It’s All Relatives – Christmas Edition

English: Photo of Dr.Oz at the Time 100 Gala.

Image via Wikipedia

This was originally my Thanksgiving post from November 23, 2011.  I haven’t been blogging long enough to truly “re-post” anything but for those of you who might be on the edge of pulling your hair out or those of you who might have missed this early post, here’s a slightly updated version:

In a recent Facebook post, Dr. Oz cautioned readers to beware of the sodium in your holiday foods because they could raise your blood pressure and “negatively affect your health.”  Well, Dr. Oz, it ain’t just Aunt Edna’s Mac n Cheese that’s raising blood pressures at all these family gatherings.  Often times it’s Aunt Edna!  Or Uncle John or Mother-in-law or Sister-in-law . . . come to think of it most of the time it is “Someone-in-law”.

Have you ever heard that verse, “It’s the most, wonderful time of the year” and thought “yeah buddy, you don’t have to spend it with my family!”  If you haven’t then yea for you.  Probably time for you to leave this blog and go find one about how to turn the simple act of wrapping a present into a 4 hour ordeal which includes weaving your own ribbon.  This ain’t that blog.

When you Google “Families and Holidays” the first several results are along the lines of tips to reduce family “burdens” and “stress” around the holidays.  Doesn’t something about that seem off?  Aren’t these supposed to be the people you hold most dear?  Then why do they irritate the living fool out of us?  I remember reading an interesting article 20-25 years ago either in Seventeen or Cosmopolitan magazine.  It was geared more towards romantic relationships but the part that stuck with me was that the reason someone could exasperate you to the point of insanity was simply because they mattered so much to you.  You don’t spend as much time annoyed at someone you don’t care about.   This person (or these people) are so important to you and you love them so very much that every little annoying thing they do can infuriate you.  That explains a lot, but doesn’t exactly warm the heart.

Back when “Home Improvement” with Tim Allen was on, I didn’t watch it regularly but I did see a Christmas episode when one of the kids wanted to go on a ski trip instead of spending the holiday with his family.  Tim Taylor, the Dad, comes home to find him sneaking out while the rest of the family was at church.  Tim says, “Christmas is not about being with people you like, it’s about being with your family!” 

I love that line!  Because the truth is we don’t often like all the members of our family (or our spouse’s family), but they are important to us.  And truthfully, more important than a lot of people we call friends.  It’s hard because most of us spend much more of our time at work with co-workers and bosses and people who “need” us than we do our families these days.  But if I die tomorrow, while I’m sure several people at work will miss me, within a few weeks they will hire someone else to take my place.  My family isn’t going to hire another Mom, Wife, Daughter, Niece or Aunt. 

So, if you are headed home for Christmas, Google all those helpful hints about dealing with family stress and take deep breaths when Aunt Edna comments that your turkey is extra dry this year, or when Uncle John has a little too much holiday wine and starts snoring in front of the TV, or when your mother-in-law corrects your children’s table manners then makes a comment not completely under her breath about “blame it on their mother”.  Put on your rose-colored glasses and maybe invest in a good pair of ear-plugs.  Relax and enjoy the family drama – heck maybe even blog about it.  There are people throughout our country who are all alone this Christmas and they would give anything to be where you are.  There are soldiers in Afghanistan, and places we don’t even know about, who would love to experience the holiday with their irritating, overbearing family.  We have the distinct honor and privilege of being with ours.  And it’s not all bad, there’s Aunt Edna’s Mac n Cheese after all.

Recipe for Mac N Cheese

I’ll be gone for a few days for Christmas but I’m sure I’ll have plenty to blog about when I return.  Merry Christmas to all and to all a Good Night!

So Much For Banker’s Hours

image via graphicsfactory.com

So it’s 8:30 pm and I’m just sitting in front of the TV watching Pawn Stars and I hear a faint ringing.  [Hey – Pawn Stars is on the History channel so don’t judge me!]  I turned my cell phone down during our meeting at the bank earlier in the day and I almost didn’t hear it.  I see it’s a local exchange but not a number I have saved in my phone and therefore must be a wrong number so I didn’t answer.  Besides, they are trying to figure out how much an Olympic Torch from the 1984 Olympics should cost – this is riveting stuff!

Pawn Stars

Image via Wikipedia

As my phone rings for a second time I reluctantly answer it.  I suppose it could be an emergency but most likely a wrong number.  I flash back to a time when cell phones were not as common as they are now and occasionally I would answer a late night call and hear something like “Hey baby, watch you doin’?”  Now those were WRONG numbers!

Anyway, I answer and the nice professional lady says, “Angry?”  Wow – what do you know, this call is for me!  “Hi, this is Lisa from the bank.  Do you have a moment to chat?”  Oh holy crap!  What could have gone so terribly wrong with our account that they are calling us at 8:32 pm??  “Um . . .” I stuttered, “Sure?”  I mean what the heck do you tell the BANK when they call you at NIGHT?  “No, I’m waiting to see how much this idiot gets for his Olympic Torch so he can go buy surf boards”?  (I just thought that line I didn’t say it to Lisa – she might judge me)  Lisa goes on to say that she’s ‘just working night and day lately’.  She’s calling me at 8:32 pm so evidently she really is.  Nothing was wrong, she just had a few questions so she could get our refinance paperwork started.  I guess when interest rates drop to 3.25%, Refinance Specialists don’t get to work banker’s hours.

Interestingly enough when we were AT the bank earlier in the day, discussing a 10 year loan and what our plans were for paying for our daughter’s college education I said to my husband, “Do you realize that in 10 years when we pay off the house, Tink will have graduated from college?”  We just sat there staring at each other.  That was a very sobering thought.  Neither of us could bring ourselves to imagine a world in which Tink was not living in our home with us.  It was a few hours later before it dawned on me that we could only HOPE that in 10 years the house is paid off , Tink has a 4-year degree in something other than Parks, Recreation and Tourism, a good paying job and her own place to live.  Equally as horrifying is if in 10, 15 or 20 years Tink, her husband Bubba and 4 children ARE living with us.

Anyway, bankers hours now last until at least 8:41 pm (when our conversation ended) and I’ve got to be prepared to write checks for college tuition in about 4.5 years.  I suppose I should tell Tink that if she’s looking for a 9 to 5 job when she grows up she should probably go ahead and scratch Banker off her list.

PS – It turns out there were quite a few 1984 Olympic Torches and it was only worth about $1200.  You know you were wondering how that turned out.

Sarajevo 1984 olympic torch, Olympic museum La...

1984 Olympic Torch Image via Wikipedia

Just How Comfortable Do We Need to Be?

I like to be comfortable.  Sometimes I’m convinced this is a part of Middle Age, but when I think back, I’ve always wanted to be comfortable.  My biggest complaint about going to church on Sunday mornings was having to get dressed up in itchy, scratchy dresses and tights and shoes that pinched my feet.  I still have an extreme aversion to wearing itchy, scratchy clothes, panty-hose and shoes that pinch my feet.

See? She looks like her shoes hurt!

I am lucky enough to be able to work from home when I’m not traveling.  So most Mondays and most Fridays I am working from my home office and the dress code is always casual in my office.  We haven’t reached the age of video phones in my work world yet so no one knows whether I’m wearing my power suit or gym clothes and the gym clothes are far more comfortable.  My co-workers and I are really glad there is no video conferencing yet.  I’ve attended conference calls with wet hair, half dressed, the make-up of one eye complete but not the other, you get the picture.  By the way, there is nothing more disturbing than having one eye made up and not the other.  What if I forget and actually go somewhere like that or even just answer the door?  Can you imagine the UPS man’s horror? 

"Um, your eyes . . . . they . . . here's your package ma'am."

One of my co-workers, Rita, who also works from home, commented to me a few months ago (via a non-video phone of course) that it was nearly noon and she was still in her work out clothes.  Rita then said, “Just to be clear, I don’t actually ‘work out’ in my work out clothes, they’re just what I wear to run my kids to daycare and any errands before I get my shower and get ready.”  Rita thought that she was the only person who did this and was quite shocked when I told her I do the same thing.  Not only that, but go to the grocery store any weekday morning and take a look around.  Every woman (and man for that matter) there is wearing exercise apparel.  I get up every day and put on my work out gear.  Several days a week I actually DO jog a few miles on the treadmill, climb half a mountain on the stair-stepper and lift some light hand weights, but lately I haven’t been doing so well with that.  My work out clothes just seem to mock me from the hamper as I do laundry.  I imagine them saying “We’re not even dirty, there’s no sweat on us why the hell are we in the dirty clothes pile?”  (I haven’t mention to other people that I imagine my clothes talking to me.  I think that’s one of the things the meds are supposed to be for.)

Really?? I mean really??

Anyway, sometimes I think I’m just a step or two away from being one of those people who never wear real clothes but just stay in my stretchy yoga / running capris and loose, comfy t-shirts or warm-up suits.  But there’s one thing I promise to myself, and to you, that I will never do.  I will never don Pajama Jeans!  Have you seen those commercials?  Just how lazy do you have to be to wear jeans that feel like pajamas?  Are these people blind because these things do NOT look like real jeans.  Real jeans are . . . well . . .  jeans!  They are made out of denim.  That’s what makes them jeans!  Besides, I saw Pajama Jeans on sale at CVS this weekend and they are $39.99!  For $39.99 you can get a very comfy work out suit with a jacket at Old Navy.  Of course when you start talking about work out gear at Old Navy it gets that commercial ringing through my head, “Don’t jiggle it, when you wiggle it!”  Have you seen that commercial?

Sorry, I get distracted easily.  That’s probably my next post.  Anyway, I will continue to be comfortable, often dressing in my sweats or work out gear and yoga pants, but I promise that the day I seriously consider Pajama Jeans, I will seek immediate medical attention.  Now I suppose I should go get on that treadmill since I’ve got my work out clothes on . . .

I Know Something About Birthin’ Babies

A pregnant woman

Image via Wikipedia

Something has been irritating the split pea soup out of me for years and it’s come up in various TV shows over the last few weeks and gotten me all fired up again.  It aggravates me to no end when a pregnant TV or movie character’s water breaks and then they are wailing and the baby is halfway out 5 minutes later and some idiot is yelling “Push!”  If that’s how it worked, Tink might not be an only child.

For those of you who have not experienced the horror joy of childbirth first hand either by choice or because God wired you differently (perhaps with a penis instead of a vagina), the only thing your water breaking actually means is that it is time to go to the hospital.  It would be fair to compare the womb to a condemned building at this point and it is the doctor’s job to make sure everyone clears out within the 24 hour time limit. 

In my personal experience, my water broke sometime early in the morning but I really didn’t know it.  (Tink may be a teensy teen but she was a mighty big newborn)  I didn’t get to the hospital until 4:00 pm and I still wasn’t in labor.  They had to induce me and Tink made her debut at 2:00 am nearly 10 hours later.  My friend Rita just gave birth to her third (yes, that was not a typo her THIRD) child.  Her water broke and she thought, “Yea!  I’ll pop this baby out in an hour or so.”  No siree, that is not how it turned out.  Normally your third child comes rather quickly especially when she comes barely 2 years after her big brother, but Rita was in labor for 9 hours before her petite little angel flew into the world.

English: Newborn baby Română: Nou nascut

Image via Wikipedia

So there you go.  Two examples of water breaking and babies taking their sweet time to get their first glimpse of the world.  So why on earth do all these shows (just recently on NCIS for example) have a pregnant woman’s water breaking and within moments you hear, “The baby’s coming!  The baby’s coming!  I see the head!!”  No you don’t see a baby’s head you see a short time limit in which to fit your story!  I guess there wouldn’t be a lot of drama involved in a story that went something like: “Oh dear, I think my water broke.”  Hubby or strange man the pregnant woman just met who will now deliver fatherless baby and become his male role model “Oh no!  What do we do?”  Future Mom, “Oh let’s just scoot on over to the hospital, maybe stop and have a sandwich along the way and by tomorrow morning we’ll probably have a baby!”  If that were the case, the strange man might not get roped into staying and becoming a part of the story’s plot and he and might say, “Oh, um in that case I’ll just drop you off at the ER ok?  I have a . . . a . . . root canal scheduled for today.”

I guess this is why doctor’s don’t watch Grey’s Anatomy, Federal Agents don’t watch NCIS and medical examiners don’t watch CSI.  TV producers may know drama, but they don’t know nothin’ about birthin’ no babies!

A Camel, A Donkey and a Golf Cart

Courtesy of Wikipedia - my picture was of the camel's rear-end

Sometimes I wonder if my husband and daughter do things on purpose to foster my delusion that they cannot function without me or if it really does come naturally to them.  I’m 600 miles away on a week long business trip last week and I see an email from my daughter’s cheerleading coach.  It reads “There have been a few changes to our plans for Sunday’s Parade.”  Hmm, changes?  plans??  So there was a plan before today?  This is the first I’ve heard of this plan and today is FRIDAY!

It turns out that the Cheerleading Squad was to ride on the Chamber of Commerce’s float in the annual Christmas Parade on Sunday.  Oh good – because after a full week out of town I needed something to do with my Sunday afternoon.  Lying around napping on the couch is overrated anyway.  But it’s a Christmas Parade after all.  It will be fun right?  Have you BEEN to a small town Christmas parade?

First, you have to understand that in a small town if you have a convertible, a golf cart or a tractor you can and evidently should, be in the parade.  If you are “Miss” anything you should also be in the parade.  So you will see a 1995 Blue Mustang convertible with Miss Teen Terminx 2011 sitting on top waiving with a magnet on the side of the car advertising the local shoe repair shop.  It’s best if you can attach tinsel to your golf cart, tractor or convertible or maybe some garland because that makes it more festive. 

There are a few floats in the parade – as I mentioned my daughter was riding on one.  They were performing cheers and throwing candy although they looked as if they were throwing shoes at rabid dogs rather than tossing Tootsie rolls to antsy toddlers.  I think some of the cheerleaders should go out for softball.  Anyway, there was one very disturbing float with a handful of women my age in sweats dancing the same exact dance the entire student body of my high school did at the prom.  I said to my husband, “What the hell is that?”  As the float went by I finally saw the sign on the back for the locally offered Zumba classes.  I don’t know how many free classes those women got for agreeing to do that in public on a float in a small town Christmas Parade but it cannot possibly be enough.

Duck and cover - Tootsie Rolls Incoming!

Another interesting float was the Good Aim Baptist Church Nativity Scene.  I am not making up the name of that church, I so wish I was.  Joseph was dangling baby Jesus precariously over the edge of the float much to the annoyance of Little Mary.  I’m not positive, but I think further down in the procession, once Mary got Baby Jesus back in her hands, she beat Joseph with him.  Following behind them was a camel and a donkey.  I feel it prudent to point out there were no wise men in connection with this float.  If there had been wise men, they would have changed the name of that church!

If you count all the time we spent dropping Tink off at her designated location, finding a parking space, waiting for the parade to start, waiting for it to be over and returning home, we spent about three and a half hours doing “parade activities”.  That’s a lot of time spent to see a camel, a donkey and a few golf carts!

The Night Before Christmas? I Think Not!

If I heard one more person say, “What’s with all this Christmas stuff?  It’s not even Thanksgiving yet!” I was going to start decking more than halls.  A few short weeks ago, every person I came in contact with uttered that phrase.  The only people who think that there’s this mysterious endless supply of time to prepare for Christmas are the people who don’t have to.

It was barely 2 days after Halloween before I was planning ‘The Set Up’.  “You’ll bring the boxes down from the attic,” I told my husband.  “I’ll put the tree together and,” I turned to my daughter, “you’ll decorate it!”  “Why don’t we get a real tree this year?” my daughter asked.  When my wicked laughter stopped, I replied, “I’m barely keeping you, your Dad and the cat alive you think I”m going to tackle a tree??”

There’s a pressure on Moms to put on The Perfect Christmas.  This pressure is mostly thrust upon us by our own selves.  (Warning:  Do NOT, I repeat do NOT, say this to a Mom.  If you do, I am not responsible for what happens to you afterwards!)  We want to experience that perfect moment on Christmas Day when everyone in our family opens that gift they’ve been wanting most for all time.  Or at least the gift they’ve been wanting most for a month and a half.  Everyone will get along that day and the turkey on the table will look like the ones they always have on TV.  Miracles will happen in our own homes like they do in cheesy Christmas specials and we will actually hear the Angels singing.  It will be perfect and glorious.  Instead, no matter how hard I work, my Christmas’es always seem to turn out more like National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation.

Anyway, this pressure that I put on myself seems to begin with getting the house decorated for the holiday.  My mom followed a pretty strict timeline which included putting the tree up on December 15th and I always thought that was good, but I don’t follow that one.  Don’t mistake my rush to decorate for Christmas as enthusiasm.  It’s actually a defense mechanism because the longer I take to decorate, the more I have to listen to my daughter and the neighbors and my co-workers ask me when I’m going to decorate.  So if I get this out of the way by the day after Thanksgiving, well, that’s something I can check off the list.

Decorating the house is the first outward appearance of preparing for the holiday, but by Thanksgiving Day if I’m not 3/4 complete with my Christmas shopping I’m seriously behind.  By the time the turkey’s coming out of the oven, I’ve been writing down notes of what gifts my daughter and husband have mentioned they would like to have or want for months.  I’ve also spent hours on eBay, Amazon and Google tracking it down.  I have been asking them for weeks for a Christmas list.  I don’t go out on Black Friday.  I may get crazy and delusional during the Holidays but not that crazy!  I’m too old to get trampled by 500 antsy, caffeine crazed loonies over a $5 Barbie, a $9 coffee maker or a $99 Plasma TV – especially since there’s only 3 of each hidden throughout the store.

Then there’s the endless discussions with my family and my husband’s family to determine dates for the family parties.  There was probably less tension during the Cuban Missile Crisis.  This negotiation is followed by the search for perfect gifts for extended family members, neighbors, teachers, my husband’s boss, my employees, gymnastics coaches and my own boss.  Cooking falls in there somewhere.  My daughter and I bake Monster Cookies which is a recipe I stole from my 7th grade home economics teacher – that takes up a whole day.  There’s also the annual Christmas Eve gathering of the neighbors which is a lot of fun because it includes wine.  I wish my in-laws gathering included wine.  Well, now that I think about it I guess it’s better that there isn’t any alcohol near those family gatherings.

Each year, my husband and daughter take off a day or two before Christmas and go out in search of my gifts.  I don’t venture out during the “End of Days” as I call it.  I’m so stressed by a day or two before Christmas that if someone wrenched the last faux cashmere scarf out of my hands I might attempt to strangle them with it.  Last year was a strange one for our family.  I was gone for a week on a business trip in early December (just like this year) and my husband was working several hundred miles away and home only every other weekend.  So, I bought my own gifts last year – but I made my husband wrap them.  Because last year was extra stressful, it culminated with me loudly declaring on December 26th that if my family wanted to have Christmas in 2011 they would do it themselves!  I quote, “I’m done with Christmas.  I.  AM.  NOT.  DOING IT!”  And I meant it! 

I’m not the only one who reacted this way.  My friend Michelle told me that last year when she open the boxes of Christmas decorations, more than half of them were smushed and broken.  Then she remembered that she was having a complete meltdown as she ripped down the decorations and shoved them into boxes.  For some strange reason that made me feel better.

I was firm in this resolution of “not doing Christmas” into the shiny new year . . . until Halloween came.  As families around the country were getting dressed up as vampires and mummies, I said to my daughter, “It’s Halloween so you know what that means . . . It’s time for your Christmas list!”  I distinctly heard my husband say, “Oh no, not again” even though he denies it.

Yes, it will be the same thing all over again.  Because despite the stress, headaches, family drama, exhaustion and lack of appreciation for all the behind the scenes work, it is worth it.  Christmas Day is perfect because by then I’ve found the true holiday spirit.  I am thankful that I have my daughter and husband, extended family and friends to fuss over so much.  It really does feel like a Christmas miracle.

But by golly on December 26th, everyone better help me pack all this red and green junk back into the attic because I’ll be over it for another 10 months!

“Thanks Hank”

A fellow blogger wrote an outstanding post a while ago about commercials and how they just don’t make any kind of damn sense anymore.  Check out BoxcarOakie’s post here.  He’s got some great ideas for new, never before seen ads too. 

Lately I have been noticing the same thing.  I guess commercials just aren’t geared towards my age group anymore.  But here are a few that I DO like and thought you might enjoy too:

And . . .

I have to say that the one from Hyundai just reminds me that I need to go out and buy a bunch of Energizer batteries before Christmas morning, but these make me laugh and since we all need a little more laughter these days I thought I would share.  Enjoy your day everyone.