Sunday, December 22, 2013

A Major Award

 It seems I have won one of these.............

                                         


And I was like WHAT????  I don't even win in bunco let alone a blog prize, but I got friends in the right places and my OSMA nominated me.  She is a blog/cyber friend.  Sometimes when something funny happens at work I think to myself, "Wait until OSMA hears about this!"  Then I remember that I don't know her in real life and me thinking about her like that would sound kind of weird to other people.  And by other people I mean the police.

Anyhow, it's a baton that's handed off from blogger to blogger to promote the little engines that could and not the big ones everybody knows about.  You must nominate eleven other bloggers.  My OSMA cheated so I will, too.  A combo of little and big blogs that are my go-tos on a regular basis.........

An Inch Of Gray
I found Anna after her son died in a tragic accident during a seemingly harmless storm.  When you are a blog reader and someone is going through a tragedy it makes its way around pretty fast.  That was the case with me and Anna's blog, but I am in for the long haul with her and her family.  She raises the bar on writing and her Jack............oh her Jack was something to behold.

The Simple Wife
I came across this blog in the same manner.  A fit, 40-something mom, wife, and author has a massive stroke and during that time it felt like you were right in the middle of it.  Her husband posted updates on her condition and though she made it through, everything about their life has changed.  They post rather sporadically now (for obvious reasons) and after a long spell of no updates she recently wrote something that breaks my heart.  There's problems, people, and then there are problems.

Anecdotally Yours
This darling couple are friends of Maggie and Nate's and were the photographer and videographer of their wedding.  They are an incredibly talented powerhouse of talent.  I look at their postings of photos and videos and cry...........and I don't even know anybody they're featuring.  Stop by and see them and their new son, Ben, the cutest baby to ever rock a winter hat.

The Gardener's Cottage
A friend sent me this link and I've been hooked.  This woman is all about simplifying her life and tells you how to do the same.  Closet full of STUFF?  She shows you how to pair it down, edit your furnishings, trim your roses and make a vegan Thanksgiving.  This blog is the calm in the storm.

A Beloved Life
This is my friend, Amy's blog.  Amy was the HR manager where I work and left to pursue other interests as they say.  She has become dear to me and was my saving grace in the choppy waters of a new job.  She practices yoga and meditation daily and is so in tune with herself that I am in awe.  She does the work of being her and shows you how to do the same.

A Work In Progress
This is my friend, Mary's blog.  I met Mary at a mutual friend's Christmas party about five years ago.  Once a year I would see her and we would chat.  From someone else I found out she was a writer and I screeched at Panera's,"I NEVER KNEW THAT!!!"  Then Mary moved to California thus preventing the long friendship I had planned for her and me.  We are mutual admirers from a distance and supporters of this hard work called writing.  Her husband has a blog, too,  I love to read both of them.

Now the big ones which you probably already know of and don't need any explanation from me.

Miss Mustard Seed

The Lettered Cottage

Momastery

Victoria Elizabeth Barnes

Does Huffington Post count?  No.

People I Want To Punch In The Throat


Next post..............the Q & A
         

Thursday, December 19, 2013

The Final Push

The other day our Christmas cards came and unbeknownst to me at the time of order, they required additional postage.

Oh dear baby Jesus, why oh why is everything so hard for me this year?

I decided not to go to my usual post office but rather one in a cute little shopping district with lots of small, independent shops so I could finish my shopping.  I started at the post office even though I was warned not to go to that one because it is so slow.  The warning was accurate.  There were about fifteen people in line and one person working the counter.  I got in line and scrolled my phone while I waited.  At one point, I heard the cheerful postal worker say, "Oh good, they finally sent me some help."  With that the not so nice newly arrived postal worker said to those of us in line, "We close at 4:00 so not all of you are going to be able to go through so you may as well leave now and go to another post office."

I didn't care so much for the new help seeing as how I'd been in line for twenty minutes.

The older woman ahead of me in line said, "Oh dear.  Oh no, honey.  I don't think you and I are going to make it."

Me and everyone else just stood there.  My new friend made it to the counter with a minute to spare and my eyes were pleading with her to hurry it up.  Cranky Mr. Postman started pulling the metal doors closed by the counter when the post lady said, "Stop.  We're going to stay late and we're going to wait on these people because they've been in line and they have things that need to get mailed out today so they arrive by by Christmas."

And I was like,  "Dear baby Jesus, that woman is an angel.  She is an angel."

When my time came I thanked her a meeeelion times over, wished her a Merry Christmas and if the postal bouncer wasn't so pissy already I'd have hopped the counter and hugged her.

Moral of the story:  Don't lose your cool.  It's all going to work out.  The angels are ready to swoop in and give respite from the Christmas storm.  The people behind the counter are worn out.  They probably haven't been off much at all for the last month so be kind, be kind, be kind. 


Okay, a couple of last minute gift ideas to consider............

This book.  Oh my goodness, I love this book.  It has seeped into my being and set up camp for, hopefully, a lifetime.  The last page???  I've read the last page about thirty times.  I talk about this book all the time so go get it for somebody you love and do a little holiday self-love and buy one for yourself.  The movie version is in production and stars Reese Witherspoon, but we all know that the book is always better.


                                          


I've wanted this perfume forever.  Loved the name and loved the Philosophy.  If I was at the mall I'd go into Sephora and spritz myself with it but could not lay my money down because it seemed like such a luxury.  My lovely daughter dragged her dad to the mall last year to shop for my birthday and made him buy me this.  I wear it almost every day.  It comes in all sizes and price ranges but Sephora sells a roll-on for $18.00 if you want to take it for a test drive.

                                                  


This was the other thing I got last year for my birthday and I use it every day.  I think it's about $125.00.  It exfoliates your skin so that all the anti-aging stuff gets deep into your pores, and when you wake up in the morning your husband thinks he's in bed with a twenty year old.  True story.

                                           


Some favorite things.............there's more but it's midnight and my copy and pasting skills quit a few hours ago.  Take note, friends, you will always be at the top of the list.  Now go be merry and bright then prepare him room.

Sunday, December 15, 2013

An Absence of Spirit

As soon as they said there was one less week this year between Thanksgiving and Christmas I knew I was doomed.  I will never get everything done in time was my immediate thought.  So much to do......

I have shopped but not finished.  I ordered Christmas cards that haven't even been shipped yet.  We thought about having a party and a week after Thanksgiving I threw in the towel on that idea.  I am trying to keep on top of holiday chores, work, the house, the laundry and the finances and have failed at all of them.  Three nights in a row we were invited to some kind of holiday event and I was so happy, not because we would be spending time with people we love but because I didn't have to cook dinner.  I have written one crappy paragraph of the Christmas letter I have sent out for twenty years.  The dog can barely get up and my heart knows it is time for him to move on, yet I do nothing about that either.

I miss my dad.

Twenty three years since he's been here for Christmas and this year has knocked me for a loop.  I have watched interviews with parents of kids killed at Sandy Hook and I still can't believe that happened in this country and we did nothing about it.  I see commercial after commercial that caters to the affluent in such a way it feels obscene to me.  I wonder how typhoon misplaced people in the Phillippines are doing but that news has been replaced with November retail sales figures.

I am searching for the joy.


A few weeks ago we went to the funeral of a friend.  He was 53 and died of brain cancer.  I have never been to a funeral with so many people which goes to show you how many lives he touched.  The loss of him to his wife and sons is enormous..  The community he was a part of will feel his absence in profound ways.

The minister was a friend of his and said to the mournful congregation ......."Death did not claim him.  Cancer did not claim him.  God said this man is mine and I claim him.  I have prepared a room for him and he is mine.  He is coming home to my house."

A funeral will make you think about a lot of things.  A beautiful funeral for a good man will make you want to change a lot of things.



While my own holiday spirit does more ebbing than flowing this year, I keep circling back to the words of that minister and think of my own dad.  Like the friend gone too soon, neither cancer nor death claimed him.  God did and that thought has given me peace.  He was always his and nobody lived a life more ready for The Day than my Dad. 

If I could wrap peace in a box and tie a ribbon around it I would give it to everyone I know.  The mall and the aisles of Target are crappy substitutes for the gift that most people desperately want.  Before long Christmas Eve will be here and everything that needed to be done will be.  Or not.  My restless, worried mind will relax and if nothing else the pressure to provide the perfect holiday will have dissipated.

I will tether my soul to the Prince of Peace once again.

I will sing Joy To The World.......

.......and I will mean it.

Friday, December 13, 2013

A Strange Man In A Foreign Country

When the kids were very little and most of the Christmas shopping was for toys, I asked Mark to take a day off work to help me.  I was overwhelmed with three kids with three different interests.  To be clear, Mark RARELY takes time off work.  A few days between Christmas and New Year's and the rare vacation, but long ago he agreed to this shopping day and so it has been a standing date with us ever since.

In recent years we have capped it off with Happy Hour down on the Plaza before we head home.

This year we weren't able to do that and so we started with breakfast before we headed to the mall.  Eek!  The mall.  We are not mall people, but we also are not Eskimos so we opted for indoor shopping.

A long time ago, a customer told me about a strategy to remember things based on a plan by St. Thomas Moore.  You envision the rooms of your home, and as you try to recall something you walk through the rooms to retrieve the information.  It sounded complicated to me and I never did it, but at the mall I am just like that saint.  I know where to park based on the time of day and day of the week, I know the layout, I know every place I want to go on the first floor, up to the second, loop around and out.

The plan being to retrieve what I came for and spend as little time there as possible.

With my husband and shopping assistant along, my saintly plan got side-tracked.  He's a slow mall walker.  He doesn't got out much ever so he has to look at everything.  That's how we spent 45 minutes at the Microsoft store talking to a guy about a computer we have no intention of buying.

Prior to the mall, we went to Target and he kept disappearing so I started yelling, "Marco" and from the coffee aisle I heard a faint "Polo."  There was my lil wanderer with boxes of Keurig coffee to add to the cart.

When we set foot in Sephora, he took it all in for fifteen seconds and said, "I can't do this."  The saleswoman tried to sweet talk him into staying, but I knew that place would max out his estrogen limit.  "Okay," I said, "but please don't wander off.  I won't be in here long."

And off he wandered and I felt like I was a shepherd watching over an ADD lamb all day long.

Where is he now?  Socks?  Why is he buying socks?  Slippers?  With memory foam?  Not on the list.  No, no we're shopping for other people today not ourselves.  (That's later.  Online where the evidence is not so easy to uncover.)  One day, dude.  That's what we have here.  One day to knock most of this out. 

We made a tiny dent in our shopping and there was much more to do, but I had to get a cut and color and even the soon-to-be birth of the Lord doesn't get in the way of that.  He dropped me off and came back later to get me.

I was still in the beautification process and so he hung around waiting for me to finish.  Amy told us a story she'd heard about a guy who surprised his wife in the bedroom with leather underwear that zippered in front and Mark said, "What if the zipper got caught in something?"

"Like what," Amy asked.

We laughed for too long and that might be one of the many reasons why I won't be seeing him during the week for another year.



Sunday, December 8, 2013

Heaven & Nature Sing

Prior to meeting Mark, my encounters with nature were few and unintended.  One time a blue jay attacked my brother when he was going out the front door and he went screaming into the house.  Unbeknownst to him there were some babies in the vicinity, but from that point on Mom always referred to them as "those gulldamned blue jays."

Mark has since informed me that birds like crows and blue jays are rather sophisticated creatures, and if you've ever had a hawk come into your yard you would know that those are the ones that alert the whole neighborhood of impending danger.

When he and Will were in Scouts they always came home with a bucket that contained everything from frogs, snakes, turtles and tadpoles.

I got used to it.  It came with the marriage.

While the girls freak out over a spider, Will or Mark would scoop it up and take it outside where it would rather be anyways.  I have long admired their appreciation for even the smallest forms of life.

Mark makes it his job to keep the bird feeder full especially in these cold months.  "They've got it especially hard this time of year." he tells me as he vigilantly buys more seed.

In the frantic pace of December as I was going to buy a few gifts and grocery shop before a full week of work, I happened to notice a white hawk coming to rest on top of a street light.  I had never seen a white hawk before and Mark later told me it was a male harrier hawk.

While the world buzzed around him he patiently sat in wait, and so I took note and stilled my hurried mind.

Lingering like the hawk during the season of Advent and wondering what is about to unfold before me.


                                


Thursday, December 5, 2013

The Martha Effect

When my dad got a little older and had more time, he got very involved in the Christmas decorating.  He would go down into the crawl space and whack his head a couple dozen times getting the boxes up and unpacked.  Of special importance was the full Nativity scene we had that was lovingly wrapped in paper towels.  It was very lifelike and plastic and mom still puts it out every year.  Dad would arrange everything like a respectable stable scene and then we would go into the living room and rearrange the Jesus and his posse into all kinds of configurations on the coffee table.  Sometimes baby sister, Ann, would ring up the sheep and donkeys on her cash register.

One year he decided to make the Nativity scene the star of the show, and so he built little shelves and attached them to the wall for each of the main players.  Then he cut evergreens from the back yard to make it look even more authentic. 

During those years when Dad was getting his Martha on, we would all hightail it out of the house.  There was a lot of conflict and aggravation that went on during Decorating Day and it was in your best interest to get out of Dodge Bethlehem.  Mom would plead with us to help, but help meant getting yelled at all day by someone who didn't give a hoot about the reason for the season until nightfall when he and mom sat down with a glass of wine to admire the tree.


The girl who came from generations of perfectionists married a man whose motto is "Good from far.  Far from good."

He hops on his bike in the cold and rides to nowhere as soon as he sees that look in my eye.  The glassy-eyed look with the hedge clippers in one hand and ribbon in the other with a plan to cut me some boxwood for the toilet paper holder.

"It will be Christmas everywhere," I say with my holiday grimace.  Except in my hardened, brittle heart.

We went and picked out the tree the other night and I promised myself I wouldn't be the joyless pain-in-the-ass that I usually am when it came to getting ready for the holidays.  We found a frasier fir we both agreed on and The Big Daddy, who collects bungee cords like they are fine antiques, came prepared and strapped it onto the roof like a pro.

"Done and done," he said to me to me as he got into the car.  "Smell my finger."

"What?  No.  Smell your finger?  Really, Mark?"

"Yeah. It's balsamy."

"Oh, I was going somewhere completely different with that line."

We came home and the good tidings of joy on the tree lot went out the window when I couldn't get all the plastic netting off and it kept getting caught in the screws of the tree stand while Mark tried to wrestle that balsamy bear into its proper place.


The year my dad built the little shelves for Mary, Joseph, The Three Wise Men and Baby Jesus, Mark backed into it after we had come home from midnight mass and knocked the whole thing off the wall.

Everybody gasped and looked at Dad, who was sporting the seasonal family grimace, but he calmly said, "Don't worry.  Just leave it and I'll put it back up later."

And nobody knew what had happened that Dad didn't completely lose his holiday shit, except that unto us a Savior had been born and he had just saved my future husband's ass.



Sunday, December 1, 2013

A Black Friday

Several years ago when this Black Friday business was still in its infancy, Maggie suggested that her and I get up early and do some shopping.

"It will be fun," she said, "and we can bond."

By 6:15 I was backing sleepy-eyed her and me out of the driveway.

We laughed at the foolishness of getting up before the sun to get after-Thanksgiving bargains and headed to Kohl's - not because we ever shopped there but because they were one of the first to open at 4:00 a.m.  "We'll beat the early crowd," I said.

The parking lot was so packed that we both looked at each other and said, "Not this one."

Best Buy over yonder?  "Or this one."

Target?  "Negatory, fellow shopper."

We ended up at Michael's and got our craft on in the semi-deserted place and bought a few early bird specials.

It was uneventful and nobody tried to tackle us over.......well, anything.

Then we went to breakfast which is all we really wanted to do that day. 


This year we arrived at Michael's after ten and missed the crack o' dawn discounts, but we had other coupons and filled our cart.  At one point we lost it but when we found our Lost Sheep of Holidayness not a single thing was missing. 

When we were done we went out to breakfast which is all we really wanted to do anyways.

I got the Sunrise Special like always and we ate our meal like civilized people tend to do when they haven't been punched in the jaw in the middle of the night over a 50" t.v.........but it would have been a different story had anybody dared to take my bacon.

Most of the time.................