The Holiday Family Shuffle

I was reading Assertagirl’s blog entry this morning and I’m afraid I went a little berserk in her comments. (Sorry about that!)

It wasn’t a bad berserk, but more of a crazy/frustrated/I-needed-to-get-it-off-my-chest sort of berserk.

The subject? The holiday family shuffle.


You know what I’m talking about, right? The whole we will be at your house at such-and-such time, but only until 2:00 p.m. when we’ll have to inevitably leave in the middle of some fun game/conversation, feel terribly guilty about it and probably hurt some family member’s feelings over it, so we can race across town and show up late to another family function and stay until the last possible moment to make up for coming late and then getting home to collapse into bed because we’re too tired to unwind, relax and enjoy what little time we have left of the holiday to spend with just our immediate family … dilemma.

*takes a deep breath*

I despise holidays where I’m forced to watch the clock the entire day. It’s not fun for anyone. Let me repeat that, it’s not fun for me. And when the boys were little? It was torture on them because they were so tired but were forced to be polite and good and I would get questions like, “why is MK acting so strange? Is he sick?”


We did the family shuffle every year, for many years. I did it mainly to appease my mother-in-law. We would spend all day Thanksgiving day with my husband’s family and then at Christmas time, we would have brunch over at my parents’ house (because mom was nice enough to move our “dinner” up to brunch so we could participate) because we had to be back at my in-laws’ house in time for lunch.

Do you see the big, fat problem with this scenario? My family was getting the short end of the stick. We never (and haven’t in I don’t know how many years) spent Thanksgiving day with them and then on Christmas day, we went over to their house at 10:00 a.m. to be at their house, eat a hurried brunch, hurry through presents and talk really fast to catch up before we had to leave around 1ish to make it over to my in-law’s house where we ended up spending the rest of the afternoon.

I had finally had enough. I yelled FOUL BALL and revised the rules.

I could no longer stand the fact that we were being terribly unfair to my family. My mother never once (and would never) said a word about the arrangement. She never complained or even made an indirect snide comment about it. Ever. My mom is the sweetest person you’ll ever meet in the entire world and hates to put any stress on you.

But I could see it bothered her. And it really bothered me that it bothered her. But not just that it bothered her but that it was unfair to them and I pride myself on being a pretty fair person.

So … we (because the husband is in agreement with me on this) put our foot down.

New rules have been established: spend all day with his family on Thanksgiving, spend all day with my family on Christmas day.

Needless to say, this is not going over well for my mother-in-law. She’s getting more used to the arrangement now, but it’s been a tough road.

I’m not so hard-nosed that I haven’t tried to come up with an alternate plan. I’ve told her, and I still tell her, that we’ll be more than happy to get together with them/the whole family on any other day BUT Christmas day. Christmas day is reserved for my family. I have brothers-in-law who made plans with their families months ahead of time – they all agree on one day to have their family party and they all show up and have their party. Easy, efficient. I don’t know why we can’t do that as well.

But whatever. People have their parties and if we can show up, great. If we can’t, great. I don’t expect anyone to rearrange their schedules for us. I wouldn’t ask them too – I think that’s rude and presumptuous.

*sigh* It’s hard (and sometimes impossible) to satisfy both families, you know? (Not that anyone is complaining now – we’ve all sort of settled into a pattern – but I can see it still bothers certain *cough*MIL*cough* people).

Anyway, I think the awkwardness has been ironed out and I feel better about the holidays – more so now than I ever have. And yes mom, I KNOW I was always the one to get stressed out, not you. What can I say, I’m a stress machine. 😀

The moral of the story? Be fair, but be firm with family. Sometimes, you have to be.

What do you do? How do you divide your family time on the holidays?


Racing Heart – Last Excerpt

Racing Heart

This is the last excerpt from my 2008 National Novel Writing Month project, Racing Heart. I have comments turned off, not because I don’t want your feedback, but because I can’t afford to think too much about what I’m doing at this point – I hope you understand. 🙂

This is it, the last week of the challenge. I’m in pretty good shape and barring any unforeseen tragedy (knock on wood), I should be crossing, validating and posting winning badges in the next several days.

It’s weird, but I don’t feel as drained as I have in year’s past. In fact, my creative energy is just as high as it was beginning the challenge. I can’t quite put my finger on it, but there’s been a subtle shift in me – I feel more like a writer and I’m feeling a bit more confidence.

Thank you so much for sticking it out with me this month. Watch the word count widget in my sidebar, it should be reaching that 50,000 mark very soon.

(last part of) Chapter One
You can read the prologue and the first and second part of chapter one.


“Alex, let me explain,” Julie began. She stopped as she noticed that Bridget was still sitting on the bed. In fact, she was settling in deeper and looked like she had no intention of leaving any time soon. Julie ignored her. “I just took my eyes off the track for a second …”

“That’s all it takes, Julie,” Alex said softly.

Tears began pooling in Julie’s eyes and she moved closer to the bed. “I can’t even begin to tell you how sorry I am, Alex. You know me, you know I would never do something like this on purpose. I always watch you like a hawk …”

“Until Kent shows up,” Bridget cut in.

Julie blinked. She could feel her cheeks flush with embarrassment. “What are you talking about?”

Bridget sighed and leaned back against Alex’s shoulder, her long, lithe body was half off, half on the narrow hospital bed. “You really want to go there, Julie?”

“I … I don’t know what she’s talking about, Alex.”

Alex’s eyes volleyed between the women. After studying Julie’s face for long moments, he turned to Bridget. “I’d like to know what you mean, Bridget,” he held up a hand as she began to speak, interrupting her, “but this is my baby sister we’re talking about here and I won’t put up with your bitchy attitude or silly gossip. If you have something to say to me, then say it, otherwise, this conversation isn’t about you.”

Bridget blinked in surprise at his sour tone but then shrugged. “It hurts to think you believe I’m capable of something so petty at a time like this, Alex. But I’m telling you the truth. Every time Kent walks by, Julie gets flustered and can barely speak.”

Julie threw up a hand in disgust. “How would you know that? This is the first time we’ve even met, I don’t know you …”

“I’ve watched you, Julie,” Bridget said quietly. “From my father’s box.”

“Your father’s box?” Julie looked at Alex for help.

“Her father is Gary Ritter, Jules. You know, Ritter Racing.”

“Of course,” Julie said dryly and snagged a tissue from a nearby box. She couldn’t bare this. She knew she had to explain what happened, but she also knew that after he found out, he would never forgive her or want to see her again. She had learned to endure her parents’ rejection after so many years, she wasn’t sure she could handle it if Alex rejected her, too.

“The day of the race,” Bridget began quietly, “you were one of Alex’s spotters. And you were doing a great job, I might add. So good in fact, that you were in the lead,” she said while threading her fingers through Alex’s. “You would have won that race and broke Ort’s ten win streak if you hadn’t crashed.”

“I know that, baby,” Alex said, his expression pained.

“Anyway,” Bridget said and cleared her throat before continuing. “Things were going great for you, not so great for Kent. He had crashed on lap 123. Do you remember that, Alex?”

Alex’s brow furrowed in concentration, but he shook his head. “Sort of. I heard that he had crashed, but I was too focused on the race to worry to think about it too much. Were they not able to fix his car?”

“No,” Bridget continued. “Bobby had bumped him and he went into the wall. His car was trashed.”

Alex nodded.

“So, Kent was out. He was walking back to his trailer when he passed Julie.” Both Alex and Bridget looked at Julie.

Julie swallowed hard and picked up the conversation before Bridget could continue. “He … he talked to me, Alex. He’s never done that before. I became distracted. I lost focus … I …I …” she bit her lip and tried to quell a cry. “I took my eyes off of you for a second,” she blurt out. “It’s all my fault that you’re paralyzed! I’m so sorry. Please forgive me! I don’t know how I can ever make this up to you. My God, you must hate me!” She buried her face in her hands and began crying so hard she couldn’t catch her breath. She began to hiccup in an attempt to get herself under control.

“Wait,” Bridget sat bolt upright and looked at Alex. “You’re paralyzed?”

Alex silently nodded and Bridget gasped. “Oh my God! When did … when I was here last night, I never heard, nothing was said … oh my God Alex. Is it permanent? How bad is it?”

Alex heaved a heavy sigh and turned his head away from the women. “Bad. As in I’ll likely never walk again, bad.”

Julie looked up and blinked away the tears. She hurried to Alex’s other side and kneeled down so that she could look him squarely in the eyes. “I don’t know what to say, Alex. I love you. I would never hurt you, ever. I worship you. You’ve been the only reason I’ve stuck around all these years. You’re the only family I’ve got.”

“Don’t be stupid, Julie. You have mom and dad.”

Julie vehemently shook her head. “No Alex. You know mom and dad only tolerate me. They don’t really love me.”

Alex’s eyes finally shifted away from the window and focused on her. “I can’t believe you’re still thinking of yourself and I’m stuck in this bed and …” he paused and took a steadying breath. “I will never walk again!” he yelled. Julie cringed and shrunk away. Alex had never raised his voice to her, ever. “I … can’t process this right now. I don’t know what happened. I don’t who’s to blame. I … you need to leave, Julie. I can’t … talk to you right now.”

Bridget sniffled quietly on the other side of the bed. Julie’s gaze remained fixed on her brother. “Alex. Please, tell me what I can do to make this up to you. How can I make this right? This is killing me. I don’t know what to say. If I could have taken this blow for you, I would have.”

“Get out,” Bridget said softly and blew her nose.

“This doesn’t concern you, Bridget,” Julie snarled, redirecting all of her fear, worry and apprehension onto the blonde woman.

“It damn well does concern me!” Bridget shouted. “We were going to get married, you stupid girl!”

Alex gave Bridget a sharp look. “Were?”

“Get out!” Bridget screamed. “Get out and don’t you dare show your face back here again, do you hear me?”

“Bridget,” Alex began.

“Alex?” Julie questioned, looking at him with pleading eyes. “Alex please, don’t shut me out. Let me help you.”

“Get out, Julie,” Alex said, his voice deadly calm and barely above a whisper.

Julie yelped back a cry and quickly gathered her things. “I’ll call you later …”

“No. I don’t want to talk to you, Julie. Give me some time,” said Alex.

“If you try to see him,” Bridget snarled, her nose red, her mascara smeared, “I will call security on you. If you try and call him, I’ll report a harassment suit against you. Do you understand, Julie? We do not want to see you, ever again!”

Julie looked helplessly at Alex and waited for him to say something.

He remained stoic and unresponsive. His head was turned once more and he was staring out of the window.

With a cry of anguish, Julie stumbled out of the hospital room.