Thursday, December 31, 2009

New Years Resolutions

Ahhh, today is the day for New Year’s resolutions. You start thinking of all the bad habits you’ve had over the last year (and probably most of your life), and then you resolve not to do them anymore except for all day today and especially tonight.

So here is my list of resolutions.

I resolve not to take anymore 16 hour non-stop road trips because I waited too late to make up my mind and there wasn’t any way I was going to pay $1,800 to fly to LA to see the Rose Bowl (except for the road trip back home, which I am dreading and will continue to dread the whole time I‘m here).

I resolve not to eat like a cow every time food is within reach but instead try to be sensible (to be judged sensibly by me as determined by the taste of the food in front of me at the time).

I resolve not to wait three months to give myself a pedicure even though my feet haven’t been exposed in Oregon since August because it’s as cold as a well digger’s ass in the Klondike there and my feet wouldn’t think of coming out of socks or shoes or fuzzy bedroom slippers. With this resolution I will avoid having to take a jack-hammer to my cuticles while I’m on a last minute trip to sunny California and without time to get one done by a professional who has way more experience than I do on how to use a jack-hammer.

I resolve to try not to be so critical of everyone to everyone else. I was called on this recently when I went to a birthday breakfast with a couple of friends and complained about the taste of certain people in my family in clothing presents. My friends joked, “As soon as she sees someone else, she’ll complain about our presents to them.” They laughed but I don’t think they were kidding. So I’m resolving to be a little more discreet about my opinions and definitely not say anything else to these two that could be used against me.

I resolve to try clothes on first before I complain about people’s taste in presents because the clothing items of the last paragraph actually ended up being very flattering and cute, and I don’t plan to return them - and I’m not just saying this because someone in particular might read find my blog and read it.

I resolve to try and be more patient with people who take forever doing everything from getting in the car to getting out of the bathroom.

I resolve for the 30th year in a row to try to be on time because I know how rude this is even though being on time, especially at meetings, means you have to wait for everyone else’s chitchat to die down before you can get down to the business at hand.

And I resolve to watch the OREGON DUCKS win the Rose Bowl because a win will elate me on the 16 hour trip back home and a loss…well, I’m not even going to think about it.

Happy New Years everyone, and please be sensible tonight in your partying or staying home alone with a bottle of Jack Daniels, or even if you’ve been asleep for four hours when the ball drops in Times Square.

I hope you all resolve to read my blog every single day in 2010.

Crazy California Drivers

This post is going to be very short because my hands are still shaking from driving in California. Here’s the rule of thumb for speed limits here. Whatever the posted speed limit is, add 100 mph.

In Oregon, we pretty much look at the signs, look around for the cop who‘s probably hiding close by, and then venture a few miles over the limit to show our independence knowing we‘re safe. In California, everyone goes so fast that the cops would have to be Santa and be a thousand places at one time. No cop could catch all the speeders.

For one thing, there are about 14 lanes of traffic everywhere, and all the lanes are full of people breaking the sound barrier and changing lanes constantly to do it. Add to this the fact that some of the roads could use a little repair, and no policeman would risk his or her life running down one lousy speeder who will probably out-maneuver and outrun him or her anyway.

I hunkered down in the left lane because the other lanes were full of potholes and grooves in the pavement. I couldn’t get my car to go too much faster than the 70 mph limit, but I was terrified of all those other lanes. The California people didn’t like me plugging up the official “passing” lane and came up and nudged me from behind, flashing their lights for emphasis, as if to say, “Get your hick-ass Oregon beater off the road or drive it like a man.”

I made it alive to my nephew’s house after 957 miles, and I am going to go to bed and hope I don’t dream of maniacs swerving in and out in front of me and running me into ditches.

The only good thing about the whole trip was passing other Oregonians on their way to the Rose Bowl to see the University of Oregon Ducks play somebody for the championship of the world. That’s why I’m here with my daughter - but there better be public transportation because I will NOT get back in my car again and drive here. Anybody want to tow my car back to Oregon for me?

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

I Smell Roses

Something happened yesterday and I want to tell about it. I went to meet some friends for dinner – a dinner I didn’t really have time for so I was waffling about going at all and ended up getting there very late. I had to order takeout because by then everyone was finishing up.

On the way home I passed a car on the side of the freeway. A man was standing in back of it waving his arms frantically at the cars whizzing by. I passed him so fast there wasn’t anywhere to stop. I wondered if anyone else would stop for him, but figured they would. Besides, it could have been a scam. I was alone, it was a dark, cold night, and what was I going to do with him if I did stop? I’m no mechanic.

I drove on, looking in my rearview mirror and seeing that no one else had pulled over. It was in the mid-thirties, cold and dank. I wished him the best.

But something nagged me, and I decided to go up the freeway to the next exit, which was a few miles away, turn around, and go back and make sure he’d gotten a ride.

That takeout was wafting up from the seat beside me. I scarfed a couple of French fries, but I knew this detour was going to make the meal all cold and gooey. Still I pressed on and prayed, as I headed back in the other direction, that he had gotten a ride and someone else had dealt with the problem.

I circled back and drove very slowly past the car – slowly meaning around 45 because big semi’s were thrusting by me, pushing my little car sideways like it was a bug someone was blowing across a table. Thank goodness, I said out loud, he wasn’t in the car. Someone had saved him. Yippee!

I could see a ramp leading off to the side as I accelerated back up to speed, and in the black night somehow I saw the silouhette of a man pulling a suitcase. By the time I got stopped on the shoulder, I was a quarter mile down the freeway. There wasn’t anything to do but back up, which I did in absolute terror because the shoulder was narrow with a steep bank on the side, and any little play in my steering wheel would have made me a pancake on the front grill of a semi.

I arrived next to him and yelled out, “Do you need any help?” Of course he couldn’t hear me from up there with all that racket, so he started down the bank. As he got closer I saw he was wearing a thin leather jacket and had a sweater wrapped around his hands. When he was closer I yelled again. “Yes, I need help. I’m about frozen to death.”

I told him to get in the car and cranked up the heater while he explained that his car had broken down and his daughter was coming to get him but he was trying to find somewhere warm because he was frozen through. I offered to take him home but he just wanted a warm building to wait for her. A few exits down was a McDonalds, so I said I’d take him there. He tried to call his daughter on his cell phone to tell her where he’d be, but his hands were shaking so much that at first he couldn’t dial the numbers.

“You saved my life,” he said, several times. “I would have frozen to death out there. I had to start walking but I couldn’t even see any lights where I was.”

I took him to McDonalds and he thanked me profusely and assured me his daughter would be there in a couple of minutes.

This story isn’t funny (what do you mean neither are all the rest of them!!). But I’m telling it because it made such an impression on me. Not that I did a kind deed, because if it had been up to me I would have been smackin’ on takeout a half hour sooner with no remorse. But I felt compelled to turn around, and when I think about not wanting to go out in the cold for dinner but deciding to go anyway at the last minute, and choosing that route home instead of the other one, and glancing up at the ramp and barely seeing a human in the black night, well all I can say is, anyone else would be an idiot to do what I did. Let a strange man in my car out in the middle of nowhere and haul him around? If my daughter did that I would have smacked her up side the head.

But I did it, planning my escape the whole time, “If he pulls a knife, I’ll do this, and if he grabs me, I’ll do this, and if he hits me I’ll do this, and if he tells me to pull over, I’ll do this.” Scoff if you must, but I believe I was being guided by an angel, and since I’ve had good experience with angels many times before, I don’t doubt them one bit.

And guess what else? My daughter and I are going on a road trip tomorrow to see the Ducks play in the Rose Bowl!!! GO DUCKS!!!!!!

And guess what else? There’s three inches of snow that fell this evening outside and it’s beautiful. We made snow cream – snow + milk + sugar + vanilla, tastes fantastic! And tomorrow night I’ll be in Pasadena.

Here’s a great video to paste in your browser about the DUCKS!!!! Woo-hoo!!!! I smell roses….

Monday, December 28, 2009

The Other Baby Terror

I wrote about my daughter yesterday, so I suppose I should write something about my son today or I’ll be accused of playing favorites.

When I was PG with him, I could lay on my back and stare at the new mountain that was my midsection and see him rolling around in there like some horror movie creature that crawls up under your skin and moves around. He was never still – always kicking, always shifting. When he was born we had two weeks of relative quiet because the doctor had used a suction cup on his head to extract him, which left a big old blood filled hickey knot on his head that raised his billiruben levels and caused him to have jaundice. The doctor was late for a soccer game and was impatient with nature taking its course. What his haste meant to me was that my son had to lie under lights 24/7, why I don’t know, and go to the doctor every day to have his poor little heel pricked to see if the hemoglobin levels were improving. It made me very sad because I wanted to cuddle him all the time and instead here he was in a box thing at my house with a little Lone Ranger mask over his eyes sleeping in a diaper to expose as much of him as possible to the lights.

I should have counted my blessings, because at exactly two weeks of age he started crying and didn’t stop until he was seven months old. Everything made him miserable. I was on the phone to the pediatrician or in her office daily worried sick that he was suffering from some undiscovered disease that, if she would just examine him one more time, she’d find and cure and he’d stop crying. All I ever got out of her was the word, “Colic.”

That’s how I became an expert at quieting babies. I rocked him, put him on a clothes dryer, ran water, bounced him, sang to him (which made the crying worse even though, I’m telling you, my voice isn’t that bad). The things that worked best were perpetual motion of any kind – he got quiet when you moved and immediately bellowed when you stopped.

He’d quit crying if we rode in a car, but only to a point. Riding around worked great to get him to sleep, which he never wanted to do for any length of time, but you had to be careful because if you drove too far and turned around to come back, and he woke up before you were home, he’d scream his lungs out because he didn’t want to be in the car seat.

As a consolation, I had read that very smart children often were colicky because they were bored. BORED? This child had continual entertainment. How could he be bored? But I thought that if he were bored, at least it followed that he was smart, and that helped.

Around seven months he shut up. It’s the natural course of colic, but it just seemed like someone flipped a switch and he became a sweet, happy baby. Not that he wasn’t sweet on occasion before – there were delightful moments all along, it’s just that the colic overshadowed them all.

He learned to talk faster than any child anyone had ever heard of. His first word was “ite” for “light.” He loved that word and found an Ite everywhere he looked. Christmas was an ite delight. By nine months he was stringing words into simple sentences. I read in one of the baby books that it was okay to let your toddler curse because s/he didn’t know they were bad words and you shouldn’t restrict their creativity. So of course, through no fault of mine, he picked up the word “damn” and really liked the way it rolled off his tongue. “Damn, damn, damn,” he said. Isn’t that cute? I wasn’t nuts about the cussing, but I sure didn’t want to stifle him.

One day we were at the mall and he was about thirteen months old, toddling around in a quiet area saying, “Damn, damn, damn,” when I got a slap of a dirty look from an older woman who did not approve in the least. If she’d had soap in her purse, he would have been foaming at the mouth. That look was enough to get me to tell him not to say that word any more. He loved me at the time (or else he didn’t know how to argue), and just quit saying the word to make me happy.

In fact, he was a great one for listening. I could put his hand near something warm and say, “Hot,” and he’d repeat, “hot.” Then he’d feel the warmth and I’d say, “Don’t touch it. Hot,” and he’d say “hot” and wouldn’t touch it. Most other kids will touch something you tell them not to out of curiosity or bull-headedness, but he trusted what you said. At the time, anyway.

He was the most beautiful baby and toddler on earth. People stopped us everywhere we went to compliment me on his looks. I should have farmed him out as a baby model but I was afraid it would give him the big head.

One time I took him to the beach when he was about 9 months old. He loved the whole beach thing until he started eating the sand. He literally grabbed a fistful of wet sand and stuck it in his mouth and swallowed it. Over and over. I have a picture of him with sand running out the corner of his mouth. I guess he liked the salty flavor, which is also why kids eat PlayDoh. I tried to stop him, and scooped out as much sand as I could from his mouth, but the minute I looked away he had stuffed another handful in there. The next day was rough on both of us, if you catch my drift. That sand had to come out somewhere, and as it traveled along its way, it was like sandpaper. Poor little sweetheart – I should have told him the sand was “hot,” but I don’t think it would have done any good.

So thus ends the anecdotes about my son. I should do a word count and make sure both of my children got the same amount because they’d probably fight if one had more. They’re getting better now, but still, it makes no sense to take chances.

The Baby Terror

I was wondering out loud what I’d blog about today, and my daughter said, “How about me?” Well, she’s better than nothing, but what do you write about your teenager?

I guess I could tell about what an evil baby she was. Oh my gosh she was ornery! She hated to have her diaper changed. HATED IT. I’d put her on the same changing table I’d used with my son without incident, and she’d commence to scream bloody murder. Moving her did no good – she just didn’t want that diaper changed. Either that or she didn’t like me putting her down – I held the child continually either with my arms or a baby bundler that pressed her close to my chest all day long – facing out so she could be entertained by the world.

I should mention that she was born with a full head of red hair, and the stereotypical temperament that goes with it. If something didn’t suit her, she’d scream until her face was as red as a crayon. Which is interesting because she was also a very good-natured baby overall – a lot more mellow than my son had been. There just wasn’t any middle ground with her – she was either hot or cold, angry or angelic.

She had made up her mind as a two-month old that there was no reason she needed to have a new diaper when the old one was serving her perfectly fine. She had other little quirks like this, but the diaper thing impacted me several times a day. I got to where I could change a diaper in a matter of seconds – I was like one of those cartoons with arms waving in zip time and a new diaper on practically before the old one was off because her bellowing was brutal to my ears. I never liked the sound of a crying baby – it breaks my heart. It’s all I can do not to go over and pick up crying babies in stores and restaurants. There’s not a baby I can’t quiet down because it bothers me so. I’ve got a list of tricks as long as a freeway.

One day when my daughter was about 4 months old, she had done a particularly large quantity of greenish, sticky…well never mind, let it suffice that this wasn’t going to be a quick fix. I gathered everything needed, then braced for the squalling which erupted immediately at the onset. I worked like a Tasmanian devil trying to get the job done quickly, but she was clenching her fists and letting me know she wasn’t happy one little bit, arching her back and having a good solid hissy fit when all of a sudden her “inny” bellybutton popped out. Popped right out of her stomach! I about fell over backwards. It scared the crap out of me! You don’t just see a one-inch mass of creamy skin pop out of someone’s stomach everyday. It would make a good horror movie. I finished the diaper and, as always happened, the minute I was done and picked her up, she started cooing.

I nearly broke a leg trying to get to the phone to call the pediatrician. “It’s okay,” the advice nurse said, “happens all the time. It will go back in one of these days.” But it wasn’t okay, it was ugly. I didn’t know belly buttons went so deep. It truly stuck out about an inch. And it was full of air – like a cream colored balloon. I’m not sure it was air, but you could press on it and it felt like there was nothing in there, but it filled right back up when you let go.

It took several years for that thing to disappear. In fact, I don’t know when it did; I just know I worried myself sick thinking it would always be that way.

Okay, I have space for one more thing. I nursed both my kids for a while because I read it made them smart and I like smart people, so I was in no hurry to wean them. My daughter was about 7 months old when she grew her first tooth. Cute as could be! But she was nursing one day and I was staring down at her full of motherly love and sweet joy, when she got an odd little look on her face that I can’t describe as any other thing but just pure mischief. A couple of seconds later she bit me. SHE BIT ME! Bit one of the most sensitive areas on a human body! If you’ve ever been the victim of a purple nurple, it doesn’t even come close. It was like a cattle prod – an electric shock. It hurt like the dickens. I yanked her loose, which brought on even more pain, and she looked up at me with absolute delight, like she’d just seen a scampering puppy for the first time. I verbally chastised her royally to discourage it happening again. She was really smart even back then, and I know she understood the cause of my displeasure, and it amused her.

A few days later I got the look again, and again got the shock of pain. After that, I watched her like a hawk, and she watched me. I was on the lookout for “the look,” and she was waiting for me to let my guard down. When I got the look, if I didn’t yank her immediately, I got bit.

The funny thing is, my son was very kind to her until she was about two and started going into his room and rifling through his toys. Then he turned into a typical big brother, they’d get into fights, and if it got physical before I could break them up, she’d bite him and practically draw blood. We were all scared to death of those teeth! When you were unlucky enough to be stuck between them, it was like you’d been caught in a bear trap.

You’re going to ask, “Why didn’t you just wean her?” Because I wanted her smart, that’s why. She’s a 4.0 student, a math and science whiz, and she’s a great athlete with strong bones and good teeth, so I guess it paid off. Makes for a good story, too, don’t you think?

Saturday, December 26, 2009

Fire the Commercial Guy

I hope everyone enjoyed a day off yesterday, a little feast with family and friends, or at least extra holiday pay or a little time for R & R (ripping and romping).

I have a complaint that I’m delighted to be able to air at this time. I tried to watch a couple of Christmas specials because I always like the wholesomeness of some of the holiday favorites like A Charlie Brown Christmas, Nightmare on Elm Street – oops, I mean It’s a Wonderful Life, and White Christmas. I happened to be watching Steven Colbert’s holiday special and enjoying his duet with John Stewart around 11:30 p.m. a couple of days before Christmas. They were singing about the baby Jesus and Hanukah, and an angel came out and sang something funny but sweet. It was all very amusing and heart warming.

Then of course it was time for a commercial break, when, what to my wondering eyes should appear,
 but bear breasted women showing their rears. It was Girls Gone Wild, and they used stars (and not the Star of Bethlehem) to barely cover private body parts while showing girls kissing each other, getting their jollies, and a threesome mooning the audience. After they paraded around in bedrooms, pulling up their tank tops and slowly licking their lips with half closed eyes, Mr. Colbert came back on and started a skit about Christmas. When it was commercial time, again here came the trashy girls flicking their tongues and rubbing their bodies like they were two-bit stars in a cheap porn movie.

I don’t know anything about TV programming, so I have one question that I wish someone would explain to me. Who in the HELL decides what commercials to couple with what programs? It has got to be sadists, idiots, half-wits, or lunatics. I marvel at the stupidity, and wonder why I ever turn the TV on.

This isn’t a new problem. My little children used to watch network cartoons in the morning or afternoon, it didn’t matter which, and then commercials would come on. Obviously cartoons about Pooh Bears or Smurfs or Gumbies are targeted to a very young audience whose mother is off in the kitchen trying to get something done which is why the TV is on in the first place. So please tell my why the commercials that aired during these shows were about dead women sprawled in grotesque positions on sidewalks? Or showed a man holding a gun up to another man’s head and squeezing the trigger? What idiot at NBC, CBS, ABC, or FOX has targeted this kind of commercial at little children sitting in those fuzzy pajamas with feet in them, cuddling a plush toy with the stuffing leaking out, sucking their thumb, alone in a room, innocent and frightened of monsters — what idiot programmed these commercials for these sweet little children to watch while they are totally engrossed in whether Little Bear is going to get to the moon or not?

I ended up getting cable so I could always turn the station to Disney or Nickelodeon and wouldn’t have to get my blood pressure rocketing skyward like a thermometer plunged into boiling water. I’ve grown accustomed to the stupid male boner commercials that plague every station all day long, and the tacky Trojan and KY lubricant commercials, and all the commercials about having sex with someone and making it better because in American all we do is kill people and have sex with anyone handy day in and day out – 32 hours straight if we can get the right drug. But having to look at nearly naked women fondling themselves and each other while we’re trying to get into the Christmas spirit, which after all is a religious holiday at it’s core no matter what anyone says. What Einstein was responsible for that? Duh, I’m a stupid audience member who’s going to watch a semi-religious Christmas special and then order porn. I’m a three-year-old toddler who’s going to watch a murder mystery. Who’s responsible for this stupidity, that’s what I want to know.

I’m not a prude. I’m not an angel. And I’m certainly not trying to tell Hollywood how to conduct it’s business, because I think it’s going to self destruct on it’s own eventually anyway. Just keep feeding us all the sleazy immorality you can in your movies and TV shows, then preach to us about pirating and how it’s the “wrong thing to do.” If you want to make us moral, give us some good moral plots with normal humans who aren’t serial killers and rapists and prostitutes and thugs, and quit giving us slimy dirt to try and titillate us to watch your shows.

And please, fire the commercial guy.

Friday, December 25, 2009

Christmas Day Surprises

When I was a kid I sneaked into every one of my presents. My parents wrapped them up nicely and put them under the tree, and one by one I’d unwrap just enough to see what was in the box. I think I did this because I was impatient and an immediate gratification person.

The down side of doing this is that on Christmas morning you never have a surprise. You know what everything is in every box. I’ve talked to other people who have done the same thing, and all of us feel like it’s a compulsion. We just can’t stand not knowing what is on the other side of that paper.

When I was around eleven years old, my brother, who was fifteen, had been seeing a girl on occasion. She wasn’t very pretty, and had a little bit of a bad reputation. He was fairly secretive about his visits with her, as if he didn’t want anyone to know.

Just before Christmas, a present appeared under the tree out of nowhere. I was extremely curious about that one because it didn’t have a name on it and wasn’t wrapped in Christmas paper; it was just in a taped up cardboard box. Plus it was tucked way in the back of the tree, as if someone was trying to hide it.

I was about to do a little investigating when he pulled me aside and said, “You can’t tell mom and dad about the present under the tree. It’s from Jaynie, and I don’t want them to know I’m seeing her. Please help me keep it hidden from them.”

I looked up to my brother so much. We were close because we’d hang out together when he wasn’t doing anything else. We had a high jump and pole vault pit in our back yard that he’d built, and our friends would come around and try to out jump each other. I was the highest girl jumper, and he was the highest pole vaulter. We were both pretty athletic, so we were always doing outdoor stuff together because kids were outside all the time and we played with whoever was available, and if that was your sister, it was better than nothing. Anyway, I looked up to him, and when he asked me to keep an eye on that present, I was all over it. I kept it hidden out of sight, and if my friends asked about it, I told them it was a secret and no one could even touch it. I was a bully so nobody messed with that present.

Christmas morning I was a good actress and looked surprised when I opened all my presents. When we were all done, and my parents went about their business, my brother looked from side to side to make sure they were gone, then he reached for the present while I stood lookout. “What’s in it?” I asked when he grabbed it. He handed it to me and said, “I’ll keep watch, you open it.” I wasn’t going to pass up the opportunity to tear into a present, even if it wasn’t mine.

I scratched off the tape holding the box together and pulled up the flaps to find something I’d never seen before. It was a red piece of wood on a couple of roller skate wheels. I handed it to him, “What is it?” I asked. “It’s a skateboard,” he said. “You sit on it or stand on it and ride down hills.” Then he said, “And it’s yours, not mine.”

I thought I’d heard him wrong. “Why would Jaynie get me a present?” I asked. “She didn’t,” he said. “I got it for you.” “But why did you tell me it was from her?” “Because I wanted it to be a surprise, and I knew you’d sneak into it if you thought if was for you.”

I learned a lot of things that Christmas morning. I learned that surprises are way, way more delicious than sneaking into presents. I learned that my brother, who only had the money he earned delivering papers, had used some of his own cash to buy me something wonderful because he liked me and for no other reason, and I learned that a skateboard was the grandest present an eleven year old girl could ever hope to receive.

I think that may have been the first year a skateboard was ever sold anywhere in US. Seriously, no one had ever heard of them. And it looked just like a sanded board about six inches wide with the front and back barely rounded, and two sets of metal wheels underneath. He could have made it himself except it was painted red and had professional lettering on the top. Unlike today’s skateboards, it didn’t rock side to side so there really wasn’t any way to steer it. I never stood on it, but I sat on it and rode it down hills in the street or parking lots, leaning back with my feet held up, gathering speed and wearing down the soles of my shoes to stop. It was great fun.

So next time you’re tempted to sneak into anything, I hope you’ll remember my story and just hold off. You’ll be happy you waited – because someone who loves you is going to be delighted when they get to see your genuine surprise.

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Christmas Eve Elf

Everyone has stories to tell about Christmas Eve, and that includes me. People with small children in the house who do the whole Santa thing know that you can’t just put presents under the tree. You have to wait until all hours of the night when the little rascals are tucked into bed and sound asleep to get the presents out of the hiding places scattered everywhere in the house and put them under the tree as if Santa actually came down the chimney – which our house doesn’t have Santa had to come right in the front door where we put the cookies and milk.

I did all of these things because I’ve felt compelled to be supermom. Compelled not by a desire to do everything superbly well and create memories that my children would cherish their whole lives. Nope. I’m just hyper. I do all kinds of stupid stuff because I can’t sit still. People think I’m productive and creative, when in reality I have things to show for my time because there has to be something really good on TV for me to veg out on the couch.

The other thing is my husband figured out a long time ago that if he refused to do something, like put together a bicycle or string Christmas lights, I’d do it. And yes, I’m getting to my point finally, which is why I think I deserve to be a Christmas Elf.

One year they wanted new bikes. There is nowhere at my house to hide one bike, much less two. And since Santa had to bring them, I asked one of my neighbors a few doors away if I could store the bikes at her house. She said yes, and offered the shed out back so that I could come and get them late at night without waking her.

We always go to midnight Mass. It wasn’t over until about 1:30 a.m. I got the kids home to bed, and that was easy enough because even though they were very, very excited and had helped put out the milk and cookies for Santa, they were also exhausted after spending Christmas Eve at Grandma’s and then the late church service. At 2:00 a.m. I walked up the dark street (we live in an area where the house lots are all ¾ acre so the houses are far apart and the street is woodsy and rural feeling). I took a flashlight, but it was very creepy in that shed. It wasn’t even a shed; it was a room in the foundation of the house on the backside, like an old-fashioned root cellar with a creaking door, low ceilings, and no doubt vermin and bats.

I tried to maneuver both bikes at one time because I had the eevy-jeevies and wanted to get done fast, but that lasted about three steps. So I left one and pushed the other out the door, up through the grass, and out into the street. I think there may have even been snow on the ground, or at least ice. Or maybe it was raining. Or a hailstorm. Or all of the above. But it could have just been a freezing cold, clear night. All I remember was pushing that little bike down the hill, trying to keep quiet so I didn’t get blasted with a shotgun or attacked by coyotes. I got it through the front door, positioned it in front of the tree, and went back out into the cold night and got the other one.

When I was done, around 2:30 a.m., I pulled out all of the presents that were hidden all over the house and put them under the tree, filled the stockings, turned off the lights, and crawled exhausted into bed. At 6:30 the kids zoomed in the room like rockets and sprang onto the bed. “Mom, Dad, wake up wake up it’s Christmas!” No argument could convince them to go back to bed for another three hours, so we got up. They ran down the hall into the living room and saw the new bikes. “LOOK LOOK, SANTA BROUGHT US BIKES – LOOK, MOM, LOOK!” I staggered in, dredged up some excitement in my voice, and said, “Look, he took a bite out of the cookies, too!”

I have spent many Christmas Eves like this, exhausted from last minute shopping, my husband’s family, wrapping, hiding, and retrieving presents, making candy and sending cards to people who probably don’t get many cards. I think I deserve the title of Honorary Elf, even if I only do all this stuff because I’d go nuts if I didn’t have something to do all the time. Like now – I still have to go wrap presents I bought last minute today and all I really want to do is climb into bed. My daughter wants “Santa” to come, though she’s 16 and plopped by the tree watching a Star Wars marathon. Crap, I may be up until 2:00 waiting for her to go to bed so I can put my stash of presents under the tree. It feels like old times.

Merry Christmas everyone from one of Santa’s official little helpers. Santa and I hope your Christmas Day is merry and bright!

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

December Babies Get Gypped

People born around Christmas get gypped out of their birthdays when they’re little. Friends and relatives will smile really big and hand you a gift and say, “Here’s your birthday and Christmas present.”

Let’s think about this for a minute. If you had been born on July 18th, no one would say that. It would be ludicrous. So why do people think it’s okay to do it in December?

Everyone I’ve ever known with December birthdays says they got the same story — no matter what part of the country they were from or their economic status.

We get birthday cakes decorated in red and green with holly instead of flowers or balloons on them. We get presents wrapped in Christmas paper. This is not right!

I have made it my life’s mission to get my birthday celebrated in a non-Christmas style. I make sure everyone knows they cannot get by with the old combined present thing. I don’t care if you get me no gift at all – but just don’t tell me it’s for both. What does that mean, anyway? That if I choose to open the present on my birthday, I’m going to get up Christmas morning and have no presents at all?

When I get a birthday cake, or make one of my own, it does not have red and green frosting. It will be rainbow colors, or turquoise, or something that reeks of birthday.

I’ll give you an example. My mother-in-law, who I hope doesn’t read this, would have birthday parties for each of her five children when my husband and I were first married. We attended all of these, presents in hand, and had dinners and spent a few hours visiting with each other. And then it came time for our birthdays, and year after year there would be no party and no presents because the family was going to get together in a few days anyway. So we’d show up, get our, “Did you have a good birthday?” questions, maybe get some cards, and that would be it. Where is the justice?

If you’ve read this far, you probably think I’m a spoiled brat, and you’re right. But that is neither here nor there. Nor anyplace else either. I want my birthday to be separate. I’m going to use all the years of my adult life to make amends for the birthdays I got that were combined with Christmas.

I’m not bitter. Yeah, right. I’m mad as a hornet. December babies didn’t ask to compete with the biggest holiday on the planet. We’d be a lot happier if our parents would have gotten cozy in January instead of March. It was their lack of planning that has caused this annual inconvenience for us.

Sometimes I think I’ll just celebrate our birthdays in July with a nice barbecue so that the days before Christmas won’t be so full of activity, but I never do. It’s just not the same. A birthday is important. I believe it needs to be celebrated on the actual day – even if you don’t have a party or anything else. The minimum you need to have a good birthday is the feeling that it’s your day – even if you have to work or change diapers or visit the nursing home. You should be able to lay claim to that day as your own personal celebration, and not feel guilty about it.

So if you know people with a December birthdays, don’t even mention Christmas when you talk to them. Just say, “Happy Birthday,” and let us enjoy the moment. And if you want to give us a foot rub, that would be really nice, too.

No Vomitorium for Me

I have been working on a tedious task—editing someone else’s writing and fact checking sources. I think writing is fun when you’re trying to make a point and you find a great quote from an “official” person who has more clout than you. When you quote that person, it becomes believable and credible to the reader. However, in your zeal of discovery, you copy the quote and put a word or two of reference where you think you might have gotten the quote (but you looked at so many web sites, who can remember…). You move on with the next quote and say, “Let the grunt figure it out!” Then the grunt, who is me in this case, has to spend wee hours of the night chasing down obscure quotes that turn out to be incorrectly copied or attributed to a whole different person or both.

What’s this got to do with the price of eggs? In my misery, I started to grasp for a silver lining and said to myself, “At least I’m not having to stand on my feet behind a cash register all day.” And with that I comforted myself. There’s always someone who has it harder than you, no matter what. And I used to be a cashier at a department store, so I know what that’s like. It’s not so bad, really, but I’d rather be doing this than that, especially now that my feet and back would complain 24/7 if I stood for eight hours. There are lots of jobs that I’ve done, and each had its drawbacks. I was a lifeguard and baked in the East Tennessee sun all day long with the scant protection of white zinc oxide on my nose. I wouldn’t do that now if someone gave me a new car—well, maybe I would but only with an umbrella and a body cast made of sunscreen.

I was a waitress and liked that, but I wouldn’t do it again. Walking back and forth all day carrying heavy trays? Waiting forty-five minutes while a wishy-washy bimbo asked what everything on the menu tasted like—“Is the veal good?” “I’ve never tried it.” “Can you find me someone who has, sweetie?”

I wouldn’t like to do any job that involves an odor. I have been blessed with a nose that can sniff a rose at 50 feet. Unpleasant smells make me barf if I can’t run away from them quickly enough. I could never work in anything having to do with caged animals, sewage, baby day care, or where people are sick to their stomachs. In ancient Rome people would gorge themselves on feasts, but since they didn’t want to get fat, and since they wanted to keep eating, they’d go to a vomitorium and upchuck to make room for more gluttony. Can you imagine being an employee at one of these establishments? First you’ve got to listen to them, which would be enough to set me off, then you’d have to clean up because you know there would be splatters everywhere. I’m almost sick thinking about it.

I also couldn’t work at a place where there is a lot of whining. So I wouldn’t last long in a complaint department. When the lady brought the armpit stained dress back that smelled like tobacco smoke and had a couple of red wine stains—but the tags were still on it—I’d have a conniption fit.

I looked up conniption fit just now. It’s “an angry outburst.” It’s also “one of New England’s premier indie rock bands!” And it’s a little more emotional than a hissy fit.

That’s another job I probably wouldn’t like so much. Defining words for a dictionary. I like knowing what words mean, but I’m not so sure I’d like looking them up. Wait. You couldn’t look them up because you’d BE the dictionary. So how do they know, and know beyond a shadow of a doubt, that a hissy fit is milder than a conniption fit? This question makes me feel like I did when I first discovered eternity in about the second grade. I was in a Catholic school and we were talking about Heaven and going there for all eternity. I’m the kind of person who likes beginnings and endings. So eternity freaked me out completely. All I could picture was the image of two mirrors facing each other, and you see mirrors reflected in both of them that stretch to the vanishing point. That wasn’t even good enough because you kindof got a sense that the mirrors would be so small that they disappeared, which was an ending. It took me a few years of cogitating the whole thing to come to accept that whatever happens I’ll deal with it. Just like having to give my dad showers when he was recovering. Oh my gosh! I would have had nightmares if I’d known I was going to ever have to see him naked. I’m getting a shiver like you get when you see a ghost going up my spine right now thinking about it. Let’s change the subject.

My point was that I guess with anything – a job, an old naked parent, or what have you—you get used to it. That does not mean I would put my application in for a vomitorium, though. I have to draw the line somewhere.

Monday, December 21, 2009

Party Hugs

We had a gathering at our house tonight to celebrate Christmas and our birthdays. We invited a couple of new friends who had never been to our house. I introduced one man to my brother, and he said, “Which one of you two is the oldest?”

This is a very slippery slope to start down. One of us is obviously older. If it’s the female, then she’ll take it as a compliment and you’re in the clear. But you only have a 50-50 chance of it being the female. If you’re wrong, then you’d better duck and cover, because as they say, hell hath no fury like a woman you’ve just insulted about her age.

This is an easy mistake not to make. Just don’t ask such a stupid question. Ask, “Where did you grow up?” or “What do you do for a living?”

But enough about this, I need to talk about my cake. You know that hideous cake I made yesterday – the coconut one. Oh my sweet goodness was it tasty. It was so moist and just perfectly doused with coconut. Not one pinch too much or too little. I decorated it with turquoise icing and wrote, “Happy Birthday to Me and Scott.” My husband and I have very close birthdays.

Even with a ring of turquoise icing and writing on top, the caked remained ugly as a wall-eyed kangaroo, but it had a massive trustworthiness about it that invited you to partake of a little nibble out of pure curiosity. Once sampled, people were taking big old slices. I’m very happy it turned out tasty.

One fun thing about parties is that people drink a lot and loosen up and get silly. I didn’t drink too much because every time I poured a glass of wine I’d set it down and it would disappear. I probably went through two bottles of wine and didn’t get a buzz. I didn’t get much food for the same reason.

But some of my girlfriends were drinking enough for me. The things that come out of their mouths! They talk about other women’s boobs – about them sagging, or being perky, or showing too much cleavage, or having no cleavage to show. Boobs really are a good conversation piece for women at parties. I wonder if men talk about any part of their anatomy at parties. “Hey, John, how’s it hangin’?” “Well, it was hangin’ to the left but lately it’s a little more center, ha ha.” “Did you see that guy in the black pants? He looks like he’s got a dishtowel in there. What’s up with that?” “It’s not real.” “How can you tell?” “I just know these things. Trust me, it’s not real.”

Somehow I don’t think guys do that, but who knows.

Well, I’m pretty worn out. Parties, even small gatherings, are a lot of work. All that cleaning and vacuuming so people can grind crackers and grapes into your carpet, spill red wine on your kitchen floor, and shatter your favorite glass into a radius a half a mile wide so everyone has to stand still while you get the broom and spend the rest of the night sweeping up all the tiny slivers. In fact, sometimes I wonder why I love having parties, but I know I had this one because of that Christmas song that goes something like, “We need a little Christmas, right this very minute...” In this stagnant, downturned economy when everyone is just hunkering down and riding out the storm, I wanted the people I love and make me happy around me. I got a good dose of seasonal kindness and a whole bunch of hugs because people decide they’re leaving and give you a hug, and then they get distracted and a half-hour later they’re still there trying to go home so you get another hug. Hugs are good for the soul, and I’m happy as an otter in the water I’m going to bed now and dream of sugarplums.

Baking My Own Birthday Cake

It’s my birthday in a couple of days so I just finished making myself a coconut cake. When I was a kid, there was a little corner grocery store down the street that would get boxed coconut cakes in at Christmas time, and they had this hard icing Santa in the middle. My parents would always buy one of those cakes for me and stick some candles on it and that would be my birthday cake every year. Part of me didn’t like the Santa thing in the middle – nobody else had a Santa on their cake – they had balloons or confetti and flowers. On the other hand, that was pretty darn good cake and the only one I wanted.
This thing I made tonight is an atrocity. It is 16 inches across and about 6 inches tall because some friends are coming over to help me celebrate and I thought everyone would want a piece. I put coconut in the mix, and put coconut in the frosting: a total of two and a half bags, with each bag being 14 ounces. That’s over two pounds of coconut. Lord have mercy – the thing is lethal!
The frosting was too thick to spread, so I watered it down but got carried away. Why is it that you can add a few drops of water to thin something and it’s almost perfect, then you put one drop more and it gets runny? This happens to me a lot.
When icing is too soft, the top layer won’t stay put. It wants to glide sideways. I know this from experience. My cake isn’t doing that, though, and I think it’s because all that coconut is giving it some traction. I used two boxes of powdered sugar and two sticks of butter, and one whole bag of coconut, and there still wasn’t enough frosting to cover it. Brown cake is poking through. I think I put too much in the middle, but I needed some extra because the bottom layer looks like a dome and I was trying to fill in. I don’t know how you make a cake be flat. That’s why this cake is so tall.
Anyway, I saved a little of the frosting to decorate it, and maybe I’ll take a picture of it. My plan is to position the decorating to cover all the bare spots. Some of the icing on the top was easing down the dome and cracks were starting to form like mini San Andreas faults all over the top when I last checked it. I’m hoping sitting overnight will harden it up some.
Sorry for rambling on about this behemoth of a cake. If it tastes okay, and people eat it tomorrow night and get heart attacks from all the oils and other bad things, can I get sued? I’m going to ask my guests to sign a release before they can have a piece.

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Writing Christmas Letters Is for the Dogs

I talked a little yesterday about how hard it is to write Christmas letters. But not as hard as it is to read some of them. I can’t understand why people write them in the 3rd person. You know the person who is writing them is someone in the family. They didn’t hire someone else to do a one-page history of the last year.

For example, if there are four people in the family, the writer will say, “Joe decided to get chickens, Lucy is in 9th grade, Jamie broke her leg, and Rebecca has been busy with her new company.” So who’s writing the fricking letter? If it’s some third party, there should be a by-line somewhere, like: “2009 Christmas Letter About the Jones Family” by Bob Smith.

Some of these letters go off the deep end. Pam, who must be the writer of one letter because she’s a single mom and you know good and well the 3 year old didn’t write it, says, “Pam has been busy with her job and a toddler. She is hoping to get a promotion so that she can work fewer hours and be able to afford to stay home more. Pam gets very tired sometimes, but she wants to be a good mom and do a great job so she just keeps plugging along. Pam would like to win the lottery or at least find a rich husband, ha ha.”

If you’re writing the Christmas letter for your family, please just say, “I have been busy.” It’s so much easier to plow through.

Here’s something else, but I know if I write it I’ll make some big stupid typo here, but it can’t be helped. Why won’t people read their own letters? They must just pump them out and stuff them in the envelope without a second glance. When I read through their letters I feel like taking a red pen and circling all the errors.

This doesn’t really bother me that much; I’m just struggling to find something to write about. I could mention a TV show I saw yesterday called, “The Science of Dogs.” It really was interesting. Assuming that dogs come from wolves, you’d think they’d have similar behavior, but they’re different in one important way. Dogs use humans to get what they want. When I saw this, I realized just how smart my dog is.

They had a dog and a wolf, and the wolf was raised as a pet so it had always lived with people and wasn’t wild. They tied a piece of meat on a string and put it in a cage, and both the dog and the wolf figured out how to pull the meat out of the cage by tugging on the string. Then they tied the meat down inside the cage but still put the string on it so it looked just like before. The wolf went straight to the string and started tugging, and when the meat didn’t come, it kept tugging, dragging the cage around and getting frustrated. Then they brought the dog in. It tugged on the string exactly twice, then backed off and looked up at the human with this perfect dog face and these eyes that said, “I can’t do it, please help me oh kind sir, and do it quick.”

I have seen that look on my dog so many times it made me laugh out loud. My dog likes to throw balls in the air and chase them around. She thinks she’s going to entice me to play with her by doing this, and sometimes it works. If I’m too busy to play right then, she’ll manage to roll the ball under the couch where she can’t reach it, and she gives me that look. If I’m not looking at her, she’ll bark a particular bark and sit and look toward the couch until I come in the room and ask what’s the matter. She just looks at me, then looks at the couch with that exact TV dog look until I lay down on my stomach and fish that ball out from under the couch.

That dog uses me for all kinds of stuff. She wants out, I get up and let her out. She wants in, I get up and let her in, then she wants out again – all in the space of three minutes. That dog has me wrapped around her finger and I’m on demand to do her bidding anytime day and night.

What that has to do with Christmas letters is this. Maybe it’s not a 3rd party writing those letters; maybe it’s the family dog. I think I’m going to train my dog to type. She’d probably have some pretty good tales to tell. “Yeah, I got Suzanne on her belly six different times today. She’s such a sucker. You’d think she’d learn and just quit doing it. I laugh so hard I puke, which she promptly cleans up and starts talking to me in that stupid baby talk she thinks I like, then asks me if I have a bellyache and slices me some cheese to settle my stomach. Ahhh, a dog’s life is the only life for me. ”

Friday, December 18, 2009

Spinning Christmas Letters

I finally got my Christmas letter done for out of town family and friends. These used to be a lot easier to write when the kids were little and doing funny antics. You could ramble on and on about the baby’s first steps and it sounded so cute. Now it’s a struggle trying to spin your teenagers’ behavior into something that won’t embarrass you.

Take my son, for instance. He has spent two and a half years at the University of Oregon trying to attend every known party on campus. There’s not a lot of learning that goes on during these occasions, unless it’s studying ways to beat your opponent at beer pong. I believe in my heart that he would move heaven and earth to get to a party on time and be one of the last to leave.

Ah, but that he could muster that same tenacity and dedication when it comes to his classes. Those, apparently, are functions to avoid at all costs. Perhaps he thinks that would be bad for his reputation to be seen in a classroom, much less taking notes or answering a question.

I am poking jests because to do otherwise is to collapse into a heap of tears at what a failure I am as a parent. We just received the official letter from U of O saying that they are disinclined to have him come back to school at this time. He may take a year and attempt to improve his grades anywhere on the planet but there, at which time he can reapply.

I don’t know if I should be writing about this. He’ll kill me if he ever reads my blog, which could happen if Hell freezes over. I guess I was trying to make the point that it’s harder to write these Christmas letters as you get older.

I’ve received a couple of letters with reports about how many people have passed away since last Christmas. This is not happy holiday reading, but I guess people feel compelled to share things that are important to them.

Oh my gosh, speaking of sharing. I was at a neighbor’s Christmas party last night and had worked pretty much the whole room except for one girl in her mid-twenties wearing a black and white mini dress and socks with some kind of clunky sandals. Woo-whee! I started talking to her at the buffet table where we discovered we both ate soy burgers. “But they make me fart,” she confessed. “I ate a whole package of soy burgers and then went on a date to a movie with a guy, and I couldn’t stop farting. I farted all through the movie.” Her eyes were getting big and her voice more animated. She obviously enjoyed this topic. “It was weird, though, he never said anything.” I was thinking that he was probably being slowly asphyxiated. “He never asked me out again.”

Well, du-uh. I hate people who pass gas in close places where you can’t escape.

Anyway, she starts in on another really gassy experience she had with baked beans, and I was…aghast. I never fart in public, though I may not be quite so kind with my family. Still, I am discreet, and I sure don’t talk about it to strangers at parties. But that’s just me.

As I was saying, I agonized over my Christmas letter this year, trying to spin it a little so that one child didn’t come across as an under-achiever, and the other as an over achiever. At least neither of my children farts and talk about it at parties. Maybe that’s what I should have said. There is always a silver lining, as they say. They also say, Beans, beans good for your heart, the more you eat the more you…toot. The girl at the party also confessed that she was a dog walker, which is the perfect profession because she can fart out in the open air all day. Just imagine! She gave me her business card, but I’m probably not going to call – my dog is averse to gas. She’ll jump off your lap and literally leave the room if you let one slip, which is pretty amazing for a beast that spends half the day with her head between her own back legs. Quite frankly, I find it a little insulting.

Well, I think I’ve said about all I can say on the subject of Christmas letters.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Here's a Tip for You

I went into Starbucks this morning to get my once weekly latte. Caffeine gives me a jittery buzz followed by a headache, but on Sundays I succumb to the craving for a fine cup of coffee – fine meaning any coffee I don’t brew myself.

Because it was early and I was the only one at the counter, I noticed the tip box right by the cash register as I was handing over my money. I got $2.50 back in change, which I wanted to pocket except that the tip box, already seeded with a couple of dollars and some change, made me feel like a cheapskate.

I carried on this really quick debate in my head: “All she did was repeat what I wanted to the barista, take my five bucks and hand me my change. Why do I have to put extra money in the tip box?” To which I replied in my head, “They probably don’t make much money, and it’s only fifty cents, just put it in there, you tightwad.” To which I responded in my head, “Why the heck doesn’t Starbucks pay them enough money rather than making me feel like I’m taking food out of their mouths when I don’t want to reward them just for doing the job they were hired to do?”

The generous half of me won - I put the money in the box, grumbling in my head the whole time and wondering why tipping is becoming the norm these days. I worked as a waitress during college, and I’m not sure how they got away with it, but they only paid us half of minimum wage. We were supposed to get the rest of our income from tips, which we all managed to do. One woman I worked with did quite well for herself. She’d race over to everyone tables and steal their tips if we didn’t beat her to it. It was like those bonuses managers gave themselves from the bailout money. They didn’t deserve it either, but that didn’t stop them from stealing our hard earned tax payer dollars.

I’m okay with tipping people who give you a lot of personal attention like your massage therapist or hairdresser. Also tipping the bellhop who drags your overstuffed luggage to your room. Paying him to put his hand back in his pocket and vacate your room is worth it.
But people whose whole interaction with you is to take your money? I’m not sure about that. What’s next? The grocery clerk at Safeway? The person selling tickets at the movies? The kid hawking Girl Scout cookies at your front door?

So I’m going to generously give you a tip, Starbucks, along with every other coffee shop and deli in the world. Put up a sign saying, “No tipping, please! We pay our employees more than enough to scrape by – they don’t need any handouts from you, thank you very much.” Then actually pay them a decent wage.

You guys are just like coffee. You leave a bitter taste in my mouth and give me a headache.

TV Worth Watching

Talking about weather people in my blog yesterday made me recall one weatherman I really liked in Fort Myers Beach, Florida. I spent a summer there during college, and there was a weatherman who was named Dave (or Bob), who gave his weather report like any other person would do, drawing circles around hurricanes with some kind of TV chalk and telling about the temperature. At the end he’d take the piece of chalk and toss it high in the air, and it would hover up there forever. Meantime, he’d open the pocket on his shirt and catch the chalk in it. He was keeping a record of his successes and was on day 350 or something. We tuned in, not to watch the weather, which was pretty much the same – hot and humid with showers between 2 and 2:15 - to see if this guy broke his record or missed.

That’s television worth watching. Another guy I used to love to watch was a used car salesman somewhere around Knoxville, Tennessee. I spent a lot of time there with friends, and this guy’s commercials would come on and we’d drop everything to watch him. He was some fusty dealer from the outlying area – some town you’d never go on purpose. I can’t remember his name, but he’d stand out in his used car lot and talk really fast so he could showcase a few cars in 60 seconds. He’d stand to the side of some souped-up car, and the words spilled out of his mouth like marbles from a bag: “I got this 1972 GTO, possy traction, four in the floor. $1995.” Then he’d kick the car’s back wheel and say, “Get that som bitch outta here.” The driver screeched out laying rubber and another car zoomed into its place, breaking with another screech and practically throwing the driving into the windshield. “Now, here’s a nice family car,” he’d say, “a 1969 Vet.”

We laughed our asses off, and it was because he was so funny, and not for any other reason college-aged students might have found things that weren’t particularly funny extremely hilarious. I don’t think he ever actually said, “Som bitch” because that was before trash talk, but he mumbled it in just the right way that it’s what we all heard.

None of us bought a car from this dealer. We were driving beat-up Volkswagens. But if we had been in the market for a vehicle past its prime that was loaded with worthless options, he would have been our man.

I’m going to have to Google used car dealers in Knoxville and see if he’s still around. Probably not. Some marketing genius, or one of his college educated kids, most likely convinced him that he needed to change his image and become more upscale. But it just goes to show that we get opportunities all the time in life to enjoy what’s going on around us if we open ourselves up to what’s there. In spite of a bleak world, there’s always something going on that can raise the corners of you mouth – one corner anyway.

If I can think of any other TV personalities, I’ll write about them later. But for now, I’m looking out the window and seeing ordinary rain has returned to Portland – not freezing rain as highly touted all day and night on every forecast within the Portland viewing area and beyond. Who would have figured the weather people would get yet another impending storm wrong?

YouTube Homework

I was at the high school tutoring today, and I’m nursing a headache from all the noise in the library. I sat at a table situated behind a bank of computers and helped my favorite student with his economics assignment. He left for a few minutes to key in the changes I suggested on one of the computers.

As I waited, I could see ten computer screens, and most of the kids were surfing the net. One kid was looking at different cell phones on Verizon. The rest were watching YouTube videos. Kids started gathering around one of the screens to watch a video game. They started getting pretty animated, and I saw the librarian get up from her desk and head toward their direction. Just when she was almost close enough to see what was on the screen, up popped a writing assignment. She looked at the screen and made a very educated guess that they were probably not getting all that excited about a Word document. She shooed everyone away, and kicked the kid off the computer. He gave her a bunch of lip but got up and left.

We didn’t have computers in my library, but we did our share of goofing off. We entertained ourselves with looking at naked people in anatomy and medical books, passing notes, or doodling—anything to avoid homework. These kids have a different medium for wasting time, but it’s still the same typical high school behavior.

As soon as the librarian walked away, YouTube magically appeared on the kids’ screens. One guy had a game on. The game made it appear that you, the game player, were walking along looking down the barrel of a machine gun hunting for people to shoot at. You were wearing an army camouflage shirt. Someone popped out from a doorway and fire flashed from the end of your gun while you repeatedly blasted them. A bunch of boys gathered around the screen, mesmerized. They weren’t actually playing the game; they were watching a demo video of it.

I was waiting for my student to get back, so I got up and went over and stood with the crowd. “What on earth are you watching?” I asked. None of them looked up, but they all answered, “a video game.” How they knew I wasn’t the librarian, I don’t know. I guess they could still see her out of their peripheral vision. “Are you actually playing the game?” I asked. “Naw, it’s just a demo.”

There was a pretty good crowd forming. You, the video soldier, continued to blast people. Although it was definitely animation, it had a fairly realistic look to it. One time the blasted guy was pretty close to the “camera” and the screen got splattered in fake blood. “Oooo that’s gross,” I said, but they were murmuring, “Cool!”

“Doesn’t this make you want to go out and kill people?” I asked. “Naw, it’s just a game.” I persisted. “Don’t you feel anything watching this?” And they responded like zombies, “Naw.”

“We used to play Pac Man where you blasted little alien things,” I said. “This is Pac Man 2” one of them quipped. I went back to my table after a couple of minutes, bored and scared the librarian would come over.

I’ve decided that it isn’t much different than when kids pretended they were in the old west and made their fingers into guns so they could blast each other. This was the high school version of that. I don’t approve of it, per se, because it’s violent and I don’t like violence. On the other hand, I remember reading that book, “All Quiet on the Western Front” when I was in high school and I could visualize those war scenes as if they were real. I can still see them in my head. At least you knew this was a game.

The librarian came back over and the kids scattered like a bag of marbles dropped on a concrete floor. Up came the Word documents just in the nick of time. She walked over to me and shook her head. “They watch a lot of YouTube,” I said. She glanced at the screens, “I’m going to get some monitoring equipment so I can see what they have on their computers,” she said.

She’s going to get an eyeful.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Holiday Cards and Christmas Spending

I ran a bunch of errands today and had my Christmas cards printed – got a great deal at Macadam Documart and they did a really nice job – just a plug because I almost feel guilty because they treated me so well.

But I’m not here to be nice or friendly, I’m here to make fun of the world, or at least report the funny things I see, and one of them was the checkout line at Fred Meyer today. I bought some stamps, but the cashier was short one book so I had to wait at the end of the checkout counter until someone went to Siberia to fetch it.

While I whiled away the hours, I noticed people checking out. They glance at the cash register to see if the checker is catching all the sales items, looking at their checkbook on the little stand and back up at the subtotal, as if the checkbook is talking to them and saying, “We can’t afford that, don’t you know there’s not enough money in here?” Older women pay in cash and wait until the cashier gives their total before they fish their change purse out of their deep, dark handbags. Men play pocket pool and rattle change as if to say, “I got your money right here, baby, and there’s plenty of it.”

Except for one really tall guy who had a lot of anxiety about the whole ringing up process. He literally had his hand over his face and was looking through the fingers like you do at a scary movie. He kept peeking out, watching as item after item made its way down the conveyor belt and across the scanner. I can only imagine what he was thinking. “If I don’t look, maybe it won’t go over $100. Holy crap, it’s at $106! I can’t look! I have to look. WHAT? $114? How can that be???”

I can sympathize. I’ve asked cashiers to double check prices because I’m astounded at how only a few items, barely enough to cover the bottom of a grocery cart, can add up to seventy-nine bucks. Did someone throw a diamond ring in there when I wasn’t looking?

I read something interesting the other day about spending during the holidays that made me fighting mad. Yes, I was spitting and clawing. If there had been curtains anywhere in my house, I would have scratched them down. You know that lady in the Sunday Supplement (in The Oregonian it’s called “Parade”) who has an IQ so high it makes Einstein look like a Teletubby? Here name is Marilyn Vos Savant (no relation to director Gus Van Sant), and someone wrote in last Sunday asking what percent does holiday spending in December represent of the total US economy. Mz. Vos Savant says that it’s only ¾ of 1 percent. A mere blip on the economy barely visible with a high-powered electron microscope. If that’s the case, why do they hound us to buy buy buy earlier and earlier and earlier?

I won’t ramble on about this topic because I’ve done it before at length, and you’re lucky I remembered I did it before because I’d be launching off into a tirade like a rocket to Saturn. This is a pet peeve, and I have lots of peeves but this is one of very few I call pet.

So I finally got my stamps – which, at 44 cents a pop are about 70% of my gross December income once I buy enough to send out all the cards I had printed up. I got such a good deal I guess I over-ordered. I’ve never met you, but you will probably get a Christmas card from me this year. In case you don’t, I’ll tell you the clever poem I wrote. If you read yesterday’s blog, you’ll know that I took a picture of my mini-gingerbread houses for the front of the card. On the inside here’s what I wrote:

We downsized our gingerbread houses

Because of the economy

But we hope you’re enjoying this season

With high spirits and good company!

Merry Christmas and a Prosperous New Year!

Well, at least it rhymes (this line isn’t in the card, but maybe it should have been).

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Buyer Beware: Gingerbread Houses

On Sunday we decorated gingerbread houses. It’s a longstanding family tradition even though 50% of my children refuse to engage in it anymore. They loved it when they were little because they could eat all the candy they wanted while we decorated. They invited their friends over and it was a big gorge-fest. They also took pride in the actual decorating, because there was a little bit of competition to see who could make the most appealing house. Some years I baked the gingerbread from scratch. This was when Martha was preaching to us that we could duplicate our own house so easily with gingerbread, and I, like a lot of other suckers, fell for it.

When you’re a hyper stay-home mom, you do these things. My friends and I, at one time or another, baked bread, make cakes from scratch, canned fresh produce, and took our kids to parks and parades and “outings” constantly. None of us have anything to show for it because our teenagers are as surly and ungrateful as the working moms’ teenagers, but I’m getting off the subject, which is gingerbread houses.

I came to my senses and started buying those packaged kits; we assemble them now with a hot glue gun rather than the icing, which took forever to dry. No one eats the things – they rank side by side with fruitcakes as inedible holiday fare. Although one of our friends came over and started plucking candy off the roof of the gingerbread house one year. I had to slap his hand. Twice.

Last year I was really thrifty and bought some g-bread houses on sale at half price to use this year. They weren’t the normal Wilton brand that I’ve used many years, they were a brand that stands for candy and has two names that both start with W and had a movie with the same names starring Gene Wilder first and then a remake starring Johnny Depp. I do not want to say the actual name because I’m afraid I’m going to get sued.

This particular brand of g-bread house came in a very large box with lots of candies on the front. We opened the boxes and found them full of….(suspense!) green plastic molding that sequestered the candies into little compartments and had one small section for a baby g-bread house. Now maybe the makers thought this was a full size house, but that would be like saying a Barbie doll’s house was like a real house.

Furthermore, some of the g-bread was cracked into pieces. That could have been from taking it out of the grocery cart and putting it into my storage area where it sat and did nothing for a year until it was removed from it’s safe place and opened.

We got out the hot glue guns and went to work patching the sides so that we could assemble the houses. Once that was all done, they fell apart. There is some magical coating on these houses that makes them impervious to glue. By the time we got the houses to be freestanding, we were too tired to decorate.

But we pressed on for the sake of tradition, and opened the bags of icing that came with the kit. My daughter squirted a little on her finger to have a taste, and it had a revolting brownish tinge. Luckily we had some leftover frosting from another kit and used that. The brownish color could have been because the icing was old, but I’m not so sure, I wouldn’t put anything past these guys.

Anyway, we had pretty much lost interest in the whole affair by now, but we at least put nice roofs on the houses. She used Necco wafers like shingles, and I sprinkled some of the colorful bits of hard candy that came with the kit on my roof. The rest of it we slapped together willy-nilly just to get them covered with candy and say we were done.

One bunch of candies included in the kit were little yellow banana shaped things – now there’s a Christmassy color. Instead of nice greens and reds, everything was pastels or bright oranges. Luckily we always buy tons of red and green M & M’s and other seasonal candy to sprinkle around the houses to make them more festive. Plus the loose candy keeps most normal humans away from the candy on the house (except the one exception mentioned above).

So that’s my tale of woe about this year’s gingerbread houses. I took a picture of them to put on my Christmas card, which for some stupid reason I think I have to make from scratch even though it takes hours and hours. I really need to see a psychiatrist. That will have to be one of my New Year’s resolutions. Along with not buying big suspicious boxes covered in candy just to save a couple of bucks.

Monday, December 14, 2009

Post-operative Ramblings

I had oral surgery today and so I have been sleeping all day from painkillers. But I have to write something for today so I don’t miss, so I’m going to ramble about nothing. What do you mean all my posts are rambling about nothing? I have subjects and topics. Why would you insult me while I’m down? What is this world coming to?

For your information, I have been laying (or lying) on the couch all day suffering with a bag of frozen peas on my face. Do you think that’s fun? Well, do you????

Just because I’m a very positive person on occasion, and this is one of them because I want you to feel guilty, I will share that I’ve also been watching reruns of lots of very funny movies like The Blues Brothers and Hot Shots, Part Deux. I think Hot Shots is one of the best movies ever made because there’s some new dumb thing on the screen every twenty seconds. Like when Topper Harley says to Ranada (or Renada), “You must be joking,” she says back, “If I were joking I would say: ‘A horse walks into a bar and the bartender says, ‘Hey, why the long face?’’”

I had to put all those extra quotation marks because that’s a quote within a quote within a quote, just so you don’t start pointing fingers and saying I’m making typos, which I can do all on my own without your help, thank you very much.

The Blues Brothers is good because of all the music. Like the scene where Aretha Franklin tells her husband he can’t go off with the Blues Brothers and starts singing, “You better think (think) think what you’re trying to do to me (think!) Think (think think)” and so forth. Now these aren’t typos either. That’s pretty much the lyrics as best as I can remember them, and I hope I don’t have to get permission to use them because I feel like I’m going to throw up. Excuse me while I grab my barf bucket.

That’s better. So while Aretha is singing, some girls get off their bar stools and start dancing in being backup singers. Other people in the diner join in, and even the Blues Brothers. It’s one of my favorite scenes in a movie. And I think I misspelled scenes somewhere above but I again feel the need to barf. Must be the oxycodone, or the laying around or... I gotta run

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Awful Gadgets

This is a short article that was published in the technical section of The Oregonian newspaper. They had asked people to write in with complaints about any gadgets, and just the word "complaint" made me rush to the computer. A photographer came out and took my picture, which was just awful because I was wearing braces on my teeth for a bite problem and couldn't smile. The photographer coaxed me into smiling anyway and took the most hideous picture ever seen by mankind - and for some odd reason that's the one the paper published.

Here's the short story about my awful gadget:

A few years ago I bought a Sony IC recorder and a Dragon Naturally Speaking voice recognition program to dictate my book. I thought I could put on the headset while I was doing mundane tasks around the house and dictate the conversations that my characters were always having in my head – Nobel Prize stuff that I never could remember when I got back to my computer.

The quality of the recorder was great, but because it was so compact, Sony had to use small, multi-function buttons and toggle switches with descriptions I could barely see. I’d have to consult the manual regularly, which was frustrating and stifled my creativity.

Also, I found that those fantastic conversations my characters were having didn’t translate well to dictation. If I didn’t focus completely on the dictating, my recording sounded like this: “and, ah, then uh, Sarah said, uh, uh.” I couldn’t make a bed and talk at the same time, apparently.

In addition, the old Dragon Naturally Speaking program had a hard time with my accent. I was raised in the south, where simple words like “milk” or “bread” are spoken as two syllables: “Mee-ulk” and “bra-yud.” Dragon Naturally Speaking translated many perfectly coherent sentences like this: “The end we win end to the store or…” (Then we went to the store.) They’ve improved the program substantially since then, but not before I gave up. I typed the book, which took considerably less time and irritation.

I still have the recorder and bring it out occasionally to see if my accent sounds more Oregonian.

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Weather to Beware

I was at a four-hour swim meet tonight to watch a total of thirty seconds of my daughter swimming. It was her first meet and she did very well. We gave one of her teammates a ride home, and of course the two of them were texting to see what happened while they couldn’t be in contact with the outside world. They found out that both the girls’ and boys’ basketball games had been cancelled because of the weather.

The weather was, and continues to be, fine. But not according to the weather forecasters in Portland who have been working themselves into a lather all day about freezing rain that might arrive sometime before the end of the century. According to NOAA, there is a 10% chance in the late evening of this actually occurring. Not a lot of odds that it would happen, but they don’t care. Even a smidgen of indication that bad weather could happen is enough to give them “Breaking News.”

I believe forecasters embellish bad weather reports to make their ratings go up. If they can get everyone worried about snow on the way or gale force winds, people will stay home and tune in to see when the weather is going to get to their houses and begin wreaking havoc on their lives. Call me old-fashioned, but I can do the same thing by glancing out my kitchen window.

I’m not talking about hurricanes and tornados, which can cause serious damage and are somewhat more predictable because of weather patterns in certain places. I’m talking about snow and freezing rain that can, I suppose, be pretty devastating if you are talking about someone having to pay a tow truck to fish him out of a ditch. That’s expensive. What I’m talking about is the warnings that go on all day long about weather that doesn’t get here, if it arrives at all, until much later, causing needless fear and disruptions. School was cancelled one day last year the night before based on cries of a snowstorm on it’s way. The next day we awoke to dry concrete and a house full of teenagers lolly gagging around making messes and wanting to be driven everywhere.

I know the weather isn’t an exact science, but nobody else seems to grasp this fact. They take forecasts as gospel even though the percentage of correct predictions is about -10.

I had to stop by Wal-Mart and the crowds were outrageous – everyone stocking up on canned goods and flashlights and potato chips to weather out the two-day storm. I was out of gas and waited in a long line at the gas station because people were apparently stocking up on gas, too. Why, I don’t know, because you cannot drive in freezing rain. It’s like running on a frozen pond coated in slime. You just spin your wheels. The officials tell you not to drive unless it’s absolutely necessary, so why stock up on petroleum products?

Just now I glanced outside. No freezing rain. It may get here – but it better hurry up because it’s almost midnight. I must skitter to finish this blog because I’m sure the power is going to go out any second with all that freezing rain weighing down the power lines. Oh, wait, I forgot, it hasn’t come yet. But I just got an email that my writer’s group is cancelled tomorrow morning because the freezing rain will surely be here by then. Would anyone care to make a wager?

Friday, December 11, 2009

Oh No, Not Jerry Springer

I had a project due today so this is going to be short. What do you mean, “Thank goodness?!!”

The funniest thing I saw today was also about the saddest. I was having my lunch break at home and decided to watch the end of Perry Mason. I always liked the way Perry tricked the guilty party on the witness stand in the last few minutes. You might be interested to know that Perry Mason plays on KPTV Channel 12 in Portland every day at noon, and has been running for 150 years consecutively. It’s still in black and white, and still has a ton of commercials informing people who have been injured in an accident that they need to call the law firm of B. Ann Ambulance Chaser to get due justice in the form of wads of cash, and it doesn’t cost a penny for a consultation, because they are in your court. Nice play on words.

On the way to getting to Perry Mason, I stumbled on Jerry Springer. Common decency told me not to linger, but I succumbed to curiosity when I saw the title of the show, “My cousin left me for a Tranny,” or something like that. I shutter to think what a Tranny is, and I don’t have time to look it up, darn it. Besides, it was the cousin part that caught my eye. Every time I have the misery of lighting on this show there’s always someone having relations with his relations. It’s moms and daughters with the same boyfriend, or a stepson marrying his stepmother.

I could understand it if we all lived on a deserted island and there weren’t any mates except family. But in the United States of American we have a zillion people desperate for a boyfriend. Why do these people have to stick with their sisters and cousins?

Normal people don’t even get along with their families, much else want to climb in bed with them. But still I gazed on to see a little squirrely guy with hair in cornrows and a too big white shirt with a floppy tie trying to incite the girlfriend and the Tranny to get in a wrestling match. The girls were on opposite sides of the stage, and there were about a dozen security guards on alert to standby and watch the fight for a few minutes before breaking it up. The audience was chanting and shaking their fists in the air, trying to incite a riot.

The two women lunged at each other like it was on cue and started scratching and slapping, pushing and shoving. Jerry Springer, who had a big logo on the screen but just in case you didn’t realize this trailer trash display of tempers was his show, he was holding a sign in the hand he held his microphone that said, “JERRY SPRINGER,” was walking around with a bemused smile, hoping for good ratings.

Well, security finally broke up the brawlers, and the little pip-squeak of a boyfriend had a smirk on his face like the cat that ate the canary, and I moved on. Perry was a lot more civilized, and at least I keep my lunch down watching him. And that Paul Drake beats a shrimp cousin any day.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Weather, to Laugh or Cry About It

My husband and I went to two different architect parties tonight for clients. They were festive occasions (unlimited wine and beer always helps), but much talk centered around the economy and how many people different companies had to lay off, and all the companies who weren’t having a party this year.

There are two things I’m getting really distressed about. One is how messed up everything seems these days, what with global warming, the recession, and Tiger Woods. The other is the weather here in Oregon.

We have a reputation to uphold in the rainy northwest. We have consistent rain from October 30th until June 30th. There are a few scattered sun breaks here and there, but you can pretty much be guaranteed that if we have out of state guests during this period, we can present them with plenty of rain and they’ll be able to go home with a plethora of jokes about the all the rain in Oregon.

But not this year. Because of global warming, or the recession, or maybe even Tiger Woods, we have had a run of cold, sunny days that has us web-foots ringing our hands wondering what the heck is going on. It has been colder than a well digger’s ass in the Klondike, as my dear dad loved to say. He also loved to say that I was contrary as cat sh__ under a couch. And it was hotter than a half frigged fox in a forest fire. These are tacky sayings, but they illustrate my point, which I plan to get back to as soon as I look outside to see if there are any clouds on the horizon.

Nope. It is right now this instant at 10:18 pm on a Thursday night in December in Portland, Oregon a mere 17º and it’s supposed to drop two more degrees before morning.

We are all freezing. You can’t fight the cold with an umbrella. Not that anyone in Portland ever uses an umbrella. That’s for tourists. Locals are tough. We buy hooded raincoats and run from awning to awning to stay dry. Our skin is moist. We own leather tennis shoes (not mesh) for the winter so our feet won’t get wet when we walk the dog. Our dogs don’t wear raincoats, but that’s got nothing to do with it.

I was walking my dog today in the woods near my house and the creeks are starting to freeze. Usually I can’t go on those trails in the winter because I’d sink to my knees in mud. The ground is frozen solid and it’s like walking on granola. Rhododendrons, as common around here as telephone poles, have leaves that are so shriveled up they look like a bush full of green pencils.

If we lived in Alaska, this would be normal, but it’s driving everyone crazy around here. The funny thing is that at the same time people are complaining about the cold and posting “Brrrrrr” on their Facebook pages, when they start talking about how wretched the weather is, they always end their griping with, “But at least it’s not raining.”

That’s the catch-all phrase for all weather in Oregon that isn’t great but could be worse. And yet when we’ve gone long enough without rain, like in August when everything starts getting parched, people get distressed. Complaining about the weather is a favorite pastime of Oregonians, ranking right up there with complaining about Californians in general and the way Washingtonians drive in particular.

I just consulted the NOAA weather report for the next few days, and guess what we get to look forward to? Freezing rain. That is the ultimate worse case scenario. Oh boy, will I ever be able to bitch about that! We’ll have great conversations at Christmas parties this weekend. Can’t wait!

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Adventures in the Parking Garage

I went to my orthodontist today to get my braces off (YIPPEE), and pulled into the parking garage behind an SUV with a Thule on it (pronounced tool-ee and it’s a long storage gizmo that tapers down in the front and sits on top of the rack on your car in case you don’t live in SUV-ville). The car started under the height clearance sign, you know the one hanging from chains to let you know if your car is low enough to make it through the garage without scraping, and the Thule banged right into the sign – not just touched it but pulled it along for a ways.

I said to myself, I said, “Hmmm, surely that car isn’t going to head up the ramp.” But I was wrong, because it kept going and did fine until the ramp hit the next floor and leveled off. The Thule scraped the concrete ceiling. Still the driver forged on. The ceiling was lower about every six feet, and the Thule hit the next low spot. This time I could see it being pressed down into the roof of the car. The car kept going, but more slowly, and I could actually hear it scraping on the next low ceiling spot. A boy about ten years old sprang out of the car as it inched forward. Finally his mom pulled the car into a parking spot that was in the middle of nowhere – about as far away from shopping and the dental offices as you could get. I passed her and she had a strange look on her face – like she didn’t think there was anything amiss about what was happening.

It was mighty entertaining watching her scraping and pressing on. I thought about it to whole time I was in the orthodontist office (did I mention I got my braces off today?), and here’s what I think was going on. Her husband put the Thule on the car and went hunting. When he came home he didn’t bother taking it off because he was too hung over. I know he was hung over because I used to live in a rural place and rode horses throughout the year except during hunting season because drunken hunters would shoot the horse right out from under you, thinking it was a deer or rabbit or squirrel. I think the wife was spited because her husband was hung over and didn’t take the Thule off the car, and when it knocked into the sign, she just kept going anyway.

Her son, meantime, was freaking out. “Mom, you didn’t clear that sign, stop the car.” To which she said, leaning into the steering wheel, “Those signs don’t mean anything, it will be fine. Besides, we’re running late.”

That was enough to quiet the kid, though he was gripping the door handle with white knuckles, bracing for the impact. She kept going up the ramp, thinking to herself, “I hope we do hit the roof. That’ll show him.”

They were doing fine until the ramp leveled off at the next floor. The Thule scraped the ceiling, and the son started screaming, “Mom, oh my gosh you hit the garage ceiling.” To which she said, “It was just a little scrape. It will be fine.”

When it scraped even harder the second time, the kid screeched at the top of his lungs, “Mom, you’re going to pull Dad’s Thule right off the car. You need to stop.” To which she replied, “A little scrape isn’t going to hurt the Thule. Besides, we’re almost there, it’ll be fine. To herself she was thinking, “I hope it rips right off the roof and takes the rack with it. He’ll think twice about coming home hung over next time.”

When it hit again, the kid sprang out of the car and told his mom he would not get back in unless she parked. Which she finally did, and then I drove past and she gave me that odd look.

I couldn’t stick around to see how the story ended. Did the son get back in the car? Did she rip the Thule off on the way back down the ramp? Did she decide to divorce the worthless bum and take him for all he was worth?

Or was she just the most incredibly naïve woman in the world who thought the garage would accommodate her if she just gave it a chance.

We’ll never know for sure. But one thing we do know: I got my braces off today. YIPPEE!!!

The Leaky Christmas Tree Saga Continues

Last night I went to bed hoping that the water surrounding my Christmas tree stand was due to sloppy watering and not a leak. I was thinking that somehow overnight the thing would fix itself, or I don’t know, behave like it ought to and hold the water as well as hold the tree.

But alas, this morning the tree stand’s well was dry as the Mojave Desert, surrounded by an oasis of leaked water. I had plastic under the stand that had saved some of my carpet, which gave me a brilliant idea. I could fold that plastic up around the tree stand, tie it off somehow, and not have to take my tree down to replace the stand!

I got on my stomach with some twine and started tucking the plastic up. The tree is fresh and full of sap, with very low branches. My hair stuck to the limbs like Contact paper. A small price to pay not to tear the tree down.

Once I was done tying, I poured a gallon of water in. It held! But slowly it ballooned out, and I needed to put another gallon in to actually have water in the tree well itself. It worked!

I was so happy, until my husband called and explained to me why this could not be a permanent solution, and the tree had to come down. I cried and whimpered and pitched a big hissy fit, but in the end I knew he was right because if that plastic sprang a leak and it caused the carpet to mildew, I’d never hear the end of it. Although I could use some new carpet.

Then I had another brainstorm. If I laid the tree on its backside, the one with no lights or ornaments, I could take the bad tree stand off and put a brand new one on. Only problem was, I’d just poured two gallons of water in the plastic, and gravity was just chomping at the bit to get that water onto my carpet.

But wait! I knew how to siphon! I’ve got fish and I have to siphon out their tank. It’s disgusting but easy and I’m so talented that I’ve never had a problem with fishy water and my lips ever meeting.

I started siphoning the tree water out of the plastic; only it wasn’t as easy as the fish water. I think it’s got to do with Physics. The velocity of the H2O is directly proportional to E=MC2 divided by the cosine of the negative integer plus the length of the siphon tube minus the distance between the bucket and the tree stand. In layman’s words, the tree stand had to be higher than the bucket for it to work.

Not to be outsmarted by Physics, I sucked anyway, and it was some hard sucking, too. I was Hoovering that hose with concave jaws just to get a little trickle. Some of the tree water did get into my mouth and I swallowed it before I knew what happened – thank goodness I put sugar in it. I tried using a broiling pan to collect the water instead of the bucket and got way low on the floor to reduce the gravitational pull, and it worked! Better. But not great. Still, definite progress was being made. When I heard those gurgling sounds you hear when you’re sucking a milkshake through a straw and you’re getting close to the bottom, I took the plastic down and was able to sop all the remaining water up with a few towels.

Now it was time to tilt the tree down, which turned out to be pretty easy except for the awful sound of glass ornaments clinking together. The treetop angel got caught on a candleholder and looked like she was riding a broom. The little red bead garland slid off the tree like a Slinky heading down the stairs. It made kindof the same noise, too.

My husband had to go to six stores to find a decent tree stand, but we got that baby on, gently raised the tree, and I’m happy to say it only took me six more hours to get everything back in place. I exaggerate. It just seemed that long because many, many things needed fixing, and it would have taken that long if I hadn’t made a conscience decision to slip shod the whole thing together. I just don’t really give a flying Santa if it’s perfect at this point.

So if this is the first thing I’ve done for Christmas and had this outcome, what’s it going to be like when I do all the rest, like make homemade candy and maybe plan a party? I tell you what it will be like. It will all be fine. As long as I keep the lights down low, put a gift card in with the candy, and make sure my kids have an equal number of presents under the tree, it will be a fantastic Christmas.

One thing does worry me though. When I went to the restroom earlier, I could smell Christmas tree. You don’t think it was all that tree water I swallowed….

Sunday, December 6, 2009

O Christmas Tree, How Can This Be?

Like a lot of people in the real world, we just put up our Christmas tree, and a fine tree it is, too. A ten foot noble fir that weighs 150 pounds, according to my husband, and has got our house smelling like we’re living right in the middle of Yosemite.

My daughter and I decorated the tree, putting on cute ornaments and remarking on their history. Many of them were, “Baby’s 1st Christmas” ones that several people gave me when my son was born. When my daughter came along a few years later, Christmas was already past, and she only got a couple of them, and she lets me know every year how mistreated she feels. So listen up, mothers to be. When your second and third baby come along, buy up a bunch of those baby’s firsts so all your kids have the same number.

This is good advice for all things concerning children. I only raised two, but there were continual squabbles about who got the most of everything. It didn’t matter if I spent the same amount of money on each kid, if one got 6 presents and the other got 7, there would be a big ruckus on Christmas morning.

Maybe it’s just my kids. They fought all the time, and they always wanted to know who was the favorite. This caught me off guard the first couple of times they asked, and I sputtered and said some stupid thing like, “I love you both the same.” This was not what they wanted to hear. Mainly because they despised each other and couldn’t believe I could like the other one as much as them. Having me say out loud that I liked one better would also give that one ammunition to use to spite the other one.

I figured this out and finally, if my son was the one asking, I said, “You are my favorite boy in the whole wide world.” He was happy because all he heard was that he was my favorite.

You learn lots of tricks raising kids. The best one ever was offering them a choice. For instance, I’d ask, “Do you want to go to the grocery store or Target first?” They didn’t want to go either place at all, but just by getting a little control, they’d forget that the two options were both awful and start arguing between themselves about which place to go. “I want to go to the grocery store first.” “Well I want to go to Target first and I’m the oldest so there.” Finally I’d step in with what appeared to be a fair tiebreaker and say, “Okay, let’s flip a coin and see which one.” They’d call it, I’d flip the coin, one would lose and pout a little but understand that it was out of all our hands, the coin had spoken, and we’d go to the grocery store first without complaints because they had decided what we were doing. Pretty clever, huh?

I’ve got a whole ton of these child-rearing tips and techniques, but I have other business to attend to at the present. Remember that Christmas tree my daughter and I decorated and hung lights, garland, and a million ornaments? I had watered that tree as soon as my husband got it set up, and after we were all done I noticed a puddle. “Dagnabit,” I exclaimed. Not really, I just wanted to type that word for fun. It’s hard getting up under a tree with a water pitcher, and I was pretty much watering blind so I must have missed getting the water in. I filled the pitcher up again, added a little more sugar (keeps the tree fresh) and this time I looked really closely to make sure the water was going into the tree stand. Then I saw a new puddle all around the stand. It leaks! The fricking tree stand leaks! What am I supposed to do now? The tree’s all decorated, I stuck my hand in the Christmas tree stand well and there are only a couple of inches of water left. That tree will slurp that up in an hour.

I am not taking the tree down and replacing the stand. I need something I can put the whole stand in so I can just lift the tree straight up. But what? It’s really a big stand.

Anyway, that’s why I’m ending this post right now, so I can fret over my tree. O Christmas Tree, O Christmas Tree, why are you tormenting me? O Christmas Tree, O Christmas Tree, why must you pee all over me? Bah humbug!