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Welcome Aboard!

--"Izzy, how did you start dancing?"

--"What got you into martial arts?"

--"What kind of dancer/martial artist/writer are you?

--"How do you deal with brain damage, bodily injury and 

     C-PTSD, yet still dance, write, train, live the way you do?"

--"How do you still find joy and beauty amidst pain and loss?"

--"Wow, you should write your memoirs!" 


    This Is My Story


NSFW, 18+

  • Writer's pictureBella Dancer


I've had my Christmas pants on for multiple days in a row now.

Covid Hair don't care.

At least I changed my underwear. 😜

Last night was Christmas Eve, and I was #HomeAlone. Like Act III Kevin McAllister, this was not a thing to celebrate. So what did I do?


I heard from a little birdie during my weekly food foraging trip with The Fahhthahh that Mommy was craving the family Greek cookies this year. She had fleeting plans to bake some, which had nearly fizzled by the time the birdie chirped.

So that's what I did last night. In order for my mom to have a treat, and for my dad to enjoy her smile (plus reap powdered-sugar-coated benefits from the chirping), I baked the futzy, prissy, fragile things.

I had help.

These are the newest additions to the family. Their names are Sugar & Curry. (You know, as in...Spicy? Ba-dum-chick. Plus, he matches my curry powder. C'mon. Work with me here.)

In our household, teddy bears are a THING. It's an entire language that I'm not actually going to share with you because you have to be part of our immediate, three-person family to be privy to such sensitive intel. I could tell you, but then Sweetie would have to kill you, and you do NOT want to mess with her. Suffice to say: BEARS = LOVE.

Andy & Sweetie in holiday attire.

Proof that Sweetums could kill you in your sleep.

(If she wasn't so sweet.)

(Or is that just what she wants you believe...?)

As you can see, I'm missing my family. Hence why the new bears migrated upstairs last night from the bathroom closet where they had vigilantly guarded the Christmas decorations all year. For the past three holiday seasons before this one, the Parentals and I looked forward to my martial arts gym's annual toy drive. We always shopped together for a pair of teddy bears to donate...because. That's what we do.

Well, lo and behold, nobody told me last year that they switched from toy drive to the huge food drive. So I spent an entire afternoon divvying and cataloguing a gazillion holiday feast foodstuffs, which was awesome. But then I had these lonely bears. "That's okay," I said to myself. "If the gym doesn't do a toy drive next year, I'll find one on my own so that a couple equally lonely kids will have someone to cuddle up to at night."

And then 2020 happened, making people leery about receiving items that have been in people's houses.

Something interesting also happened: when I brought the bears upstairs last night because I was in need of some Christmas Bearing while watching mushy holiday movies, one of the tags fell off.

That settled it. I became Pumpkin from Netflix's Klaus: MINE?!

And so they were.

Are. Mine.

Looks like some lonely kid got cuddle-bears, after all.

So it was only right and proper that Sugar & Curry had to help me bake last night. They are, after all, Christmas bears. We all agree, the Greek cookie batter is the best, because it has no raw eggs in it. Om-nom-nom-nommmm...

From my/grandma's/mom's kitchen to yours:

As I said, these are super futzy, fragile cookies and you have to get the moisture just right. Dry enough to roll, but wet enough to not break when you go to move them. This was my first time trying to make these in Arkansas. I know it doesn't say, but since my cookie sheet has long since lost its no-stick coating, I sprayed a little butter flavor crisco onto it. Good call.

I'm still working out the bugs, so only half of them broke when I went to lay them in the powdered sugar. Those are also MINE. (G'head. Snark all your crackpot comments.) Annnnywaaaay...the Parentals have the tub of nice cookies, and I have all the shrapnel.

Wut? They taste the same.

The other major holiday thing I did yesterday was hunt down a new movie. Although the Parentals sent over the travel case filled with all the Christmas movies we watch together over the course of the 3-4 days I traditionally stay at their house, I haven't been able to watch them by myself yet. Apparently mom and dad got through Home Alone 1 & 2 without me, and that was about it.

Ain't NONE of us watching Prancer while we're stuck apart!!!

Yeahhhh...that'd be my practical, hard-working father and his doe-eyed, prancing, angel-winged dancer. That movie rips our little hearts out every year. But we do it. And we love it. With copious Kleenex for me and mom.

Now that I have teddy bears and I got to do a short, distanced, masked-maurader brunch with my parents, I might be able to get through it while HomeAlone. But I'll probably need more tissues than usual.

Yesterday's new choice was bad enough. Netflix's Klaus came highly recommended so I tossed it on during lunch. I popped the recliner into Recline Mode, kicked back in my Christmas pants and lovey-dovey socks with some tomato soup and grilled cheese (one of my mom's and my cold-weather-comfort lunches), and then I read the description of the movie.



Why would you dooooo this to meeeee?!?! I texted the friend who had suggested it: "This thing is totally gonna make me bawl, isn't it?" He shrugged. Said prolly not.

Are you kidding me?! Do you not know the Sentimental Slob by now?! And I was Hoooome....Aloooooooooone on Christmas Eve. I don't even have any fuzzies anymore, except the ones I snagged from a toy drive!!! And you oh-so casually suggest this movie?!

1. Confident & Cuddly 🎄 2. Will. Not. Bawl. 🎄3. Actual live footage of me.

Thanks a lot, Chuckles.

No, seriously. Thanks. I needed a new awesome holiday inspiration for a year without our traditions. Because this was the extent of my Christmas decorating this year. (It should be noted that the faerie lights are not holiday decor. They are year-round. I'm referring solely to the quilted runner my mom made for under my little table-tree. This year it's going under my computer because I didn't have it in me to put up the tree. Or anything else. Mommy and I and sometimes with Daddy usually do this together.)

Which brings me to the super-duper awesome stuff...

Did you know that I just celebrated a birthday? This means that when my parents brought me home from the hospital, the Christmas decorations were up. My mom's words about the subject: "You were under the tree when we brought you home, our most precious gift ever and you still are."


Dang it.

See those pics above. 🥰😭🥰😭🥰😭🥰 Rinse-repeat. Do you see what my parents have done to me?! Do you?!

These are the people who tried for five years to have me. When they had almost given up hope, my mom even did a Catholic Novena to have me. It's a special series of prayers, and word has it, if you smell roses while doing it, you'll receive what you prayed for. Well, my mom smelled the roses and nine months later...

This happened.


(Sorry, world.)

You know, I never stopped wanting to sleep under the tree. I would do that every Christmas Eve night after we had our special dinner and opened presents, just the three of us. The next day, we would pack it all into Duluth for the big family feast, first at Grandma & Grandpa's house, later at my dad's sister's house. But Christmas Eve was just for us.

How I knew our Christmas had started:

I wish I had photos of all the most memorable gifts I ever received as a kid to share with y'all. Those were all shot on slides that we used to haul upstairs and look at while snowed in. And I mean snowed IN. the front door to a wall of white because the snow was up to the roof. No work, no school, even no playing outside, so we made popcorn, pulled down the painting that hung over the piano, and watched our earlier lives unfold on the wall, click after humming click.

Eventually, dad transferred the slides to a DVD slideshow, complete with awesome old school music from the Oldies radio station playing in the background. Those DVDs now live amongst the transferred silent home movies my grandpa shot, also with fitting music of the day.

My dad can say he's Mr. Practical all he wants. He is. DVDs take up much less storage space than film canisters. But finding just the right mood music, and organizing all the fishing, event, and holiday clips into a Trip Down Memory Lane?

He's as big a softie as my mom and I are.

As I mentioned in an earlier post, we didn't have a lot of money, especially in my youngest years. My parents had $5 left at the end of the month once bills were paid, so a lot of my clothing was homemade, including the winter coat my mom sewed from my dad's old Air Force jacket.

This means I received homemade toys, too. Since The Wizard of Oz was my longtime favorite during my youngest years, my mom crocheted finger puppets of the cast. She also made a bunch of my doll clothes. The ones that stick out in my mind the most are the matching outfits my Mandy doll wore--made from my clothing scraps, and the emerald green party dresses that mom crocheted and beaded for my Barbies. Kids made fun of those clothes because they weren't the "fancy" store bought kind. Same with what I wore myself.

But now I cherish that gift of time, energy, and love as one of the top memories from my whole life. Not the items themselves (although they were awesome because my mom is extremely talented and skilled). I mean everything that went into them.

My dad is the same way. During the fall when I was in first grade, I came downstairs to play one day. There I found Dad's old paint-cloth sheets draped alongside the length of the stairs, from top to bottom, blocking the view of his workshop. There was a sign pinned to the break between sheets: "DO NOT ENTER!"


Now, I was never one of those kids to enjoyed breaking rules. The consequences were not worth the thrill, and most of the stuff that broke rules were not things I wanted to do anyway. I didn't enjoy stealing--Mom had drilled that one into me before kindergarten when she made me go back into the grocery store and return the candy I had swiped, along with owning up to what I had done, once she explained why we don't swipe and chomp without paying. I also hated vandalism. I'd had enough of my stuff vandalized that I did not want to do it to someone else.

I didn't enjoy cheating, teasing, name-calling, and I absolutely loathed the consequences of lying. In our house, if you did something wrong but then lied about it, sure you got punished for what you did. Then you got punished three times as hard for the lie. Once I was older, I didn't want to go out and get drunk or high. I didn't want to race cars play pranks that someone else would have to clean up. So I especially didn't want to sneak out just to do all the stuff that I didn't want to do.

With this nature, compounded by all its nurture, I developed a sense of insatiable curiosity and mystery, not mischief. (Okay, fine, not harmful or break-the-rules-cuz-they're-rules mischief. There was plenty of the Garfield Cool Eyes and a ton of the Evil Eyebrow--that would be Spock Eyebrow's devious cousin on the other side.)

So when I saw that "Do Not Enter" sign, it wasn't an irresistible warning beacon that I would HAVE to disobey on pure, salivating, finger-drumming principle. Quite the opposite, in fact. Because when the ex-military Peter Perfect said not to enter his sacrosanct workshop, you just didn't flippin' enter, man. Not unless you enjoyed having the Hammer of Doom descend upon your day.

I had become quite averse to the Hammer, so instead of peeking, I asked mom what that was all about. She smirked with her cat-ate-the-canary look, narrowed her eyes--yes, with copious mischief--and said, "It's a surprise."


👆 Remember those birthday pics up above? 👆

Yeah, I had long ago learned that, although I didn't like surprises from most people, surprises from the Parentals were guaranteed to be special and awesome.

So I waited.

And waited.

And squirmed and chomped at the bit and hovered on the stairs and debated.

And I waited some more until finally, on Christmas morning, I bounded out of bed to see what it was.


*sniffle...gulp* Waterworks starting up again. I'm such a softie. It's that HSP thing, I'm tellin' ya.

My dad had built me a whole set of construction vehicles for the sandbox. He had used his scrap wood from the various household projects, as well as my old, plastic, multi-hued baby blocks for wheels. He painted all the vehicles bright yellow, like they were in those days, and drew in all the intricate details in black.

There was a dump truck that truly dumped, and a bulldozer that lifted and lowered. There was a caterpillar and a grader and, naturally, in Minnesota, we had to have a snowplow. Okay, it was a sand plow. But those trucks were such an act of love at a time when my parents could barely afford to get me anything.

So this is what I'm made of. Sugar, spice, and everything nice; snips of snails and puppy-dog's tails--and yes, I do full-body wag when I'm happy to this day. I'm made of my mother's creative artistry and intellectual curiosity, all her sentimental slob gushy, and her glitter-goth spirit. I'm equal parts my father's practical discipline, his extremes of formality and bawdiness, his ingenious jerry-rigging, and his passionate fire. I get my thrifty recycling, musicality, and multipotentiality from both of them, as well as their demonstrative affection.

People ask me how I get through the curveballs and sledgehammers Life has hurled at me.

This is how.

This blessing of who I was raised by is the foundation, support columns, and roof of the whole thing. Have my walls had fists punched through them? Have they been blasted in? Have my doors been kicked down, and has my roof collapsed more than once? Yes. The sucker is still leaky to this day, and you can see which walls are the originals and which had to be rebuilt. There's even a crack in that foundation, over in the northwest corner.

So I don't build anything that requires a lot of load-bearing in that room. I save that space for decorative things. Delicate things.

On Christmas of my senior year of high school, my dad gave me another gift: that old red, leather-bound budget book. I still have it, along with the three-page letter of fatherly advice he wrote to me four weeks before graduation.

Although my mom and I are the official writers of the family, when my dad takes the time to write down his thoughts, you know it's going to be important. Just like heeding that "Do Not Enter" sign brought wondrous joy on Christmas morning when I was six, heeding the words he wrote when I was eighteen has served me well.

Both gifts sustain me with the knowledge that I am loved--no, cherished--and that's what keeps me clinging to cliffsides and clawing my way out of abysses.

After my big car wreck in 2000, on the next Christmas we got to spend together, they didn't have many presents under the tree. The final one was something I usually opened first--the card. But they told me to save that for last, because it was the main gift.

To fully appreciate it, you have to come with me back to 1996 when I moved to Minneapolis. On the way down for a job interview and to see my boyfriend for the weekend, my timing chain blew. The car was my parents' old Tercel that they'd given me for college, and that thing had over 350,000 miles on it. It had carried me on multiple cross-country trips, but it finally croaked, right there in nowhere-land north of Forest Lake.

Alas, I had done the polite thing in giving my my boss a month's notice that I'd be moving so he would have extra time to find and train my replacement. Well, he decided to let me go after two weeks. Thanks.

This meant I couldn't afford a car payment on top of the move because I hadn't yet secured a job in Minneapolis, so my parents gave me a car loan themselves, to be paid as soon as my finances stabilized. It took two years and an out-of-state move for that to happen. After hacking and scraping and living by that red budget book, I carved together an actual career in a place that was much more conducive to my nature than my birthplace ever had been: Colorado.

Alas, it was not enough time for that loan to have been paid back when a drunk driver obliterated my beloved Mazda.

My parents had to save my ass yet again at the beginning of 2001 when my car insurance company didn't send me my lost wages for a month amidst the post-holiday backlog. Unfortunately, when those payments finally started coming, they lacked all of my dance income until I could prove the amount through notarized letters from every student and employer. This means I was shorted by $1000/month for six months, so my parents generously paid any living expenses I couldn't.

For Christmas 2001, they wiped both of those debts with another of my dad's loving letters.

My mom also gave me a set of origami prayer cranes she'd been making in hopes of my healing and recovery.

This year, presents have been a little different. Instead of Christmas ornaments or beautiful quilted pieces, mom has made me an ever-growing set of face masks for every season. Dad is still his ingenious self. We've set to work addressing the issue of the raccoon who likes to make a buffet of my bird feeder. We've thwarted him and gotten the bluebirds back with a tray to catch the suet before it makes a gooey mess on the deck we just overhauled. But alas, now the squirrel-proof feeder no longer works, because they can stand on the tray and make their own buffet.

So now we're onto the next dilemma. It keeps dad from getting too bored while he is prevented from doing a bunch of his normal activities, and it gives my parents a bit of time out of each other's flu-season quarantine hair. It also gives me more Daddy-Daughter time outside to match the walkies that my mom and I take.

Today, separated-but-near, we had our traditional Christmas brunch and watched our Ultimate Holiday Movie, Christmas Vacation. We also watched A Christmas Story, and then I came back HomeAlone. There was moping. There was lingering in the driveway. I cried in the car. I also bawled (again) through the entire second half of Klaus, as I introduced the Parentals to it over (damn) distanced-dinner.

At least I have bears tonight.

A taste of our Christmases throughout the most recent years

Okay, I lied. The biggest gift my parents gave me in 2001 wasn't the wiping of a few thousand dollars of debt. It's the same gift they give me every year, which is the same one they give me every second of every day.

It's the one we keep passing back and forth between each other.




--UP NEXT: MY RAWR-ING 2020 IN REVIEW - and a Shameless Request for Patronage

--OR if you'd like another look at this topic, you can come over here.

--All sorts of mushy and inspiring stuff in the Healing Section of:



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