Thursday, December 27, 2012

When Snow Becomes Winter

I guess it's all part of the "Expectations versus Reality" dilemma, where what you were hoping for and what you get never quite match up. Sometimes it's better than you'd hoped. Sometimes it's worse than you'd hoped. But reality is almost never exactly what you were expecting.

That's kind of what it's like for me when I realize that it's still winter, even after Christmas is over.

I mean... I know that Christmas is really very early in the season. After all, in Minneapolis, the "snow season" can easily start in October and run until April. So December is really only about 1/3 of the way into that. And, of course, according to the calendar, winter only starts 4 days before Christmas, so no matter how you look at it, there are at least 3 good months of winter that follow the big holiday.

But aside from having a white Christmas, I have to admit that I really don't care for snow and cold. That's not to say that I loved last year's weather when we had basically no snow and the weather went from frigid to warm in a heartbeat. And, yes, I'll admit that if it's going to be frigid, I'd rather have a frigid, sunny, snow-covered January than a frigid, gloomy, grey January.

Still, while I was out walking the dog this evening it dawned on me that for the next three months (give or take) I'll be wearing heavy clothes and worrying about driving conditions. And, honestly, that made me start thinking about moving south. Not sure where, just south.

I suspect it's going to be a long, daydream-filled winter.

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

The Christmas Crash

I think the pup has the right idea.

After two days of driving back and forth to Christopher's parents' house to celebrate Christmas Eve and Christmas Day, she's currently crashed out on a piled up afghan on the couch between Christopher and me.

It's been a busy couple of days for her. There were 45-minute car rides. There were multiple dogs to share the struggle for attention. There were walks with all sorts of strange smells.

There were extra - and highly exotic - foods, like a taste of real steak. There was a treat shaped like a holiday cupcake.

This morning, there was even a brand new Nylabone (which she didn't put down for almost an hour).

Tomorrow, with the return of the workweek, we'll all have to readjust. But, tonight, it's all about the pre-bedtime snooze on the couch.

Here's hoping that the dreams of the night after Christmas will be filled with as much potential as the dreams which came before them.

Sunday, December 23, 2012

Christmas Eve Eve Tiz List

Torn between options of what to write about, I'm opting for a mishmash of things all put together into a numbered list about this time of year.

1) Some of the best Christmas specials were on TV back in the 1970s.

2) Some of the best Christmas commercials were also on TV back in the 1970s - just not as many commercials, since they've added more minutes of commercials per half hour since then.

3) I kinda wish that the 1970s shows would be shown with 1970s commercials.

4) I kinda wish people sent as many Christmas cards as they did in the '70s.

5) Christmas cookie recipes from the '70s are also really good.

6) I miss the days of sitting in the bedroom with my sister on Christmas Eve and wrapping all of our presents.

7) That was back in the '70s, too.

8) I wrapped gifts at the coffee table this year.

9) I don't drink coffee, but there's not really another name for the table that's between the couch and the TV.

10) One of my favorite things about this time of year is that people offer hot chocolate almost everywhere, and don't look at you funny if you don't drink coffee.

11) I survived a year in Paris not drinking coffee by drinking hot chocolate.

12) Hot chocolate in Paris is much better than hot chocolate most places in the States.

13) One of the other best things about this time of year is getting those Christmas cards and thinking about all of the people you know from all over the place.

14) I love looking at the stamps that come on international Christmas cards.

15) I try to put interesting combinations of stamps on the cards I send internationally, to repay the favor.

16) I found out, today, that I have to go out and do a little shopping tomorrow.

17) I'm not actually freaked out by shopping on Christmas Eve, because the places I'm going to be going are not in malls.

18) I've been known to go wander around in malls on Christmas Eve (years when I haven't been working retail), just to enjoy the energy of it all.

19) When I worked retail, Christmas Eve was one of my favorite days to work - there's an odd balance between the crazed "OHMIGOD why didn't you tell me it was Christmas!?" shoppers and the "oh, just one more thing, and I'm done" shoppers.

20) I prefer not working retail.

21) I would prefer to win the lottery and be independently wealthy so that I could do a lot of philanthropy and never have to work a "real" job ever again.

22) Santa seldom puts "independently wealthy" in stockings.

23) The Tooth Fairy also seldom puts that under pillows.

24) Santa does put his finger aside of his nose.

25) It took me until this year to know what that meant, even though I remember seeing it in one of those 1970s Christmas cartoons (which, yes, was based on the poem).

Friday, December 21, 2012

It's the Holiday Season!

I'm very happy to say that I am now on vacation.

Or... well... I'm on "long weekend."

But that's all I really need to get into the Holiday spirit.

Okay... That and a Happy Hour-inspired dinner out with Christopher and a blonde who shall remain nameless, followed by a drive home past all sorts of houses decorated with lights.

We've followed that with sitting on the couch with the pup and watching TV - specifically, tonight, a Nigella Lawson Christmas special which we recorded earlier this week.

The weekend will be a mix of slow and busy, and all too soon we'll be back to work on Wednesday.

But, tonight, it's all about the Holiday. So you'll forgive me if this post is kind of short.

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Christmas Conundrum

As I was driving home from work, today, I passed Thrivent Financial for Lutherans's* Nativity scene (which is set up in their lobby, and visible to the street), and it got me to thinking: Why are the Three Wise Men in the Nativity scene before Christmas?

I mean... When I was growing up, I seem to remember that the whole scene was laid out at the front of the church during Advent - all but the baby Jesus. Because the baby Jesus didn't make his appearance until Midnight Mass.***

So, okay, you don't have the babe in the manger until the 25th because that's when he showed up. (Lucky for all of us that it just happened to be on Christmas.)

But, then, why are the kings always there, already? I mean, you know, if you're paying attention, they didn't show up until Epiphany on January 6th. This is why we have the whole "Twelve Days of Christmas" rigmarole, after all. (Because, apparently, while Mary and Joseph and Jesus were hanging out with the shepherds who had been watching their flocks by night someone went out and started buying fowl in trees and milkmaids and drummerboys and all that stuff. Or maybe that came later.)

Anyway... If people are so particular about not having yon babe show up until the 25th, why do they always put the kings in there before the 6th? I mean, aside from the fact that most people take their Nativity scenes down on the 26th.

'Tis a puzzlement.

For those of you wondering how everyone might have reacted to the gifts those wise men brought, I offer you: Present Face by Garfunkel and Oates.


*Yes, according to the Chicago Manual of Style, if the word has an "s" at the end but is not technically a plural - because "Thrivent Financial for Lutherans" as a phrase is singular - it is supposed to get that terminal s.**

**Yes, I know that getting a "terminal s" sounds painful.

***This is not the same as at home, where the baby Jesus often appeared earlier, but was then stolen by a cat, or had the cradle flipped over on his head so that it looked like he was wearing an oversized football helmet.

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Stealing Wine

It wasn't my fault. I was perfectly happy with the safari finger puppets. And, when those were taken away, I was okay with the frog wine bottle opener.

Alright, so I hadn't been okay with the various kinds of office supplies I started out with. And then, when the frog wine bottle opener was taken, I was kind of almost okay with the sock monkey wine bottle cover which was accompanied by a Harlequin romance.

But then... well... the dice dropped into a double-two, and I figured - What the heck? - Why not steal the wine?

So I left with two bottles of wine.

And some leftover 6-out-of-7-layer salad (I'm just not a fan of celery), which made for a very nice dinner tonight.

Oh. Sorry. I seem to have forgotten to mention that today was our Work Holiday Potluck and White Elephant Gift Exchange.

That probably makes the rest of this make more sense, doesn't it?

Sunday, December 16, 2012

That "Now What?" Feeling

Do you ever have a day when you kind of feel like you're actually caught up on all that you need to do? Frankly, I have them so rarely that I can't remember the last time I had one.

This weekend has been really productive, though. Yesterday morning, I went to Cub (a grocery store), the bank, Trader Joe's, World Market, Staples, Christopher's bank, Target, Barnes & Noble, another Cub, and back home all before 10:30 in the morning. By one, I had almost all of my shipping done. By three, I had my presents wrapped and under the tree (all but one, which is still on its way).

Today, I finished up a few things around the house, as well as some more baking. Then I did a couple of hours' worth of freelancing. We walked the dog, I moved an ornament on the tree into a semi-blank area which had been bothering me, and then I took care of a few other items online.

It's Sunday evening. Nine days before Christmas. And I have nothing I really have to do. It's weird.

Okay. Sure. Tomorrow morning, on my way to work, I need to go back to the bank, fill my car, and go to the post office. But that's all tomorrow.

Tonight... Well... I might just see if Christopher wants to snuggle on the couch for a movie before any chaos steps in. Wish us luck.

Friday, December 14, 2012

A Moment of Silence, Please

Sometimes, when the world seems strange and scary, or horrific and unbelievable, the best we seem to be able to do is to take a deep breath, be thankful for what we can be thankful for, and allow the stillness of silence to take over.

In a world of constant contact, social networks, and electronic babble, we get so inundated with noise that we get used to it. We forget what it's like to have quiet.

But quiet is the sound that a hug makes. Quiet is the sound of a hand being held, a smile being exchanged, a tear being wiped away.

While I agree that conversations need to take place in the immediate future, tonight I'm hoping for a few moments of silence for all of us to pull together, breathe, hug those close to us, and believe that from tragedy there must come hope.

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Calling All Good Souls

Hey, all you good souls out there - 

I thought I'd go for a direct plea to all of you fine folks (which some of you may have already heard of, if you clicked that link to Miz Tiz's "Tiz and Ass" blog, yesterday):

I'd love it if each of you might have an extra Christmas card and stamp and be able to send that extra card to Patsy Roberts. Her story is below. 

This kind of thing ranks up there with the "average people making dreams come true" that I mentioned in yesterday's post. 

Thanks, in advance, for your consideration. 


*Take a moment and write a card to 87-year-old PATSY ROBERTS.

This sweet matriarch of Rockaway Beach, New York, saved thousands of cards she had received over the decades with the hope of reading them in her final hours, and then Hurricane
 Sandy came along and ruined them. “I was saving them to read when my time came,” she said when her son-in-law told her the cards had been destroyed by the storm surge. “I was saving them so I could read the cards and remember the people I love.”

Out of his own deep love for Roberts, her son-in-law, CRISTIAN DOBLES, is seeking to soften the loss by asking any and everyone of good will to write her a holiday card. He has posted this message on Facebook:

“Patsy Roberts, my mother in law, is the sweetest, most caring human being I know. A true angel on earth ... It doesn’t matter whether you know her or not. Just say something beautiful to her. My goal is to get 1,000 cards to her for Christmas. Please help me with this."

Adding her voice to the plea, neighbor TARA STACKPOLE posted:

“Mrs. Roberts is the true matriarch of our block. She is the neighbor that prays for you, bakes for you, inquires about each family member, and always has a ready smile. At 87, she will put the neighbors' trashcans away on her way home from daily Mass. She is the epitome of what a ‘neighbor’ should be and this block and our family are so blessed to know her.”

Roberts has written thousands of cards herself to family and friends over the years—on birthdays and special occasions, or if she heard of some great success. Sometimes just because she was thinking of them.

Help Cristian and Tara and all of Patsy's neighbors in Rockaway give her a Merry Christmas. Send a card today to:

Patsy Roberts
130-04 Rockaway Beach Boulevard
Belle Harbor, New York 11694

And pass it on to any good souls you know. 

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Two-Week-to-Christmas Tiz List

Did you realize that, today, it is just two weeks until Christmas? How fun is that?

In the spirit of following through on promises made, I am offering this Tiz List of things you may not know about me because Miz Tiz (whose blog is in the left-hand column over there) was nice enough to clarify something for me on her blog, today. Which makes me very happy, and - since it's so close to Christmas - I figured I should repay my debt before Santa decides I'm being a slacker and puts me on the naughty list.

So here are a few Holiday(-ish) things about me:

1) I'm a huge fan of the period leading up to Christmas - or other big events - because I like the anticipation of the joy of it all.

2) My stomach/neck/wholesetofinnerds gets tied up in knots due to some of the anticipation.

3) That second part I don't love.

4) In part because of the anticipatory joy, I'm really not good at receiving surprises.

5) Even if they're good surprises, I tend to prefer to have at least some advance warning - not a lot, but at least a little.

6) This makes me a VERY BAD person for dealing with things like practical jokes - Holiday related or otherwise.

7) I made Christopher check my wishlist to make sure that something I wanted to buy on a super special cheap deal was still showing as unpurchased, because I didn't want to spoil the gift-getting experience.

8) I know that #7 seems contradictory with #4. I'm okay with that.

9) I think that a batch of Christmas cookies that makes fewer than 8 dozen cookies is a waste of time.

10) I buy a LOT of margarine, flour, sugar, vanilla, and red and green sugar this time of year.

11) I also buy those weird red and green candied cherries every couple of years.

12) There's very little margarine, flour, sugar, vanilla, and red and green sugar in the house by the time we get to January.

13) There are usually leftover red and green candied cherries in January, because they keep from year to year.

14) Christopher made me throw out my leftover red and green candied cherries last year. I complained, although they were probably about 4 years old.

15) I learned to print backwards by writing on my parents' drug store windows with "spray snow" when I was growing up.

16) I never figured out how to write backwards in cursive.

17) (As any of my students from back in my teaching days can attest) I tend to write on an upward slant when writing with spray snow on windows (or with chalk on a chalkboard).

18) I like eggnog, but only enough for one or two glasses per year - and it needs to have rum in it.

19) The older I get, the more I can understand why people put lots of festivals near the winter solstice. I totally get praying for the sun to come back.

20) I tend to do two countdowns every December. One is for Christmas, while the other countdown counts down to the solstice, because I want the days to get longer.

21) It makes me happy that average people go out of their ways to make other people's dreams come true at this time of year.

22) I wish people would do that more throughout the year.

23) I sometimes think we should move Christmas to June, so that it would be easier to travel.

24) I sometimes think I should just move somewhere warmer, so that it would be easier to travel - even in December.

25) I'd probably miss the snow, even so.

Monday, December 10, 2012

Caesarean Stormin'

Winter Storm Caesar came through last weekend. Yes, apparently the Weather Channel is now naming winter storms. Why? Because they feel that naming winter storms will result in people taking them more seriously. And will make them more memorable.

I am *not* making this up.

Here's my thought, though: How about they worry about getting the predictions right, first, and then worry about naming them?

You see, as late as on Saturday evening, the forecast was for about 4 to 6 inches of snow, wrapping up around noon on Sunday.

By noon on Sunday, we had about 6 inches of snow, but it showed no signs of stopping. By the time it wrapped up (around 8 o'clock on Sunday evening), we had closer to a foot of snow, as the temps were in the process of dropping. (Okay, credit where it's due: They got the temperature drop correct.)

I guess, if we actually had paid attention to the Weather Channel, we'd have known this was going to happen, though. After all, Caesar came, saw, and conquered.


Saturday, December 8, 2012

Solid Saturday

I'm happy to say that the no-bake chocolate cookies from Thursday did, in fact, solidify by the time I got up on Friday morning.

And, since it's been a busy Saturday with my folks in town and the annual Arrow Awards (aka Brit Ad Awards) to go to, and a bunch of stuff I haven't actually even started doing, yet, that's about all I've got for tonight.

But at least the cookies hardened.

Friday, December 7, 2012

Thursday(-ish) Thoughts

How in the heck did the evening get so far away from me? Oh, right. Christmas prep before my folks get into town tomorrow afternoon for the weekend. There were cookies to be made, packages to wrap, and things to dust. Dinner ended up being sometime around 8, and I turned on my computer for the first time this evening at about 11:45. So I'm still claiming this as a Thursday evening post.

And, with that in mind, here are five golden questions for you to ponder which have been bugging me, lately (if you have answers, please let me know, because I really do wonder about these things):

1) Why are busses so tall? Is there a reason they have to be that way? It's not like people riding on city busses are trying to sightsee, so what's the reason they all are tall enough to block the rest of us from seeing around them in traffic?

2) Why are the colors of Christmas red and green, while Hanukkah is silver and blue?

3) Whatever happened to the Christmas tradition of telling ghost stories on Christmas Eve? I mean... That's why "A Christmas Carol" came into being. And without that, "The Woman in Black" would have to have a completely different opening speech (a few of you will know exactly what I'm talking about, while the rest of you are probably thinking I should have stopped after the Christmas Carol comment).

4) Why did the Christmas tradition of telling ghost stories on Christmas Eve ever start? And have you ever heard of Krumpusnacht? Seriously - Google that and check out the pictures of "Krumpus" who used to take care of all the bad little boys and girls while St. Nicholas was taking care of all the good little boys and girls. I'll take a lump of coal in my stocking any day instead of having to worry that that dude is going to show up some dark winter's night.

5) Why is it that weather and the barometric pressure can play such havoc with the preparation of some foods? I'm assuming it has to do with the temperatures at which things boil, but if the no-bake cookies that I have on the table don't set up by morning all because there may or may not be some weather moving in, I'm going to be pissed.

And, with that, I seem to have hit the point in the evening when my eyes start to burn and itch for no apparent reason, so I'm heading for bed. Assuming, of course, that I can find some visions of sugarplums to chase Krumpus out of my head.

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Ghosts of Positions Past

Let's see, I moved into my new position at work in... umm... September of 2011, I think.

That means that I have spent the past 15 months doing my best to remove myself from my position as a printing coordinator.

Yes, during that time I had to train my replacement. And, more recently, I had to help her train her new assistant. Who is now switching jobs with someone else, so I'm also helping that person learn the ropes. I still know a lot more about that part of our company than I really need to.

But, even so, I've been mostly removed from all of that for the past 15 months.

Take a moment and pretend that I just walked up to you and said "What did you do with that carton of eggs I gave you in April of 2011?"

You'd probably look at me like I was insane (is "insaner" a word?). You'd say something like "I probably ate them, but I really couldn't be sure at this point."

Let's make it a little easier. Let's say I walked up to you and said "What did you do with that restaurant gift certificate I gave you in April of 2011?"

You'd probably remember what you did with the gift certificate. You might be able to say that you remember having a nice meal. You might even be able to remember who you ate with. And if the service was either really good or really bad you might be able to remember that, too. But unless you have a photographic memory, you probably wouldn't be able to tell me more details than that about what you ate, what you wore, what the bill came to, or any of the other minutiae of the night.

Well, today I had a co-worker come to my desk asking me if I could remember any details about a print job which was placed in April of 2011. Was I immediately able to identify the client in question as a nutjob? Yes. Was I able to say that I remembered there being printing issues - caused in part by the printer but mostly by the client? Yes. Was I able to give specifics? Not in the least.

So, 15 months after I left my old position - and 20+ months after the situation in question - I spent the end of my day searching out clues in old emails. (Hindered by the ever-so-minor fact that the client in question - whenever things would go "wrong" - would start emailing everyone except the person who was working with her. So I most likely don't have 80% of the details in my own emails.)

I suspect it will be how I start my day tomorrow, too.

Seriously. If Marley wanted to freak out Scrooge, he should have shown up in his bedroom at night and threatened to make him find specific, yet only vaguely requested, details in emails which are almost two years old.

Sunday, December 2, 2012

Getting There...

The tree is up and even has lights and ornaments on it. 

The house has been "Christmasified." 


I mean... We're on the way. 

As I type this, Christopher is in his office doing work (you know, like work work - at 10pm on a Sunday), but Christmas music is rolling out through his door to me. 

Earlier today we were at a Christmas open house thrown by some good friends, where we were able to partake of much sweet food involving things like "white candy coating" and Holiday-colored M&Ms. (Seriously, that stuff isn't allowed out in the world at any time of year, but it's totally addictive during Advent. I blame the hibernation urge.)

We have Christmas lights on the little evergreen we put in last summer, and more in our porch. 

I baked more cookies tonight, and re-made the dough for the kind of cookie that failed last week - making triply sure that I doubled the flour this time. 

And although we have no Christmas letter, nor Christmas card address list, we do have our cards, now. 

So... we're getting there. We should be ready to go over the rivers and through the woods in good time - quite possibly fueled by red and green M&Ms and white candy coating.