My Christmas Tree: Part 2

As promised, I’ve got a few more ornaments and memories to share this week.

And I even have a theme. Snow!

A Lace Snowflake A Lace Snowflake

This homemade crocheted snowflake was mailed to me five years ago. I was living in Asia at the time, in a location where 50 degrees Fahrenheit was cold. There were a few Christmas decorations, but it wasn’t as common or pervasive a holiday there.

An aunt–one of those aunts that is not a blood relative but a close family friend–sent this in a Christmas card so that I could have a white Christmas.

A Friend I've Never Met

A Friend I’ve Never Met

If you haven’t delved into the online world of Jane Austen fans, and lovers of Jane Austen what-if tales, you’re missing out. Since I discovered that I am not alone in my obsession, I have made a number of good friends in the various communities.

This snowflake also came in the mail, when I participated in a holiday card exchange two years ago. I got cards from all over the world (all of which I still have). I had them hanging up when some friends came to dinner. One photo card included images of Colin Firth, Matthew MacFadyen, and Richard Armitage. “What friend of yours has three such good looking sons?” one friend asked, staring at the card. After I stopped laughing hysterically, I explained.

I don’t have the space to hang up all the old cards in addition to all the new ones, so this snowflake stands in for them on my tree.

The Best Snowglobe Ever! The Best Snow Globe Ever!

This one I bought for myself. I have to say, it was one of the best investments I’ve ever made in terms of Christmas decorations. When I saw it in the store I burst out laughing so hard that I attracted attention from one of the sales people and had to explain myself. (The poor man must have thought I was mad.)

Can you spot why?

Snowglobe 2

How about now?

SnomThe globe, filed with styrofoam snow, and painted with a snowman, is also painted repeatedly with the word “snom!” Not once, anywhere on the ornament does the word “snow” appear.

It was on clearance for about $2, and there was no way I was leaving without it. I had already gotten my money’s worth by showing it to the cashiers and looking at their stunned faces as they tried to figure out why I would buy a defective ornament. Since then I have been paid back a dozen times over in showing it to people who fail to notice why it’s funny (it’s amazing how the brain automatically fixes things without you realizing), and smiling every time I look at it. It reminds me, in the midst of all the bustle, to take some time to smile and laugh.

As the holidays draw closer, I hope you find some time away from the running around to enjoy the fun of the season.


My Christmas Tree: Part 1

One of the best parts of the holiday season for me is decorating the tree. In my house, many important, or just memorable, moments are commemorated decorations. On the family tree at my parents’ house are baby’s first christmas decorations for my brother and myself, a few decorations we made as children, a hand-painted globe from my college, and any number of decorations bought at favorite vacation spots. (There is something inherently amusing about a christmas tree ball covered in coral and tropical fish.)

A lot of the really meaningful decorations from my childhood stayed at my parents’ house, but there are plenty of memories to be hung on my tree as well.

The Obligatory Monkey

I worked with monkeys for nearly a decade. As a result, I got many many monkey themed gifts. This particular one is from my grandmother, which makes it that much more special. (She takes great pleasure in picking out things that she thinks I’ll find cute.) This reminds me of both family and work, and years spent in other countries away from my family. I am grateful for the support my family gave me during my schooling.

Sports Team Love

Sports Team Love

This one was gift from mom. My grandfather indoctrinated me to being a Yankee fan at a young age. I would sit on his lap and together we would watch the Yankees losing (it was the 80s, and they were not doing well) while he told me that they were the best team ever. Later, my mom even taught her birds to cheer for the Yankees. (They will chant “Let’s go, Yankees!” and then make a clapping noise or bang their beaks on something to make the noise).

I’ll never be a stats-quoting fanatic, but I do enjoy watching the games, especially with family.

Frosty the S'More-Man

Frosty the S’More-man

Another gift from Mom, this one with a specific story behind it. Shortly after graduating from college, I was set to move to Costa Rica for a year. Mom and I went to Philadelphia so I could get a passport and some supplies for my travels. In the evening we decided to stop for a snack and wandered into a Cosi. Neither of us had ever been to one before, and we were delighted to find s’mores on the menu. We had an inordinate amount of fun toasting marshmallows over the sterno they brought to the table. When she found this ornament a little over a year later, she bought two, one for me and one for herself. Since then, Frosty the S’More-man has been on my tree every year.

More ornaments next week! May you be reminded of many pleasant memories this holiday season, whatever holiday you celebrate.


If you spend enough time on Facebook, you’ve probably seen people this month participating in the 30 Days of Thanks. Every day in Novemeber, participants post something they’re thankful for. It’s a lovely idea, although I freely admit some of the statuses have made me laugh and roll my eyes. I saw one post where a woman stated she was thankful for hair and that she did not have to worry about male pattern baldness. (Admit it, you find that particular bit of thanksgiving a bit funny too, don’t you?)
I did not participate in the 30 Days of Thanks, and I won’t bore you with a list of 30 things. But I do want to take today to mention four things I am thankful for (hardly a comprehensive list). I hope everybody has a few moments in the insanity of cooking, family gatherings, and football to think of a few things in your life that you’re grateful for.

1) My family.

It’s a standard answer that you hear a lot, but that doesn’t make it less true. I like to say that my family is abnormally normal. I didn’t realize this until I went to college, but every year I take the time to appreciate how close my family is. For example, I have never seen my parents fight. Disagree, yes, but never have they had an angry confrontation where I could see it. So I am thankful for their example, and that they taught me that disagreements can be handled in a calm, rational manner without the need to resort to shouting or insults. They also taught me that there are men who willingly do dishes and laundry. Go, Dad!

2) The internet.

No, I’m not saying that just to be funny, I really am thankful for the internet. I remember being taught to use a card catalogue in the library in elementary school. I remember using it once or twice in middle school. And I remember how much easier it was to do research when the card catalogue was moved online. As somebody who aspires to at least passible accuracy in her writing, I cannot understate how wonderful it is to have access to so much information with a few keystrokes.

And it’s not just research. I have made some great friends online. Email, chatrooms, skype, google hangouts, facebook and all the other ways the internet has come up with to help people meet or to stay connected with old friends, I am thankful for them all!

3) It’s the 21st century

There are so many facets to this particular bit of thanks, but I’ll only touch on a few. Mobility is one. I live over 800 miles from the rest of my family, yet I can get there in a few hours. Medicine is another. Enough research into Regency medicine will make anybody grateful for the scientific approach to medicine we have these days.

The biggest part of this bit of thankfulness, however, is due to the amazing societal advancements in gender equality. (Don’t ask me how it came about, cause I don’t remember, but sexism has been a hot-button topic for me since I was about 6 and is still a pet peeve of mine.) I was encouraged to further my education, and nobody batted an eye when I chose a career in science. Women can own property, and I am thankful to own my condo. I am thankful to live in a time where, if a man beats his wife, he has committed a crime not exercised a completely acceptable form of discipline over his ‘property’. I am thankful to live in a time where my value as a human being is determined by more than my ability to cook, clean, and bear children (I’m passible at the first, hate doing the second, and have yet to meet a man that has tempted me to attempt the third). I have the final word on what happens to my body, and I am thankful for that as well.

There is still plenty of room for further progress. Subtle biases in perceptions of men and women result in men being judged more competent than women on the basis of identical applications. (Here is a rundown of that article in less technical terms for a quicker read.) When women do get hired, they often get paid less for the same work. And there are a few difficulties in the other direction as well. For example paternity leave is not as accepted in the workplace as is maternity leave. But there is no denying that much progress has been made. I hope the trend continues.

4) Jane Austen and Jane Austen Fanfiction.

Did you think I was going to forget? Not likely. Jane Austen’s novels have been a comfort and a source of inspiration since I first read Pride and Prejudice eight years ago. I have gotten countless hours of entertainment out of her stories and the many what-if scenarios created my other authors. And that’s to say nothing of the community surrounding her works. What started out as a diversion from graduate school has grown into a full-blown obsession, complete with mutually-obsessed friends. (Hi gals! You know who you are!) Rarely does a day go by without spending some time with Jane or fellow Janites, and I wouldn’t have it any other way.