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Saturday, December 22, 2012

Christmastime is Near!

Cole asked me this week, “When we putting up our Christmas lights?”

Looks like we'll be shooting for next November. 

I have a certain queasiness. I don't think (but won't confirm) it's been caused by the influx of sugar to my system. It's three days before the big day, and I feeling like some sort of Christmas flunky. Yesterday I was telling my family about a Secret Santa work story. When they asked about my Secret Santa, and I quickly informed them that I had decided not to participate this year, I was met with scorn. “What are you? Some sort of Scrooge?”

Am I? I don't think so...

Besides the lack of lights surrounding our house, most of our decorations are still sitting at the bottom of the basement stairs. But the tree is up. It didn't get hoisted the Friday after Thanksgiving as is our normal tradition. As the days in December ticked away, I toyed with the idea of a tree-less year. Then my son decided to decorate a little tree for his room, and the guilt of attempting the Norman Rockwell Christmas for the kiddos overpowered me. I dragged the tree upstairs, with images in my mind of the family hanging ornaments together, singing a harmonic Joy to the World. Maybe we'd even string a little popcorn. But as is usual, the tradition never goes quite so lovely.

I shouted, and shouted, for assistance. I got one helper. (Hubby had to toss out a testy, "Help your mom!" ) But within a few minutes, however, my helper was disengaged. As was typical of the annual event, I found myself decorating alone–throwing the ornaments on the tree just to finish the project. 

Beyond the tree, I have little other decorations around the house. (Obviously, a travesty since we never have a guest...except the Schwann's man.)  I'm not done shopping. I haven't baked. My house is super dirty. And most tragically, I haven't done a Christmas card yet–this is most awful, because I'm sure everyone has been checking their mail for pics of my kids and my dog. 

But guess what? Despite my anxiety, I decided that being a Christmas flunky isn't such a bad thing. (Look at Clark Griswold.) In the scheme of things, what matters most? This year, in particular, I will step into this holiday season with an enormous amount of gratitude.

Doug and I ran across our camera the other day. We haven't been using it, since it's a bit handier to take pics on my phone. Anyway, we found a treasure trove of photos–including some from last Christmas. Forget decorations. Forget baking. I think the most important thing we can do this holiday is laugh and find some hugs.

Sunday, December 9, 2012

Eating Licorice

While an abundance of issues are worthy of a blog post (the power of giving, the fiscal cliff, watching Lincoln and Twilight in the same week), today I stumbled on to a topic that hasn't received nearly enough commentary: chewing licorice.

When we are kids, we can eat candy without thinking too much about decorum. We gobble it down, and chunks of bright, hardened sugar circle our lips, then residue tends to journey towards our ears. A few lucky pieces will make it into our hair until Mom finds it in a brush and must scissor it out. But it's all kind of funny. Heck, it's cute! With a bit of a finger wag, and a repressed smile, we are told, "Chew with your mouth closed."

Then we grow a little older. If you're a girl, and you turn into a teenager, eating candy can be seen as something sensual. Eating licorice is not only acceptable, but it might even be encouraged by some twisted, or not so twisted male. One temptress might twirl the licorice, play with it in her mouth, or use it as a straw for soda before deciding to actually nibble at it. Ahh, isn't that...sweet? Whether you think it's sweet, sexy, or unremarkable, it's probably not gross.

Then, you turn forty.

Today I spent the day at a Creighton basketball game with a fifth-grade girl I mentor for the Teammates Program. As we began to snack on our concessions, a small horror overtook me as I began to chew on my licorice. As the candy began its descent into my throat, I remembered how I've been known to choke on the red stuff. And since I wasn't around the familiar territory of family, I slowed my mastication way down so that the candy was practically water before I swallowed. Obviously, the joy of candy has lost its luster. So, under the pretense of benevolence, I gave out most of the damn Twizzlers. Truthfully, I just didn't want puke on anyone.

While the Blue Jays were beating Akron, I had an epiphany. Older ladies (defined as over forty) shouldn't eat candy in public. It's not becoming. Okay, okay. Maybe that's a little harsh. I don't want to discriminate. Older men (also defined as over forty) should follow the same rule. I've witnessed my husband inhale Milk Duds a time or two. And for any of you that think I'm particularly intolerant, think about the health repercussions. Not making a fool of oneself eating candy, in public, might reduce the overall sugar consumption and perhaps prevent type II diabetes.

So, next time I'm at the movie, I will consider my plan. Then I'll most likely remember, with glee, the darkness in the theater. And tell my husband to go ahead with the large pack of Milk Duds and medium popcorn to share. We geezers will choke our snacks down together. Not so sure I'll be delaying the diabetes.

Saturday, December 1, 2012


 About a month ago, I found myself in a bit of a slump. I couldn’t seem to find my smile, no matter how hard I tried. Empirically, I realized the ridiculousness of my forlorn state of mind. Accomplished kids. Loving husband. Healthy parents. Good job. Great home in the community I adore. Happy with my weight. Only kidding. I'm never happy with my weight. But my muffin top wasn't the root cause of my melancholy. I felt sad. Empty. But I couldn't quite articulate the reason why.

I adored Doug’s attempts to mitigate the gloom during this patch. Anyone remember the scene on Animal House when Bluto used clownery tactics to uplift Flounder after the demolition of his brother’s pristine car? Well, my hubby can crack a metaphoric beer over his head pretty well too. Yup. He’s really good at getting me to chuckle. But like Flounder, I wasn't laughing very long.

As I sorted out my feelings with my dear husband, it dawned on me. I hadn’t connected with any of my closest friends lately. Actually I hadn't seen them for...months. One had moved to St. Louis last year, and while we keep in touch almost daily via Words with Friends, it’s just not quite the same as seeing her in person. Another works a few blocks from me, so obviously getting together for lunch is quite a challenge. And my other closest friend lives about three minutes from my house, so obviously that's another unworkable situation.

Ugh. Pitiful? Methinks.

I reduced my Facebook check-ins. Not only did it waste too much time, but I found it to be a bit depressing. All these people, with all these friends, doing all these cool things that didn't involve work. And I noticed people getting up to 100 “Likes”! (If I post anything, I’m usually happy with one "Like." My mom or cousins are typical shoe-ins.)  But Facebook wasn't the answer. Social media can do many things. But it wasn't going to make me happier.

Despite my great love for my family, and the time I cherish with them—which I do abundantly—I decided I was lonely for my best friends. So after a few attempts, I was able to sanction a lunch appointment with one of my longest-running pals, Lyn. We could’ve and should’ve just taken the afternoon off, because we had too much to discuss between issues that can't be disclosed on this protect the innocent. Then on a whim, I kidnapped my friend, Amy, to see the ever-poignant Twilight finale, which I'd like to review here. (Actually no's just like the other four movies, capiche?) We topped that glorious day off at that most celebrated of shopping centers…Target. A blissful day indeed.

Me and Amy...the baseball fans that we are.
It didn’t really matter what I did with my friends. I was merely happy to be connecting with them once again. Nothing soothes the soul like another girlfriend. Somehow I had convinced myself that none of us really have time for each other anymore. But there should always be time for those who matter to you. When we are young, friendships take precedence over almost everything. As we age, obligations fill that space. While those obligations (kids, hubby,etc.) make life utterly worthwhile, we can’t forget to tend to our friendships. Who else will listen to those stories about our kids and our husbands?

Lyn and me. Scowl implies she'd rather have been biking.