Goldfish’s Xmas Music Mixtape

haPPYFISHMAS

Since I ranted about how I hate Christmas music the other day and as the saying goes, there are no complaints without alternatives, I thought I’d share with you some of my favorite holiday classics in the form of a mix tape. Feel free to put this on during your holiday festivities, although perhaps not during dinner.

Click on the tape to hear it.

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Here’s a track list:

The Kinks – Father Christmas

They Might Be Giants – Santa’s Beard

Sloppy Seconds – Hooray For Santa Claus

SSD – Jolly Old Saint Nick

The Business – Step Into Christmas

Tiny Tim – Santa Claus Has Got the AIDS This Year

TVTV$ – Daddy Drank Our Xmas Money

Captain Sensible – One Christmas Catalogue

MxPx- Christmas Night Of Zombies

Rancid – Xmas Eve (She Got Up And Left Me)

Angry Snowmans – Ebeneezer Uber Alles

Twisted Sister – Oh Come All Ye Faithful

AC/DC – Mistress For Christmas

Run-DMC – Christmas In Hollis

The Dickies – Silent Night

Bad Religion – Hark, The Herald Angels Sing

The Vandals – Oi to the World

The Damned – There Ain’t No Sanity Clause

Alice Cooper – Santa Claws is Coming To Town

Stiff Little Fingers – White Christmas

Voodoo Glow Skulls – Feliz Navidad

The Ramones – Merry Christmas (I Don’t Want To Fight Tonight)

Tom Waits – Christmas Card From Hooker In Minneapolis

The Ethiopians – Ding Dong Bell

The Pogues – Fairytale of New York

The Dwarves – Drinking Up Christmas

Fear – Fuck Christmas

haPPYFISHMAS

10 Things I Hate Part 29 Holiday Edition

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  1. Facebook. Once again, Facebook makes my list. And yes, I know this doesn’t have anything to do with the holidays, but it just happened yesterday, so deal. This time, Facebook makes my list because it said that Gold Fish wasn’t my real name and it wouldn’t let me sign on without changing it. On my phone, I tried to trick it into changing it to Goldfish, but I guess I accidentally typed “Fush” instead. I tried to change it again and it said I can’t change it for 60 days. So, I’m “Gold Fush” for two months. Seriously, FUCK YOU, FACEBOOK. I don’t want to use my real name. I have stalkers.
  2. Christmas music. Everywhere you go, there it is. With all the amazing music ever made in the world, why is it that for two months out of the year, we have to listen to the same two dozen songs over and over? I am so sick of the same damn music every year that I could claw an elf’s eye out.
  3. Jumping the holiday gun. I went to Macy’s in October with my sister for some reason. They had Christmas decorations up before Halloween. Not A Punk Rocker posted a picture yesterday of a Valentine’s Day display up before Christmas. Why don’t we just have a holiday section all year round? You could go buy Christmas stuff in July. That’s where we’re headed.
  4. The last-minute rush. I had to go to the store last weekend for some last-minute things I needed for the impending arrival of my parents. Everyone else was there. All of them. Seriously, people, you know Christmas is on December 25th, so why must you still be Christmas shopping on the 21st when I just need to get some cleaning supplies?
  5. Shopping jerks. The holidays seem to bring out the worst in us. At the store last weekend, I had three people cut me off in the parking lot and one person steal a parking spot that was rightfully mine. Then, someone cut in line at the register.
  6. Fruitcake. Seriously, what is that? Fruit and cake are both delicious on their own, but when you mash them together, it turns into gross. Yet, people still buy it. Ick. I have an hypothesis that there really are only a few fruitcakes in the world. They just keep getting passed from person to person year after year, because nobody wants to eat something older than earth with a denser molecular structure than Osmium. Before there was Homo sapiens, there was fruitcake.
  7. The prices. Items that are selling for $5 today will be $2 next week. There’s the Black Friday dip, then prices steadily increase until the 24th. On the 26th, you can buy the same crap for half off. This also applies to travel. My parents are coming out for two weeks because it was cheaper that way. Thanks a lot, airlines, for jacking up your prices around the holidays so I have my family hanging around for thirteen days.
  8. The “War On Christmas” nonsense. Seriously, Christians, chill, please. Nobody has started a war on Christmas. If they did, they lost the war since it’s everywhere. We say Happy Holidays so as not to exclude anyone. Also, since New Year’s Eve is one week after Christmas, it gets lumped in there. When I wish someone Happy Holidays, I mean Christmas, Hanukkah, New Year and any other holiday celebrated in the vicinity. Sometimes, I simply mean enjoy your time off. Christians, I say, it’s not all about you. There are other people in the world with other beliefs and that’s okay. Unbunch your panties.
  9. Decorating. It seems an awful lot of work for just a few weeks. Since my mom is coming, I went whole hog this year. My sister and I went and got a real tree. Some poor tree was happily living somewhere until some dude chopped it down, dragged it to the city and sold it to some sap (me) for $40. In another few weeks, it will be in the trash. Somehow, that just doesn’t seem right. Poor little tree.
  10. This is not a happy time of year for everyone. Since people always have and always will continue to die, regardless of time of year, some people are suffering loss. Some are battling their own demons. Still others are living in war-torn regions or they don’t even have homes. Think a little more about the people who are less fortunate than you are. That’s the real spirit of the holidays.

More Things I Hate.

The House Guests

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My parents are coming! GAH!

My parents, together as a unit, haven’t visited California in nearly ten years. My mom started the countdown when there were still some 57 days left.

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They’re actually starting their long journey most of the way across the country today and they’ll be descending on FOG HQ on the evening of the 23rd. That’s like tomorrow! For once, I’m actually glad that I work for a Scrooge-like company and get hardly any time off since it means I get respite at work while my sister does the bulk of the entertaining. Yay cheap-ass company with no holiday spirit!

I spent all weekend cleaning every crevice of my house. Not that it was necessary really; it’s just that that’s how I was raised. My mom would do the same if she had house guests coming. We always do a really thorough cleaning before guests arrive even if it is just family.

My mom is a gigantic fan of Christmas and I told her I’d make it look like Santa threw up in my house, so I have four Christmas trees. I also decorated the Ficus tree in my living room, so that’s four Christmas trees and one decorated Ficus, complete with tree topper even.

There are two trees downstairs; the main attraction and the only real tree in the house, and a tiny one in the solarium kitchen window that faces out on the street. Upstairs, there are also two Christmas trees, but they’re both small. Every room in my house is decorated for Christmas. Fortunately, my sister is also a huge fan of Christmas and actually had enough crap to decorate four Christmas trees and a Ficus. My family is a little weird.

So, we’re all ready for the descent into madness.

I have mixed feelings about this visit since I still don’t get along with my family terribly well. First and foremost, there’s the fact that they betrayed me by not believing that I was being sexually abused in our own home and letting it continue. Because of that, I didn’t talk to them for many years. They abandoned me to deal with child sexual abuse all on my own. If they had gotten me some help when I was a kid, I wouldn’t have wasted so many years being self-destructive.

So, there’s that. That’s a big “first,” but there’s also a second. Second, we don’t have much at all in common. My mom is an elected official. A Republican elected official. They go to church every Sunday. My mom actually worked at a church for many years. Most of their friends are church friends. They live in a very Christian, very conservative Republican part of northern Michigan.

I am a liberal atheist artist with tattoos who works for an adult industry company. My family and I are completely ideological opposites. The only time we talk politics is in a general way since, as county clerk, my mom is responsible for running elections. We avoid talking religion altogether.

When they decided to come out for Christmas, one of my worries was that they would insist on going to church on Christmas eve like we always did as a family. When I visited for Christmas about five years ago (which was actually the last time I was home), we had to go to church on Christmas eve. It was awkward, but I played along. I sat in a church holding a candle and sang some songs.

I don’t know any churches in my area. I drive by churches all the time, but I don’t see them. My brain identifies them as churches and puts them in the “useless information not necessary to remember” category along with day care centers, plastic surgeons and prostate doctors.

Fortunately, I don’t think they have any expectation of going to church. Still, Christmas is a religious holiday, so I’m sure we’ll do something god-like to mark the occasion, perhaps saying grace at dinner or something.

I play along. And we don’t talk about it. As long as we don’t talk politics or religion, it’s all good. The last thing I want to do is argue with my mother over beliefs. If I’m going to argue with her, I’d rather it be about something important like their denial of child abuse and failure to get me any help.

This will probably be my dad’s last visit. He’s getting on in years (he was in his 40s when I was born) and we just found out a few days ago that he has an incurable, degenerative illness I’ve forgotten the name of that will probably, eventually kill him. So, at best, I only have a few more years with my dad.

When I think of my dad, I always picture him as he was when I was a kid. It’s always sobering seeing the reality of a shriveled old man who can’t get out of a chair on his own.

So, yeah, mixed feelings of anger, resentment, nostalgia, and ultimately, love, because even after all they did (or didn’t do) when I was a child, they are still my parents and life is always a little bittersweet.

The Night Of Awesome Mail

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It was a cold and rainy night when I arrived home to FOG HQ after the dog park. Alright, it wasn’t raining just yet and it wasn’t exactly cold, but it was rather chilly (for southern California anyway).

Anyway, I checked the mail and what wonders there were!

First up was an adorable envelope from the Netherlands with a hand-drawn little cupcake on the front that said “Hello Goldfishie!” What could it be? It contained this:

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It was my PRIZE! Way back in October, the lovely and über-talented Ms. TJ Lubrano held an Inktober contest and, as usual, I am a WINNER!

Honestly, I forgot about this one. It’s not that I forgot that I am a WINNER nor that I had original art on the way, but I took her for a woman of her word that she would send me my PRIZE in good time, and therefore, I just forgot that it would eventually be at my door. So, getting this last night was a total surprise.

How freakin’ cool are those prints!? Go buy her stuff on Etsy. You won’t regret it. It’s amazing. Thanks, TJ!

 

But, we weren’t done yet. I still had more mail. The next envelope I opened contained a Christmas card and this masterpiece from Evil Squirrel:

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While I was disappointed to see that I didn’t get the Rainbow Donkey I thought for sure I would get if the universe contained any justice at all, I was consoled by the fact that mine does have a fist shake and the word “HUMBUG.” A curmudgeonly porcupine is perfectly me, and to be honest, a little more perfectly me than Rainbow Donkey.

Go buy Evil Squirrel’s stuff at CafePress. Thanks, ES!

 

And the final envelope contained a wolf Christmas card from the lovely Ms. Jackie as part of The Great Christmas Card Exchange with a very nice message inside that made me regret that I didn’t actually write anything person in the cards I sent. Thanks, Jackie, and everything you said goes for you, too. I’m very glad I’ve gotten to know you.

And now, my self-sent Xmas card standing alone on the snowman card holder that my dad made has friends! The wolf from Jackie, and the penguin and curmudgeonly porcupine from Evil Squirrel.

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Thanks for making my night! I’m going to need some more picture frames.

I apologize for the abysmal photography in this post. It doesn’t capture the full glory of my mail, because I really suck at photography.

 

The Survival Instinct

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He nearly killed me and the strange thing is, I wanted him to. I just wanted it to end. I wanted the beatings and the emotional torture of the last eight years to be over. I was defeated. I had no fight left in me. I just wanted to die. I had nothing left to take. There was no safe place in my soul that he hadn’t invaded and destroyed.

Or so I thought, but when it comes down to it, the survival instinct is amazing.

Even when he tried and I thought for sure that he would kill me, I survived. When I had hands ringed round my neck so hard that they left bruises in the shape of fingers, I mechanically found the strength to turn my head to the side. It’s harder to crush a windpipe when it’s not straight.

When he punched me in the face, I would involuntarily try to block with my arms. When he kicked me though I was already on the ground, I would instinctively curl up into a ball to protect my vital organs.

No matter what, no matter how much we think we want to die, our inherent survival mechanism kicks in.

Even before I met the domestic violence monster, I was on a self-destructive streak in my teens. I had just realized the sexual abuse I suffered as a child and the betrayal of my family in letting it continue. I didn’t actively try to die, but I passively let go of the reins. I decided to let life do with me what it wanted, but even down in the bottom as a homeless drug addict prostitute, I still couldn’t die.

My conscious and subconscious minds have often thought about dying. How, when, where, etc. Only a couple of years ago, in the grips of the most serious depressive spell I’ve ever had, I thought about dying every single day.

But, I’m still here, no thanks to anyone else. I’m still here, no thanks to myself.

The survival instinct keeps me going. I’ll keep blocking and curling up into a ball to protect my delicate innards. All I can do is keep fighting this battle of wits inside of me between major depressive disorder, PTSD and me.

Some people don’t think their survival instinct is as strong as mine. Some are trying to test it to see how far it will really stretch. Sometimes, just continuing to live is the hardest thing you can do.

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This time of year is particularly difficult for those of us suffering from mental illness. If you or someone you know is in danger, please, get help. Sometimes, a little understanding goes a long way. You are not alone.

Who Wants A Card?

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Alright, folks. Even though I’m an atheist Jew, it’s Christmas card time. Yay! Actually, it really should have been Christmas card time a week ago if I wanted to guarantee that they’d get there in time, however, I didn’t have the fixins last week. Besides, Unicorn Appreciation Day isn’t until January 11th, so there’s still time to fit in all the holidays.

Only yesterday did I finally get off my rump and go get these:

(amazon.com)
(amazon.com)

Now I have greeting cards, envelopes and a fancy new printer to print my own cards, but so far, I’m only sending out three of them to Jackie, Mental Mama and Draliman since they’re the only addresses I have.

Since I have a surplus of greeting cards, I figured I’d ask if anyone else wants one. I’ll send out ten original FOG greeting cards hand drawn by moi (then printed on paper). Three are already spoken for, but the first seven people to send me their address will also get one.

Email your info at pterofish at gmail dot com. Go! Time’s a wastin’!

Christmas From An Atheist Jew’s Perspective

Image from theinspirationroom.com

Disclaimer: This post might offend some religious sensibilities. Any offense is unintentional.

Alright, so, I’m not really Jewish, at least, not in the raised-as-a-Jew sense. I was raised Presbyterian, or as I call it, the lazy man’s Catholicism. Presbyterians believe a lot of the same things as Catholics, but they’re not nearly as strict about it, and there’s not much crossing or kneeling going on in a Presbyterian service, which just makes it that much easier to fall asleep. I should know; I was nudged awake many times during church.

Anyway, back to Judaism; my great-great-grandmother on my grandmother’s side was Jewish, which means that I am technically Jewish, since Jewry is passed down from females. If your mother is Jewish, you’re Jewish.

In olden times, it was really the only sensible way to tell since everyone was going around “knowing” whomever and you couldn’t really be certain who begat who, but there was no doubt who your mother was. It’s fairly obvious and on the record which vagina you emerged from.

My great-great-grandmother was from Hamburg, Germany and subsequently moved to Hamburg, New York. Apparently, that part of the family really likes Hamburgs. She had eight children with her Protestant husband. One of those eight children was my grandmother’s mother who had thirteen children of her own, of which, my grandmother was the youngest. My great-great-grandmother emigrated to America well before World War II, so she escaped that whole Nazi Germany chapter, but her relatives did not. I had relatives in Dachau.

I like the concept of being Jewish. As far as religions go, theirs is pretty cool. Even though it does have a lot of rules, they don’t go door to door proselytizing and handing out pamphlets. In fact, it’s pretty difficult to become a Jew. If you weren’t born Jewish, you have to convert and it involves going to classes and taking tests or something.

I only recently discovered that I’m Jewish. I went most my life thinking that I was a WASP (white Anglo-Saxon Protestant). We had a small menorah in our house growing up. A year or so ago, my sister asked my mother why we had it and she told her about my great-great-grandmother. My mother didn’t realize that meant we’re all Jewish, too.

This news was unsettling for my mother who has become more religious in the Jesus way as she’s gotten older. For me, who’s gotten less religious in any way as I’ve gotten older, it didn’t bother me and I wish I had known sooner. It totally made sense why I have so many Yiddish words in my vocabulary. In the end, we all embraced our Jewishness with an awkward high five, fist bump, handshake:

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I’m still not sure which box to tick on forms though. Finnish-German-American Jew isn’t an option. I wish they had a “Euro mutt” box.

Even before I was Jewish, Christmas time as an adult has always been a slight annoyance. I don’t have children nor am I one. Shopping for anything around this time of year is a hassle. I had to buy pecans and corn syrup (for delicious homemade Christmas pecan pie) last weekend so I could avoid going to the grocery store this weekend.

I went to Macy’s for something before Halloween and they had Christmas decorations up. Christmas decorations before Halloween. Seriously, people? Can’t we at least wait until after Halloween for Christmas decorations?

And the music… oy, the music. Hark and jingle your jolly St. Nick! Tralala-parump-a-falalala!

Seriously, when was the last time anyone went dashing through the snow in a one-horse open sleigh or trolled the ancient yuletide carols? When was the last time you saw boughs of holly for sale? And why would you deck your hallway with it? How do you give someone eight maids-a-milking? Isn’t that sort of slavery? Also, “Myrrh is mine. Its bitter perfume breathes a life of gathering gloom” from We Three Kings isn’t very uplifting.

Anywhere you go this time of year, you’re forced to hear lords-a-leaping, mangers-a-sleeping and flocks-a-keeping. This is the same music we’ve all been forced to listen to all of our lives whether we celebrate Christmas or not. There’s nothing new here. It’s still cold outside, baby, and we’re still wishing for a white Christmas. It’s omnipresent and annoying.

In addition to being a new Jew, I’m also an old atheist, so I have the double whammy. I don’t celebrate Christmas in the religious sense. I do celebrate Christmas in the Christmas lights, freshly baked pie sense. I have a tiny two-foot tall Christmas tree in my room because I like the lights. That’s about as Christmassy as I get.

This post was going to be a rant about rabid consumerism, and how the true spirit of the holiday (see It’s A Wonderful Life) has been lost amid Black Friday deals and yadda yadda, but I’m too tired to fight now. You go on with your Christmas. I’ll go on avoiding it as much as possible. Hopefully, I have enough food to last until December 26th.

Happy holidays, everyone, whatever your beliefs (or lack thereof).

Image from theinspirationroom.com
Image from theinspirationroom.com

Easy-Bake Falcon

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Daily Post prompt: Was there a special gift or toy you wanted as a child but never received? What was it?

This is the kind of prompt that I dislike because it forces me to be all woe is me.

I never got anything I wanted as a kid.

Every Christmas, my sister and I would inspect the presents wrapped up under the tree trying to figure out what was what. We never succeeded. Instead of the Millennium Falcon we wanted….

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…we would get a knockoff version of an Easy-Bake Oven, which doesn’t even fly. We never got refills for it so it was good only a couple of times.

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You get the idea. Mostly for Christmas and birthdays I got IOUs. I would open a box that I was sure had Darth Vader in it and find a new pair of socks with a note that said “This voucher good for horseback riding lessons!” I never got horseback riding lessons. I never got the stereo that we actually went to the store to pick out and put a deposit down on. I never got the car or even the college education I was promised in lieu of presents.

I didn’t really care about any of those things. Well, I did, but it’s not like not getting Darth Vader destroyed my life. It was the lying that did it. It was the bald-face lies that I got for Christmas that ruined my childhood.

If they couldn’t afford a real gift, all my parents had to do was say so. I would have understood. I would have been disappointed, but I would have understood. Instead, for Christmas and birthdays, I got promises that never came true. A broken promise to a child is far worse than not getting a new toy.

I learned not to trust my parents. I learned that when I opened a box and found a note, it was about as valuable as writing “money” on the same paper and trying to pay for groceries with it. Those notes were useless. If I got a piece of paper in a box, my heart sank because I knew it would never be anything more than a piece of paper. Not one of those IOUs was ever cashed in.

I learned not to trust the people I should have been able to trust the most. I learned to keep my expectations very low. I learned how to use my imagination to turn a knock off Easy-Bake into a Millennium Falcon. I learned how to entertain myself. I learned how valuable a library card really is. I learned self-reliance from an early age and it hasn’t failed me yet. I decided to make my dreams come true myself.

But I’d still really like that Millennium Falcon.

Christmas of Suck

My Christmas did not include these.
My Christmas did not include these.
My Christmas did not include these.

I’m really not a big fan of the holidays. I used to be when I was a kid. Christmas Eve was the best night of the year, but all of that anticipation and wonder and joy has been lost along the way.

When I was an adult and not talking to my family, I enjoyed the holidays because I didn’t have to do a damn thing. The holidays for me were full of laziness and bad movies and pajamas. I saw friends if I wanted to, but rarely did I want to. Most of the time, I spent Christmas and Thanksgiving with a cat curled up on me sleeping all day and watching movies. It was great.

People would say to me, “what are you doing for the holidays?” and my reply of “nothing” was met with stern disapproval. People would invite me to their thing, completely missing the point. People saw “nothing” as a bad thing, whereas I saw it as a gift to myself to do whatever I wanted to do without any obligations. While the rest of the country was rushing frantically from point A to point B, I was taking a bubble bath or a nap or doing, well, nothing. People didn’t understand that it was by choice. It’s not that I couldn’t do the typical holiday things, I just didn’t want to. It never occurred to anyone that I might want to be alone on Christmas. It got so that, when asked, I’d answer “going to a friend’s house” just to make them feel better.

Then about a decade ago, my sister moved to California and she ruined everything. She hijacked my Christmas tradition and now I have to do it with her. I have to go to her house and watch the bad movies she picks. Her idea of bad movies are nothing like mine. She watches bad movies. She tortures me with them. I have to cook food and be around people, even if it is only her. She doesn’t get it either.

So, now instead of looking forward to Christmas, I dread it. It’s torture full of cooking and horrible movies. And the worst part is, she gets angry if I don’t spend the whole day with her. She got angry on Thanksgiving because Male and I took my dog to the dog park. She doesn’t like that Male is included with our holiday thing now, too. She asked me the other day if Male was going to ruin Christmas. What does that even mean? You are ruining Christmas!

Yesterday was supposed to be my lazy day because I have to do all this crap on Christmas. Yesterday morning, I got a text from my best friend telling me that she had broken up with her boyfriend on the eve of Christmas Eve and asking if I could come over. A half an hour later, I was at her house. I was there for seven hours. I made the mistake of taking my dog who wouldn’t leave her cats and geriatric dog alone and whined the whole time. She got a squirt of water in the face and freaked out entirely. She shook and panted and sat in my lap. Not one of my friend’s animals wanted anything to do with my dog. I felt terrible. I felt bad for my dog who had been traumatized and ostracized by all the other animals who didn’t want to play her reindeer games. I felt bad for my friend whose story kept getting interrupted by a whining dog.

Then Male and I grilled steaks and tried to watch movies, but Netflix was down so we had to make do from our meager DVD selection. The couch was too small to cuddle and there wasn’t enough firewood or eggnog. He wanted to go to a friend’s party. I was emotionally spent from the day’s events and didn’t want to do anything. He wanted to be around people. I don’t count. He said he feels sorry for people like my friend who are searching for someone to spend their life with because it’s an impossible quest full of heartbreak and disillusion. He doesn’t see himself spending his life with anyone. What I heard is “Male doesn’t want to spend his life with me.” We are not.

I trundled off to bed and I woke up alone. He’s sleeping in the other room. I woke up alone.

Later on today, probably as soon as I’m done writing this, I will have to go over to my sister’s house and make Christmas cookies, pie, prime rib and Yorkshire pudding. I will be forced to watch the worst movies ever made. Then, I will infuriate my sister by going to my best friend’s house. My dog won’t get to go to the dog park and I’ll still have a slightly broken heart.

Merry Christmas indeed.

The C4C Project

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Rarasaur is doing a wonderful thing this Christmas. She’s giving away stuff! Well, that and spreading the word that you don’t have to be alone on Christmas. C4C was created so that Christmas orphans have somewhere to gather. There seem to be technical issues with reblogging Rara’s post so here’s a snippet from it:

Company for Christmas is a volunteer-fueled mission, created by fabulous blogger RuleofStupid.  It is a virtual place for people who, quite simply, don’t have any company on Christmas, and would benefit from a little non-religiously-affiliated, non-counseling-oriented, conversation.

I’ll be volunteering, so if you want to spend some of your Christmas day chatting with me and reading whatever nonsense I decide to post, well– come on over.

You can help, too.

  • Spread the word, so that no member of our wonderful Presser family spends Christmas alone.
  • Volunteer!  It’s a little bit of time on Christmas day– almost everyone can afford that.  You don’t even have to commit to a post.  Just stop by, say hi, and keep the conversation going with a comment or two.  I mean, we’ll be having a pretty fabulous party, since both Dave and I will be posting, but I understand if all you can spare is a word or two.
  • Visit RuleofStupid’s blog and give him kudos for a kind idea.  He’d be the first to tell you that you don’t have to do that, and I’ll be the first to tell you that you should.

Please visit the official blog for more information: http://companyforchristmas.wordpress.com/

As if that isn’t enough encouragement, you can reblog or link to Rarasaur’s post and win amazing Rara stuff!