Monthly Archives: November 2011

Dear Santa,


Yesterday I began my Christmas shopping.  Call me a coward, but I avoided Black Friday altogether.  I knew I had made the right decision long before I saw the video of the lady who pepper sprayed fellow shoppers to get the deal she wanted.  Lunacy.

But yesterday I was optimistic.  I knew of a store that opened at 7 am on a weekday and I decided to be an early bird.  I arrived at 7:15 and was actually the first customer in the store.  Score!  But then I started thinking.  “How big or real could this sale be, if I am the first person to arrive?”  It seemed like everyone else knew something I didn’t know.  Immediately I started feeling ‘out of the loop’. Can you say, ‘schmuck’? 

The store was in disarray, like a giant swarm of locusts had recently eaten all the edible stuff.  All the clerks who might have helped me were busy restocking shelves. Skids full of new products blocked the aisles   An hour and twenty minutes later I left that store with three small items.  I’m usually a flash shopper.  I don’t shop for fun.  I arrive.  I go directly to the item for which I am shopping.  I check out.  Ninety minutes for three items, one of which I was unsure about?  What is happening to my game? 

There weren’t any lines in this store!  The day even had a little snow-the best kind-snow that looked pretty falling down, settled on the grass but wouldn’t stick to the roads. Piped in Christmas music was playing over the store’s speakers.  The atmosphere was perfection.  What was wrong with me?

I’ve figured it out.  The young people for whom I shop have moved from ages with one digit to ages that start with a one.  What a dirty trick.  I’ve moved from fun shopping to mystery shopping with expensive price tags. The things they now want  don’t have names like “truck” or “doll”.  Their lists are full of brands, letters and numbers that make no sense but demand mega money.  They want IPUDS, MP5s, DQD’s with cell inter-links, weez, Jboxes, wyfy and gigibutts.  They want items the size of a postage stamp that cost hundreds of dollars and make no sense whatsoever to me.  How much fun is it to leave a store with a purchase the size of a sandwich bag and a receipt that says “You’re poor.” ?

I decided to write a letter of complaint. Who would care?  But I had to give it a try.  My sanity was on the line.

Dear Santa,

How I miss the toy store!  Couldn’t you and your elves create and deliver the technology gifts and leave the toy shopping to the adults who need some fun in their lives for Christmas?  Think of it as updating the mission statement of your North Pole location…meeting the needs of your twenty-first century,,,uh… customers.

I promise I’ll be good,


Tomorrow I’ll find me a mall with a Santa and deliver my letter.  I no longer have the money to mail it.  Are there any malls left?  The rules change so fast I can’t keep up.  Cross your fingers for me.  We are all in this together.


Why We Love/Hate the Holidays


Remember that old saying, “The more you put into something the more you get out of it”? Whoever first wrote that phrase probably penned it in December in the middle of a personal meltdown.

The twelfth month demands so much of us. Ready or not, it yanks emotions and energy right out of our bodies. We completely dismantle our homes to decorate them again. In our house this requires countless trips to the basement lugging and gasping. I dread taking holiday decorations down, even before I put them up.  Isn’t that sad to admit?

We adorn the outsides of our homes also. This past weekend it took two people (including me) 50 minutes to put up one item while the box cover screamed at us “Takes seconds to display.” Seconds, not even minutes, seconds. Talk about ‘in your face’ inadequacy.

There are cards to address, notes to write, gifts to purchase, parties to plan, cookies to bake, concerts to attend and presents to wrap. Every single minute we have something we should be doing. While always, no  matter how much we prepare, our ideal holiday scene taunts us and haunts our psyche.

Holiday music can bring back happier holidays from our past. Everyone else seems to be walking hand in hand with the perfect mate. Other people have story book families caroling around Martha Stewart trees. No one else seems to purchase defective strands of lights. Only my printer cartridges run out of ink in the midst of printing the Christmas letter. Perfect snow covers the roofs of other people’s homes. They are the same people whose children dress in red velvet and Christmas plaid. Their kids even smile in the Christmas photo.

So why do I love the holidays so much? It’s a three-word answer.  I don’t know. Or perhaps it’s I am insane.  I only know I do love the holidays.  Some things we can’t explain.  Maybe it really is true that the more we give the more we receive.

The Family Picture


One of our least popular Thanksgiving traditions is to take a family photo to put in the yearly Christmas card.. That sounds innocent and easy enough. Not so.

As soon as the process begins there seems to be endless grumbling about it. If a dress attire is suggested the moans begin. If no wardrobe is required someone doesn’t like what they chose to wear anyway. Some pout. Others run around and refuse to come to the photo location. Everyone has their own suggestion for a pose. Directors abound. Smiles are scarce. It seems impossible for everyone to stand still, smile, and look at the camera at the same time on cue. Batteries die. Noses run. Kids sneeze. Someone owns a camera they don’t know how to work. Furniture must be moved. Participants crab about the sun in their eyes, the person adjacent to them and their zits.   Some family members are committed to blatant sabotage to this yearly event.

Constantly comes the question voiced in a whining tone, “Why do we have to get our picture taken?”

So we can prove we are thankful for our big happy family in our Christmas card. So hush up and smile!

Who is responsible for this loathsome task?  That would be me.  “Someday,”  I tell myself (and them), “They will be grateful that they have this photo history.”  But I fear that gratitude will only come posthumously. In fact, I fear they are creating a plan to make me posthumous.

Making Memories


It’s all about making memories, don’t you think? It’s not about the food, though sometimes it seems like it is.  It’s not about how the table is set or how recently the floor has been vacuumed. I’m certain Martha Stewart would disagree, but she’s not invited to my home today.

When you get right down to it, it’s all about making the memories. It is about who is there with you. It is also about the things you enjoy doing together. That’s how I found myself in the all night grocery at 4:00 am this Thanksgiving morning.

Some young people who are currently still sleeping soundly, wanted to make monkey bread for breakfast. This was not in my plans. For good reasons it wasn’t in my plans as I only own one oven. Three hundred and sixty-three days a year, one oven is more than adequate in my house. Two days a year it is an annoyance. Especially on Thanksgiving the turkey takes up the entire oven. I checked the bundt pan size for the monkey bread and tried to fit it into the oven with the roaster pan. No go. So last night when they pleaded I held my ground.

However, when I woke up at 3:00 am I started thinking about those memories. It isn’t about the monkey bread, it’s about cutting up the dough and taking turns shaking it in the bag until the sugar and cinnamon coat it all around. It’s about smelling it bake and pulling it apart piece by piece. It’s even about licking your fingers to savor every drop of the gooey topping. Yeah, it’s about the memories.

That’s what took me to the grocery at 4:00 am. I told the sales clerk my story as she scanned my items.  It feels like you need to explain a middle of the night quick stop at the store. The cashier had time to listen. The only other people around were stockers placing large plastic wrapped sale items in the middle of the aisles full of the Black Friday items which really go on sale today (Thanksgiving) at 10:00 pm.  ??   When I told her it was all about the memories, she said, “Well, take pictures so they’ll be SURE and remember it.

Great advice. I rushed home to put the turkey in extra early. We may have to remove it for a bit while the monkey bread bakes. Is that even healthy? Don’t tell Martha.

Then I put out the trash. Our trash pick up day is Thursday, very early morning. Every year my husband says he doesn’t believe they pick up trash on Thanksgiving thus saving himself the trouble of putting it out on Wednesday night. Every year I say, “Yes, dear they do pick up the trash on Thanksgiving. Remember last year?” He argues the point. He argues a point any time he doesn’t want to leave the recliner to engage in life.  It works for him. I hear the trash collectors in the neighborhood now. God bless them for working on Thanksgiving so I don’t have to smell for a week what I just removed from the turkey this morning.

Now I need to find that camera to record the monkey-bread-memory-making for posterity. Uh-oh. I wonder if it needs a fresh battery?

The Wish


Yesterday I had a pizza lunch with two kindergarten boys.  Making an attempt to start a conversation, I asked a question typical of an adult.

“Well boys, Thanksgiving is only two days away.  What are you two thankful for?”

The first one said he was thankful that he could get to a particular level of Super Mario.  Genuine gratitude- untainted by adult suggestions.

The second one said he was thankful that they made ‘budder’ in school today.  Apparently his kindergarten class had made butter by taking turns shaking cream in a jar.

Then he burst into a butter-making  song that went something like this. (Think Elmer Fudd here).

“Thake the budder heah, thake the budder theah, thake the budder all awound and ev…whe.. waya!”

He sang with such enthusiasm his buddy joined in.  They were shaking their hands in large circles as they repeated this chant.   After about twelve identical verses of this jingle I decided I’d try a diversionary tactic.  (I’m not their mudder so I couldn’t demand they quit.)

“Boys, I said, “It’s not long before the holidays.  What are you wishing for?”

The boy who had not yet discovered his “r’s” said. “I wish the man in the big twuck hadn’t come and filled in the big pothole by our bus stop.  It’s waining and today would be a gweat day to jump in it.”

“Yeah” said the second boy.  “But now it’s gone.”  They shared a sad look with each other.

“Boys,” I said, “Here’s some good news.  In just a few months your pothole… will… be… back!”

They were so excited they cheered a loud cheer pumping hands in the air with half chewed pizza on display in their wide open mouths.

Simple, pure, kindergarten wishes.  Let’s hear it for the potholes!

The Sneak


While everyone complains about the absurdity of rushing the Christmas season forward, I must confess I have been “sneak listening” to Christmas music in my car for weeks.  So sue me.  I love Christmas music.  The day after Halloween there is a local station that begins playing Christmas music 24/7.

How do I “sneak listen”?  I turn off my satellite radio stations.  I can’t seem to find an early holiday station there.  Hey Sirius XM, are you nuts?  Then I reset my dial to my All Holiday music local station.  BUT If anyone else enters my car I switch the channel immediately.  Why?  I don’t want to be the butt of jokes.  I don’t want to hear the lecture about how outrageous it is for the radio to be playing Christmas music so soon.  Not interested.  Can you see me with my fingers in my ears?

Each song I hear takes me back to a former Christmas memory.  It’s a pleasant walk down holiday memory lane.  If I think about it, I believe this disease started early for me.  I remember playing and replaying and replaying a Christmas album when I was a kid.  I wouldn’t stop until I knew every word.  Back then I knew three and four verses of the standard Christmas carols.

But yesterday as I listened, I was thinking about the economics of it.  Isn’t it the writer of a song that gets paid every time a song is played on the radio?  I’m not an expert on this.  But if that is true, wouldn’t writing a holiday tune be the most lucrative thing going?  Year after year that song would be played over and over on the radio.  It wouldn’t fade away like a top forty hit.  Mostly I don’t begrudge that system.  A great song deserves its reward.  But that guy whose grandma got run over by a reindeer and the kid who wanted a hippo for Christmas have to be laughing their guts out at those of us want two months of Christmas music each year.  That makes me feel a little silly.

Yep, I think I’ll keep my early holiday music on the down low.

Choosing Kindness


One of my all time favorite quotes comes from the book Between Teacher and Child written by Dr. Haim Ginnott. He said, “In all situations it is the teacher who decides whether a crisis will be escalated or de-escalated, and a child humanized or dehumanized.” If every future teacher could somehow internalize and live just that one sentence, our classrooms and students would benefit every day.

However, that quote doesn’t just apply to teachers and their students, it applies to life.  As our population increases, it seems we have become less patient with one another. A person hesitates five seconds before moving on a green light and horns blare. A sales clerk has to call his manager to fix an error and people stomp away grumbling…or worse. A waitress places a lemon slice on someone’s water glass and the customer goes nuts.

Each of us has the power to de-escalate a tense situation. It’s a choice. All it takes is a smile, a kind word or even just calm patience. When we find our tempers rising we can choose to turn off that switch, take a deep breath and make a decision to de-escalate the situation. As the holidays and long lines increase this season we will all be put to the test.  Does it make anyone feel better to grind someone into the ground?  Where is the humanity in that? Escalate a situation and it almost always gets worse.   Everyone loses.  Add kindness and patience to the same situation and it will miraculously begin to improve. Everyone wins.

The choice is ours.

Worthy Comparisons


It seems that we look at each person we know and search for their best feature or talent.  That’s a noble cause.  It’s great to look for the positive in everyone.  It’s even better to compliment them when you find a quality to admire.  However, too frequently we then compare that talent to ourselves and beat ourselves up until we feel inadequate.

“Heavens, I wish I could dance like you do.  I’m such a klutz.”

“I wish I had gorgeous eyes like his.  I hate the color of my eyes.”

“Look at her play tennis. She looks like a pro.  My serve is pathetic.”

“Your drawings are unbelievable.  I can’t draw stick men.”

Here’s a thought to consider when making comparisons.  We can genuinely admire others without all the self loathing.  The truth is we frequently search for another person’s best feature or talent and compare it to our worst.  We forget that the person who can dance like a star wishes they could write like us. That great tennis player may wish she could sing with our talent.

Our goal should be to continue to look for the talents of others and generously compliment them on their skills, while still  recognizing our own.  When we do this, the admiration becomes a win/win.  The better we feel about ourselves, the more confidence we have to continue to notice and comment on the talents of others.  A person who beats herself up too much becomes unable to genuinely compliment someone else.

Self love and acceptance is so important.  If adoration from others was all that we needed, there would be fewer celebrities taking their own lives.  Yesterday I heard a Christmas song on the radio sung by Karen Carpenter.  I marveled once again at the smooth beautiful quality of her voice.  There truly is none comparable.  And yet she died a victim of anorexia.  What a loss to the world and an even more profound loss to her family.

We need to be as kind to ourselves as we would be to our best friend or a favorite celebrity.   This may be difficult, but why not try?  The things we say to ourselves are more important than the voices of anyone else.   This Thanksgiving be thankful for your own talents.

***If you are struggling with an eating disorder of any kind, Portia de Rossi’s book Unbearable Lightness is a great read.***

Thankful for Overlooked Blessings


The pressure is on.  Here comes Thanksgiving and we all know we need to focus on our “thankful list”.  Will we have to recite them around the table?  Or maybe we will be required to write an essay about them.  It’s best to be prepared.  Naturally, we are all thankful for health, freedom, family, friends, the military, and a great turkey.  Those are required thankfuls:  Thankful 101.

It would be blasphemous to talk about bills, unemployment, gas prices, bad knees and the economy on Thanksgiving.  So we won’t go there.

I’ve decided to try and identify more obscure items for which to give thanks…wonderful but mostly overlooked.  Let’s hear it for the things we appreciate but never mention, unless they are missing or malfunctioning.  This list could go on and on… like that Titantic song.

  • Envelopes with those peel away papers so you don’t have to lick the glue. Yay!
  • Garage door openers.
  • Stores that actually carry shoes with wide or narrow widths.  Not many on that list.
  • Caller ID!  How did we survive before caller ID?
  • Trash cans located near where you open the mail.
  • Spell check.
  • Geraniums:  the only flower that seems to still thrive on my neglectful ways.
  • Disposable roaster pans that you don’t have to clean. (my apologies to environmentalists)
  • Prelit Christmas trees.  (See I can be “green”).
  • Free long distance.  What exactly were we paying for all those years?
  • Stores that stay open 24 hours.
  • Remote controls that aren’t missing.
  • Cell phones that are missing when I’m trying to have a nice face to face conversation.
  • Smiling store clerks.  (They deserve double their weight in blessings.)
  • Glue sticks for kindergarten teachers.
  • Libraries that email to remind me when my books are due.
  • Hotels with free cookies.  Any place with free cookies.
  • Stores that don’t ask me to fill out a survey about their service really to get my email address.
  • Car seats that warm my toosh in the winter.  I’ve never owned any, but a girl can dream.
  • The Do Not Call legislation.  Best work of politicians in a decade.
  • Stores that really open all their check out lanes.
  • Roomy seats on jets.  Just kidding.
  • Money machines.
  • People who take the time to read my blog.

                                                     Can you add to my list?  

Confessions of a List…aholic


Hi.  My name is Dauna; and I am a listaholic.   I make lists to organize my days.  That’s what I tell the world.  Frequently, however, I get carried away.  I’ve been known to write two or three things I’ve already done that day on the top of my list because I want “credit for them.”  Scrapbookers, who plan their vacations around the photo opportunities their destinations will provide, will understand this point of view.  It’s a disease.

I love scratching things off my list after I complete them.  It makes me feel powerful, valuable, and efficient… like Wonder Woman with a pen and a much bigger costume.

“What did you do today, honey?”

“Look, here’s my list.  See how looooong it is.”

Any time there is an article in a magazine about making lists I read it. Let’s be honest, I could write these articles.  I can visualize the list of bullets I could include in my article.  It would be a beautiful list about making lists. One wonderful suggestion they always write in these articles is to do the thing you dread the most, FIRST.  Great advice, but hard to execute.

For the past three days I have had the same most dreaded item (make a call about my health benefits) on my list.  Do you know how upsetting it is to have the same top dread on my list for three days in a row?  Paralyzing.  Failure is having everything crossed off your list at the end of the day while the one most distasteful item glares back at you.   Each day it peers back at you the stress builds.  It’s enough to give a listaholic nightmares.

I’m proud to announce I called about my health benefits today.  Ahhh.  What a relief.  (There’s a reason I didn’t write this article yesterday).  Tomorrow my list will be fresh.  No festering reruns.  That is really fortunate because with Thanksgiving only a week away my lists seem to be consuming steroids while I’m not looking.

But my conscience won’t be clear until I make one more confession.  What I’m writing now is my blog for tomorrow.  I will save it overnight.  When I get up tomorrow the first thing on my list will be “Write and post blog entry.”  I’ll hit one button and then cross it immediately off my list. Tomorrow is going to be a great day.