In Which Ella Has a Lovely Christmas

Santa came with large boxes covered in geese à la The Twelve Days of Christmas.

Pippa opened it to discover a goose feather pillow-topper mattress for her bed.

Funny candies were inside of stockings.

No one has yet to eat it, and I’m not quite sure when anyone will decide to man up and eat the hard brown lumps.

And I got over twenty new books, and looked like this the entire day.

We had dinner, and I proved that I have neither a career in plating food or taking pictures of it. I swear it was MUCH better than it looks. Beef tenderloin is very hard not to like.

And then I turned on The Who and did the dishes while singing along. After all, nothing says Christmas like rock and roll and soap suds.

And as always, you can also find me on tumblr at, if, you know, you’re into that kind of thing.

Merry Christmas Eve!

Santa is currently in the basement doing something that involves a surprising amount of scotch tape and the use of my personal scissors. He also requested a cookie and a smoothie with green apples, kiwi, spinach, broccoli, garlic, ginger, barley grass, and something else that didn’t not sound like it should normally go in a blender. It’s almost as good as the year when we were assured that all Santa wanted were fancy chocolate truffles and a martini, which Pippa and I very poorly prepared (apparently lime juice should only be done in small quantities and upwards of three small olives is deemed excessive).

Pushkin is trying to drink the water out of the tree.

Zelda has fallen asleep in a chair right where Santa is supposed to deposit Pippa’s gifts and is refusing to go sleep in her bed.

Maxwell is lying in my bed and testing the limits of how many times he can kick me before I make him leave.

And Pippa has been attempting for hours in an attempt “to make the morning get here faster.” However, she is still awake and reading Christmas picture books. Hopefully, this will mean that I don’t get leapt on at 6:30 this year.

And I’m settling down for a long winter’s nap not wearing a kerchief or a cap, but instead a knitted toque (my half-hearted attempt to be festive while unconscious) and my flowered nightgown that buttons up to my chin and hangs down almost to my feet. I’ve always felt that it’s best to look old fashioned on Christmas.

Merry Christmas!

Christ has been born!

(And commercialization of the holiday reigns)

(Though to be fair no one is certain at what time of year Christ was born, and the date was probably only chosen because it coincided with the Winter Solstice.)

(Still. Jesus, everybody! Jesus was born today!)

And as always, you can also find me on tumblr at, if, you know, you’re into that kind of thing.

The Time Ella Decided to Celebrate Saint Lucia’s Day and It Went Horribly, Horribly Wrong

I have always been fascinated by other cultures. It doesn’t matter whether the difference is extreme, say fashion, religion, food, or minute, like the shape of their electrical sockets; I’m just plain enraptured by it. When we had Israeli students visit my high school three years ago, I–and this is a completely true story-asked them in total seriousness about how popular air conditioning was (as many countries are not as reliant on it as we are) in Israel and how they felt about the different socket shapes here and was met with laughter. They thought I was joking.

But my interest in electrical sockets and converters has very little to do with the story I’m about to tell you. In fact, I’m sure everyone involved wishes that I had decided to celebrate electrical sockets or something else that did not involve burning candles or boiling water. But I was ten or so and entirely foolish and had recently developed a keen interest in the ways other countries celebrated Christmas. I was particularly attracted to Scandinavia, specifically Saint Lucia’s Day. My rudimentary understanding of the feast day was that girls put wreaths on their heads with burning candles in them, wore long white dresses, and made everyone breakfast in bed.

(Click here for proper information on how the holiday is celebrated.)

So I decided that on December 13th, I too was going to celebrate it. I woke up early in the morning, dragged Pippa out of bed, and set about making breakfast. I began by trying to slice frozen bagels with a butcher’s knife, and it went downhill from there. After I had put together two trays, I poured large mugs of tea and coffee right up to the brim with water that had been boiling for quite a while, set our ADVENT wreath on top of my head (The only reason I didn’t light the candles was that I couldn’t find the long candle lighter, and Pippa thought it was a bad idea.), and proceeded to try to walk up the stairs, singing carols.

Thankfully, I had thought enough ahead not to give Pippa the tray with the hot drinks (If memory serves me right, she was holding the bagels and pastries.), but I had not thought about my own limits. I have never been particularly strong (my upper arms are as skinny as my forearms), and I began to struggle with the weight and keeping everything balanced. I recall looking down at the tray and thinking, Why is it shaking? It’s getting really hard to keep it all from sloshing… And then I proceeded to trip and spill all of the liquid onto my abdomen and the tan carpeting. Pippa freaked out and dropped her tray, and my parents came dashing out of their room to see why she was yelling.

Like with most injuries, it doesn’t occur to you that you are in pain until about a minute after the fact. I just stood there and stared at the mess and my sodden nightgown, bemoaning the fact that I had just ruined everything. But then pain set in, in the way that pain always does, and it suddenly felt like my stomach was on fire. My parents dragged me into the bathroom and put me in the shower with the cold water on. I was crying and freezing and burning up all at the same time. They pulled off my nightgown, and I had some very nice second degree burns. It wasn’t anything that required a trip to the hospital, but it still wasn’t a good situation.

At the time, I was still, thankfully, rather unfamiliar with the nature of burns, and was completely confused as to why it looked like I had a bunch of large blisters across my stomach. Figuring out how to bandage them was more fun than a barrel full of monkeys, and I spent the rest of the day peeling off those bandages to look at them. Because there is nothing more fascinating than second degree burns on your stomach. It’s an especially great conversation starter with your friends, particularly when you’re still at age where showing your injuries off is still socially acceptable.

Then, about two weeks later, I dumped a cup of hot coffee into my lap while we were on vacation. It very nearly ruined my bright orange shapeless velour pants (which were already huge fashion crime to begin with), and hurt like heck. But this time around I was a hot liquids expert. I ran to the bathroom to take off my pants so that they wouldn’t hold the heat to my body and injure me, and I did a much better job of not constantly messing with the burns.

(The burns from both ended up turning into weird dark brown scars that very slowly faded to almost complete invisibility.)

When I look back on this whole fiasco now, I’m mostly amused by my younger self and INCREDIBLY thankful that I did not actually light the advent wreath. It would have fallen directly onto Pippa when I tripped and probably set the house on fire.

So here’s to parents that do a good job of hiding lighters and matches from their kids and to foolish ten-year-olds everywhere.

December 13th is coming up, and I can assure you that I will not be attempting any form of celebration that involves boiling water and stairs. Maybe I’ll run around on flat surfaces with ice cubes instead.

In order to celebrate 11/11/11 I’m going to watch a documentary on WWI and write for at least eleven hours. I expect to be brain dead by the end of it.

For the month, you can find me updating my word count on NaNoWriMo here. (I need to do it more regularly so that it doesn’t become flat for a few days, only to receive an enormous spike, indicating that I somehow magically wrote about twelve thousand words in one day.)

And as always, you can also find me on tumblr at, if, you know, you’re into that kind of thing.

To Be a Prima Ballerina Assoluta

This is a short story that I wrote for my mother for Christmas. If you like it, love it, or think that I should never be let near a Word processor again, leave a comment!

To Be a Prima Ballerina Assoluta


You are enveloped in pink. Perfectly girly. And you stand. Awkwardly on one foot with your knuckle in your mouth. Your ponytail is askew and one of your slippers is untied, but you are there. There learning how to be weightless and graceful. You pretend to be a falling leaf when the teacher plays Vivaldi on the black stereo in the corner of the room.


Now you stand there, legs crossed this time. Your hair is perfectly pulled back. Shoulders back, butt tucked under, peacock tail feathers pointed towards the floor. Point your toes. First. Second. Third. You’re still slump shouldered and your tail feathers are fanned. The teacher calls up your mother and asks you not to come back. You cry so hard in the bathroom that you end up throwing up your lunch all down your front. Like when you were six and got food poisoning. Your mother blames the pretzel with mustard from the corner of 82nd and Park. You thank God for cold water and foundation and just nod your head.


You stride into the class. You take yoga every Thursday at seven and Pilates at five a.m. on Tuesdays. The leotard, the tights, the little skirt make you feel sexy. They cling to you the way that your stretch pants and tank tops don’t. Your boyfriend, maybe fiancée, hopefully soon, laughs at you when you leave your apartment. But you can feel him appraising you as you moved around looking for your bag. You swing your hips a little on your way out the door. You’ve filled out a bit since you were fourteen. Ten years. Your shoulders aren’t so boney; your leotard has a shelf bra; the Pilates and yoga have given you a strong back with shoulders that point forward when you think about it, and your tail feathers always point towards the floor.

First. Second. Third. You remember the feet. Sliding them is easy. The rhythm isn’t. You’re behind and then ahead again. At the bar, you’re more flexible than everyone, but you can’t lean and point on the beat. You leave the studio and walk past the door to your Pilates class. You change your registration to a Wednesday evening jazz dance. Tight black dance clothes sound nice. Maybe you’ll be able to keep up. You walk home feeling silly in your outfit. You look like you’re a teenager when you so desperately want everyone to see you as an adult. You go home and peel it all off of you and only put it on for Halloween when you dress up as a “clumsy ballerina”. Your friends laugh. You pop your knuckle in your mouth.


You’ve been searching for something to do. Your husband died ten years ago, and your house is lonely. You’ve been persistent, ignoring your niece’s pleas to move to Florida and buy one of those cookie-cutter patio homes in an old people’s community. You can still move with relative ease. Your glasses may be almost an inch thick, and you may go to bed at eight p.m., but you’re wholly alive. You won’t let anyone forget it. You thank God again, even though you don’t believe in him, for sparing you children. Less people to hover over you. You can do almost anything for yourself. You’re the strongest in your water-aerobics class. You still practice yoga. A year ago, you traveled to India with your grandnephew to visit your guru’s ashram for the tenth time.

You sign up for the class on whim of defiance towards the old picture of your sulky fourteen-year old self in ballet class, wearing a jacket with a hood pulled so far forward that it rivals the Grim Reaper’s cloak. The new leotard hugs you the way it always did, making you feel both awkward and beautiful. You glance at yourself in the mirror. You’re still thin, but your body seems to want to succumb to gravity and let the skin sag all the way to the parquet. But that new leotard holds your torso up, like physics-defying inertia.

You slowly walk into the studio, the same one you’ve been visiting for years. The receptionist is new. She tells you that she wishes that she could look like you when she’s 70. You proudly whisper that you’re 79, and that “it’s the Pilates and yoga”. You feel like the clichés that you’ve been running away from ever since you were twelve. Hesitating on the threshold, you step forward, and move slowly towards the other “seniors” sitting in chairs.

And the class starts, it’s Vivaldi again and everyone is leaning heavily on the bar as they move through the positions. You can still balance with only your right hand lightly grasping the wood. Your feet can still turn out without too much pain. The hour passes quickly this time. You’re the only one with good posture. The only one with tail feathers tucked under. You’re the only one whose feet move in the right directions. There is no rhythm, just a bunch of women willing their bodies to be elegant again, and you are the most graceful one there.