Tuesday, December 20, 2011


As a kid, I believed in Santa much longer than was socially acceptable.

I was in fifth grade when I learned for sure that Santa didn’t exist.

It was during a lesson about the difference between fact and fiction when my teacher looked up and rocked my world.

I don’t want anyone to burst into tears here fifth graders but I think we all know there is no Santa Claus.

Just like that.

As if this wasn’t the most shocking news I’d heard since I’d learned in Health class what a ‘red light’ touch meant.

I stared at her as tunnel vision started to overtake me.

As I white-knuckled my desk, I glanced around at my classmates who were joking and rolling their eyes as if to say, DUH.

I was clearly the only one who didn’t know.

My friend, Ashley Getslaff (who, incidentally, was also the first person to tell me about condoms) turned to me and scoffed.

How old does she think we are? 8??

I agreed and laughed a little too loudly.

Yeah. It’s not like we’re babies!

But truly, I was heartbroken.

Now, it’s not like I hadn’t had my suspicions. The year before I had done some serious handwriting analysis comparing a note from Santa to my mother’s signature on a check.

(It was inconclusive.)

But this was different. This was a cold hard fact from a teacher. And they knew everything.

That night, I took a big dramatic breath, and confronted my mother.

Mom. Is Santa real? Just tell me. I can take it.

She smiled kindly and I could see it coming. She was giving me her ‘I’m going to let my overly-imaginative and underly-cynical daughter down easy’ smile.

Honey…Santa is more of a feeling…kind of the spirit of Christmas. It’s in your heart.

Well, that confirmed it.

The hell with what’s in my heart, I wanted a jolly elderly gentleman to bring me gifts!

That Christmas, when I raced down to see what "Santa" had brought me I noticed it didn't feel as fun. I stared at the cookie crumbs from the cookies I had half-heartedly left out the night before and realized grumpily that I had just wasted those cookies on my parents.

For years I had been begging to be treated like an adult and finally, when I was, I didn’t want it anymore.

I felt silly. Young.

I had figured the whole Santa thing was a sham but I had just wanted so badly for the magic to be true.

Wanted something that special and mysterious to actually exist in this world.

Eventually I got over it and replaced the mystery of Santa with the mystery of boys.

And now I’m in LA carving out a career that’s all about making people believe a different kind of fictitious magic.

This year when the holiday season rolled around I just wasn’t feeling it.

There was no snow, no homemade stockings, not even an angel for the top of the tree that my brother and I could fight over.

I was just working, auditioning, and sitting in traffic – just like every other day in Los Angeles.

Then last week, someone honked at me for no apparent reason and I screamed with venom out my open window, LAY OFF! IT’S CHRISTMAS!!!!

That was it. I needed some holiday joy.

Enter: Naples Island in Long Beach.

My friend Katie had told Noah and I about this magical island last year. Every house sits facing the canal ala Venice, Italy. Every year, for the holidays, they decorate their houses magnificently.

We’re talking, professional lights and themes.

Anyone can come and wander the paths through the canals, taking in the view.

So a few friends and I got together and headed over. From the moment we crossed the bridge into Naples I knew this was what I needed. It was impossible to resist the magic of this place.

We walked and walked, sipping our hot (and spiked) holiday drinks and oohing and awwing at the displays.

And then I felt it.

It was that feeling of joy and a little bit of wonder that I had always felt about Christmas and namely, Santa.

I looked around at my friends, laughing and skipping from one house to the next, and that magic started to creep back.

Who needs Santa when I had these people and this place?

This was Christmas.

And right there, surrounded by the ocean, twinkling lights, and my friends I put my practical, adult-self on hold for just a second and allowed myself to believe in a little magic.

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Thanksgiving Is So L.A.

This year for Thanksgiving the police came and we had a kitchen fire.

In other words, just a typical day.

Since I moved to Los Angeles (three-and-a-half years ago) I have only been able to go home once for Thanksgiving. Instead, with a few friends from college, we have forged our own tradition, trying as hard as we can to bring the comfort of the Midwest to Hollywood.

And by comfort I mean lots of butter and ‘salads’ with cookies in them.

One of my friends has a home and a little boy so we all headed over to his house this year to cook, eat, and (let’s be honest) drink lots of wine.

The police came right at the beginning of our day. Someone had hit my friend Ben’s parked car so hard that it had shattered the bumper.

Let me say that again.

Ben’s car was PARKED. But the woman still managed to hit his car so hard that it slammed into the car in front of him and also SHATTERED HIS BUMPER.

Did I mention this was in a residential area?

The police came, we gave them cookies, and they gave the woman a ticket.

After that, I figured we were done with drama for the day.

I was wrong.

About an hour later, as I was idly stirring gravy over the stove and contemplating if I should abandon my wine and move on to hard liquor, I started to smell something that didn’t fit in with the savory stuffing aroma or the distinct cinnamon smell of the pie.

No…it smelled like…plastic? Burning plastic?

I looked down.

There, burning below me were flames.


Someone had placed a ladle between the gas burners. The ladle had caught fire which had then caught the plastic child-splatter guard on fire.

I kept calm.


I picked up the flaming ladle and ran to the sink. Someone else broke off the flaming child safety guard and did the same thing. The whole kitchen filled with smoke.

Yep, it was definitely time to move to hard liquor.

Despite the police and the flames, we finally made it to dinner.

And it was delicious.

We might not have pulled it off as flawlessly as my family had always seemed to do, but the end result was just as lovely.

That night, after we had let the food settle, a few of us took turns jumping on their family trampoline.

It was dark, and the ocean made the air wet and chilly. It almost…almost…felt like fall in North Dakota. And as I jumped and jumped I thought about traditions.

When I moved to LA I had to walk away from my grandmother’s Thanksgiving desserts and my cousins’ annual backyard Thanksgiving football game.

And I realized, that first Thanksgiving away, that it was up to me to make new memories in this new place.

That if I was really going to try and call this place home, I needed to put down some roots. Let go of how much I wished I was home, and embrace the fact that I'm not.

That night, on the trampoline, I looked around at my friends and into the warm house where some were still eating pie and I thought, we did it.

We created something that I look forward to every year. We created a whole new tradition in a whole new place.

It might be messy and filled with too much wine and too little snow but it's ours.

And I am so thankful.