Her Name Was Violet

Post originally published November 2009.


Her name was Violet. I hated her.


I didn't know it at the time, but it was the last Christmas that would live up to my expectations for the holiday. No one knew that the glue of the family, the grandmother that bound everyone together, was soon to be diagnosed with bone cancer. No one knew that within months she would be in a assisted living home, and not long after she would pass away.

I was in first grade. I really had no understanding of what was to come.

All I knew was that Christmas Eve was supposed to be spent at my Aunt Susan's house. It was supposed to be spent with my mom's family--her parents, her brother, her sister, and all of the cousins. It was supposed to be spent in a little family room, gathered around a giant live Christmas tree adorned with handmade ornaments and a rainbow of lights. My cousin Sheryl was supposed to sit under the tree, read the tags on the gifts, and hand them out, one-by-one. We were supposed to pause and watch as the gift recipient opened the carefully wrapped treasure, all taking turns as to relish each gift for as long as possible.

When it came to be my turn, Sheryl read my name then paused, a confused look on her face. "It says it's from Mary," she reported. I remember her words exactly. They are forever etched into my memory.

Heads turned to look at my mom, who instantly realized her error. It was one of Those Years. The Bad Years. The years when Christmas wouldn't have happened if not for the kindness of strangers. The gift had been donated to the Salvation Army, and I was the lucky beneficiary. My mom had intended to change out the name tag. She had intended to cover up the fact that there wasn't money for gifts that year. She had meant to avoid that embarrassing moment.

She just missed one little piece of paper. One gift tag.

Silence enveloped the room as each person individually came to their own conclusions as to why a gift from a stranger had wound up under the tree. At last, the awkward moment was interrupted by my grandma, "Go ahead and open it, honey."

I looked around the room, my eyes taking in the harsh looks of judgment and disapproval. Through tears I tore off the paper and pulled out a brown-haired doll dressed in a purple floral shirt. The tag that hung from her arm said her name was Violet. "It's a doll," I said, my heart silently pleading for Sheryl to read another name.


As soon as we got home, I ran to the bathroom. I grabbed a pair of scissors out of the medicine cabinet and hacked at Violet's hair. I dug around until I found a black marker and I took it to her face, violently changing her appearance. I wanted her to look as ugly as I felt at that moment. I wanted her to pay for my embarrassment. It was her fault that people knew we were poor.


Weeks later, I walked past the spot where I had hidden the defaced doll. Pausing, I considered the fact that it was the only toy I had gotten for Christmas that year. I pondered the fact that it was my birthday and that the day was nearly over. I thought about the birthday presents that weren't, that would never be. I pulled Violet out from behind the dryer, took her into the bathroom, and did what I could to clean to her up.

Her name was Violet. I hated her, but she was better than nothing.


Make some Christmas magic for kids at Center for Victims. Shop from the Amazon wish list Christmas Crazy or click the reindeer to donate a few dollars.



I've become really very terrible at general website maintenance over the years. While I once managed to change my template and overall look of this place monthly, I've now managed to not run a back end upgrade for ... uh ... Alexis was in kindergarten the first time I started it. It's still not done. That lack of keeping on top of things extends to some of the pages up in the menu, including the Christmas Crazy page.

Well, friends, I clicked today. Did you realize we've been doing this crazy thing where we make the holidays better for some kids who have experienced the worst since  ... 2009. 2009! That's a really very long time ago. I also noted that we've surpassed $10,000 worth of toys for the past four years.

We maybe should make that 5 years in a row. PLEASE!

For a variety of reasons, I kicked things off a week later than usual. That means we have a little less time to pull this all together. I still expect great things. There's a whole lot of kids who could use our help this holiday season. Let's make some magic, please.

Here's where I make things easy for you. Two links! The first one is to shop:

Christmas Crazy <------ Wish list link!

Or click on the reindeer to donate a few dollars and I'll do the shopping. This is how we make sure older kids see some holiday magic.

No matter what, every little thing will find its way to a kid in need.


Christmas Crazy is Back!

Christmas Crazy is back!

In case you've somehow forgotten, there's this thing we do every year where we make a little magic happen.

Okay, so maybe it's a lot of magic.

Here's the lowdown -- Christmas Crazy has existed for several years now. It's my way of making a little magic with this website for some kids who otherwise wouldn't have magic. They're kids who are receiving services from Center for Victims, a fantastic Pittsburgh non-profit that helps people who are victims of or directly impacted by violence. Some of the kids are children caught in the middle of a domestic violence situation. Some of them have seen things kids should never see. All of them deserve a little magic.

And that's where you come in.

The only way to make this all happen is to get a little help from you. Shop from the wish list. I'll be adding to the wish list several times over the next week, so if nothing tickles your fancy, no worries. I got you. Whether you've got $5 to spend or $500, it all helps.

Christmas Crazy <------ Wish list link!

Or click on the reindeer to donate a few dollars and I'll do the shopping.

No matter what, every little thing will find its way to a kid in need.

Want to say that you were a part of that giant pile when it gets delivered in a few weeks? ME TOO! Let's do this!