Ho-Ho-Ho, Merry What?

….”aaaaand we’re off!!” To to the non-stop insanity that is the pre-Christmas season (and I’m using Christmas here more in the calendar sense, rather than religious right now, so am intending it to be viewed as inclusive.) The goofy commercials have started with the Hershey’s kisses bell ringers, the obligatory ones telling us it’s a “Lexus to remember December” so that every woman can imagine that day when she wakes up to a new snowfall and a shiny new Lexus with a huge red bow in the driveway of her picture book two story home, or the one that always tugs on my heartstrings – when Tommy comes home unexpectedly and brews Folger’s coffee to wake up his family. Our trees are going up, decorations are coming out, lights are on outside. It’s always fun too, for new neighbors in the neighborhood as they get to see who decorates their home and yard like it’s a Charlie Brown tree, and who’s competing with the Griswold’s. It can be a pretty bad culture shock for the unprepared…unless of course they ARE they Griswold’s. Then of course there are the ones I REALLY hate. Engineers. You can tell when an engineer has decorated the outside of his home, the lights wrapped around the trees look so evenly spaced it’s as if they were put on with a ruler (which they were, trust me, my old neighbor did it.)

It’s also the season of ridiculous gift buying. I don’t know why we don’t just buy ourselves a gift card and be done with it. Isn’t that what it amounts to? It isn’t even fun anymore. I love Christmas as a kid. My parents found us the best stuff. I look back at the pictures, and I remember playing with our gifts all year long. One year I got an umbrella that was clear plastic  and had flags  from around the world all over it. christmas-69-a-1I’m not too sure why I didn’t look very happy, probably was the horn rimmed glasses. But trust me, I LOVED that umbrella, and I don’t think my parents mortgaged the house to buy it or anything else that year (or others.) We got a game called “Tip-It” that you can see, “Game of States” which is behind my sister’s legs on the floor and our big gift that year to share (yes kids, you can share gifts, you don’t all need your own) was something called a “Show ‘N Tell” which had a record player, film player and AM radio all in one. We had some books on a small filmstrip that went into the machine, with an accompanying 45 rpm record, and you’d start it up. It would automatically advance the film strip as the story narrated on the record. I remember listening over and over to “The Count of Monte Cristo” on that. One of the most fun things were our Christmas stockings. Mom hung them on the mantle until Santa came and then he took them down. Because of course they would simply be too heavy to stay tacked up on the mantle with the thumbtack she used to put them there. And boy, were they ever filled…with a roll of lifesavers, a pack of gum, an orange, some socks, maybe some pencils or pens with your name on them. Little things that cost almost nothing. It’s a tradition that I’ve continued with my husband. I like having lots of stuff to open. It doesn’t have to cost a lot, and it’s better that it doesn’t, so the little funny stocking stuffers are a great way to do that.

This morning I was surfing CNN and saw a story that caught my eye…”Holiday Gift Guide: Stocking Stuffers” and I thought hmm, wonder what they come up with. Not one thing was cheaper than $29, and most were $49 and up. WHAT? I don’t consider things that cost 50-60 and even $70 stocking stuffers. How the hell much are people spending on Christmas gifts anyhow? We don’t have kids, if you read this blog regularly you know that, and we don’t go over the top on gifts at Christmas. (Well, there was that one time. Last year  in the fall we bought a hot tub, so we did decide that was an early Christmas gift, and that was that.) But otherwise we generally keep it under the national debt. We don’t put anything on credit cards for Christmas. If we can’t pay for it in December – other than the aforementioned hot tub – it ain’t getting bought. No one needs anything that badly that you need to put something on a credit card you’ll still be paying off 6 years from now at 22% interest. Seriously? You really gotta do the math on that. It should scare the crap out of you what that will actually cost you in interest and probably a late fee or 6. You think I’m kidding? Here are some sobering statistics:

One quarter of the parents surveyed have taken drastic measures to fund their purchases: 11% have dipped into their retirement account, 14% used funds from their emergency savings and 11% have taken out a payday loan. 

from Here’s How Far Parents Will Go to Pay for Christmas Gifts CNN.com 12/10/16

Get back to the things that mean something and don’t cost your soul. My grandmother gave me a jewelry box in 1969. I can still remember sitting on the floor at their house and opening her gift, and finding that, and how excited I was to have my very own jewelry box.



img_0825That same jewelry box is 47 years old, and I still use it, and think of her every time I open it. It doesn’t look as pretty, the female ballerina dancer is long lost (although I still have the boy) as is the cover to the small inside box with the red tassel  and the key to the outside. The metal piece over the keyhole fell off but I have it, and the musical mechanism works.
For the eagle eyed of you, yes, same horn rimmed glasses and dress as the first photo. I should say this isn’t me, but my sister. (I’m pretty sure she doesn’t read my blog, so it’s a good test!) Hey that’s not me, that’s my youngest sister. I’m cuter.

Seriously though, I hope that your holiday season is special, however you celebrate.

A Little More And They Say Romance Is Dead

Taking a page from “Guru” Henders, rather than try to reinvent the proverbial wheel, I’m going to go with the theme from Tom Merriman’s blog in honor of Valentine’s Day, also known to some of my closest friends as Singles Appreciation Day, brought to you courtesy of Hallmark. The theme this month is

…and they say romance is dead…

I was going to go with dry, snarky and sarcastic, because that’s so much funnier. What’s coming out of my head instead is all the little ways that husband shows me it’s not. Sure, he forgets ALL THE TIME to put the seat down, but today he did the dishes without my asking, fixed something for me. And he takes the trash bins to the curb every week even in winter when it’s bitterly cold so I don’t have to and sometimes cleans the house. Now if only I could get him to put things away in the kitchen where they belong 🙂

Oh what the heck, who am I kidding. I was born with sarcastic as much a part of me as if it were a siamese twin. See, I even snuck it in the nice paragraph above. Can’t seem to help myself. So I thought I’d go looking for some funny evidence of our theme on the internet. Our first story is from Manchester, England, where a man is kicked out of his house by his wife. Apparently he posted a comment under a photo of a beautiful model saying he’d be willing to leave his family for one night with this woman. He got his wish.

This woman in England sends texts to her husband of all the things he says in his sleep. It’s actually funny and nonsensical. Wonder what the rest of us say?

Here’s one I can honestly say I’ve not heard of before, the weird world of wife carrying. This is actually a sporting event, complete with a prize at the end of taking home your wife’s weight in beer. Sounds like something my parroted friends would like, but sorry to say fellas, this year’s competition is full.

Google “is romance dead”. What an eye opener. Most of these real life examples that people have provided from an article on the Huffington post gave me pause. One romantic fella gave his wife the gift of a full body massage. Problem was, the massage therapist was his mother. Now she’s his ex-wife….

And here are a couple of jokes to leave you with.

A woman’s husband dies. He had $20,000 to his name.After everything is done at the funeral home and cemetery, she tells her closest friend that there is no money left.   The friend says, “How can that be?  You told me he had $20,000 a few days before he died. How could you be broke?”  The widow says, “Well, the funeral cost me $6,500. And of course, I had to make the obligatory donation for the church and the organist and all. That was $500 and I spent another $500 for the wake, food and drinks, you know. The rest went for the memorial stone.”  The friend says, “$12,500 for the memorial stone? My God, how big was it?  “The widow says, “Three carats.”

One day a housework‑challenged husband decided to wash his sweatshirt.  Seconds after he stepped into the laundry room, he shouted to his wife, “What setting do I use on the washing machine?”  “It depends,” she replied. “What does it say on your shirt?”  He yelled back, “University of Oklahoma.”  And they say blondes are dumb…

A woman was helping her computer-illiterate husband set up his computer, at the appropriate point in the process told him that he would now need to choose and enter a password.  Something he use to log on.  The husband was in a rather amorous mood and figured he would try for the shock effect to bring this to his wife’s attention.  So, when the computer asked him to enter his password, he made it plainly obvious to his wife that he was keying in, “p…e…n…i…s.”   His wife fell off her chair laughing when the computer replied:  PASSWORD REJECTED.  NOT LONG ENOUGH.

…and they say romance is dead…

Well holy smokes, it’s finally winter in Minnesota. We had Christmas this year touched with a hint of white, followed by the revenge of Old Man Winter. I’ve resigned myself to being cold for at least another 70 or so days, if I’m lucky. I hope to thaw in March sometime. Thank heavens for down booties, down comforters, electric mattress pads, electric foot warmers, spa booties that go in the microwave until they are toasty and all sorts of other accessories I require to make it safely through to “the other side”. I’m not complaining, not really. Because if I WERE, someone would be sure to remind me that I shouldn’t for the following reasons, blah, blah, blah. So I’m not, and you can hold yourself back.

We also made it through Christmas, or as I like to call it, the annual holiday obligatory gift card exchange. You know, you give a gift card because a) you don’t know what to get someone and b) they already have everything and c) god forbid we would forgo a time honored tradition. So I buy you a card as you buy me one. Silliness, pure, unadulterated silliness as near as I can tell.

Next up was amateur night also called New Year’s Eve. When  people all over the world go out, get together with 1000 of the closest friends they’ve never met before, and through the magic of alcohol by the end of the night are best friends! You stay up late for that magical second and suddenly it’s over, and now you have to drive home amidst thousands of other drunken revelers, hoping everyone knows how to stay between the right white lines. When you wake up it’s a new year, you’re hung over and wonder “what happened?”  “where are my underwear?” “why do I have a tattoo on my butt cheek that isn’t from a magic marker?” and “oh dear Lord, those had better not be my boobs on FB!” (Full disclosure, I’ve only heard about these things, and haven’t really experienced personally. I mean really, do you think I’d seriously put that stuff out here where my mother could see if I had? I might be a bit slow on the uptake about some things, but not THAT!)

No, I’d much rather do New Year’s the new, fuddy duddy way. Stay home, hang with the neighbors, stumble home 20 or 30 feet unless I was lucky enough to convince them to let US host, then it’s hang with the neighbors and kick em out, maybe we make it to midnight, maybe not. If we don’t, then we celebrate at the top of the hour with whatever time zone just rolled into the new year. Oh look, it’s 6 pm here and midnight in London? “Should auld acquaintance be forgot, and never brought to mind, should auld acquaintance be forgot, in days of auld lang syne” which translates to “times gone by” in case you were unaware. Cue the noisemakers and funny hats.

This year it was just us, for a variety of excuses…oops, I mean reasons. “I’m sick”, “too tired”, “like some people better than you and already made plans with them”, you know, you’ve probably heard them too. So we watched a movie, laughed a lot, and turned off the light at 12:01 am, January 1, 2016. I’m waking up without a hangover or regrets and laughing at all my friends who aren’t. I can hear husband noises from upstairs, which means the promised gift of waffles and bacon aren’t very far away. He doesn’t cook a lot, but what he does is wonderful! (Probably best he doesn’t cook often if it’s bacon and waffles!)

A friend shared a quote with me yesterday that I’ll leave you with:

“Tomorrow is the first blank page of a 365 page book. Write a good one.”

…Brad Paisley

I hope you all had a safe and fun celebration, don’t have too many regrets, and have wonderful things ahead in the coming year.


Bliss List

While driving out to the family gathering for Thanksgiving today, we were listening to one of our two annual radio programs. The first is a usually a broadcast of “Alice’s Restaurant” by Arlo Guthrie, which clocks in at 18:37, and will only occasionally make the list of longest recorded songs, since it wasn’t considered a rock song, and probably not a pop song at the time but was really more of an anti-Viet Nam War song. If you’ve never listened to Alice’s Restaurant, you’re missing out. It’s really only marginally about Alice, and the restaurant, and is more about the absurdity of life, and the uselessness of war. And, of course, the 8 x 10 colored glossy pictures, with the circles and the arrows and a paragraph on the back of each one…  Thank you, Mr. Guthrie.  But I digress, not unlike the song, actually…

The second is listening to Minnesota Public Radio and on today’s “Giving Thanks” program, their guest was Christopher Kimball from America’s Test Kitchens. He was talking about his Bliss List – those moments of perfect happiness that make up his life. That got me to thinking, what are some of mine. It took me a while to come up with them. I mean, you start to remember something, and then blam! And you think, nuh-uh, not including THAT one, or how about…nope. That one won’t work either.Sigh. I have NO truly happy memories? I’m suddenly picturing the characters from  the movie “Inside Out” inside my head…where was Joy when I needed her? Couldn’t she just drive the bus one day without the others? Why did Anger or Sadness have to even show up?  They are such party poopers. (If you haven’t seen that movie, full disclosure, go see it as fast as you can and take tissues!! It’s wonderful). But then the memories started to trickle in.

Sitting in my grandmother’s kitchen when I was about 5, eating cinnamon graham crackers and dunking them in thick, rich ice cold whole milk. There was something special about the ritual of breaking the crackers in half, then in half again to get those narrow rectangles that fit so nicely in glasses, and of course it was before we had any idea that whole milk was bad for you. Now it’s nearly as cringeworthy as drinking heavy cream, but growing up it’s what we knew.  Walking to the barn with grandpa and holding a baby chicken that was so yellow and soft. Going to my other grandparents house, and helping grandpa in his general store. Getting to slice summer sausage (with him doing it and me ‘helping’) in the big electric slicer. Sitting on a sled in the winter and having our dog pull my sisters and I. It was a big sled, and we had a huge St. Bernard named Heidi, because there was a movie by that name, based on the book by Johanna Spyri, that we loved. I try not to dwell on the dog too much, because you know what they say about big dogs… big poo!

The first time I learned how to drive a stick shift. The first time I drove a stick shift and didn’t grind the gears. (No, they weren’t they same day. They weren’t even the same year or city, for heaven’s sake!) But being able to do that gave me a feeling of confidence and independence I’d never felt before. Standing on the deck of a Windjammer, at 2 AM as we neared Grenada on my last night of a weeklong cruise. Sea breeze on my face, looking up at more stars than you can imagine, and seeing the Southern Cross for the first time. As the song goes, “you understand now, why you came this way“. My wedding day.

That rare instance when one of my silky soft cats jumps up on my lap, gracing me with their presence and allowing me to pet them for a few minutes. I close my eyes and am in another place, instantly transported to Bliss, and I’m grateful for the moment.

Even though Thanksgiving is past, or if you’re from a country that doesn’t celebrate the fourth Thursday in November the way we do in the USA, take the time to think of your own Bliss List and be thankful for those moments of pure joy.