We Are Very Happy, Thank You.

My mom loved a good family photo. If one popped up on social media or via text, you bet your ass you were getting a coffee mug, mousepad, blanket, phone case, wall plaque, coasters, and a set of pint glasses with that picture on it for the next 7 Christmases.

Occasionally she would go old school and print it out and frame it. Like this one I came across when I was home for the holidays.

Making memories. What a great family.

Hmm, I thought. I don’t remember us going to downtown Seattle to see Christmas lights. The only time we did that it was not such a good time. Clearly these people were having fun! They were making memories! Starting traditions! You could practically smell the peppermint infused cocoa on their breath. Wait, that’s definitely Bailey’s wafting off the mom.

But that was definitely us. And that was the downtown Macy’s Christmas star so the time of year and place could be identified. And then it hit me. It was a shitty night! And to round out the shittiness of the evening, Bart and I forced the child to take one goddamn selfie in front of that goddamn Christmas star and goddamn it if I wasn’t going to post that shit on social media for the whole goddamn world to see. Look at that happy, festive family making some goddamn Christmas memories! LOOK AT US.

The picture lied. The reality of that day went something like this:

Bart and I thought it would be fun to take the child downtown to look at lights, have dinner, eat junk food, ride the carousel, visit the Teddy Bear Suite at the Fairmont Park Hotel, see the gingerbread creations at the Sheraton, crowd into Pacific Place mall at 6PM sharp to be covered in fake sudsy, snow while the tinny sounds of carols played through a subpar sound system with stranger’s elbows jammed into your kidneys as we all raised our smart phones to take festive selfies TO CAPTURE THE GODDAMN MEMORIES. If someone’s internal organ gets bruised in the process, so be it!

The child had other plans. He didn’t want to go. He wanted to watch YouTube. It was cold outside. Why couldn’t he look at lights on YouTube? He doesn’t like teddy bears. Maybe another time? Like tomorrow? He’s tired. He’s already seen Christmas lights. And teddy bears. Can’t we just order a Zeke’s pizza and be done with it?

But Bart and I can’t read a room so we said, INTO THE CAR WITH YOU! We let him bring his stupid iPad, but only for the 7 minute drive downtown.

I was excited. They don’t call me Mama Christmas for nothing. And for the record, only 3 people have called me that. The 3 people who joined us on a trip to Leavenworth, WA four years ago. Mama Christmas couldn’t wait for her child to BE AMAZED as the whole town of Leavenworth lit up at night! Leavenworth is the inside of a snow globe. It’s a Hallmark holiday movie come to life. It was even snowing, for christ sake! But alas, the child was not impressed. In fact, he cried. He begged to go home. Mama Christmas was devastated and cranky. How could the offspring of Mama Christmas not love Christmas? Two days later the child was diagnosed with Hand-food-and-mouth disease. Oops. Mama Christmas CANNOT READ A ROOM.

So maybe this downtown excursion was a do-over? What kid doesn’t want to experience all the commercialized magic Christmas has to offer? Well, my kid. It just wasn’t his night. He thought the teddy bears were creepy, gingerbread was gross, cocoa was too hot and peppermint too minty. Seen one giant 160 foot Christmas stars and you’ve seen them all. No one was having fun that night. I think we even skipped dinner. But we did get that one photo and my mom and 87 of my Facebook friends who didn’t know the backstory freakin’ loved it.

Every photo on social media tells a story. Some are fictional stories and some are very creative nonfiction. WE KNOW THIS! And yet, I always fall prey to these perfectly curated snippets this time of year. I love the holidays! It’s really important that my kid has great memories like I did as a child. Scrolling through feeds, looking at the holiday gatherings of friends (and the 549 interior designers and architects I follow on Instagram), I find myself thinking, Damn, look at them getting a head start on that whole making memories thing. We should bake more or entertain more or AirBnB the entirety of the Faroe Islands for all our friends and family to spend the month of December.

Don’t get me wrong. We do our thing. We have our traditions. We are having fun. But social media always makes your things feel subpar. No one is posting the videos of the screaming match they got into with their partner over how many inches to cut from the Christmas tree trunk. No one feels sentimental about detangling 193 strands of non-LED Christmas lights. No one talks about how they didn’t have baking soda or vanilla but were determined to bake cookies anyway that no one ate because apparently a teaspoon of vanilla is more important to a cookie than calcium is to a bone so all 93 were slammed into the trash and everyone went to bed in tears. But that picture of all you in your matching aprons with dollops of flour on the tips of your nose? Priceless! GET AFTER THOSE MEMORIES, GIRL!

Oh, there’s definitely a story there. Just maybe not the one you are lead to believe. But that’s okay. Post that shit because you might even trick yourself with like I almost did. And one day, 40 years from now, the child might come across this picture and think, Wow, what great parents I have, taking young, grateful me downtown to see the Christmas lights and bedbug ridden teddy bears. I must have loved that!

That’s how the whole making memories thing works.

Twas the night before Christmas and all through the house, many creatures were stirring, especially this louse.

How to Name a Hallmark Channel Holiday Movie

Now that you know how to write a Hallmark Channel Holiday movie, you will need a snappy title.

The title is VERY important as many people who tune into the Hallmark Channel during the holidays are very likely to judge your movie based on this. Oh, we’ll still watch your movie. Just with a preconceived opinion, which will either be validated in the first three minutes or pushed aside in favor of an even better opinion.

Even though your Hallmark Channel Holiday movie is already a hit, a title is still important. Picture the ad in Us Weekly with the two romantic stars of your movie framed out in the silhouette of a heart or Christmas ornament, eyes gazing upwards as puffs of fake snow fall on the shoulders of their emerald green peacoats as they dot fresh baked gingerbread cookies with plump, sugary gumdrops. 

Next decide which shade of red and green you want your romantic leads to wear. Turtlenecks, cowl necks, scarves, aforementioned peacoats, and mock turtlenecks are strongly encouraged. 

Now picture your title underneath that very special image. Scrawling it in icing or Christmas lights and bracketed with sprigs of holly is a nice touch, but not necessary.

Christmas may never be as perfect as the curls in my hair, but dammit! I look good in red!
Christmas may never be as perfect as the curls in my hair, but dammit! I look good in red!

Feeling pressure? Don’t! My foolproof system will have you knocking out heartwarming titles faster than a coked up elf stuffs sugar plums. Simply select one word from each column below and sprinkle in a few ornamental prepositions as needed like cranberries in the punch bowl and wa-lah! 4.7 million viewers!

Will it be A Family Holiday? Or Merry Marry Mix-Up? Does it matter? They’re both instant classics!

Column A:

A
The
Our
Best
One
Snow
Snowy
Very
Merry
All
My
Once

Column B:

Jingle
Mistletoe
Family
Hitched
Very
Boyfriend
Husband
Marry
Starry
Season
Snow
Snowy
Cookie
Royal
Winter
Christmas
Ornament
Upon
Perfect

Column C:

Wonderland
Miracle
Promise
Holly
Holiday(s)
Christmas
Claus
Wraps
Time
Pact
Wish
Star
Love
Happiness
North Pole
Mix-Up
Mommy
Daddy
Spirit
Reunion

A Jingle Wonderland? Snowy Mistletoe Happiness? See? They practically write themselves!

The only thing "cookie cutter" here is my curls! All the Hallmark leading ladies have them!
The only thing “cookie cutter” here is my curls! When you blow your budget on fake Christmas cookies, there’s only room for one hair stylist on the payroll. 

How to Write a Hallmark Channel Christmas Movie

I adore Hallmark Channel Christmas movies. I adore Christmas. In fact, if I were an actor, all I would do is Hallmark Channel Christmas movies. (Is it too late for me?)

Therefore, I feel like kind of an expert on these movies so if you ever fancied yourself a screenwriter wanting to cut your teeth on fake snow and Candace Cameron Bure vehicles, then you should follow my advice on how to write a Hallmark Channel Christmas movie. I’ll be watching!

With this wreath, I thee wed. Also with these green and red holiday sweaters.

Take 1 from each column:

You are:

  • A single, lonely, but optimistic woman
  • A bitter, hardnosed, overworked professional desperate for a promotion
  • An naive, sweet do-gooder who knows deep inside she’s engaged to the wrong man, but doesn’t want to hurt his feelings by dumping him
  • An agent of Mr./Mrs. Claus
  • Apathetic or downright hostile towards the holidays due to a circumstance you only feel comfortable talking about to strangers when the moon is full and snow is falling
  • A young widower with chiseled good looks, doing the best he can to raise the three kids he rescued from a J. Crew catalog
  • Royalty

 Who is:

  • Wishing you didn’t have to spend the holidays alone
  • Sick of the holidays and everyone around you
  • Trying to take over a town/favorite landmark/small business
  • Trying to save a hometown/favorite landmark/small business
  • Trying to maintain a brave face in front of the kids even though you find the holidays insufferable
  • Trying to help a single, lonely, but affable woman/a hardnosed, overworked woman/naïve, sweet do-gooder engaged to the wrong guy/a widow or widower/undercover royalty/small town find the true meaning of Christmas
  • Misdirecting your grief over losing one or both of your parents/guardians when you were a child and acting out against everyone and everything. Even though it happens at this time every year, your misery always takes you by surprise
  • Yearning for a different life

 So you:

  • Throw yourself into your work hoping the long nights at the office will give you the same comfort a pair of loving arms would provide. Or so you imagine.
  • Dedicate yourself to helping others less fortunate
  • Escape to your rustic-inspired-luxury equipped, snow-covered cabin in the middle of nowhere to eat minestrone soup in front of a fire while your Excel spreadsheets keep you company
  • Run over everyone who gets in the way of achieving your life goal, or at least this month’s sales quota
  • Fight the urge to dump your betrothed in favor of the cute, single man you met while he was browsing the cute shop you own looking for a gift for his cute niece whom he simply adores.
  • Bake
  • Befriend a determined, hopeful, freckled child of a single mom who adores Christmas almost as much as you do
  • Pick a major American city, pack your Louis Vuitton suitcase and man servant, and go undercover

When suddenly you:

  • Literally stumble into a handsome, single, man wearing a cashmere, ¾ length topcoat with a full head of hair snowflakes take a remarkably long time to melt in
  • Find yourself having inappropriate feelings for the man who is trying to takeover your town/favorite landmark/small business
  • Come across a holiday stigmata that propels a tiny bubble of hope to rise to the surface of your cold, dank corn husk of a heart, despite your best efforts to thwart it
  • Feel yourself falling for your impeccably-coiffed children’s teacher, but suppress your feelings realizing how selfish you’re being
  • Are forced to identify your true self by pulling off several miracles so the dubious townspeople will listen to your wisdom
  • Win a huge payout from national a cookie baking competition your best friend secretly entered you in
  • Fall for a waitress

 Which results in:

  • Falling unexpectedly in love
  • Falling unexpectedly in love and saving your town/favorite landmark/small business
  • Falling unexpectedly in love and recapturing the Christmas spirit that vanished after your parents/guardian were tragically taken away when you were a child
  • Falling unexpectedly in love and throwing a huge holiday party to apologize for the whole town you insulted/tried to buy before realizing the error of your ways
  • Falling unexpectedly in love with a person who sincerely loved you even before they realized you were a prince/princess
  • Falling unexpectedly in love and using your massive windfall to give orphaned children the Christmas of their dreams
  • Helping a single, lonely, but affable woman/a hardnosed, overworked woman/naïve, sweet do-gooder engaged to the wrong guy/a widow or widower/undercover royalty fall unexpectedly in love

And scene!

Nothing makes me as warm and tingly as a bevy of Hallmark Channel Christmas soon-to-be classic movies. Except maybe a hot toddy sipped in front of an unyielding log burning in an abandoned hunting lodge fireplace while puffs of snow as pillowy as homemade ravioli begin to melt from the Land’s End sheathed shoulders of a man who looks like a commoner but is probably the heir to a shopping mall fortune, who rescued my Yorkie and I after we fell through the ice of the pond I had my first in front of. See that? You will if you tune in to the Hallmark Channel right now.