Archive for December, 2011

Christmas for Everyone: guest essay by Scott Miles

This whole “We don’t celebrate Christmas” thing bothered me.

I like Christmas. I like most of the traditional baggage that comes along with Christmas, too. Burl Ives. Mistletoe. Pine needles embedded in the shag carpet. The high suicide rate. Bing Crosby bedecked in a Santa hat while crooning. Hall & Oates’ version of Jingle Bell Rock. All good. Christmas-time has always been fun for me. It was fun when I was a kid. Chasing down my brother as my family hunted for a real tree. Nervous sleep as the network channels reported their Santa sightings. Then the deluge of Star Wars figurines. The Millennium Fucking Falcon. Yeah, those were good times. Christmas was also fun as an alcohol-sodden young man. Time and cheer on my side. And, hell, it’s still fun as an alcohol-sodden middle-aged family man who’s balls are getting saggier and more warped by the minute.

I like Christmas. So, as they say, sue me, you prick.

What’s the problem you ask? Why am I telling you about my fascination with

The animated Burl Ives

Christmas and rock’s most-prized moustaches (Burl Ives’ ain’t bad neither!)?

Well, I’m afraid my future Christmas celebrations might be in jeopardy. Scary, eh?

Let me explain: I married a Muslim woman. The end. No, just kidding. It’s not the end. It’s not even the beginning. And it’s not really a problem, this Muslim woman, or the marriage. You could even say that it’s a blessing, though, hopefully, you wouldn’t be using it in the religious sense of the word. It’s a good thing, my marriage. We have offspring. My progeny. My swimmer. She’s almost three years old, and she rules. I love her and my wife very much. We want to have more kids, too. Stupid as that sounds.

Myself? I’m not one for faith. However, I fully respect my wife’s silly beliefs and arcane notions. We’ve also agreed to bring up the children as Muslims. Hypocritical? Maybe. But I believe having faith is a good thing. It’s just not for me. If my daughter takes to it, great. Let the brainwashing begin. We’re all damaged goods one way or another. If she doesn’t take to it? Well, I’ll love her that much more. If that’s even possible.

Anyway, interfaith (or someone with faith and someone with no faith) marriages are nothing new. Jews and Christians. Muslims and Hindus. Wiccans and Magicians. It’s all been done before. And successfully, I might add. The struggle to coexist and respect everyone’s traditions isn’t new territory.

The fact is, I celebrate Christmas. My wife doesn’t. Again, it’s really not a huge problem, certainly nothing that threatens the future of our marriage or anything, but with my daughter being more cognizant of the world these days, we could all stand to be more considerate of each other’s holiday celebrations. Meaning my wife. Wink wink. Nudge nudge.

Here’s the incident that brought this self-interested discussion to the forefront: As we were tucking my daughter into bed the other night—she’s finally sleeping by herself—my daughter asked my wife about Christmas lights.

“Mommy, can we get some Christmas lights?” she said and snuggled her sweet fucking face into the pillow. Much as you’d like to think I put my daughter up to this, I didn’t. As childish as I can be sometimes, I’m really quite capable of (eventually) discussing most subjects with my wife rationally. Also, it’s never been a big rivalry, Ramadan versus Christmas. We just haven’t hashed out the particulars of our holiday celebrations yet.

My wife’s response?

“We don’t celebrate Christmas.” Said without even blinking. Not cold. Not cruel. Just matter-of-factly.

Now, it’s really not a problem hearing those words. From my stand point, I understand that a Muslim does not celebrate Christmas. I’m not stupid. Neither is my daughter. But I wanted to hear something more…I don’t know, would “accepting” be the right word? Maybe. Anyway, I’m not sure if I can even care to categorize it, but do you know maybe what I would’ve liked to hear my wife say instead? It’s just a simple amendment, really:

“We don’t celebrate Christmas, but daddy does.”

There. That’s it. Takes care of all my issues. What I really wanted to hear my wife say was: “We don’t celebrate Christmas, but daddy does, and we’ve talked about this and maybe we can go out and get some Christmas lights after I satisfy him orally tonight.” Or something to that effect. Doesn’t have to be exact. I could give two shits about the lights, really. Though they do make my drinking more festive.

To my wife’s eyes, Christmas stands for Christianity and all the bullshit (and it is bullshit) that goes along with it. It’s the birth of Jesus. Or, as Linus says in A Charlie Brown Christmas, “Lights please…” and then I don’t really know the rest, something about barnyard animals?—I tend to block out religious screeds. Anyway, you get the gist and, as we all know, the world has gone completely batshit over this Christian holiday. They’re winning. So with every commercial on television cramming Christmas cheer down our fat American throats, I can see why my wife might be sour on acceptance.

This hype and this over-commercialization, though, is exactly the point: Christmas isn’t about the birth of Jesus. Not for me and my family, anyway. Like most red-blooded Americans, I’ve never associated Christmas with religion. Like my father, and his father before him, I come from a long-standing line of proud non-believers. Actually, ‘non-believers’ is not really the lump of humanity I want to be mixed in with. It’s more like… The Disinterested. Yeah. The Disinterested. I like that better. Religion. Christ. God. Blah blah blah. Am I an atheist? Am I agnostic? Who cares?

Thus, the disinterest.

My side of the family and I celebrate Christmas, though it has nothing to do with faith, whatever that may be. Christmas is simply a joyful time of the year where I can get together with family and friends and eat and drink recklessly and be merry while the cold wind is whipping around the homeless outside.

‘Tis the season. Right?

Anyway, as you can tell, this whole “We don’t celebrate Christmas” thing bothered me. It stuck in my craw, as they say. Now, I’ve been with my wife for nearly ten years now, and every year we travel to my parents house near Detroit for Christmas. She knows we don’t bring no Jesus into the Chex Mix. It’s typical fare. My parents have a fake tree. They have a wreath on the door. Presents. Tinsel. Lights. My mom makes a standing rib-roast for Christmas day. We drink wine. Pop Valium. Stick our dicks in the figgy pudding.

Traditions, man. Get with it.

Anyway, my wife doesn’t complain. She’s right there with us enjoying this time with aforementioned family and friends. My parents and my brother and sister all get my wife (and now my daughter) presents each year. It’s nice and drama free. We’ve even supplanted the Christmas Eve ham for turkey-ham, which is an abomination, by the way. Dry and mealy instead of salty and luscious? Stupid. The turkey is no match for the pig. Anyway, don’t misconstrue. We include my Muslim wife in all of our celebrations. She’s not outside sitting in a cold car and cursing a shoddy Jewish carpenter while we’re inside celebrating. No way.

So again, what’s the fucking problem? Your wife didn’t tell your daughter that you celebrate Christmas? Big deal? Well, it’s not a big deal, really, but my parents will soon die. They will. They’re nearing their mid 70’s, and dying is simply on their “to do” list. No need to get teary-eyed now, ok? Save that for another session with the therapist. The real challenge after my parents take the dirt nap will be, “Will I carry on the tradition of Christmas celebration with my own family?”

Or will the tradition die along with my parents? Or can we come up with a new sort of celebration that will make everyone happy? Both Muslims and The Disinterested alike?

We haven’t gotten there yet. But whatever we decide, I don’t want to be left out of the equation. For me, family and Christmas go hand in hand like crack and hookers. And I want my wife and child to be involved in my Christmas celebrations. The real question out of all of this is: Why can’t my wife strip away the religious aspect of Christmas just like our family did? It’s not so hard. I’m not asking her to attend midnight mass, not that I would involve myself with such a colossal waste of time. But hey, let’s get some lights. Maybe a tree. Some rum balls. Gobs of fruitcake. It’s simple. And it’s harmless fun. Except for those god damn pine needles!

Anyway, when I heard “We don’t celebrate Christmas” spout from my wife’s beautiful if crooked mouth, it discouraged me. It wasn’t the first time I’ve heard it this holiday season, either. And it took a few times to really sink in. But, eventually, again, after the ‘rents kick it, I want traditions of my own. I want to prepare for the Christmas Future. Pre-child, I never thought about future Christmas celebrations because my parents were carrying the torch. But who will later? My spinster sister? My alcoholic brother? Not bloody likely.

So, all I want for Christmas is to be acknowledged, not cut out or separated from my family because of different religious beliefs. Even The Disinterested have feelings. Anyway, that would be a start. We don’t celebrate Christmas is such a hard line to swallow. For a child. For a husband. For anyone. This whole we thing should include me, don’t you think? Even if I am the exception?

Because I certainly don’t object when I’m included in the celebration of the Muslim holidays like Ramadan or Eid. As a proud and stout believer of The Disinterested, I don’t celebrate either of these very religious holidays, but there I am, year after year, taking Allah right out of the picture and having fun with her side of the family and friends and stuffing my face with thick, buttery Bosnian pastries and risking the free-fall into the depths of coronary heart disease. You know how much butter they put in baklava? Fucking Christ! It’s a killer!

So why do I do all of that? Why do I willingly join in the fun and festivities of another person’s religious holiday? Even though that holiday means zilch to me?

Because it’s the right fucking thing to do. It’s a celebration, that’s why. And Kool & The Gang wrote a great song about celebrating. Let’s ALL celebrate and have a good time. It’s simple. Regardless of your faith. I don’t normally celebrate Ramadan, but mommy does, and while she’s still around, so will I. Be happy for your fellow man. He or she is celebrating something special to them, religious or not. Why go out of your way to shit on the parade?

Now bugger off and Happy Holidays. I have to go talk to my wife.

The Scott Miles

Scott Miles is from Downriver Detroit and lives in Chicago. He’s a cool dad. Probably not the smoke-weed-and-drink-beer-and-share-pornography-with-his-kids kind of dad, but still pretty cool. He was recently nominated for a Pushcart Prize for his story in The Atticus Review. He has also recently finished writing his second crime/noir novel. He never blogs here: http://scottmiles.wordpress.com/

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Christmas gift ideas: the five best toys ever

With Christmas less than two weeks away, there is still plenty of time to get gifts for the family. If you’re in this camp (not this one), then you’ve probably just begun to consider what to get your kids. When you find yourself, on December 24 perhaps, tight on time or tight on cash, don’t overlook these perennial children’s toys, which may not be best sellers but are certainly favorites.

Jonathan Liu, one of the writers for Wired magazine’s super cool dad-blog, Geek Dad, compiled this list of classic toys after last years holiday madness. It’s been reposted on Facebook and other social media, and we only have permission to post the first of five great gift ideas here, but I think you will recognize its value and head over to the Geek Dad page. Either way, Happy Hunting.

“So to help you out, I’ve worked really hard to narrow down this list to five items that no kid should be without. All five should fit easily within any budget, and are appropriate for a wide age range so you get the most play out of each one. These are time-tested and kid-approved! And as a bonus, these five can be combined for extra-super-happy-fun-time.

"A Gripping Scene" from Flickr user chefranden. Creative Commons License.

1. Stick

What’s brown and sticky? A Stick.

This versatile toy is a real classic — chances are your great-great-grandparents played with one, and your kids have probably discovered it for themselves as well. It’s a required ingredient for Stickball, of course, but it’s so much more. Stick works really well as a poker, digger and reach-extender. It can also be combined with many other toys (both from this list and otherwise) to perform even more functions.”

Click here for the rest of the article.

If you enjoy it, check out the companion piece, 6th Best Toy.

And, to stay contemporary with this millennial generation while remaining in the theme of Jonathan’s ecofriendly take on toys, I’d like to add another new classic: the empty water bottle.

Rocket launcher

Costing nothing and momentarily saving landfills, the water bottle is as versatile as the stick. It’s a virtuoso’s instrument: bang on it as a drum, or use it as a drumstick and drum in one, or blow into it as a plasticwind, or use it even as a voice distorter. It can be spun in a game for less wholesome though altogether essential purposes, and it can bounce, it can be caught, it can be thrown, and, if you held onto the cap, it can act as a rocket launcher. Just loosely set the cap on, place the bottle on its side on the ground, have your toddler jump on the bottle, and boom goes the cap.

Thanks to Jonathan Liu and the guys at Geek-Dad for permission to use the piece and for helping to raise Geek Generation 2.0. Also a big thanks to Experiments follower and staunch anti-parent, SWKooiker, for turning me on to Geek Dad.

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The most wonderful time of the year

It is indeed the most wonderful time of the year, when wishes are realized and dreams are crushed: this weekend, fantasy footballs fools will either make the playoffs or return to Sundays of decency. For those of you that don’t understand the allure of fantasy football, allow me to repost a message and its subsequent comments from my league:

After three months of hustling and obsessing, alienating lovers and scaring kids, shitting the bed and divining the waiver wire, it all comes down to this Sunday. The #1 seed is not locked up and only one team is eliminated from the playoff picture (though Cream would have to score 300 pts to have a chance–any given Sunday, right?), which leaves a heated field with mediocre teams subject to the caprice of the NFL scheduling gods. 3 Stax of Parity: cheers to the commish, who can craft a league easier than he can craft a sentence.
Here’s the playoff picture as I see it:
Asian Invasion: a win guarantees him the # 1 seed and a bye.
a loss, and wins by Dirty Pirate Hookers(DPH) and Above the Law, drop him to #3 seed based on current points.
a loss and a loss by either DPH or Law gives Asian the #2 seed and a bye.
Dirty Pirate Hookers(overall points leader): a win and losses by Law and Asian gives him the #1 seed; a win with an Asian win gives him #2 seed; this is similar scenario with LAW, except he’s gotta make up 38 pts to surpass DPH in the case they both win.
a loss by both puts them both in the mix; they’re guaranteed a playoff spot. DPH plays Ramrod, and though he started 4pick Young, he’s still a favorite for the #2 seed.
Ramrod: ah, yes, the curious case of Ramrod. Was it four or five weeks ago that RR’s unprovoked gloating tarnished the nobility of our fine league? Either way, I feel ok speaking for us all in celebrating RR’s 4 game shit slide. Still, a win by RR of more than 28 points, and a loss by LAW, gets Dickbags–I mean Ramrod–the #2 seed.

No, dear reader, it is not the juveinille and perverted names–like Cream of Some Yung Guy–that makes fantasy fun, nor is it the cash prize at the end (though we shant discount its driving force); it is the trash talking amongst friends, a battle of wits and an opportunity to make shit of a buddy for something completely arbitrary. Like this:

Playoff Prediction:
Asian tears an ACL after the bye- 3rd place
DPH faces the return of Miles Austin in the bye and sees the end of Lorainne Robinson and her golden horseshoe. McFadden returns too, and out of confusion he starts them both: 4th place
Ramrod will break his ego: 6th place
Law rides the Forte train into 2nd Place. Go Bears!
The Polish, relying entirely on Stafford, competes, but like the Lions, ultimately misses the playoffs.
Phantasm, riding the coattails of Seattle’s DST, holds off a resilient and resurgent Lil Caddy, making the playoffs then losing abruptly when Turner and Peterson are out simultaneously. Or is that this week? Right, ok, he’s out, so Polish gets 5th place.
Mousecock moosecocks himself yet again, his bench outscoring his starters, and a whine of “I’m always getting dicked” reverberates throughout Chicagoland on a cold, cold day in Lombard.
Cream finally unloads.
Lil Caddy explains his name.
The Mark Super Dupers, after a brilliant midseason reorganization, finds his receiving core consistently playing up to its potential and Orlovsky and Rodgers relying on an upstart overachieving running game, and blessed by Tebow and God, wins the Super Bowl.

Of course, halfway through Fantasy Football DDay, these predictions are a bit off. But the comments are not.

DPH: U have got to be shiting me!

Mousecocks: I really wish you would have spent some time thinking bout this. And by the way, it’s moose, not mouse.

It goes on, of course. Good luck to those of you moving on. And to those haters, its almost over.

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