Gentle Humor

I don't offend some of the people most of the time

Month: December 2009 (Page 1 of 4)

New Years Resolutions

Ahhh, today is the day for New Year’s resolutions. You start thinking of all the bad habits you’ve had over the last year (and probably most of your life), and then you resolve not to do them anymore except for all day today and especially tonight.

So here is my list of resolutions.

I resolve not to take anymore 16 hour non-stop road trips because I waited too late to make up my mind and there wasn’t any way I was going to pay $1,800 to fly to LA to see the Rose Bowl (except for the road trip back home, which I am dreading and will continue to dread the whole time I‘m here).

I resolve not to eat like a cow every time food is within reach but instead try to be sensible (to be judged sensibly by me as determined by the taste of the food in front of me at the time).

I resolve not to wait three months to give myself a pedicure even though my feet haven’t been exposed in Oregon since August because it’s as cold as a well digger’s ass in the Klondike there and my feet wouldn’t think of coming out of socks or shoes or fuzzy bedroom slippers. With this resolution I will avoid having to take a jack-hammer to my cuticles while I’m on a last minute trip to sunny California and without time to get one done by a professional who has way more experience than I do on how to use a jack-hammer.

I resolve to try not to be so critical of everyone to everyone else. I was called on this recently when I went to a birthday breakfast with a couple of friends and complained about the taste of certain people in my family in clothing presents. My friends joked, “As soon as she sees someone else, she’ll complain about our presents to them.” They laughed but I don’t think they were kidding. So I’m resolving to be a little more discreet about my opinions and definitely not say anything else to these two that could be used against me.

I resolve to try clothes on first before I complain about people’s taste in presents because the clothing items of the last paragraph actually ended up being very flattering and cute, and I don’t plan to return them – and I’m not just saying this because someone in particular might read find my blog and read it.

I resolve to try and be more patient with people who take forever doing everything from getting in the car to getting out of the bathroom.

I resolve for the 30th year in a row to try to be on time because I know how rude this is even though being on time, especially at meetings, means you have to wait for everyone else’s chitchat to die down before you can get down to the business at hand.

And I resolve to watch the OREGON DUCKS win the Rose Bowl because a win will elate me on the 16 hour trip back home and a loss…well, I’m not even going to think about it.

Happy New Years everyone, and please be sensible tonight in your partying or staying home alone with a bottle of Jack Daniels, or even if you’ve been asleep for four hours when the ball drops in Times Square.

I hope you all resolve to read my blog every single day in 2010.

Crazy California Drivers

This post is going to be very short because my hands are still shaking from driving in California. Here’s the rule of thumb for speed limits here. Whatever the posted speed limit is, add 100 mph.

In Oregon, we pretty much look at the signs, look around for the cop who‘s probably  hiding close by, and then venture a few miles over the limit to show our independence knowing we‘re safe.  In California, everyone goes so fast that the cops would have to be Santa and be a thousand places at one time. No cop could catch all the speeders.

For one thing, there are about 14 lanes of traffic everywhere, and all the lanes are full of people breaking the sound barrier and changing lanes constantly to do it.  Add to this the fact that some of the roads could use a little repair, and no policeman would risk his or her life running down one lousy speeder who will probably out-maneuver and outrun him or her anyway.

I hunkered down in the left lane because the other lanes were full of potholes and grooves in the pavement. I couldn’t get my car to go too much faster than the 70 mph limit, but I was terrified of all those other lanes. The California people didn’t like me plugging up the official “passing” lane and came up and nudged me from behind, flashing their lights for emphasis, as if to say, “Get your hick-ass Oregon beater off the road or drive it like a man.”

I made it alive to my nephew’s house after 957 miles, and I am going to go to bed and hope I don’t dream of maniacs swerving in and out in front of me and running me into ditches.

The only good thing about the whole trip was passing other Oregonians on their way to the Rose Bowl to see the University of Oregon Ducks play somebody for the championship of the world. That’s why I’m here with my daughter – but there better be public transportation because I will NOT get back in my car again and drive here. Anybody want to tow my car back to Oregon for me?

I Smell Roses

Something happened yesterday and I want to tell about it. I went to meet some friends for dinner – a dinner I didn’t really have time for so I was waffling about going at all and ended up getting there very late. I had to order takeout because by then everyone was finishing up.

On the way home I passed a car on the side of the freeway. A man was standing in back of it waving his arms frantically at the cars whizzing by. I passed him so fast there wasn’t anywhere to stop. I wondered if anyone else would stop for him, but figured they would. Besides, it could have been a scam. I was alone, it was a dark, cold night, and what was I going to do with him if I did stop? I’m no mechanic.

I drove on, looking in my rearview mirror and seeing that no one else had pulled over. It was in the mid-thirties, cold and dank. I wished him the best.

But something nagged me, and I decided to go up the freeway to the next exit, which was a few miles away, turn around, and go back and make sure he’d gotten a ride.

That takeout was wafting up from the seat beside me. I scarfed a couple of French fries, but I knew this detour was going to make the meal all cold and gooey. Still I pressed on and prayed, as I headed back in the other direction, that he had gotten a ride and someone else had dealt with the problem.

I circled back and drove very slowly past the car – slowly meaning around 45 because big semi’s were thrusting by me, pushing my little car sideways like it was a bug someone was blowing across a table. Thank goodness, I said out loud, he wasn’t in the car. Someone had saved him. Yippee!

I could see a ramp leading off to the side as I accelerated back up to speed, and in the black night somehow I saw the silouhette of a man pulling a suitcase. By the time I got stopped on the shoulder, I was a quarter mile down the freeway. There wasn’t anything to do but back up, which I did in absolute terror because the shoulder was narrow with a steep bank on the side, and any little play in my steering wheel would have made me a pancake on the front grill of a semi.

I arrived next to him and yelled out, “Do you need any help?” Of course he couldn’t hear me from up there with all that racket, so he started down the bank. As he got closer I saw he was wearing a thin leather jacket and had a sweater wrapped around his hands. When he was closer I yelled again. “Yes, I need help. I’m about frozen to death.”

I told him to get in the car and cranked up the heater while he explained that his car had broken down and his daughter was coming to get him but he was trying to find somewhere warm because he was frozen through. I offered to take him home but he just wanted a warm building to wait for her. A few exits down was a McDonalds, so I said I’d take him there. He tried to call his daughter on his cell phone to tell her where he’d be, but his hands were shaking so much that at first he couldn’t dial the numbers.

“You saved my life,” he said, several times. “I would have frozen to death out there. I had to start walking but I couldn’t even see any lights where I was.”

I took him to McDonalds and he thanked me profusely and assured me his daughter would be there in a couple of minutes.

This story isn’t funny (what do you mean neither are all the rest of them!!). But I’m telling it because it made such an impression on me. Not that I did a kind deed, because if it had been up to me I would have been smackin’ on takeout a half hour sooner with no remorse. But I felt compelled to turn around, and when I think about not wanting to go out in the cold for dinner but deciding to go anyway at the last minute, and choosing that route home instead of the other one, and glancing up at the ramp and barely seeing a human in the black night, well all I can say is, anyone else would be an idiot to do what I did. Let a strange man in my car out in the middle of nowhere and haul him around? If my daughter did that I would have smacked her up side the head.

But I did it, planning my escape the whole time, “If he pulls a knife, I’ll do this, and if he grabs me, I’ll do this, and if he hits me I’ll do this, and if he tells me to pull over, I’ll do this.” Scoff if you must, but I believe I was being guided by an angel, and since I’ve had good experience with angels many times before, I don’t doubt them one bit.

And guess what else? My daughter and I are going on a road trip tomorrow to see the Ducks play in the Rose Bowl!!! GO DUCKS!!!!!!

And guess what else? There’s three inches of snow that fell this evening outside and it’s beautiful. We made snow cream – snow + milk + sugar + vanilla, tastes fantastic! And tomorrow night I’ll be in Pasadena.

Here’s a great video to paste in your browser about the DUCKS!!!! Woo-hoo!!!! http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eucA0aElOAQ&feature=rec-LGOUT-farside_rn-2r-6-HM I smell roses….

The Other Baby Terror

I wrote about my daughter yesterday, so I suppose I should write something about my son today or I’ll be accused of playing favorites.

When I was PG with him, I could lay on my back and stare at the new mountain that was my midsection and see him rolling around in there like some horror movie creature that crawls up under your skin and moves around. He was never still – always kicking, always shifting. When he was born we had two weeks of relative quiet because the doctor had used a suction cup on his head to extract him, which left a big old blood filled hickey knot on his head that raised his billiruben levels and caused him to have jaundice. The doctor was late for a soccer game and was impatient with nature taking its course. What his haste meant to me was that my son had to lie under lights 24/7, why I don’t know, and go to the doctor every day to have his poor little heel pricked to see if the hemoglobin levels were improving. It made me very sad because I wanted to cuddle him all the time and instead here he was in a box thing at my house with a little Lone Ranger mask over his eyes sleeping in a diaper to expose as much of him as possible to the lights.

I should have counted my blessings, because at exactly two weeks of age he started crying and didn’t stop until he was seven months old. Everything made him miserable. I was on the phone to the pediatrician or in her office daily worried sick that he was suffering from some undiscovered disease that, if she would just examine him one more time, she’d find and cure and he’d stop crying. All I ever got out of her was the word, “Colic.”

That’s how I became an expert at quieting babies. I rocked him, put him on a clothes dryer, ran water, bounced him, sang to him (which made the crying worse even though, I’m telling you, my voice isn’t that bad). The things that worked best were perpetual motion of any kind – he got quiet when you moved and immediately bellowed when you stopped.

He’d quit crying if we rode in a car, but only to a point. Riding around worked great to get him to sleep, which he never wanted to do for any length of time, but you had to be careful because if you drove too far and turned around to come back, and he woke up before you were home, he’d scream his lungs out because he didn’t want to be in the car seat.

As a consolation, I had read that very smart children often were colicky because they were bored. BORED? This child had continual entertainment. How could he be bored? But I thought that if he were bored, at least it followed that he was smart, and that helped.

Around seven months he shut up. It’s the natural course of colic, but it just seemed like someone flipped a switch and he became a sweet, happy baby. Not that he wasn’t sweet on occasion before – there were delightful moments all along, it’s just that the colic overshadowed them all.

He learned to talk faster than any child anyone had ever heard of. His first word was “ite” for “light.” He loved that word and found an Ite everywhere he looked. Christmas was an ite delight. By nine months he was stringing words into simple sentences. I read in one of the baby books that it was okay to let your toddler curse because s/he didn’t know they were bad words and you shouldn’t restrict their creativity. So of course, through no fault of mine, he picked up the word “damn” and really liked the way it rolled off his tongue. “Damn, damn, damn,” he said. Isn’t that cute? I wasn’t nuts about the cussing, but I sure didn’t want to stifle him.

One day we were at the mall and he was about thirteen months old, toddling around in a quiet area saying, “Damn, damn, damn,” when I got a slap of a dirty look from an older woman who did not approve in the least. If she’d had soap in her purse, he would have been foaming at the mouth. That look was enough to get me to tell him not to say that word any more. He loved me at the time (or else he didn’t know how to argue), and just quit saying the word to make me happy.

In fact, he was a great one for listening. I could put his hand near something warm and say, “Hot,” and he’d repeat, “hot.” Then he’d feel the warmth and I’d say, “Don’t touch it. Hot,” and he’d say “hot” and wouldn’t touch it. Most other kids will touch something you tell them not to out of curiosity or bull-headedness, but he trusted what you said. At the time, anyway.

He was the most beautiful baby and toddler on earth. People stopped us everywhere we went to compliment me on his looks. I should have farmed him out as a baby model but I was afraid it would give him the big head.

One time I took him to the beach when he was about 9 months old. He loved the whole beach thing until he started eating the sand. He literally grabbed a fistful of wet sand and stuck it in his mouth and swallowed it. Over and over. I have a picture of him with sand running out the corner of his mouth. I guess he liked the salty flavor, which is also why kids eat PlayDoh. I tried to stop him, and scooped out as much sand as I could from his mouth, but the minute I looked away he had stuffed another handful in there. The next day was rough on both of us, if you catch my drift. That sand had to come out somewhere, and as it traveled along its way, it was like sandpaper. Poor little sweetheart – I should have told him the sand was “hot,” but I don’t think it would have done any good.

So thus ends the anecdotes about my son. I should do a word count and make sure both of my children got the same amount because they’d probably fight if one had more. They’re getting better now, but still, it makes no sense to take chances.

The Baby Terror

I was wondering out loud what I’d blog about today, and my daughter said, “How about me?” Well, she’s better than nothing, but what do you write about your teenager?

I guess I could tell about what an evil baby she was. Oh my gosh she was ornery! She hated to have her diaper changed. HATED IT. I’d put her on the same changing table I’d used with my son without incident, and she’d commence to scream bloody murder. Moving her did no good – she just didn’t want that diaper changed. Either that or she didn’t like me putting her down – I held the child continually either with my arms or a baby bundler that pressed her close to my chest all day long – facing out so she could be entertained by the world.

I should mention that she was born with a full head of red hair, and the stereotypical temperament that goes with it. If something didn’t suit her, she’d scream until her face was as red as a crayon. Which is interesting because she was also a very good-natured baby overall – a lot more mellow than my son had been. There just wasn’t any middle ground with her – she was either hot or cold, angry or angelic.

She had made up her mind as a two-month old that there was no reason she needed to have a new diaper when the old one was serving her perfectly fine. She had other little quirks like this, but the diaper thing impacted me several times a day. I got to where I could change a diaper in a matter of seconds – I was like one of those cartoons with arms waving in zip time and a new diaper on practically before the old one was off because her bellowing was brutal to my ears. I never liked the sound of a crying baby – it breaks my heart. It’s all I can do not to go over and pick up crying babies in stores and restaurants. There’s not a baby I can’t quiet down because it bothers me so. I’ve got a list of tricks as long as a freeway.

One day when my daughter was about 4 months old, she had done a particularly large quantity of greenish, sticky…well never mind, let it suffice that this wasn’t going to be a quick fix. I gathered everything needed, then braced for the squalling which erupted immediately at the onset. I worked like a Tasmanian devil trying to get the job done quickly, but she was clenching her fists and letting me know she wasn’t happy one little bit, arching her back and having a good solid hissy fit when all of a sudden her “inny” bellybutton popped out. Popped right out of her stomach! I about fell over backwards. It scared the crap out of me! You don’t just see a one-inch mass of creamy skin pop out of someone’s stomach everyday. It would make a good horror movie. I finished the diaper and, as always happened, the minute I was done and picked her up, she started cooing.

I nearly broke a leg trying to get to the phone to call the pediatrician. “It’s okay,” the advice nurse said, “happens all the time. It will go back in one of these days.” But it wasn’t okay, it was ugly. I didn’t know belly buttons went so deep. It truly stuck out about an inch. And it was full of air – like a cream colored balloon. I’m not sure it was air, but you could press on it and it felt like there was nothing in there, but it filled right back up when you let go.

It took several years for that thing to disappear. In fact, I don’t know when it did; I just know I worried myself sick thinking it would always be that way.

Okay, I have space for one more thing. I nursed both my kids for a while because I read it made them smart and I like smart people, so I was in no hurry to wean them. My daughter was about 7 months old when she grew her first tooth. Cute as could be! But she was nursing one day and I was staring down at her full of motherly love and sweet joy, when she got an odd little look on her face that I can’t describe as any other thing but just pure mischief. A couple of seconds later she bit me. SHE BIT ME! Bit one of the most sensitive areas on a human body! If you’ve ever been the victim of a purple nurple, it doesn’t even come close. It was like a cattle prod – an electric shock. It hurt like the dickens. I yanked her loose, which brought on even more pain, and she looked up at me with absolute delight, like she’d just seen a scampering puppy for the first time. I verbally chastised her royally to discourage it happening again. She was really smart even back then, and I know she understood the cause of my displeasure, and it amused her.

A few days later I got the look again, and again got the shock of pain. After that, I watched her like a hawk, and she watched me. I was on the lookout for “the look,” and she was waiting for me to let my guard down. When I got the look, if I didn’t yank her immediately, I got bit.

The funny thing is, my son was very kind to her until she was about two and started going into his room and rifling through his toys. Then he turned into a typical big brother, they’d get into fights, and if it got physical before I could break them up, she’d bite him and practically draw blood. We were all scared to death of those teeth!  When you were unlucky enough to be stuck between them, it was like you’d been caught in a bear trap.

You’re going to ask, “Why didn’t you just wean her?” Because I wanted her smart, that’s why. She’s a 4.0 student, a math and science whiz, and she’s a great athlete with strong bones and good teeth, so I guess it paid off. Makes for a good story, too, don’t you think?

Fire the Commercial Guy

I hope everyone enjoyed a day off yesterday, a little feast with family and friends, or at least extra holiday pay or a little time for R & R (ripping and romping).

I have a complaint that I’m delighted to be able to air at this time. I tried to watch a couple of Christmas specials because I always like the wholesomeness of some of the holiday favorites like A Charlie Brown Christmas, Nightmare on Elm Street – oops, I mean It’s a Wonderful Life, and White Christmas. I happened to be watching Steven Colbert’s holiday special and enjoying his duet with John Stewart around 11:30 p.m. a couple of days before Christmas. They were singing about the baby Jesus and Hanukah, and an angel came out and sang something funny but sweet. It was all very amusing and heart warming.

Then of course it was time for a commercial break, when, what to my wondering eyes should appear,
 but bear breasted women showing their rears. It was Girls Gone Wild, and they used stars (and not the Star of Bethlehem) to barely cover private body parts while showing girls kissing each other, getting their jollies, and a threesome mooning the audience. After they paraded around in bedrooms, pulling up their tank tops and slowly licking their lips with half closed eyes, Mr. Colbert came back on and started a skit about Christmas. When it was commercial time, again here came the trashy girls flicking their tongues and rubbing their bodies like they were two-bit stars in a cheap porn movie.

I don’t know anything about TV programming, so I have one question that I wish someone would explain to me. Who in the HELL decides what commercials to couple with what programs? It has got to be sadists, idiots, half-wits, or lunatics. I marvel at the stupidity, and wonder why I ever turn the TV on.

This isn’t a new problem. My little children used to watch network cartoons in the morning or afternoon, it didn’t matter which, and then commercials would come on. Obviously cartoons about Pooh Bears or Smurfs or Gumbies are targeted to a very young audience whose mother is off in the kitchen trying to get something done which is why the TV is on in the first place. So please tell my why the commercials that aired during these shows were about dead women sprawled in grotesque positions on sidewalks? Or showed a man holding a gun up to another man’s head and squeezing the trigger? What idiot at NBC, CBS, ABC, or FOX has targeted this kind of commercial at little children sitting in those fuzzy pajamas with feet in them, cuddling a plush toy with the stuffing leaking out, sucking their thumb, alone in a room, innocent and frightened of monsters — what idiot programmed these commercials for these sweet little children to watch while they are totally engrossed in whether Little Bear is going to get to the moon or not?

I ended up getting cable so I could always turn the station to Disney or Nickelodeon and wouldn’t have to get my blood pressure rocketing skyward like a thermometer plunged into boiling water. I’ve grown accustomed to the stupid male boner commercials that plague every station all day long, and the tacky Trojan and KY lubricant commercials, and all the commercials about having sex with someone and making it better because in American all we do is kill people and have sex with anyone handy day in and day out – 32 hours straight if we can get the right drug. But having to look at nearly naked women fondling themselves and each other while we’re trying to get into the Christmas spirit, which after all is a religious holiday at it’s core no matter what anyone says. What Einstein was responsible for that? Duh, I’m a stupid audience member who’s going to watch a semi-religious Christmas special and then order porn. I’m a three-year-old toddler who’s going to watch a murder mystery. Who’s responsible for this stupidity, that’s what I want to know.

I’m not a prude. I’m not an angel. And I’m certainly not trying to tell Hollywood how to conduct it’s business, because I think it’s going to self destruct on it’s own eventually anyway. Just keep feeding us all the sleazy immorality you can in your movies and TV shows, then preach to us about pirating and how it’s the “wrong thing to do.” If you want to make us moral, give us some good moral plots with normal humans who aren’t serial killers and rapists and prostitutes and thugs, and quit giving us slimy dirt to try and titillate us to watch your shows.

And please, fire the commercial guy.

Christmas Day Surprises

When I was a kid I sneaked into every one of my presents. My parents wrapped them up nicely and put them under the tree, and one by one I’d unwrap just enough to see what was in the box. I think I did this because I was impatient and an immediate gratification person.

The down side of doing this is that on Christmas morning you never have a surprise. You know what everything is in every box. I’ve talked to other people who have done the same thing, and all of us feel like it’s a compulsion. We just can’t stand not knowing what is on the other side of that paper.

When I was around eleven years old, my brother, who was fifteen, had been seeing a girl on occasion. She wasn’t very pretty, and had a little bit of a bad reputation. He was fairly secretive about his visits with her, as if he didn’t want anyone to know.

Just before Christmas, a present appeared under the tree out of nowhere. I was extremely curious about that one because it didn’t have a name on it and wasn’t wrapped in Christmas paper; it was just in a taped up cardboard box. Plus it was tucked way in the back of the tree, as if someone was trying to hide it.

I was about to do a little investigating when he pulled me aside and said, “You can’t tell mom and dad about the present under the tree. It’s from Jaynie, and I don’t want them to know I’m seeing her. Please help me keep it hidden from them.”

I looked up to my brother so much. We were close because we’d hang out together when he wasn’t doing anything else. We had a high jump and pole vault pit in our back yard that he’d built, and our friends would come around and try to out jump each other. I was the highest girl jumper, and he was the highest pole vaulter. We were both pretty athletic, so we were always doing outdoor stuff together because kids were outside all the time and we played with whoever was available, and if that was your sister, it was better than nothing. Anyway, I looked up to him, and when he asked me to keep an eye on that present, I was all over it. I kept it hidden out of sight, and if my friends asked about it, I told them it was a secret and no one could even touch it. I was a bully so nobody messed with that present.

Christmas morning I was a good actress and looked surprised when I opened all my presents. When we were all done, and my parents went about their business, my brother looked from side to side to make sure they were gone, then he reached for the present while I stood lookout. “What’s in it?” I asked when he grabbed it. He handed it to me and said, “I’ll keep watch, you open it.” I wasn’t going to pass up the opportunity to tear into a present, even if it wasn’t mine.

I scratched off the tape holding the box together and pulled up the flaps to find  something I’d never seen before. It was a red piece of wood on a couple of roller skate wheels.  I handed it to him, “What is it?” I asked. “It’s a skateboard,” he said. “You sit on it or stand on it and ride down hills.” Then he said, “And it’s yours, not mine.”

I thought I’d heard him wrong. “Why would Jaynie get me a present?” I asked. “She didn’t,” he said. “I got it for you.” “But why did you tell me it was from her?” “Because I wanted it to be a surprise, and I knew you’d sneak into it if you thought if was for you.”

I learned a lot of things that Christmas morning. I learned that surprises are way, way more delicious than sneaking into presents. I learned that my brother, who only had the money he earned delivering papers, had used some of his own cash to buy me something wonderful because he liked me and for no other reason, and I learned that a skateboard was the grandest present an eleven year old girl could ever hope to receive.

I think that may have been the first year a skateboard was ever sold anywhere in US. Seriously, no one had ever heard of them. And it looked just like a sanded board about six inches wide with the front and back barely rounded, and two sets of metal wheels underneath. He could have made it himself except it was painted red and had professional lettering on the top. Unlike today’s skateboards, it didn’t rock side to side so there really wasn’t any way to steer it. I never stood on it, but I sat on it and rode it down hills in the street or parking lots, leaning back with my feet held up, gathering speed and wearing down the soles of my shoes to stop. It was great fun.

So next time you’re tempted to sneak into anything, I hope you’ll remember my story and just hold off. You’ll be happy you waited – because someone who loves you is going to be delighted when they get to see your genuine surprise.

Christmas Eve Elf

Everyone has stories to tell about Christmas Eve, and that includes me. People with small children in the house who do the whole Santa thing know that you can’t just put presents under the tree. You have to wait until all hours of the night when the little rascals are tucked into bed and sound asleep to get the presents out of the hiding places scattered everywhere in the house and put them under the tree as if Santa actually came down the chimney – which our house doesn’t have Santa had to come right in the front door where we put the cookies and milk.

I did all of these things because I’ve felt compelled to be supermom. Compelled not by a desire to do everything superbly well and create memories that my children would cherish their whole lives. Nope. I’m just hyper. I do all kinds of stupid stuff because I can’t sit still. People think I’m productive and creative, when in reality I have things to show for my time because there has to be something really good on TV for me to veg out on the couch.

The other thing is my husband figured out a long time ago that if he refused to do something, like put together a bicycle or string Christmas lights, I’d do it. And yes, I’m getting to my point finally, which is why I think I deserve to be a Christmas Elf.

One year they wanted new bikes. There is nowhere at my house to hide one bike, much less two. And since Santa had to bring them, I asked one of my neighbors a few doors away if I could store the bikes at her house. She said yes, and offered the shed out back so that I could come and get them late at night without waking her.

We always go to midnight Mass. It wasn’t over until about 1:30 a.m. I got the kids home to bed, and that was easy enough because even though they were very, very excited and had helped put out the milk and cookies for Santa, they were also exhausted after spending Christmas Eve at Grandma’s and then the late church service. At 2:00 a.m. I walked up the dark street (we live in an area where the house lots are all ¾ acre so the houses are far apart and the street is woodsy and rural feeling). I took a flashlight, but it was very creepy in that shed. It wasn’t even a shed; it was a room in the foundation of the house on the backside, like an old-fashioned root cellar with a creaking door, low ceilings, and no doubt vermin and bats.

I tried to maneuver both bikes at one time because I had the eevy-jeevies and wanted to get done fast, but that lasted about three steps. So I left one and pushed the other out the door, up through the grass, and out into the street. I think there may have even been snow on the ground, or at least ice. Or maybe it was raining. Or a hailstorm. Or all of the above. But it could have just been a freezing cold, clear night. All I remember was pushing that little bike down the hill, trying to keep quiet so I didn’t get blasted with a shotgun or attacked by coyotes. I got it through the front door, positioned it in front of the tree, and went back out into the cold night and got the other one.

When I was done, around 2:30 a.m., I pulled out all of the presents that were hidden all over the house and put them under the tree, filled the stockings, turned off the lights, and crawled exhausted into bed. At 6:30 the kids zoomed in the room like rockets and sprang onto the bed. “Mom, Dad, wake up wake up it’s Christmas!”  No argument could convince them to go back to bed for another three hours, so we got up. They ran down the hall into the living room and saw the new bikes. “LOOK LOOK, SANTA BROUGHT US BIKES – LOOK, MOM, LOOK!”  I staggered in, dredged up some excitement in my voice, and said, “Look, he took a bite out of the cookies, too!”

I have spent many Christmas Eves like this, exhausted from last minute shopping, my husband’s family, wrapping, hiding, and retrieving presents, making candy and sending cards to people who probably don’t get many cards. I think I deserve the title of Honorary Elf, even if I only do all this stuff because I’d go nuts if I didn’t have something to do all the time. Like now – I still have to go wrap presents I bought last minute today and all I really want to do is climb into bed. My daughter wants “Santa” to come, though she’s 16 and plopped by the tree watching a Star Wars marathon.  Crap, I may be up until 2:00 waiting for her to go to bed so I can put my stash of presents under the tree. It feels like old times.

Merry Christmas everyone from one of Santa’s official little helpers. Santa and I hope your Christmas Day is merry and bright!

December Babies Get Gypped

People born around Christmas get gypped out of their birthdays when they’re little. Friends and relatives will smile really big and hand you a gift and say, “Here’s your birthday and Christmas present.”

Let’s think about this for a minute. If you had been born on July 18th, no one would say that. It would be ludicrous. So why do people think it’s okay to do it in December?

Everyone I’ve ever known with December birthdays says they got the same story — no matter what part of the country they were from or their economic status.

We get birthday cakes decorated in red and green with holly instead of flowers or balloons on them. We get presents wrapped in Christmas paper. This is not right!

I have made it my life’s mission to get my birthday celebrated in a non-Christmas style. I make sure everyone knows they cannot get by with the old combined present thing. I don’t care if you get me no gift at all – but just don’t tell me it’s for both. What does that mean, anyway? That if I choose to open the present on my birthday, I’m going to get up Christmas morning and have no presents at all?

When I get a birthday cake, or make one of my own, it does not have red and green frosting. It will be rainbow colors, or turquoise, or something that reeks of birthday.

I’ll give you an example. My mother-in-law, who I hope doesn’t read this, would have birthday parties for each of her five children when my husband and I were first married. We attended all of these, presents in hand, and had dinners and spent a few hours visiting with each other. And then it came time for our birthdays, and year after year there would be no party and no presents because the family was going to get together in a few days anyway. So we’d show up, get our, “Did you have a good birthday?” questions, maybe get some cards, and that would be it.  Where is the justice?

If you’ve read this far, you probably think I’m a spoiled brat, and you’re right. But that is neither here nor there. Nor anyplace else either. I want my birthday to be separate. I’m going to use all the years of my adult life to make amends for the birthdays I got that were combined with Christmas.

I’m not bitter. Yeah, right. I’m mad as a hornet. December babies didn’t ask to compete with the biggest holiday on the planet. We’d be a lot happier if our parents would have gotten cozy in January instead of March. It was their lack of planning that has caused this annual inconvenience for us.

Sometimes I think I’ll just celebrate our birthdays in July with a nice barbecue so that the days before Christmas won’t be so full of activity, but I never do. It’s just not the same. A birthday is important. I believe it needs to be celebrated on the actual day – even if you don’t have a party or anything else. The minimum you need to have a good birthday is the feeling that it’s your day – even if you have to work or change diapers or visit the nursing home. You should be able to lay claim to that day as your own personal celebration, and not feel guilty about it.

So if you know people with a December birthdays, don’t even mention Christmas when you talk to them. Just say, “Happy Birthday,” and let us enjoy the moment. And if you want to give us a foot rub, that would be really nice, too.

No Vomitorium for Me

I have been working on a tedious task—editing someone else’s writing and fact checking sources. I think writing is fun when you’re trying to make a point and you find a great quote from an “official” person who has more clout than you. When you quote that person, it becomes believable and credible to the reader. However, in your zeal of discovery, you copy the quote and put a word or two of reference where you think you might have gotten the quote (but you looked at so many web sites, who can remember…). You move on with the next quote and say, “Let the grunt figure it out!”  Then the grunt, who is me in this case, has to spend wee hours of the night chasing down obscure quotes that turn out to be incorrectly copied or attributed to a whole different person or both.

What’s this got to do with the price of eggs? In my misery, I started to grasp for a silver lining and said to myself, “At least I’m not having to stand on my feet behind a cash register all day.” And with that I comforted myself. There’s always someone who has it harder than you, no matter what. And I used to be a cashier at a department store, so I know what that’s like. It’s not so bad, really, but I’d rather be doing this than that, especially now that my feet and back would complain 24/7 if I stood for eight hours. There are lots of jobs that I’ve done, and each had its drawbacks. I was a lifeguard and baked in the East Tennessee sun all day long with the scant protection of white zinc oxide on my nose. I wouldn’t do that now if someone gave me a new car—well, maybe I would but only with an umbrella and a body cast made of sunscreen.

I was a waitress and liked that, but I wouldn’t do it again. Walking back and forth all day carrying heavy trays? Waiting forty-five minutes while a wishy-washy bimbo asked what everything on the menu tasted like—“Is the veal good?” “I’ve never tried it.” “Can you find me someone who has, sweetie?”

I wouldn’t like to do any job that involves an odor. I have been blessed with a nose that can sniff a rose at 50 feet. Unpleasant smells make me barf if I can’t run away from them quickly enough. I could never work in anything having to do with caged animals, sewage, baby day care, or where people are sick to their stomachs. In ancient Rome people would gorge themselves on feasts, but since they didn’t want to get fat, and since they wanted to keep eating, they’d go to a vomitorium and upchuck to make room for more gluttony. Can you imagine being an employee at one of these establishments? First you’ve got to listen to them, which would be enough to set me off, then you’d have to clean up because you know there would be splatters everywhere. I’m almost sick thinking about it.

I also couldn’t work at a place where there is a lot of whining. So I wouldn’t last long in a complaint department. When the lady brought the armpit stained dress back that smelled like tobacco smoke and had a couple of red wine stains—but the tags were still on it—I’d have a conniption fit.

I looked up conniption fit just now. It’s “an angry outburst.” It’s also “one of New England’s premier indie rock bands!” And it’s a little more emotional than a hissy fit.

That’s another job I probably wouldn’t like so much. Defining words for a dictionary. I like knowing what words mean, but I’m not so sure I’d like looking them up. Wait. You couldn’t look them up because you’d BE the dictionary. So how do they know, and know beyond a shadow of a doubt, that a hissy fit is milder than a conniption fit?  This question makes me feel like I did when I first discovered eternity in about the second grade. I was in a Catholic school and we were talking about Heaven and going there for all eternity. I’m the kind of person who likes beginnings and endings. So eternity freaked me out completely. All I could picture was the image of two mirrors facing each other, and you see mirrors reflected in both of them that stretch to the vanishing point. That wasn’t even good enough because you kindof got a sense that the mirrors would be so small that they disappeared, which was an ending. It took me a few years of cogitating the whole thing to come to accept that whatever happens I’ll deal with it. Just like having to give my dad showers when he was recovering. Oh my gosh! I would have had nightmares if I’d known I was going to ever have to see him naked. I’m getting a shiver like you get when you see a ghost going up my spine right now thinking about it. Let’s change the subject.

My point was that I guess with anything – a job, an old naked parent, or what have you—you get used to it. That does not mean I would put my application in for a vomitorium, though. I have to draw the line somewhere.

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Copyright © 2017 by Suzanne Olsen