Christmas at Home

We’ll be at home for Christmas this year, for the first time since 2007. (Technically, we were home on Christmas in 2013, but we were gone the week before.)

Fleeing for Christmas started in 2008. In 2008, my sister-in-law passed away in January, and my mother-in-law passed away in June. It was a bad year. My wife didn’t want to be home at Christmas and her brother didn’t want to be home at Christmas, either. He had a timeshare in Orlando and was taking his kids, so he invited us to go along.

Here’s the thing about Orlando – I hate Orlando. I have no love at all for Disney (never understood the attraction), and I don’t particularly like a cold swamp in December. Also, I was at IBM at the time, working for Lotus, so I was going to be in Orlando three or four weeks later for Lotusphere. Lotusphere was scheduled in Orlando in January because the weather is generally miserable, so the hotels are cheaper. So, I was not looking forward to Orlando in December.

We went. It was a nice time, in spite of the fact everyone was basically in mourning. The parks were freezing but seeing European tourists turning blue in short shorts and t-shirts who believed the “weather is always beautiful in Florida” marketing mantra was fairly amusing. We did get to see Blue Man Group – and I never realized the irony until I wrote this.

After we got home, all was quiet for a few months, and then my wife declared she didn’t just want to be home last Christmas, she didn’t want to be home at Christmas forevermore. So, I didn’t even think about “this will be expensive”, I thought, “How do I prevent ever spending Christmas in Orlando again?”

The answer: find something else to do that will be so enticing that she won’t think freezing in Florida is a good idea, even if it is with family.

That’s why in 2009, we took our first cruise. One Sunday, I Googled cruise lines, and sent information requests to all the major ones – Norwegian, Carnival, Royal Caribbean. I got emails from Carnival and Royal. Norwegian called me ten minutes later. We have a winner.

Maricela introduced herself as “my” cruise consultant and asked what I was looking for as a cruise. I said I wanted to cruise out of Galveston. She said, “We sail from New Orleans.” I found it difficult to argue with that. It’s pretty much the same port, except for the State and location, and New Orleans being almost twice as far away by car (I wanted to drive to Galveston.)

We booked the Norwegian Spirit out of New Orleans for a seven-day cruise. It was an interesting start – we got our sea legs easily, but we tended to miss dinner every night because we would get back from an excursion, decide to take a “quick nap” and wake up at 10pm. I’m not sure what was on that first cruise that made us so sleepy, but it was amazing. Somewhere along the way, I had a strange feeling I didn’t recognize. Later, I realized I was relaxed.

That started our cruising adventures that are documented here. I can help you book your cruises now, as I’m a travel advisor.

That brings us to 2020. This was not a good year to be a cruising fan. This was not a good year to be a travel advisor.

So, we’re home for Christmas. We’re having family over which will make Mom happy because when my Dad died, she refused to leave home for Christmas, even though we invited her along with us (that was the year we sailed early.) Hopefully, nobody in the family will die from having Christmas at home in 2020.

I didn’t think staying home for Christmas would have a major effect, except for being cold in Dallas instead of warm in the Caribbean. However, I’ve noticed I am getting crankier than usual (my wife may disagree), and I am certainly not relaxed.

We don’t have a cruise booked until October 2022. This is very distressing to me. We have had three cruises in a year a couple of the past years.

So, Christmas at home. For the first time in 13 years or so. Unemployed. With family. With a wife who will spend more on food for four than a cruise would have cost. I’m pretty sure this is how alcoholics get their start.

Merry Christmas!

Holidaze

The end of another year. Christmas. Hanukkah. Year-end close at the office. Budget deadlines for next year at the office. Family in town. Leaving for vacation.

Stress.

Wow. There is approximately 43% more crap going on right now that I can process.

I was promoted to manager this year. This is the major reason I haven’t posted in a while – I’ve been too busy trying to identify and put out fires. I got promoted just in time for all the budgeting and arguing for next year. What fun it is! I don’t understand the numbers yet, but that doesn’t mean I don’t have to defend them. It’s also the time of year that you get questions which demonstrate nobody is actually reading the contracts they are signing. This scares me. I read them and I correct the typos, because I assume my job is on the line. If that is a bad assumption, that is what is wrong with the company.

The other thing wrong with the company is that everyone expects 24×7 access to everyone else and instantaneous replies to requests, no matter how trivial – even though manager’s training specifically tells you not to do that. So, while on vacation, I’ll still be checking email at cruise line Internet prices. If my Internet bill is higher than my bar tab (again), it’s not a great vacation. It’s an office with sand and rum. At least there’s rum.

It’s funny – when I made the vacation plans, being out for two weeks was going to have very little consequence, since not much was going on in my old department at this time of year. Apparently, now the world will end prematurely if all my emails aren’t answered quickly and completely.

One of my goals before I die is to teach the people above me that not every problem is a severity one problem. This may be an impossible task.

My son is a PhD now. His family all came down for graduation, so the three grandkids are in residence. Every time my wife and I try to corral the two boys – even without watching their baby sister – I have more and more doubt on the sanity of people my age trying to have kids. We’re watching the kids because their parents are tired – and they’re in their twenties. There’s a reason old folks don’t have kids – kids are active and inquisitive and fearless. Sure, it sounds like good exercise, but a heart attack really doesn’t help you lose much weight, unless you count only getting fed what fits down a tube while you’re in the ICU.

At least we now know that nothing in our house or my Mom’s house is actually child-proof. Oops. On the other hand, I’ve virtually given up drinking Diet Dr Pepper at home, because I can’t get into the cabinet where the soda is kept. I guess I’ll have to get one of the grandkids to open it for me before they leave.

It’s sad that I have to stop and think if sending a “Merry Christmas” note to my team is going to offend anyone. It’s Christmas, whether you celebrate it or not. There are enough people who either are Christian or believe in the secular values of Christmas, that companies close for the day. It’s Christmas vacation whether you honor the day or not. It’s still vodka, even if you don’t drink. Call Christmas vacation what it is.

One more meeting to go.

Christmas Anonymous

I really don’t like the holidays. Actually, I dread the holidays. I spend the time from Thanksgiving to New Year’s in a deep depression. I’m constantly on the edge of tears. I don’t know why. (I have my suspicions, but publishing them would probably offend a lot of people.) So, I thought what is really needed is an organization to help those of us who dread the holidays. We need Christmas Anonymous.

Now, Christmas Anonymous would be built on the basic principles of Alcoholics Anonymous, which is the foundation for many successful recovery programs. Even people who have never had a drink have probably heard of the Twelve Steps. (In fact, somebody may have already done this work, in which case, I apologize. Doing it has been rather cathartic for me.)

I’ve only been to one AA meeting in my life (on a date – which can tell you how well the relationship worked), and it was an amazing experience. It was a religious experience, as well – only people who share the same dark secret can relate to your true issues and from that relation can come salvation.

So, I’ve taken the original Twelve-Step program (quoted from Alcoholics Anonymous – thank you, Bill W.), and translated it for those of us who can’t seem to cope with the holidays. You’re out there. You’re hurting. You’re not alone.

I read the Twelve Steps just before I went to the AA meeting. Until then, I had no idea what the steps were (although since then I’ve received apologies from alcoholic friends over the years, so I recognized that was one of them.) Some people think AA’s Twelve Steps are very close to a religion – God is mentioned everywhere throughout them. While this may offend some non-alcoholics who think “it’s only a drinking problem”, in the case of Christmas Anonymous, I believe it is absolutely a core part of the solution. (As the sarcastic would say: What? God in Christmas? Surely not.)

Here are the Twelve Steps, for members of Christmas Anonymous.

  1. We admitted we were powerless over Christmas. No matter how hard we wished or bitched, it would still arrive every year on December 25th. Ads begin just after the Fourth of July.
  2. We came to believe that a Power greater than ourselves could restore us to sanity. In this case, perhaps trying to restore the true meaning of Christmas as a religious holiday rather than a reason to spend ourselves into debt will help us through the season.
  3. We made a decision to turn our will and our lives over to the care of God as we understood Him. Wouldn’t Christmas be an excellent time to rededicate yourself to your beliefs? You don’t have to be Christian, but if you’re pummeled by Christmas music and commercials anyway, take a moment to connect with your God. 
  4. We made a searching and fearless moral inventory of ourselves. Why do we hate Christmas? Is it religious? Financial? Fear? Relationships?
  5. We admitted to God, to ourselves, and to another human being the exact nature of our hatred of Christmas. Tell your significant other, friend or family member why you’re so cranky during the holidays. Find someone who will actually listen. If nothing else, blog about it. 
  6. We’re entirely ready to have God remove all these defects of character. This should always be true whether you hate Christmas or love drugs.  
  7. We humbly asked Him to remove our shortcomings. Perhaps this would be a good private prayer during Christmas services. If you avoid services, take a moment on Christmas to ask your God for this. 
  8. We made a list of all persons we had harmed, and became willing to make amends to them all. Who avoids you during the holidays? They’re on this list.
  9. We made direct amends to such people wherever possible, except when to do so would injure them or others. In most cases, this is probably a sincere apology to friends and family for being such an asshole during the holidays.
  10. We continued to take personal inventory and when we were wrong promptly admitted it. You’re not going to get through every Christmas unscathed. Remember this. Keep trying.
  11. We sought through prayer and meditation to improve our conscious contact with God as we understood Him, praying only for knowledge of His will for us and the power to carry that out. If you can find God, you can celebrate Christmas as a religious holiday. It was one at one time. 
  12. Having had a spiritual awakening as the result of these steps, we tried to carry this message to others in pain during the holidays, and to practice these principles in all our affairs. Find others who hate Christmas, and give them this message. Think what else you hate as much as the holidays, and apply the steps. 

Merry Christmas!