Monthly Archives: December 2013

Let the Fun Begun!

Well, it’s all coming together and even if it isn’t, it’ll still be good.

It’s December 23rd, and I still want to bake more things, decorate more things, sing more carols, and plan more things, and by golly, I’m gonna do exactly that.  We are entertaining this week, so there’s the additional fuss of cleaning the cobwebs out of the corners and displacing the friendly spiders who live there, and shutting away the things that tend to collect on coffee tables and such.  (Come January 1, I’m sure they’ll all find their way back.)  (Including the spiders.)  One thing I’m not doing more of is knitting.  One planned project was an abject failure and it will take me most of January to fix it, which I’ve accepted and moved on, but without knitting I’m feeling a bit twitchy.

I need to shop for Christmas Eve dinner, Christmas Day dinner, cocktail party food and beverages, and family gathering food.  It’s raining.  Do you see the problem?  I will definitely NOT be in the holiday spirit if I go out in this icky weather, especially since it will turn my newly-shorn hair into an abomination which in itself leads to a prickly mood.  The upside is said rain and yesterday’s 70 degree (WTH?) weather washed away all the snow that had been clinging everywhere and the birdfeeder is filled and the critters are happy.

I need to put bows and ribbons and tags on the wrapped gifts.  Well, need… you know how it is.  I like to make it look purty but wow that’s fiddly stuff.  I was upstairs wrapping all the things using those handy-dandy peel and stick labels when I ran out.  Instead of going downstairs for more, I employed the genius move of writing the recipient’s name on the tape used to seal the wrapping.  Yeah, that’s me, classy all the way.  So I need to tag those babies up with something more legible.

I need to bake more cookies and breads and make candy.  I love cookies so much, and I don’t often bake them during the year because…you know, butter… but it’s Christmas and all bets are off.  I’ve already made Scotch shortbread, meltaways, gingerbread cutouts, and oatmeal-jam squares, while younger daughter made enough chocolate-chip cookies to feed Instanbul.  (It’s true, I counted.)  I still want to make nut-thins and peanut butter cookies, plus chocolate-coated pretzels.  I mailed out loaves of cranberry-orange bread and now I need to make some for us because I didn’t keep any.  I also need to bring a dessert to a friend’s home and I’m thinking a chocolate cake with peppermint frosting because it sounds good and why not add more to do to my list?  

It sounds hectic, but I really love this stuff.  I nod benignly at all the opposing messages on faceyspaceybook telling me to keep Christ in Christmas or worship Solstice or acknowledge that virgin births are not unique to Bethlehem 2,000 years ago or Happy Holidays is non-offensive or wait it really is offensive and so on…..argue all you want, guys, I’m still getting high from cinnamon and cloves and getting excited for Hubby’s fabulous Yorkshire pudding which is traditional for every Christmas, and I’m following the advice of good ol’ Burl Ives and “saying hello to friends you know and everyone you meet.”

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That’s right!

Have a happy whatever, eat something good, and I’ll see you on the flip side.  (How many people even know what that means any longer?)

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I’m in BIG Trouble!

Guys, this might be the last time I write.  I’m in such serious trouble right now and I see no way out of it.  Remember me fondly, m’kay?

 

See, it’s snowing.  And even though I know it’s the law, I did not go to the grocery store and buy bread OR milk.  I know, I have no right to even call myself an American.  I mean, it’s not like it was a surprise snowstorm or anything, the weather bobbleheads on the idiot box have been warning us for DAYS that there’s going to be some “serious weather” happening this weekend.  I just didn’t do what I’m supposed to do in these situations:

  1. I did not pile on enough sweaters and scarves and mitts (although all fabulously handmade by moi) and brush off my car and drive slowly through the wet streets to the nearest Purveyor of Food and Necessary Stuff.
  2. I did not park like a jerk and take up just enough of the nearby spot so somebody approaches it hopefully and then realizes there’s just no way to fit into the meager leftover inches and drives away snarling.
  3. I did not load my cart with enough gallons of milk to make hot chocolate for the neighborhood for the next week, thereby ensuring that at least half of it would go bad and that nobody else would have any.  (Milk as currency: look into this.) 
  4. I did not also pick up loaves of bread, ostensibly to make sure when the inevitable NEED for French toast arrives I will be well equipped.  After all, no home is legally allowed to be without the makings for French toast, although why that is I’m not quite sure because shouldn’t it be American?  Not French?  Like maybe mac and cheese, or grilled cheese and tomato soup?  (Look into this.)
  5. I did not also pick up potato chips, dip, pigs in blankets, bagel bites, cookies, candy, or anything remotely resembling football halftime food.  Have you ever noticed nobody makes a run for fresh broccoli or tilapia?
  6. I did not drive home cursing and driving like a maniac with no regard for basic traffic laws.
  7. I did not arrive home with said booty and post it on various social media sites as if to say “hey look I got mine which MURICA!”

I expect the Snow Police to be here any second.  

 

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I Am a Shameless Thief

So the bloggess posted a humorous story (as she regularly does) (she’s my heroine) (but the good kind, not the drug kind) (which is funnier said out loud and not read because “heroin” and “heroine” are spelled differently) about gifts and how they can delight or disappoint.  That led to an amazing number of stories in the comments about the best and worst gift ever received (and for some, that was the same gift). There are some beautiful tales of sweet and thoughtful gifts, other tales that are simply heartbreaking in their level of thoughtlessness and dismissiveness.  

Well, of course I’m going to run with this idea, and I encourage you all to get yourselves over to the master’s site and read the comments and think (and post to her comment section) about your own situations.  I’m writing mine here simply because it’s really long and it’s bad form to clog the comments section of another website with really long stories.  I think.  But don’t let that stop you!  Take all the room you want here if you’re so inclined.  All three of you.  

My best gift ever:  Well, besides the sappiest answers of my husband and my two children, because really, that’s understood and if they don’t know they’re the best gifts I ever received then they haven’t been listening to me and shame on them.  Look how talented I am, I profess my undying love and devotion and chastise them in the same sentence.  Pure talent.  But I digress.

I cannot possibly select ONE best gift, because different circumstances in one’s life make for different levels of best.  If you’ve ever been that child that found a brand new bicycle under the (or more accurately, next to the) Christmas tree, you know the jaw-dropping awe of a complete surprise that you had been convinced would never happen even though Santa was always a very generous giver in the past.  That was the best moment of my 9-year-old life and the feeling was so wonderful I generously let my mom try out the bike first and didn’t mind at all when she forgot how the brakes worked and accidentally put a long scrape down the side of the frame.  She was mortified but I didn’t care because it was still the best. gift. ever.  Witness: I still have that same bike in my garage all these years later, and someday I plan on riding it again.  After we inflate the tires and find a much better padded seat for my padded seat.  

Worst gifts are harder for me to describe, because of course we should be grateful that anybody took the time to think of us and of course we should be murmuring words of thanks and of course we should be trying to squash those treacherous thoughts of WTH?  I am grateful that I never had embarrassing gifts from a grandmother in her dotage or an aunt on the sauce.  So I really had to think hard, (but you’re worth it) and only one gift kept coming up.  When we got married, my husband and I had gotten a rather firm guest list from his mother, and she left off some people that in later years made me think “why on earth hadn’t they been there?”  At the wedding itself, after my mother had been seated (and traditionally, the bride’s mother is the last one seated as a sort of signal that the important stuff is about to start) my imminent mother-in-law got up, came to the back where I was standing with my father ready to follow my lavender-clad bridesmaids (hey, it was the 80’s, not my fault) and informed me that people she had invited to only the ceremony had shown up, much to her surprise, and she wanted to invite them on the spot to our reception and was that okay with me?  I was non-plussed.  (I had read that description in books many times, but for the first time ever I was actually living a non-plussed moment.  Go, me.)  What could I possibly say?  I think I pulled out a brilliant, “Ummmm” and she pressed me for an answer.  The music was starting, the lavender bridesmaids were on their way, and I was about to experience my very own bridal moment but first I was being waylaid by a last-minute decision.  I think I said something along the lines of if it was okay with Hubby it was okay with me, and she said she had already asked him and he said it was okay; which I call shenanigans on because he was already at the altar waiting for me to make my magical appearance and there’s no way she would have gone up to the altar to ask him a question like that.  Even though this was the woman who apparently used to fling open the front door when her kids were playing outside and trumpet “Do you kids have to tinkle?” so I really shouldn’t put anything past her.

Anyway, they came, we had to shuffle some people around at the last minute instead of trying to calm down or even revel in the fact that we’d just had a beautiful ceremony (why no, I’m not bitter, why do you ask?) and they seemed to enjoy themselves.  They also announced they were going to sing a song for the happy couple and the band leader came over to me because she insisted on singing the one song I knew I didn’t want to have sung at my wedding because I hate it, absolutely hate it, and the band leader asked me what I wanted to do.  She didn’t sing the song.  I think she sang something else but I don’t remember because repressed memories and all that.

So fast forward, it’s after the honeymoon, and we are opening our wedding gifts from our generous and thoughtful friends and family, and we come upon this gift from the Last Minute Terrifying Song Choice Couple.  It was a milk bottle.

Yeah, that was my reaction, too.  A milk bottle?  Like, a bottle for milk?  Is it a fancy bottle?  No, it’s plain white, about seven inches tall.  Is it for keeping milk fresh? I don’t think so, it doesn’t have a top or a cork or anything.  Is it to decant milk? Again, probably not because a) milk doesn’t have to breathe like wine, and b) it’s only seven inches tall, so two mugs of tea or coffee and you’re empty again.  We looked at each other in complete puzzlement, and Hubby said, “Maybe there’s a check inside?” Nope.  Just more white milk bottle.  “In the box?”  Nope.  “Taped to the bottom?”  Nope.  We looked at each other, until he laughed and said “What the hell?” which relieved me because it was his family friend and he could say it but I couldn’t.  We joked about that gift for years and used “milk bottle” as a code for many other things after that.

See, I even hesitated telling that story because no matter how you look at it, I think it makes us sound greedy.  After all, these folks brought us a gift even though they weren’t coming to the reception, they were just stopping by the ceremony and they didn’t have any idea that they would be invited to the reception.  I should be touched that people who never met me wanted to symbolize the most important day of my life with a seven inch white glass milk bottle with no top.  If you can explain to me the significance of that gift, I would be ever grateful to you for that gift of clarity.

 

 

I leave you with a humble gift of my own:

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The gift of a frog smile!

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Working Girl

Seems there are some people that get pretty testy when I don’t post on a regular basis.  You’d think I was entertainment for them or something.  Sheesh.

 

I remember the first job I ever held.  Aside from babysitting, which isn’t a job when you’re twelve and your neighbors invite you to come over for TV and snacks while their kids are sleeping.  God knows what would have happened if there had been a real emergency, because I had no training in CPR, diaper-changing, or smothering fires with a box of salt.  Parents must have been really desperate to escape their children back in those days.  Although, in these modern times, I hear about 10-year-olds babysitting and my skin crawls.  But I digress.

 

My first real job wasn’t even one I was looking for.  I don’t know if my parents thought it was about time I got off my lazy butt or if I had expressed an interest to work (oh, young self, so naive, so innocent….) but my mother found me a job that would take place on Saturdays.  It was a job taking inventory in supermarkets, and it could only be done when the store was closed.  So at dark o’clock on a winter morning, I was driven to a large supermarket in the middle of vast Long Island nowhere (before everything got built up on top of each other so that it now resembles Queens) and dropped off with a bunch of strangers.  Apparently my mother knew one of the men and he was kind of appointed my friend and trainer, so he assured my mother that I’d be fine and he’d take good care of me, and we’d see her about 4:00.  

Think about this.  Besides the obvious fact that I would be making some money, what was my mother trying to tell me?  She wanted me gone for the day?  It was okay to hang out with strangers, despite the early warnings of my childhood?  That I was only as good as my paycheck determined?  That if something happened I was out of luck because she wouldn’t be back until 4:00?  Didn’t she love me anymore?  I remember feeling a bit lost and dismayed and to distract myself I did my favorite people-watching activity, which simply meant staring at people until I figured out if they were friendly or mean.  Not a good way to make friends.

A manager or team leader or know-it-all came out to the group with a large cup of coffee in a paper cup that he used to gesture with, and he paired us off to work together.  There were specific forms we had to fill in after we counted things, and I was nervous about getting it right.  But I was paired up with an older gentleman who was rather on the large side and couldn’t move too well, so it became clear that I was to do the counting and he would do the writing.  We went into the supermarket and were assigned an aisle. You had to count the items on the shelf, making sure that you found the stuff that had been hidden behind other stuff, and announce the count to the writer, who would enter it on the special paper and announce the total back to you.  Then you’d take a little slip of paper, write the number on it, and stick it between the cans or boxes or bags and move on to the next item.  

This was fun for about twenty minutes.  Then the drudgery of the job took over and I was bored stiff.  To amuse myself, I began to sing the numbers, and my partner thought this was terrific.  He was thrilled that I was energetic enough to do all the physical stuff and I seemed entertaining to boot, so he had a wonderful time.  When I thought we had been at this for hours and it would surely be time for lunch, I was crushed to learn it had only been forty-five minutes.  Luckily, we were allowed to have a five-minute break in the aisle, and then you had to get right back to work.  The manager with the paper coffee cup kept walking around and watching what we were doing.  Apparently, he was not happy that my partner was happy, because after the five-minute break I was paired with a new partner.  She was also older, with tired fake orange hair featuring a large grey strip down the middle of her scalp, a smoker’s hacking cough, and a forbidding frown.  She would do the counting and I would do the writing, which terrified me because what if I messed it up?  She didn’t look like she’d be friendly enough to help me.

I got the sheet and was promptly full of questions.  What did all these codes stand for?  How would I find each item?  They weren’t spelled out, what if I entered the wrong one?  More importantly, why was I here?  Why didn’t my mother love me anymore?  Mrs. Orange Head got right to work and counted super quickly and yelled out the number and the item, while I quickly scanned the list.  I was still looking for the item when she called out the next count and moved on.  I asked her to hold on, I couldn’t find the correct item.

Now, what would you do in this situation?  Would you go over to the newbie and point out the correct spot and give a couple of warm-up shots?  Of course you would, you’re a decent human being.  But Mrs. Orange Head with the Skunky Grey Strip simply sighed, folded her arms, and muttered, “whenever you’re ready.”  Ouch.  Being the sensitive young lady I was, my eyes flooded with tears as I tried to find the right code to enter the counted number, and I blinked to clear my vision.  Two fat tears fell on the inventory sheet and I tried to brush them away.  This merely caused the previous pencil marks to smudge, and I gasped.  Surely I would be fired on the spot!  I looked up at my partner who was now tapping her foot, and said, “uh..I’ve never done this before.  I’m not sure where the codes go?”  To which she responded, “Of course you don’t.  I always get stuck with the idiots.  Give it to me,” and she took the clipboard from my hands and entered the code herself.  

Wow, I thought.  That was a little harsh.  “Did you want me to count?”

“No,” she snorted.  “I’ll do it.  Go find somebody else to work with.”

First day on the job and I was rejected!  I was humiliated and didn’t know what to do.  What does anybody do in that situation?

I went to the bathroom.

When I emerged with my face newly washed, I found Mr. Paper Coffee Cup.  He had a new paper cup full of coffee, and I wondered where he was finding all this coffee.  “Excuse me,” I ventured.   He spun around and said “What?”

“My…my partner prefers to work alone.  Is there someplace else I should work?”

“Who were you with?”

My acute Spidey senses were telling me NOT to refer to her as Skunky Orange Head, so I said, “I was working in Aisle Seven, but I don’t know how to fill in the sheets.”

“Is this your first time?” he asked, taking a swig.

“Yes,” I answered, and my chin bobbled a bit.  He must have seen the bobble, because he put down the cup and brought me over to the service desk.  He asked the very pretty and smiley lady who was perched on the counter swinging her boot-clad feet to show me how to enter the information on the sheets, and she said “Sure, boss,” and hopped down.

Mixed with my relief was the desire to look and dress like this lady when I grew up.  She was petite, with long glossy hair and a perfect set of white teeth and lovely manicured fingernails that wore the prettiest shade of pink and wonderfully fashionable clothes.  Never mind that I was already on the tall-ish side, my feet were the same size as my mother’s, and my hands were squat and square and featured broken nails.  She was fabulous, and I wanted to have that same sort of self-assurance.  Then she started showing me how to decipher the codes and enter the numbers, and it became instantly clear.

After that, I was unstoppable.  I was zipping through counting and taking codes and writing and inserting those slips of paper and just dazzling myself all around.  When the time came for lunch, I was feeling like a Master of the Supermarket Inventory Team.  Everyone gathered in the employee break room and began unwrapping sandwiches and buying Cokes from the vending machine.  My mother had packed me a bologna sandwich (dry, thank you very much) and an orange.  I had seventy-five cents in my pocket to buy something to drink, but I knew the orange would be my means of hydrating.  I slyly took the money and bought a bag of potato chips from the vending machine, feeling very grown-up about making my own food choices.

If I remember correctly, I went back to that job six or seven times on various Saturdays.  I found out that most of these people worked elsewhere and did this for extra money, and they went all over Suffolk County to various supermarkets, whereas I was limited to the one closest to my house.  I don’t remember why I stopped, if it was because my mother got tired of driving me early in the morning and receiving a phone call at 1:30 chirping “We finished early! Come get me!” which maybe ruined her afternoon plans. I remember I preferred counting boxed products because they were the easiest to see, whereas the cans toppled and didn’t line up; I absolutely hated counting the produce because I had to take everything out and then put it back and it made my hands feel gross; counting frozen pizzas and cartons of ice cream was pure torture; and counting items in the paper products aisle was the fastest and easiest because you would be done in ten minutes and spend the rest of the time chatting.

Looking back and reflecting about jobs “way back then” I’m amazed at how crude and simple the job was, how acceptable it was for a store to close due to inventory, and how easy it was for me to get a job, considering I don’t think I even looked for one.  I look at my daughters and their friends and the struggles they experience to find any employment at all, and how full-time jobs with benefits and pensions may soon be a thing of the past and I wonder what sort of look back at their primitive sort of employment will be.

 

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That about sums it up.

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Waxing Nostalgic (When I Should Be Waxing Floors)

It was a wonderful Thanksgiving weekend here, and I hope yours was the same.   I wished my dear friend Debbie a happy Gobble-Tov, and she’s looking forward to using that again in 70,000 years.

We are a small nuclear family (which has always been a weird phrase to me; we are not ‘going’ nuclear because that would be bad, but we ‘are’ nuclear so that’s good.  Language, you are a silly mistress.) and so our holidays are relaxed with no stress to speak of.  In the very early stages of becoming a family, I remember we were obligated to enjoy three Thanksgiving meals on one day and show just as much appreciation for each one.  It was blessed but it was also painful.

When you have children, you get to call the shots a bit because everything is measured by how good it is for baby’s routine and health and digestion and emotional well-being.  But if you want to be the dutiful child, you pack up everything and an elephant to trek across the vast miles and Visit With Family, and then you get the fun and games of trying to recreate your safe home environment among someone else’s Lenox vases and glass coffee-tables all the while murmuring that it’s fine, you’re sure the baby doesn’t mind spending the entire day in the Pack And Play like a caged animal while you silently wish you could crawl in there with her.

When kids are older, it’s all about the cousins, because those are built-in playmates.  Yes, we love Mom and Dad to pieces, but really it would be so much more FUN if we could play with our cousins.  So there’s more trekking involved, though not with the Pack And Play this time, thank heavens, and it will be nice for the adults too.  After all, everyone is pretty self-entertained these days, so there’s a chance to catch up on some football and family gossip and enjoy an adult beverage while surreptitiously checking out how they make THEIR stuffing and gravy.  Then your kids become teenagers and nobody has any fun, because it’s all about keeping in touch with their real life, the school friends and everything around them, and secretly you’re glad because who wants to sit in traffic for all that time just to eat the same meal you would have fixed at home?

So now we have a very relaxing day.  We eat sometime between four and five, we put out massive quantities of food that could surely feed 15 quite easily when there’s only five at our table (because it’s all about the leftovers), we enjoy as many adult beverages as we’d like because of no driving, we do parades and football and movie marathons, and there is no drama or tension.

Sometimes I’m wistful.  I wish I’d had many brothers and sisters and that we’d all gather for holidays and my kids would have grown up being part of a huge family and it would be a big noisy happy mess.  Then I look at the reality of many families who don’t get along, who don’t speak, who fight and argue and compete and have bigger issues and I know that I’m exactly where I’m supposed to be and I realize once again that I am blessed.

Meanwhile, the December knitting marathon is ON and I have many gifts to complete.

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Or taken that left turn at Albuquerque

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