemed to go out of his way to greet his fans in a friendly, conversational manner. He was all about putting us at ease. Just a very normal, ordinary, approachable man.

And luck was on our side that night. Out of all the people in that line, he turned to my sister with a very simple question.

“Where’s a good place around here to go for breakfast?”

She knew the answer. She knew that town inside and out, was familiar with most of the businesses. It was her job to know the answers to questions like that as part of her daily 9-5. She was perhaps the single best person in that room that he could have chosen for that question.

And what did she do?

She went full goldfish on him.

She blinked. She opened her mouth and closed it. And again. She gaped at him and blinked some more.

“Maybe a Denny’s?” he ventured.

Now, I’m told that I behaved in a perfectly composed and normal manner after that, but that’s not how I remember it. I remember shoving my dog-eared copy of Me Talk Pretty One Day in front of him and babbling something about never looking at Great Danes the same way again.

My sister says he laughed. If there’s any truth to that, then I can die happily any time now, content in the knowledge that I once made David Sedaris laugh.

Have you ever shaken up a bottle of Diet Coke and then released the built-up pressure? That’s exactly what happens to my words when I try to hold them inside and behave myself. And it’s what happened that night, standing in front of David Sedaris.

The dam burst. I babbled. I giggled. I chattered like an idiot. Once I start, I don’t have an “off” switch.

Of course, Mr. Sedaris was very gracious about it. I can only assume someone got him some food at some point after we left. I’ll never know for sure, because my sister and I turned and fled, laughing like idiots.

That’s what My Mirror Lies to Me is all about: Finding the “funny” in an otherwise mortifying moment. Looking at myself and seeing only the best that I have to offer to the world. Instead of seeing a double chin or close-set eyes and a mouth that runs too much, I want to see a woman who is capable of always looking for the good where others see flaws.

If I’ve learned anything about life, it’s that it’s too short to waste time dwelling on the negative stuff. I always want to look past the lies my mirror tells me. I want to enjoy telling “Amy stories” that make people laugh. If I can make a few people pee or spray coffee out their noses, then I’ve done my job.

And David Sedaris, if you ever happen to read this book, the Kalamazoo Denny’s is on Cork Street, just off Sprinkle Road near I-94. Tell them A.J. and the Goldfish sent you.

 

 

 

Updates

Well, summer is almost over and it feels as though I’ve accomplished nothing. I’ve barely blogged at all, and my son and I never managed to make it to the zoo this summer. I only went swimming once, which is really unusual for me.

My older kids are heading back to college in a few days, while my youngest is preparing himself for the fourth grade. He’s worried because some of his best friends are going to be in the other fourth grade classroom, but he’s also happy that he got the teacher he had hoped for. And he’s also thrilled because he knows that fourth graders at his school get to go on the school’s most talked-about field trip in the spring: a day at the dunes in Saugatuck.

As for me, I made the monumental mistake of trying to work on two books simultaneously over the summer. Both are nearly complete and almost on schedule for their planned release dates at the end of September, but I never ever want to do this to myself again. Sure, My Mirror Lies to Me has been fun to write, and Love, Charlotte has veered off in directions I never anticipated, but my brain feels slightly fried.

However, I did manage to accomplish a few things this summer that had nothing to do with those two books, and I want to bring everyone up to date.

First of all, I want to let all of you know that Her House Divided is now available on Audible.com as an audiobook. I was lucky enough to be able to work with Wendy Almeida, who does a fabulous job of bringing my story to life in ways I couldn’t have imagined. Audible offers a free trial of their service, including a credit to read any book of your choice at no cost. To learn more about Audible, click here.

This summer, I also combined the three books in my Beach Haven series (plus the short prequel) into a single volume at a money-saving cost of only $5.99.

And of course, as I mentioned before, I also took time this summer to revamp and re-release Have a Goode One as Faster Than a Whippoorwill’s Ass, and I’ve been very happy with the results of that. If you enjoyed that book, I’m sure you’ll get a kick out of My Mirror Lies to Me when it is released next month.

In short, it’s been a very busy summer here in Michigan, and I hope you’ll all forgive me for letting things slide on my blog for the past few months. I promise lots of good things coming in the near future!

Until then, I wish everyone a very happy autumn with a smooth and calm back-to-school time.

 

Paperback Writer

I wrote this post almost five years ago, but I’ve been thinking about it a lot lately because of some rather heated discussions taking place in a writing forum. I want to share it again because I am STILL proud to be a Romance writer.

A Goode One

Is it a bad thing to admit that I write romance novels?

I’ve read the classics.  I majored in English and have studied the works of everyone from Aristophanes to Baudelaire to Whitman and Tennyson.  I struggled through Hardy and Lawrence and earned a grudging respect for Hawthorne’s ability to fill multiple pages with one endless sentence that somehow remained grammatically correct (see how I did that?).  I can discuss Twain and Poe the way some people talk about this week’s bargains at Wal-Mart.

But sometimes . . .  I just want to feel good.

Romance novels are all about the guaranteed happy ending.  Real life can be a little short on those. Romance in the real world is less about roses and moonlit escapades, and more about figuring out whose turn it is to pick up the kids after school.  Real life marriages deal with adultery and abuse, debt and…

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Trying Something New

Those of you  who have been following my blog for a while are probably aware of the struggle I have had with insecurity when it comes to showing pictures of myself. I am overweight and over fifty and would never have won a beauty contest even on my best days. And when you add in the fact that I am not even the slightest bit photogenic, I’m one of those people who would be a lot more comfortable using a picture of my cat as a profile picture.

It was a huge step for me to post my first selfie here a few years ago. And other than one slightly batty piece of fruitcake with over-the-top negative reaction, the response has been overwhelmingly positive.

Since then, I’ve gotten more comfortable about sharing pictures of myself. I still think my smile makes me look like a serial killer in pictures, but I guess I can learn to live with that. I can color the gray hairs and layer on the makeup to hid the wrinkles, but I have yet to discover a filter that shaves off eighty pounds or gives me better cleavage.

I am, however, working on what I call the Popeye chapter of my life. It’s the chapter where I look at myself, shrug, and say “I  yam what I yam.”

Of course, the thought of yams makes me hungry for sweet potato fries, which tempts me to make a run to Red’s Drive-in in Paw Paw for a double olive burger to go with the fries. And suddenly I am reminded of just why I have to worry about the extra eighty pounds (not to mention acne at the ripe old age of fifty-one).

It’s life, guys. It is what it is. Like my mom used to say, there are better ways to go through life than to be dragged, kicking and screaming.

At any rate, I am slowly working up the nerve to do a video blog post someday. Eventually. Maybe to celebrate my 55th birthday. My older children both shook their heads and said, “no, Mother,” when I suggested it, but I rarely listen to their suggestions.

If I did listen to my daughter’s suggestions, I probably wouldn’t have worn the lavender t-shirt with the silver butterfly on the boobs that makes it look like I’m wearing a bustier. Pictures of me in that shirt should be in the back pages of Glamour magazine with a black bar across my eyes and a caption that says “Fashion DON’T.”

But I’m going to take a leap and put myself out there in a video this coming weekend. Sort of. I have decided to do a Facebook Live Q&A on Sunday, April 30, at 1 p.m. EST to help celebrate the release of my newest book. I don’t know if it will do anything for sales and I strongly doubt I’ll get enough viewers to even mildly dent the internet, but I think it will be fun.

I’ve got lots of coffee on hand for before, and lots of wine for after. If it doesn’t go well, I may hit some of the wine during.

I even did a little test run with Facebook Live last weekend to see how it works. For the record, I was wearing the lavender butterfly/bustier shirt that day, which is how I figured out how awful it is.  Check it out here.

So please stop by this coming Sunday and ask any questions you might have about my books or my blog, or even about those fabulous double olive burgers and sweet potato fries at Red’s Drive-In. Anyone who comments will be entered into a random drawing to win a free digital copy of Victoria’s Promise.

Click on the link below for more information. I hope to see you then!

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Facebook Live Q&A with A.J. Goode, April 30 2017 at 1:00 p.m. EST

Enough

I don’t like Donald Trump.

I don’t like Hillary Clinton, either.

This election was the worst. I know we say that after every election, amid jokes about having to choose the lesser of two evils, but this one went to an extreme that I hope to never see again in my lifetime. I vowed not to discuss politics on social media or here on my blog, and I’ve done my best to uphold that vow.

So this isn’t about politics.

It’s about something I saw on Facebook early this morning, posted by a man I have always respected. Until now.

Let me just go back for a minute and say that I think it is ridiculous to end friendships over differing political beliefs. So what if you liked Bernie or you voted for Trump or you thought Hillary was your personal savior? Big deal. I don’t care. Different strokes for different folks and all that stuff. I may think you’re an idiot from time to time, but you’ll probably think the same of me once in a while too. Good friendships can weather the occasional bouts of idiocy.

But today, I ended a friendship over something indirectly political, and I want to explain my reasoning.

This man posted a long diatribe on Facebook about the Obamas leaving the White House, and most of his vitriol was aimed at Michelle Obama. He called her a “he/she” and a “shemale” while comparing her to an ape. He said the only way she and Barack should have been allowed in the White House at all was through the servants’ entrance as slaves back in the “good old days” before the Civil War.

This is an educated man. He used impeccable grammar and punctuation as he went on to talk about getting some class and dignity in the White House. He spoke of his hopes that the new administration will punish “faggots” and deport “terrorists” and “camel-jockeys.”

No.

I didn’t know what to say.

I don’t want to believe that people like this actually exist. I can’t even begin to comprehend that I counted this man as my friend.

Looking back over our friendship, I can remember now that he has made similar comments that I took to be jokes. Bad jokes, inappropriate and unfunny, but I excused them because I didn’t want to believe that anyone really thought those things. Felt that way.

And you know what? That makes me part of the problem.

I despise those sensitive snowflakes who take offense at every little thing and actively look for reasons to get their feelings hurt. But damn it, sometimes we have to take offense. Not because of political affiliation or because we want to be some kind of Social Justice Warriors, but because we are human beings.

I should have told my friend that his jokes were offensive and unfunny. I shouldn’t have excused him. At the very least, I should have re-evaluated our friendship. As a parent, I’ve often told my kids that “right or wrong, you are judged by the people you surround yourself with.” But I feel sick now when I realize just exactly what I have chosen to surround myself with. My silence implied approval, whether I intended it to or not.

This election has changed me. It doesn’t matter how you voted or what you believe in politically. I don’t care if you voted for Trump or Clinton because, let’s be honest, neither one was a great choice.

But if you spew hatred, you will no longer be a part of my life. Even if that hatred is part of a joke, followed by your suggestion that people need to lighten up.

Go ahead and tell me that you think about religion or sexual orientation. Talk to me about politics. Sing your praises of whichever political party you think is going to save our world. I welcome intelligent, opinionated discussion whether I agree with you or not.

But I do not welcome hate.

I don’t use the word “hate” lightly. I think it has lost its power in recent years. People whine about “haters” and make jokes about “hater-ade” and basically toss the word around until it means little more than “dislike.” But Webster’s defines it as:

intense hostility and aversion usually deriving from fear, anger, or sense of injury

Think about that. Intense hostility . . . deriving from fear, anger, or sense of injury.

I’m done excusing people like my former friend who is so full of hate for anyone who isn’t white, Christian, and conservative. I’m done looking the other way and staying silent when I hear unfunny jokes that try to mask hatred behind a so-called sense of humor.

Folks, this is the world we live in. Black, white. Gay, straight. Christian, Muslim.

Human.

Deal with it.

C’mon, enough is enough. It has to be.

Love wins, love always wins.– Mitch Albom

 

lovewins

Real?

realman

There’s a picture going around on social media right now of an attractive young couple walking together on a city sidewalk. The man is dressed in long pants, t-shirt, and warm jacket. The woman wears stilettos and a sleeveless, lightweight dress with a high slit up one thigh. She is obviously cold and miserable, but he seems happy and comfortable.

The caption says “Any real man will spot the problem in this picture.”

Okay. I’m not a man, but I like to think I’m somewhat real. On good days, anyway. I looked at the picture and saw the problem right away: The woman is an idiot who has no idea how to dress appropriately for the weather.

As I read the comments below the picture, however, I realized that this was not the answer they were looking for. Almost every person answered that the man should have given his coat to the woman.

Folks, I think I just figured out why I’m still single.

As several people suggested, we don’t know what took place before the picture was snapped. Perhaps she forgot her coat. Perhaps the weather changed after she left the house. If we’re looking at real-life possibilities, it’s also possible that the man told her they were going out somewhere nice for dinner but his idea of “nice” turned out to be hot dogs and beer at a hockey game. We don’t know.

What I do know is that my sisters and I were raised by a single mom and our father’s four unmarried sisters. There were few men in our lives, “real” or not. If we dressed stupidly, there were no men around to gallantly offer us their coats. We shivered, complained a lot, and remembered to wear a coat the next time out.

Well, that’s what my sisters did. My learning curve has always been more of a straight line, so I don’t have a great track record or learning from my mistakes.

I’m sorry, but I just don’t understand why any man, “real” or not, should be expected to freeze his biscuits because he had to give his coat to a woman who was just too stupid to wear one of her own. Sure, a true gentleman might offer her his coat, but I don’t believe he should be required to do so simply because of his gender.

I guess I’m just too logical on things like this. I was married for almost eighteen years, and my ex-husband is still a really good guy. So let’s say, just for snicks, that it was him and me walking down the street in that picture. First, he would have been laughing at me for trying to stumble along in stilettos, so let’s not even discuss the shoes.

But if I were all hunched over and shivering like that, I like to think he’s the kind of guy who would offer me his coat. He’d make fun of me first, but he’d offer. And you know what? I’d say no.  Not out of pride or stubbornness, but because I cared about him enough to not want to see him suffer. I wouldn’t want to be nice and warm and toasty while someone I love is cold and miserable.

Good heavens, I think I just realized I might be a man.

I like it when a man treats me like a lady. I like it when he opens a door for me or pulls out my chair for me. I love it when he offers to carry my bags for me if they are too heavy. And yes, I’d be thrilled if he offered me his coat on a cold and blustery day when I was too dumb to wear my own jacket.

But I don’t expect a man to do any of those things. It’s not any man’s job or responsibility to do so.

I don’t think that makes me a  militant feminist or whatever. I think it makes me a grown-up.

I have two sons and a daughter. I have tried to teach my sons to treat women with respect as equals, not as fragile little flowers. I hope my boys would both offer their coat or open the door or hold out the chair, but not because they think a woman can’t do any of those things for herself. I hope they do it because they are kind young men who treat all other human beings with respect and dignity.

Of course, these are the same boys who laugh at their own farts, so I have my concerns.

My daughter, on the other hand, has been taught to do all those things for herself as well as for anyone whomight need help, male or female. If a man offers her his coat or opens the door, she’s been taught to say “thank you” rather than simply accept it as her due simply because of her gender.

She, of course, laughs at her own belches, so I have some concerns there as well.

So if you see me walking down the street some winter day in a sleeveless, lightweight dress and I look cold and miserable, please don’t assume that some cad didn’t give me his coat. Assume that I’m a dummy who forgot to watch the weather report.

And then, if you feel like it, go ahead and offer me your coat. I’ll probably say no.

Unless it’s my size and dark purple. I’ve always wanted a purple coat.

 

Cat’s Crazy

I think my daughter has begun to worry about my sanity.

That’s really not anything new, to be perfectly honest. Most people who have known me for more than thirty minutes generally have a few questions about my state of mental health. It might be my habit of blurting out random words that have nothing to do with the words that I think I’m saying. Or perhaps it’s the way I make obscure jokes and references to 1970’s British television programs and then laugh alone at what I just said.

My habit of trying to say multiple sentences at the same time probably doesn’t do much to allay their concerns, either.

At any rate, the moment that really tipped the scale in my daughter’s mind took place yesterday during a shopping trip to the Bent-n-Dent, which is run by our local Amish Community. She commented on the multiple cans of cheap New England clam chowder I was stacking in our cart.

“My cat likes it,” I explained.

“You’re buying soup for your cat?”

“I like it too. We share it for supper sometimes.”

“Mother. No.”

“What, do you think I should buy him his own can?”

Let me explain. In the past three years, I left my husband and watched my two oldest children go away to college. My youngest child spends every other week at his father’s house, which means that I spend every other week alone. Completely alone. I went from being part of a family of five to living alone, and as a result I recently got permission to have a cat as an Emotional Support Animal.

My cat, however, needs more support than he gives. His name is Mr. Twinkletoes (named by my son), but I call him Nimrod. And he doesn’t like me.

I bought him a scratching post and a bunch of little toys, but to no avail. I bribe him with canned cat food and bags of little kitty treats. I clean his litter box multiple times each day. I’m telling you, this creature is more high maintenance than all three of my children combined. And still, he will not allow me to pet him.

He likes to steal my desk chair. He won’t sit on my lap, but he’ll climb the back of my chair and wriggle his way in between the chair back and my butt, where he promptly goes to sleep after giving me a few well-placed puncture wounds on one cheek or the other.

The only time Nimrod seems to like me at all is on those nights when I open a can of New England clam chowder for supper when I’m home alone. Then he goes into a frenzied routine of twining himself around my ankles and crying until he eventually falls over and just lays there, twitching. I think he may be part possum, actually, because he then plays dead for a while, and the only way to “revive” him is to scoop a little bit of my soup into a dish for him.

Do you know what’s more pathetic than a middle-aged divorcee eating canned soup alone for supper?  That middle-aged divorcee sharing her canned soup with a cat. And then telling people about it.

I think Nimrod starting to warm up to me, though. When he thinks I’m asleep, he jumps up on my bed and curls up to sleep near my feet. If I happen to reach down and pet him, he hisses and snarls before drawing blood from at least one of my extremities and then hides himself away in the closet, probably to poop in my shoes.

He also likes to climb in between the shower curtain and the clear plastic liner while I’m taking my shower. I wouldn’t mind it so much if he didn’t insist turning his unblinking gaze upon my body and yowling throughout the entire process.

I really can’t help but take that a little bit personally.

Nimrod has a Christmas stocking because my son insisted on it. I bought some catnip and a little stuffed mousie with a bell in its belly, as well as his very own can of clam chowder. But I’m not putting the chowder in his stocking because I may be crazy but I’m not that crazy.

Merry Christmas from me and Mr. Twinkletoes!

crazycat

 

Happy Holidays

christmas-cup

If we were having coffee this morning, I’d start out by wishing you Happy Holidays. There might be an awkward moment after that while I try to figure out if that was a mistake; after all, you might not celebrate Christmas and it might have been a safer bet to greet you with something about Hanukkah or Kwanzaa or Solstice.

Maybe I should have just said “Here, take your coffee.”

You know, I think we just make things too hard for ourselves this time of year. There’s no need to take a stand or defend your beliefs or even worry about political correctness. Fighting over whether it’s okay to say “Merry Christmas” or “Happy Holidays” is just pointless because, you see, I’ve got it all figured out.

That’s right, folks, I know exactly what we need to do to get along this holiday season.

We just need to be nice.

Look, I know all about “The Reason for The Season.” I’m a Christian, and I celebrate Christmas as the birth of Jesus Christ. I put the star on my tree and I listen to countless versions of Mark Lowry’s “Mary Did You Know” and I get chills at the reminders that my Savior was born in a quiet stable on that Holy Night. I believe. I believe in all of it. I draw strength from that belief throughout the year.

But I also have fun with Christmas and all of the traditions that come along with it that have nothing to do with religion. Decorating the tree with ornaments that have been in my family for years. Plucking my cat out of said tree when he tries to play with those ornaments. I love hiding that stupid Elf on the Shelf and telling lies about having Santa Claus on speed dial, and I adore all the giggling and sneaking around to find just the right gift for the people I love.

I also love it when the school band plays “Dreidel, Dreidel, Dreidel” at their Christmas concert. I think the Menorah in my neighbor’s window is just lovely.

I look forward to being invited to my friend’s annual Solstice Bonfire every year.

I say “Happy Holidays” not because I’m trying to be politically correct or because my Christian beliefs are being suppressed in any way. I say it because the traditions surrounding this time of year are fun and beautiful regardless of how you celebrate. I say it out of a genuine desire to wish you happy holidays, period.

When I was in high school, I was confirmed into the Presbyterian Church after several weeks’ worth of confirmation classes. There were perhaps a half-dozen of us who attended class every week before church on Sundays, and most of us were pretty grumpy about having to get up that early.

As part of our confirmation class, our pastor required us to attend church services for different denominations and beliefs before we were allowed to officially join our Presbyterian church. We went to Catholic Mass and a Baptist service; we visited a Synagogue where the boys in our group were instructed to don yarmulkes as a sign of respect.

What’s my point here? We were welcomed into all those houses of worship even though we didn’t technically belong. And we behaved with respect and courtesy during our visits. Our beliefs, our traditions, were not challenged or diminished in any way by opening ourselves up to beliefs and traditions that were different from ours.

It’s been more than thirty years since I was confirmed into my Presbyterian Church back in Portage, Michigan. I can’t speak for the others in my class, but I’m still a Christian. I probably lean a bit more toward a non-denominational type of Christianity at this point, but I have never forgotten the lessons I learned back then.

A little kindness goes a long way. A little understanding goes even further. And a little respect can mean the world.

So wish me a Merry Christmas. Tell me to have a Happy Hanukkah or a Joyous Solstice. Say what’s in your heart and mean it when you say it, and everything else will take care of itself. I promise not to be offended because we worship in different ways.

Because when I say “Happy Holidays” to you, I am not being politically correct or having my Christian beliefs suppressed in any way. I am saying, “However you celebrate, whatever you celebrate, I wish for you to feel all the joy and love and peace that you can possibly feel all through the year. May you be surrounded by those you love; may your heart be full of happiness.”

Happy holidays, y’all.