Suzanne Olsen's Humor Blog - I don't offend some of the people most of the time

Category: Holidays Page 1 of 4

Christmas Frenzy

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The Christmas frenzy came early this year. Long before Black Friday my email overflowed with people wanting me to spend money at their stores. Even my dentist is begging me to get something – anything – done to my teeth in time for the holidays. Tis the season!

I responded to Land’s End’s frantic 55% Off and Free Shipping! emails by ordering a bunch of stuff I don’t need, since I have nowhere to go. No holiday parties, no nights at the theater, no restaurants with old friends I haven’t seen since March. But just in case, I ordered a red sweater – they were practically giving it away. Also some cotton zip-up sweatshirt things to stay warm while I clean closets. I’ll wrap these items and give them to myself for Christmas. That way I’ll at least get a few presents I won’t have to return.

My husband does the same thing. Several packages have already arrived with those stretchy polyester sports shirts he always wears. He puts them in drawers until I get the tree up, then he’ll wrap umpteen boxes with tags on them that say “to MLH from YLW” (To My Loving Husband, From Your Loving Wife).

It’s the thought that counts.

We’re still in November but already people have turned their outside Christmas lights on. I realize that some never took them down from last year (my mother would have called that “tacky”), but others had their houses lit up like Santa-land even before Thanksgiving. Before Thanksgiving! As my grandmother would have said, “What is this world coming to?”

I think we are all stir crazy from being inside so much, isolated from normal activities during this season of friendly gatherings. I spent all day yesterday making butter toffee and cashew brittle to give as gifts – something I usually don’t do that until the second or third week in December. But the candy lasts forever in the refrigerator, so why not go ahead and get it done? Especially since I can never remember how to make it and end up throwing a lot of sugar and butter away that got overcooked (burned) or didn’t set up right (the butter separates after the hot candy is poured onto a cookie sheet, making it greasy). Last weekend I made four batches of each. The butter toffee got slightly burned and the cashew butter was greasy. Both tasted great, but not good enough for gifts. Yesterday the candy turned out – only a little burned, only a little greasy. Good enough. 

Today, even though it’s still November, I’m going to get all those Christmas tubs off the high shelf in the garage while my husband is here to help – one of us will have to go up a ladder – and in December put all that old junk around the house because it makes me happy. Yes, yes, I will be sick of looking at it by Christmas, but in these crazy times I’ll take my happiness today and let tomorrow worry about itself.

Besides, a lot of packages will arrive soon that need to be wrapped. And the tree put up. I’ve seen a lot of Christmas trees strapped to the top of people’s cars already – even before Thanksgiving! (so tack – oh, never mind). Last night I saw decorated Christmas trees in people’s picture windows. Lots of trees. IN NOVEMBER!

Who can blame them? I don’t want a fire hazard in my house, but I bet I’ll trudge through a muddy Christmas tree farm miles from my house (they’re cheaper) and have a tree in my living room within the next week, especially if the sun comes out.  

But it will be December then, and that’s, technically, okay.

Thankful

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One of the things I’m most thankful for in this world is my electric teapot. Sorry if you were expecting me to say my family, my health, food on the table. Those are the big things, and I’m exceedingly grateful for all of them. But sometimes it’s the little things that have the most impact. Like when a child hands you a bouquet of scraggly wildflowers to show they love you – isn’t that more wonderful than a huge box of long-stem roses? Sure, the child is just trying to bribe you, but still, you see my point.

When my mother-in-law gave me the electric teapot for Christmas a couple of years ago, I rolled my eyes. Another gadget. She’s the queen of gadgets. If it’s been on TV, or a friend has told her about it, she’ll buy one for herself and one each for her daughter and daughters-in-law. At my house a few of these get used, some collect dust, others find themselves snuggled in with clothes and old toys headed for Goodwill. I pictured this gadget in that last group.

I’ve already got a stovetop teapot that nobody uses. I’ve kept it because it sits on the gas range looking pretty while it collects grease splatters until it gets cleaned, usually just before a holiday. I prefer the speed and convenience of a microwave cup of tea in the morning.

Who knows why I actually took this thing out of the box and plugged it in. It’s modern looking like my kitchen, but I don’t like devices on my counters. The toaster and Cuisinart and coffee maker and popcorn popper are hidden in two appliance garages that are full. There’s no room for an electric teapot. Still, perhaps because my mother-in-law was so pleased with the gift, I plugged it in, filled it with water, and stood there and gave it the evil eye, disgusted at the thing sitting there on my countertop like a zit on a beauty queen, like bird splat in the middle of the driver’s side windshield, like a fly on a cheesecake, like a lot of ugly things nobody wants to look at.

Teapot on my counter with cup and apple for decoration
Still Life with Teapot 😉. Notice the appliance garage where all other gadgets are hidden – behind the cup that my dad’s girlfriend, Anita McCabe, made for me. Another thing I’m thankful for.

Boy it steamed up a pot of water as quick as a Tesla goes from Zero to Sixty (it’s electric too, by the way). The microwave can’t compete. Seriously. The pot heated that fast. (If you don’t know about how fast Tesla’s are, here’s a video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9cA1doO_9h8. If you ever get a chance to ride in one, when you start out it feels like those G-forces that press you into the back of your seat when you’re taking off in an airplane. One day I’ll own a Tesla. That’s a gadget anyone could give me and I’d be quite happy.)

Every morning I get up and go turn on my teapot. By the time I’ve put away last night’s hand-washed pans, cutting board and assorted cutlery, I can pour the boiling water over my teabag and scald my mouth. It gets that hot that fast. I have to put an ice cube in the cup or have burnt tongue.

I love my teapot. Absolutely love it. Best gadget ever (besides the Tesla – I prefer white, by the way). This Thanksgiving Day I’ll ponder how thankful I am for all the good things in my life, my husband who drives me crazy but makes me laugh, my children who rarely call but give me such sweet Mother’s Day cards, extended family and friends I don’t see as often because of Covid, good food (I have the muffin top to prove it), a comfortable home – the list is long. The teapot isn’t at the top, but it’s something I’m thankful for every day.

I hope you have something that you appreciate everyday, too. Happy Thanksgiving, and God bless you.

Halloween 2020

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We don’t get many trick or treaters on our street. Parents drive their kids to clustered neighborhoods of decorated houses where all the lights are on so they get maximum loads of candy with minimum time and effort, like I did with my kids. On our street the houses are darker than a bat in a cave. They are obviously not in the free-candy business on October 31st. Except us. One of us is usually home, or at least we leave a full candy bowl on the porch.

stacked pumpkins with big spider on top

A few days before Halloween I put a few decorations around the house, a witch sitting on a pumpkin with a plug-in little Christmas light in it, an round, orange wicker basket full of dried mini-corn cobs – those kinds of things. For the window by the front door I have six carved pumpkins stacked on each other – about 2 feet high – that my mother-in-law gave me years ago. They sit on the shelf looking out the window. This year I balanced a giant spider on the top pumpkin’s head to look creepy.

My daughter's ghost - round eyes and smile

I also hang ghosties outside. My kids made a dozen or so of them years ago out of baseball-shaped Styrofoam covered with white cheesecloth and a pipe-cleaner that we twisted under the ball to look like ghosts. By fanning out the “arms” of the pipe cleaner under the fabric, they become fuller and look more lifelike. Each one is about 8 to 12 inches long. My daughter drew happy faces on hers – my son’s look grumpy.

My son's ghost - has a frown and some stitches

For the final decoration I carve a pumpkin – three triangles (two for the eyes, one for the nose) and a jagged mouth. This year I found a pumpkin at the last minute. He was the right size but had a big gash. I got him for a discount – $1.67 – and figured I’d just carve the good side. But when I started carving, the gash was so mushy I cut it out and gutted him from that direction, rather than the top. A semi-rotten pumpkin is the way to go. The whole thing turned out to be soft and pithy. It was very easy to carve. Plus, it’s extra creepy-looking with the whole back of his head gone, and you can see through it so it gave off more light. I put it on top of my car facing the street, and could also see the whole pumpkin’s face (from the inside) while looking out the kitchen window. 

You can see the car outline in his right eye because he has no back on his head.

Since we were home because of Covid, we decided to watch “The Shining” as our Halloween entertainment. Neither of us had ever seen it. Boy, that Jack Nicholson can sure look spooky when he moves his eyes sideways, especially with the eery music that sometimes sounds like my heart pounding (or maybe it was). We’d pause the movie so one of us could grab a Milky Way while the other got a little bag of peanut M&M’s that had either 4 or, if I was lucky, 5 pieces in there. Hardly worth the effort to tear open the package.

I got worried around 8pm – not because Jack was hacking through the locked bathroom door with an axe, his lunatic – no possessed – eyes wild. I worried that Covid would keep my one family of trick or treaters from showing up. I’d gone to the kitchen for more food (candy) when I heard the doorbell. By then my nerves were as tight as new banjo strings, and I was afraid that, instead of a sweet family, there’d be an axe-wielding maniac with crazy Jack Nicholson eyes.

Giggles from outside gave me the courage to open the door. “Trick or Treat!” they called. “So glad you came! Tell me what you are.

The boy, who’s maybe middle-school age, had on a black outfit and carried a black bow with arrows on his back. “I’m the Black Bowman,” he said.

“Haven’t heard of him.”

“It’s a name I made up.”

The girl, who’s close to high school, was also in black with a wad of aluminum foil on her right hand. “Are you familiar with Marvel characters?” she said.

“Yes.” I know about 479 Marvel characters and have seen about that many Marvel movies. Tuesdays used to be $5 movie nights (before Covid) and my friends and I saw a lot of Marvel movies.

“I’m Bucky Barnes.”

“I don’t know Bucky Barnes.”

“He’s a fried of Captain America.”

“Oh, okay, cool,” I said. “I know him.” I turned to the adult behind her. “And you are?”

“I’m a hobbit.”

“That’s what you were last year.”

“Yes, you’re right, I was.”

“Good to get your money’s worth out of these costumes. What about you?” I said to the woman beside him, but can’t remember what she said – I think it was a half costume, like when you dress normal and wear a witch’s hat. “How about you?” I said to the woman behind her – making Halloween small talk, I guess. As a kid, I used to hate it when people delayed me with a lot of questions – I wanted to get to the next house for more candy, but figured this was their last stop.

“I’m just me,” she said. “No costume.”

“It’s hard to tell if someone is wearing a costume when we all have masks on,” I laughed. They chuckled at my sparkling humor. “I’m just really glad you came. You made my night.”

“We love coming here,” the girl said. “We love all the ghosts. We call you the ‘Ghost Lady.’

“The Ghost Lady,” I said. “Hmmm, I like it. I have a Halloween nickname.”

“I love your stacked pumpkins,” the boy said.

I held out the bowl of candy. The kids grabbed handfuls. “Take more,” I said. “Anything you don’t take I’ll eat.” I stretched my arm toward the adults. “Here, you guys, take some. Take it all.” Each of them grabbed a small fistful. I offered it to the kids again. They took most, but not all, of the candy. “Trust me, you’ll want a few pieces tomorrow,” the man said. Of course he was right.

They left, and it occurred to me that, in all the chaos of life, we’ve had this five-minute encounter that I look forward to every year. I know where there live (not on our street), but I don’t know anything else about them. They always come later, probably after they’ve hit the good, candy-rich neighborhoods. We’ve never exchanged names. Every year I’ve had taken my kids out, and in later years walked with my friend and her youngest daughter, or occasionally we’ve gone to a party, but I always try to be home by 8 in case my one family comes. I leave the candy bowl out in case they get here before we do.

When they left I came back inside beaming, an active participant in the Halloween tradition that I have loved ever since I can remember. “Well, they came,” my husband said. “Yeah, they came,” I said. I cozied up under my throw, pressed the “Play” button and saw Shelley Duvall slice Jack Nicholson’s hand when he reached through the hole he’d hacked in the bathroom door to get to the doorknob. The blood. The fear. The horror. Didn’t bother me a bit. I was floating like a, well, like a ghost. The Happy Ghost Lady. That’s me.

Happy Birthday, America!

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It’s our 244th birthday! Ever since July 4, 1776 we’ve spent money buying explosives that light up the sky for several nights, booming so loud that old curse when they go to bed at 8:30 and dogs to bark continuously and pee on the floor. 

On the actual holiday, we gorge ourselves on fried chicken, potato salad, and white sheet cakes with strawberries and blueberries and Cool Whip to make the Stars and Stripes that our bellies refuse to digest, stretching our American elastic waistbands beyond their endurance.

We are a good country, formed on sound principles written in the Declaration of Independence – that revered document we celebrate every July 4. The most famous quote says that, “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.”

Our country seems like a mess right now with all the protests. We’ve been here before, but my hope is that after this year is we don’t go back again. I hope we will all remember that pursuing happiness can’t happen when you are angry. No matter what side of a political fence you’re on, if you hate others because of the color of their skin or the nation they came from, you cannot pursue happiness. Hate makes you angry. 

Go ahead, think about that for a minute. Has your child (or you, when you were a child) ever had a hissy fit, slammed a door, and shouted, “I hate you?” Are they smiling and happy? No, they’d kick you in the shin if they could get away with it. Now think about that same child looking into your eyes and saying, “I love you.” That’s happiness right there. It’s dang near impossible to find happiness when you’re angry – and pretty easy to be happy when you love someone.

It’s that simple – if we want to pursue happiness, we have to love each other. I know this goes against what you may have been taught by your angry parents, uncles, aunts, teachers, bosses etc., but it is the truth. And the truth will set you free – give you Liberty, and that will give you Life, and free you up to pursue Happiness.

Those old guys were pretty smart back in 1776. 

The video below was sent to me by my 93 year old friend, Pearl. Another very smart person. It’s a short version of a 1985 documentary where a teacher does an experiment in discrimination. It’s only 6 minutes long and well worth watching. The link to the full documentary is below that – it’s about an hour long. Happy 4th of July everyone!

https://www.pbs.org/video/frontline-class-divided/

That’s About the Size of It

There were many facets to my father, and not all of them sparkled. The parts of my dad that glowed didn’t outshine his flaws, but they made the journey with him brighter. 

My dad as a young man after eating a SweeTart
My dad as a young man after eating a SweeTart

Gene Patterson was born in 1923. He told us stories of his early years, gathering scrap metal for a penny a pound, near-death experiences flying down a long steep road in a homemade soapbox car with no brakes, hoping a car didn’t come through the intersection at the bottom, skinny dipping in the creek with his friends. In the Navy during WWII he got tattoos – a Navy anchor with a swirly ribbon around it and I think a rose with Mother underneath. That faded red and blue ink on his white-gravy skin were enough to keep me from ever getting branded with ink.

He courted and married Momma in Kingsport, Tennessee, and us kids came right away. Both of my parents were stubborn and independent, which may be why he became a union electrician and worked out of town, only coming home for periodic visits. Momma let us run wild, but when he was home he kept a tight ship, and we resented it, except for his first evening home when he often brought us something exotic like white chocolate. Plus he’d always bring his loose change jar full of quarters, dimes, nickels and pennies. I’d sit on the floor and stack them into little paper rolls and got to spend them on anything I wanted – usually candy. I don’t know what he gave to my brother, maybe folding money.

The next day, on Saturday, he’d ask me to go to Kroger’s and get something. I’d protest and want to just go to Kabool’s grocery down the street, but he insisted it had to come from Kroger’s, which was about a mile away. Back then I ran everywhere, so I dashed off, got whatever it was and ran home. I’d burst through the door to our little house, tromp to the kitchen, push the screen door open and look in the backyard – nobody around. I’d run to the bedrooms and see my parent’s door closed. I flung the door open and they’d be scrambling into their clothes. I never could figure out why they were taking a nap in the middle of the day.

A Fish Tale for Mother’s Day

This goldfish will be 15 years old next month (June, 2020), if he lives that long…

Have I got a fish tale to tell you. Friday morning I got up around 7 and found our 14 year old goldfish at the bottom of the tank, his fins clamped close, his eyes cloudy, his tail ragged – all very bad omens for a fish. I turned his light on and sprinkled food in the water like I always do. The flakes swirled around him like snow but he didn’t move. Didn’t even twitch. In almost 15 years of life, this fish has always wiggled and splashed and opened his mouth wide to snatch at the food – it’s actually kind of cute the way he carries on. I knew something was seriously wrong. The fish is like me – it lives to eat.

I went to Google right away and of course everyone said the problem was dirty tank water. Goldfish eat a lot and excrete a lot, and ammonia builds up, and nitrites and nitrates. It’s what causes most goldfish to go belly up a few days after your daughter brings one home in a little plastic bag all excited crying, “Look what I won, Mommy, look what I won!” Which is how we ended up with this fish in 2005. 

Father’s Day 2019

Father’s Day Fish Slippers

It’s Father’s Day, and my daughter sent her dad a pair of fish slippers. Thankfully my husband’s sense of humor got passed down to our kids.

Easter Craziness

This Sunday is Easter, and I observe the usual traditions from my childhood, plus things that other moms have done that sounded like they were better moms than me. That’s how the Easter Scavenger Hunt got started.

Shedding Some Light on Christmas Part 2

Electric Outlet Deep in the Bushes

Here’s the outlet deep in the bushes. Notice cord leading away toward the house – spiders not visible (camera shy)

I didn’t get my lights put up yet as planned (see Part 1), which means that I’ve had all this time to dread going outside and stinging lights which, if history repeats itself, will burn out as soon as I’ve arranged them. And spiders.

You’d think self-respecting spiders would have gone somewhere like Hawaii for the winter rather than loitering around here in freezing, rainy Oregon, especially since all their prey was smart enough to skedaddle already.

These are hearty, hungry spiders in the shrubs and low hanging branches where the Christmas lights go. They have beefy muscles to keep warm, and thick hair that sheds the rain. They are the WWE wrestlers of the spider world.

Shedding Some Light on Christmas

In the spirit of the holiday season, tonight I’m going to risk my life on a rickety ladder pulling giant red bins off the top shelves in the garage to get to the Christmas lights. They’re stacked so high I have to rope myself off like a mountain climber lest I fall to my death on the concrete floor. Here in Oregon it has been dry for 2 days, and according to the weatherman, we’ve got one day left before the rain comes back and pours until July – I have to use this window of opportunity to get those outside lights done!

If I survive getting all ten monstrous bins down without breaking something (on me – who cares about the bins), I’ll dig through them all until I find the one with the lights that mostly don’t work. I’ve purchased replacement strings every year for the last ten years, but by New Year’s Day, only forty percent of the lights will still be twinkling. They will either go out individually or malfunction in thirds – 1/3 of the string will be lit and 2/3’s won’t.

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Copyright © 2020 by Suzanne Olsen