Monthly Archives: November 2011

Dear Santa,

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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,

Frazzled

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

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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.