Wednesday, December 31, 2008
Monday, December 29, 2008
With his best friend, on their way to school.
My father grew up in North Hollywood.
Dad's on the left.
1939. He really liked his cars.
Saturday, December 27, 2008
Plus, since New Years is around the corner. I’ll be making some moves towards continued positiviality. (Just wait, that will be a new word someday). Might as well get snarky, mean, negative, judgmental thoughts out now before the regimens of healthy living get a revival treatment.
Anywhos, we get Christmas newsletters from family and friends and we love catching up on what is going on with those we don’t see often, or have lost track of somewhat. One of the newsletters we receive gets a special kind of attention from my daughter and me. It’s like, “OMG. THE Braggerbooter’s letter came in!! Break out the tea kettle and let’s have a sit.” My husband gets REALLY PISSED OFF at us. He thinks that my daughter and I are being horribly catty and bitchy and not at all Christmas like.
Ah. Well. Here’s some bitchiness thinly veiled as advice.
- Keep to the highlights. Four pages, single spaced, eleven point font is getting close to becoming a periodical.
Unless you want other people’s kids to not like your kids, have a little balance in the bragging arena. For instance, each kid’s paragraph should probably not be ¾ of a page long. Try to make your kids a little bit human.
When listing the athletic accomplishments of your oldest child, even if HE IS an eventual Heisman trophy sure bet, maybe don’t mention every single award. Pick your favorite five.
If your son is so athletically competent that he can play any baseball position well, that might be enough information right there. You probably don’t need to go on and say how he usually is put in as pitcher, 1st baseman, or short stop. And then detail the highlights in each.
Just say you are proud of how well your son is doing academically while balancing it with all those athletics. Don’t give his GPA for every quarter.
Your son may be the most popular boy in his senior class and the phone may be ringing off the wall with girls calling him. It’s just not that cool for a mom to make it a part of the holiday letter.
- When introducing your daughter’s paragraph, maybe a more humble beginning than “Son may be a hard act to follow, what with so many accomplishments, but daughter rises to this challenge and even surpasses her brother with her own accomplishments."
You may not want to call your daughter a “typical teen” and then detail that she: Is the most popular girl in her class; played two sports and was voted MVP for both; detail a list of awards athletically and academically, describing the honor and importance of each award; say how amazed you are that she is an excellent dancer in jazz, hip-hop, AND ballet and finish this off by saying she is so talented that at her ballet performance they “saved her for the closing number.”
- Hands down, my all time favorite in your daughter’s paragraph was when you equated your daughter’s “stunning and sophisticated beauty” with a popular young celebrity. It got even better when you proved your point with the anecdotal story of the family vacation to Disneyland and how preteens were asking for your daughter’s autograph (thinking she was the celeb). It was a little over the top when you finished this part with, “it was a fun preview of her future and what it’s like to be rich and famous.”
I could say more, like perhaps you need not detail your home renovations with the exact colors and types of hardwood flooring and granite countertops. But, my snark meter is having a fit and so I should end this fun.
A couple ideas to improve on the ol’ newsletter.
One. Funny works. Add a little humor. For online models, I’d like to point out Vodka Mom or Anna Lefler. See. One can still be poignant and show the love while cracking people up.
Two. Be gracious. Balance out what might come off as bragging with a little humility thrown in.
One last thing though. When you write that paragraph about your vacation home to Hawaii. Detailing all the fun you had. And isn’t it fortunate that you got to come for three weeks? How the highlight was spending time with family and friends who are so dear… Maybe you might word it in a way so those of us that you did not call while you were here don’t go “Err?”
Yeah, yeah, I know. I’m probably going to hell for this.
Wednesday, December 24, 2008
I really looked for a Christmas song video, but none seemed to fit the mood. Since this is more than a Christmas story, but a story about family, I liked the feel of this song. My husband and I have 9 ethnicities between the two of us, and the only one we have in common is Irish. There's no actual video in this though, you can play it (or not) while you read.
Well, on to a Christmas Story.
The year we bought our home, my daughter was four and my son was one. That first Christmas Eve my husband had to work and I was home alone with the children. The baby went to sleep early, so my daughter and I had some special one on one time. On the second floor, outside our master bedroom, was a lanai (balcony) that we have since enclosed. That year my daughter and I sat on the dark lanai, looking out at the stars and sipping hot chocolate. She tingled with joy and excitement and her energy was infectious. Suddenly, she looked in the sky and said, “Mama LOOK! It’s Rudolf. I can see his red nose.”
As I cast my eyes upward, a saw a tiny red dot of light in the night sky. For a brief second that felt like an eternity, I would not have been surprised to see Santa, sleigh, reindeers, and all, come ripping past my house with a “ho, ho, ho!” It was only a moment later that I realized the red dot was a light on the top of a tower. But that did not change my moment. For the first time in over 25 years I experienced that sense of magic and wonder and believing in miracles. I was overcome with the feelings of an innocent child who believes and for a brief moment, I was the child I had been. I realized why adults like to be around children at Christmas. They help us become innocent and see the magic.
When my husband got home from work we took immense pleasure playing Santa together. Although we had bought a home, we had no money left over for furniture and the first two years the entire downstairs was like a gigantic playroom. A TV. A kids’ futon couch. Two bar stools and a high chair. For Christmas, we were giving our son one of those plastic basketball hoops (his second word was B-ball) and we played one on one rounds while we filled the stockings. I believe alcohol might have been involved, probably. We had our fun. The next morning, after opening maybe two presents, daughter felt sick and wanted to lie down. She had a 24 hour stomach flu bug. I spent the rest of the day cleaning up vomit and getting her to the toilet. Running soda crackers and 7-up upstairs. A few hours later the 18th month old baby boy got sick. The presents never got opened. My husband went off to work and when he got home at midnight he found me praying to the porcelain god. About two hours later it hit him too. The next morning, the day after Christmas, my husband and I slept in a little bit – like probably 7 or 8, and when we woke up and came downstairs, we found two toddlers in a sea of wrapping paper. They had woken up, came downstairs, and finished Christmas without us. They had moved through the dining and living rooms as the wrapping paper storm took over. I can’t believe I don’t have pictures of this. We were so wiped out from having the flu all night that we just let it be. We sipped tea on the couch and shook our heads at the mess and eventually combed through it to make sure no small present got thrown away.
My husband and I have tried to give our children the childhoods we wished we had. Nothing that special there. That is what most parents do. We may falter, but I believe that most of us have the best of intentions. Christmas is a bit of a balancing act. The gift giving so commercialized and trying to enjoy the gift of giving to your kids without turning them into greedy little grabbers.
We have created our own Christmas rituals. Christmas cookie baking and delivery to neighbors and friends. Candlelit services on Christmas Eve. Special meals. There were our first five years here, when my husband’s grandmother lived with us. She had so much joy in seeing her great grandchildren on Christmas morning.
Oh yeah. This is my 100th post. Random grateful Christmas list for my 100th post.
52 Christmases gifted with life (thank-you mom and dad)
23 Christmases with my husband (19 of them married)
19 Christmases being parents
3 Christmases as a cancer survivor
2 kinds of friends now, friends in the flesh and my new blog-world friends
Monday, December 22, 2008
Commenting in her thread got me to thinking. At 51, I’m fairly far removed from the childhood of my past. We moved around a lot. I grew up in the LA area where my dad was a film editor and my mom was a housewife. They couldn’t decide what suburb or lifestyle they were seeking. I think they both had a bit of the grass always being greener somewhere else. In retrospect, I think they were looking for a place where they would be satisfied with their life and marriage and with each other. It never happened, but it meant that I was given a vagabond spirit.
Until I was ten, we lived in the San Fernando Valley. Track homes. Streets that ran perpendicular. A lot like Wonder Years or The Brady Bunch in physicality, not so much in organic realness. My aunt lived within a few blocks and my paternal grandmother lived a few miles away. The Christmases here are the ones I remember with wonder and magic. There was a Santa in Panorama City where they had “reindeer,” and I remember asking over and over why Rudolf’s nose was not the red I had expected. I remember going to get the Christmas tree being a big event and walking with my eyes closed through the rows and taking big deep breaths of the pine smell. I remember going to my grandmother’s and picking up Christmas presents that were wrapped beautifully with homemade bows courtesy of my aunt. On Christmas Eve we would be allowed one present each to open and my little sister and I would shake, rattle, and roll those gifts to try and tweak out one with a toy. There’s not much to do with a dressy blouse for the rest of the night, but sometimes that was just what you got. My dad would make Tom and Jerry’s (we were not a big eggnog family) and we had special cups with Tom and Jerry engraved in gold lettering at a diagonal across the front. I remember my little sister and me scrambling out of bed as soon as my mom left the room and looking out the window hoping to catch a glimpse of Santa and his sleigh. I remember truly believing in magic.
When the park was imminent domained by the state, we moved to Oxnard. When I was a sophomore we moved to the Conejo Valley. I don’t remember much from these Christmases either.
My parents finally separated at the beginning of my senior year. Their divorce was so bitter and so embattled that they actually appealed it all the way to the California Supreme Court. The following Christmases were only peaceful when I was with my grandmother, usually on Christmas Eve. Christmas day was spent dutifully with my mother who would drink herself into a temper and make biting passive aggressive comments at my sister and me.
When I moved to Hawaii the summer I was 24 years old, I didn’t go home for Christmas. I was working in a restaurant/nightclub and couldn’t get off. I went out to dinner with my friend that I moved here with, then pulled a 10-2 cocktail shift. It was such a relief to not have drama on my Christmas. I have never been back for Christmas since.
Tomorrow. Christmas Present. It’s a happy story. Really.
Sunday, December 21, 2008
Play Secret Santa and write about a blog you enjoy.
So I sent a list of blogs to Sprite’s Keeper, received my assignment, and am tickled pink to be Secret Santa blogger of a really special blogger.
Da da da DA! Without further ado, I present a little tale of one of my favorite blogs:
Of thistles and maple leaves.
I ran into thistle in my first ventures out into the comment world. I think it was this post. Thistle lives in British Columbia and these shots of the trail where she walks her dog stopped me in my tracks with a sharp intake of breath. OHHH! Pretty. Gorgeous. Absolutely stunning. The icing on the photographic stunningness was the inner monologue that went along with the pictures. One because it was a Wordless Wednesday (I loved that she could not help but narrate the pics). Two, because she had to let the internet world know that her dog’s penis really wasn’t as big as it appeared in the photograph.
So, I left a comment and I let thistle know how much I enjoyed the photos of her world. She came and checked out this blog post and left this sassy comment, “OMG...is that...a palm tree at your feet? I will trade you both the woods AND the river for that view. Plus the Littleman. Well, maybe not the Littleman, maybe his mom...the Pipsqueak. She'll keep the beastie entertained for you...”
Thistle has several smooth terriers. And yeah. She offered to send me one for my ocean view. Thistle has a wicked sense of humor and is about the best I have ever seen at using the line out to mask/not mask her gift of sarcasm.
Like me, thistle is a horse and dog person. She just knows a lot more about them than I do.
Thistle’s insatiable intellectual curiosity, combined with her sarcastic sense of humor, makes her blog diverse and always a fun place to visit.
During our American elections and tabloid media frenzy, thistle diverted her readers by a series of posts on Canada’s elections. She managed to inform us and keep it really interesting. It had quite the calming effect.
She ran a series of hilarious pictures (try here or here or here) of dogs in costumes pre-Halloween. Then on Halloween itself, gave us a history lesson on the origins of Halloween.
She travels the internet and brings back fun and games, like a test to how old one's brain is. Or if one is more conservative or liberal in one’s politics.
She works in mental health and has a heart of pure gold to balance off her sassy wit. She volunteers for Special Olympics and is the creator of The Helping Hands Project.
What’s not to like?
Last time I heard from thistle, she was busy helping her dad fix his heater and shoveling snow.
So, here’s some balmy weather. I set up a chair for thistle. She might let some of you borrow it too.
And some funny dogs.
Merry Christmas from your Secret Santa.
Friday, December 19, 2008
When my children were young, I loved it when their preschool and elementary teachers made ornaments with their pictures on them. These ornaments are like having our family's Christmas history dangling nostalgically from the branches.
This angel is from my own baby days. My sisters and I each had one and once our tree was up, my sisters and I would carefully place our angels, each vying for the most regal perch for these treasures. That makes this worn, messy-haired little angel somewhere close to 50 years old.
Today is my last day of work and then I go on Winter break. I hope to do another post on the Helping Hands project before Christmas.
For a thoughtful and sobering Christmas video, checkout Shaunna's post.
For more Friday Fotos, visit Candid Carrie's.
Tuesday, December 16, 2008
Saturday, December 13, 2008
Two bloggers that really snapped me back into reality were Words of Wisdom from a Smart Mouthed Broad and My Life Interrupted. These two posts about helping others during the holiday season put things back into perspective for me in a big way.
I could not leave such a whiney post up for the weekend, so before I go off to tackle the tree, the décor, the gift making, the gift wrapping… OK I’m going to stop writing about it before I get my migraine back. But before I go off, I would like to share something that totally made my week.
In my teacher mailbox I received a “Thanks” booklet. One of the 11th grade math teachers (yes. Math. How cool is that?) had his students write thank-you notes to a few teachers they had in their 9th or 10th grade years. The math teacher then consolidated these notes into booklets by teacher, put a cover on them, and slipped them into our mailboxes. Here’s a few.
The All-Star It’s Kind of Like Bragging, but WTF, These Made My Decade Notes
Dear Ms Pseudo,
Thank-you for being the best English teacher I’ve ever had. You sparked my interest in books and helped me improve my writing. I will continue to improve my writing skills because of your influence.
Dear Ms Pseudo,
Thank-you for a great year. The books you chose taught me a lot and I’ve never learned more in an English class. You were a great teacher.
Dear Ms Pseudo,
Thank-you for encouraging me to do my best, and supporting me. It really helped push me to become a better writer.
The Sweetest, Quietest Kid, Who I had No Idea Liked My Class Note
Dear Ms Pseudo,
Thank-you for passing me my sophomore year. I have some fun memories of your class, like when we did the skit.
The Back-Handed Compliment that Makes Me Smile Each and Every Time I read them Notes
Dear Ms Pseudo,
Thank-you for being one of the coolest teachers. You were always trying to act funny. Sometimes you were.
Dear Ms Pseudo,
Thank-you for teaching me about literature that I found putrid at first glance, because afterwards I took a liking to those books.
The I Absolutely Loved Teaching this Kid Because He Always Tried His Best Note
Dear Ms Pseudo,
Thank-you for all the teaching you have done for me in english. Wished you could of been my english teacher this year to. Hope you have a good Thanks Giving.
Oh. Anyone who misread me yesterday and thought my husband had left me (yeah, my writing must have needed some tuning up on that post), what I tried to say was that he turned a quick run to Wal-Mart for a tree stand into a 3 hour shopping trip with Son and I feel asleep before they got back.
Friday, December 12, 2008
I was seriously trying to go with the flow, be happy with what I could get done. Let go of what I couldn’t get to until the next day.
I was dealing with the frantic pace of work and the week before finals.
With two parent meetings this week when I needed to be tutoring students. Or grading. Or Christmas shopping. Or Christmas a million other things.
My daughter’s frantic pace of finishing up 17 credits at UH and opening week of the play she is in. And she started a new job.
Did I mention she commutes 44 miles round trip each day to school?
Of juggling cars.
So I was more than a little bummed when I woke up at 1 AM Monday night with a migraine.
And it didn’t respond to the Imitrex by 4 AM so I had to take another.
Then, the headache came back in the middle of the night on Tuesday.
I took my last Imitrex. I can’t refill my prescription until the 15th because our insurance will only pay for one refill every 27 days. Even though my internist has written them two letters saying my chronic migraine syndrome acts up on a more regular basis than the amount of pills they are willing to supply.
I could pay $130. But it’s Christmas. Things are tight. Tuition is due. So I dealt with it for a day without migraine meds.
The headache went away yesterday. Yea.
So we got the Christmas boxes down and the tree down. Yeah, I know. We have a fake tree. But I tried the real tree over here, and what with the tropical weather, it dies faster than Christmas shopping days fly past. By Christmas morning it would look like a giant matchstick ready to spontaneously combust.
So, like I was saying, we got the Christmas stuff down last night. Which surprised me because my husband was in a foul mood. The night before, my daughter got a flat tire on her way home.
At 11 at night.
Afraid to stop? Unwilling? She drove my car two miles on a flat tire. So, my husband spent the day at the tire center at Sears. The warranty did not cover $150 for the alignment.
So, like I was saying, we got the Christmas stuff down last night.
Then, the 15 year old tree stand broke. My husband went out to get a new one and decided to kill 1,000 birds with one stone and never got back.
This morning, there is an artificial tree in three parts on the floor.
There are eight boxes hanging out with the tree parts. They are having a party.
I’m supposed to be making a DVD that will serve as a Christmas present for many a peoples.
But our computer that we bought last summer does not have a movie making software program, so I am supposed to be researching what to buy. I was supposed to do that last month.
Anyone out there know of a good editing program that can make videos and slideshows on a PC? My daughter suggested Vegas?
Appreciating all advice as the way things are going, Christmas is going to occur at our home around January 5th.
Oh, and while I was down for the count, two of my measly 12 followers dropped me. It's a tough world out here too apparently.
Sunday, December 7, 2008
I've thoroughly enjoyed reading posts on the Helping Hands Project. There's a lot of good will going on out there. Two posts that really touched my heart and inspired me were Mama Dawg's and Pam's over at The McEwan's. Go check them out. It will give you that warm fuzzy feeling.
I always want to give to Toys for Tots, but their deadline sometimes comes up before I can go shopping. This year, I mailed in a contribution. They also have a website.
Thanksgiving and Living: The Days, Final Chapter (Really)
Friday, December 5, 2008
Thanksgiving dinner buffet line.
The teen boys have all taken up guitar this year. There were some interesting songs they made up, if you listened carefully... OK, not so much this one, but I didn't want to use a video with them too recognizable. Not sure if their moms would want them smack dab on the internet.
Then, awhile I posted a picture of the crabs. Each night we take the younger ones for a walk on the beach. This year, there was no moon, so the stars were out in all their glory. The kids collect crabs with flashlights while the moms talk story and follow along behind. The teens nowadays ditch us and practice testing the boundaries. Only a few years ago they were the ones thrilled by the crab catching and the crab races.
And now................I bring you the crab race:
For more Friday Fotos, click here.
Thursday, December 4, 2008
I Just Want to be a MACHO MAN. Macho, macho man. Come on, put a little wiggle in it before you start reading....
Wasn’t I surprised the other day when I noticed what at first looked like paper, but soon became something immediately recognizable. As NOT money. Square foil packet. Serrated edges. When I reached in and grabbed it, there was the familiarity of the circular edge lurking beneath the packaging.
My kids, daughter 19, son, 16 were sitting at the kitchen counter eating. I came out of the laundry room and waved the singular condom package in the air.
Lookie what I just found in the dryer. Which one of you does this belong to?
Daughter raises an eyebrow at son while addressing me.
Yeah. I’ve never had a boyfriend, I haven’t been on a date yet. But I am having sex. With random guys. I meant to tell you.
At least her sarcasm is up to par.
As far as I know, my son hadn’t started dating yet either.
Son, are you seeing girls and we don’t know about it? Did your dad have a talk with you about waiting and not have sex with hoochie girls that give it up to boys they hardly know?
That’s not mine. It’s dad’s.
At the risk of damaging you permanently by talking about your parents’ sex lives, I need to tell you that your dad doesn’t need condoms as chemotherapy rendered me post menopausal.
I’m not sure, but I think there was a smirk tugging at the edge of my daughter’s mouth as she tried not to show how much pleasure she was getting from her brother’s predicament.
It’s dad’s. It has to be. It's not mine.
I tilt my head to the side and narrow my eyes at him.
He looks me dead in the eye and says, that’s my story and I’m sticking with it.
OK. But tonight, when your dad gets home. And I have to ask him who he is having sex that is not his wife, I’ll be sure to tell him it was you that said it HAD to be his.
As I move the next load of laundry from the washer to the dryer, I hear heated whispering.
Upstairs, while I am folding laundry, son walks in.
You know, I left some of my clothes over at X’s house and he was wearing them. He must have left that in the pocket of one of my shorts. I threw everything he's been wearing straight into the laundry. DON’T SAY ANTHING TO HIM NEXT TIME YOU SEE HIM.
My kids think because I work with 150 teenagers for a living I am prone to bossing around and nosing around any old teen that comes my way. That’s not ALWAYS true.
Later, when husband gets home, I tell him the whole story. I thought he’d be a little more upset about son throwing him under the bus, but instead he was laughing his ass off. He calls son in the room.
That your hopeful condom?
Your field of dreams?
Be careful, those things have an expiration date you know.
Did you make sure you got the kiddie start up set?
And I thought I was the one that damaged our kids.
The preceding man story was inspired by two magnificent, manly awards that have come this way from two terrific dads who blog. Goodfather and Captain Dumbass. They have awesome blogs and have appropriately been awarded with many prestigious bloggie bling. It came to their attention that most of these awards tended to be on the girly side. With savvy technie skills, they designed and launched these wonderful badges:
Tuesday, December 2, 2008
1. Choose some way to give back.
2. Tell us all about it; post it on your blog. Then come back and pick up your award. Choose one badge or the other, or both if you’re really in the spirit. And don’t forget to link back to thistles helping hands page so we can follow what everyone is doing. And if you’re doing something already, pick up your badge right this minute!
3. Challenge all visitors to your site to do the same. Link back to the blog where you received the idea. And let’s see where this can go; let’s create a tsunami of good will and good deeds.
“And if you are in need of some inspiration as to what you can do….this post at Only a Movie should provide it. Erin is way ahead of the rest of us and we should all follow her lead.” Thistle
I’m going to start the ball rolling here by posting about something I do already. In my sidebar you will see a badge for Women for Women International. It is an organization dedicated to helping women survivors of war rebuild their lives.
Women for Women International mobilizes women to change their lives through a holistic approach that addresses the unique needs of women in conflict and post-conflict environments.
We begin by working with women who may have lost everything in conflict and often have nowhere else to turn. Participation in our one-year program launches women on a journey from victim to survivor to active citizen.
When you join this organization, you select a country (I selected the Republic of Congo) and Women for Women matches you up with a woman in need. For thirty dollars a month, a woman receives help with basic utilities as well as an education.
If you are looking for a way to give back, a wonderful idea of giving to cancer victims can be found over at Meaghan at I Kicked Cancer’s Ass.
For more inspiration, read this article about giving back.