Friday, November 30, 2012

The Kindergarten Christmas Tree

I really mean it that I'm going to put up our Christmas tree this weekend.  I really, really do.  We have a 9 or 10-footer (our ceilings are 12 feet), with fiber-optic, color-changing lights already installed on it, and then we put regular LED lights on it in addition, because as cool as the fiber-optics look at night, in nearly pitch-black, if there's any other ambient light around, the LEDs look a little washed-out.  In years past, I've always decorated the tree with blue, gold, and silver glass balls, mainly, and then filled in with my ornaments from when I was growing up.  A big tree like ours can stand up to a TON of ornaments.  But with Zoe now a for-real Toddler with a capital T, into everything and faster than Flash Gordon, I can't be putting glass balls on the tree this year. 

I'm looking at the prospect of a Very Nekkid Christmas Tree.

So I got thinking that it'd be kind of cool to have one of those silver tinsel trees.  I used to think these flashy trees were the apex of cheesiness, but have come to think they're pretty fabulous (Zoe's not the only one who'd be tickled pink with a disco ball for the family room!)  I wouldn't want a short little tinsel tree.  I'd want one the size of my regular Christmas tree- a 10-footer!  Maybe even with one of those lights that shines up on it and changes the color at a soothing speed.  And because the tree would be so flashy, it would hardly need any ornaments!  I could probably get away with just using my non-glass childhood ornaments!

Thing of it is, at least right now before Christmas, a ten-foot tinsel Christmas tree will set you back a cool grand, plus tax and shipping.  And besides that, even if I could find one for $5, I'm pretty sure Shane would HATE IT. 

But all this thinking about Christmas trees got me thinking about our kindergarten Christmas tree.  I bring this up, because I really was thinking about replicating the tree my kindergarten class made in 1983 this year. 

I think the reason it remains so prominent in my mind is that it started out as this giant cone of chicken wire.  Now, as I was maybe three feet tall in Grade K, "giant cone of chicken wire" needs to be taken with a grain of salt.  In reality, it could have been anywhere from six feet to fifteen feet tall.  It seems to me, to this day, that the giant cone of chicken wire extended from the rubber tile floor to the suspended ceiling in our kindergarten room.

I can't remember if the horde of two dozen kindergarteners in my class completed the entire project in one day, or if we stretched it out for a week or so, but we all were put to work fan-folding sheets of green construction paper.  Then, after we had our sheet of fan-folded green construction paper, we'd take it to our teacher, she'd staple it smack in the middle, to make a bow-shaped piece, and then open it up and staple each corner of the bow together, to make a fan-folded circle.  Then we repeated, until as a class, we made enough fan-folded circles to cover our giant cone of chicken wire, and then we switched production to red construction paper fan-folded bows.  Then in an act of magic, we went home, and the next morning when we came back to school, our giant chicken-wire and construction paper cone-tree was finished.  And glorious and unbreakable!

If I were going to adapt this tree for my use here at home, I'd definitely make the chicken wire cone giant enough to reach from floor to ceiling in the living room.  Instead of red and green construction paper, though, I think I'd use silver foil wrapping paper, with red foil wrapping paper accents and no small amount of flashy light strings.

Of course, that's a lot of fan-folding.  And I'd have to do it all myself.  Maybe I WILL use this idea one of these years, but I think I'll wait a year or two, until Zoe has the dexterity to fan-fold.  It'll be about time she earns her keep around here, after all!

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Pedal, Pedal, Pedal

Over the summer, I bought a FitDesk.  It's an ultra-portable exercise bike with a big foam desk on the handlebars for setting a laptop, so you can pedal while you surf or do work on the computer.  When it arrived, it was in that hot part of the summer, where even raising one's arms overhead brought on an excessive amount of perspiration, so even though I was intrigued by my FitDesk and liked the idea of it, it didn't get much use.

I was in the habit of NOT using my FitDesk for much of the fall, too.  Now, I do really well with workout videos and dumbbells.  Other fitness equipment I buy, not so much. In my basement, there's a cheap but perfectly fine rowing machine I never use (no video I've found to row along with!), a bigass, not portable upright bike that I bought back at the old house with the best of intentions of riding it while watching TV or reading a book- except the display on it is so big that I can't see above it or around it to watch TV, and reading a book or magazine while riding it didn't work out, either.  There's also a giant treadmill down there that very rarely gets used.  That one, along with a bigass Bowflex over at the office, can be attributed to Shane's failed forays into fitness ("I'd work out after work on a Bowflex if it was right at the office!" "I could see myself running on a treadmill, if we had one in the house!"  Freakin' HAAAAA!)

So I've been a little concerned that my FitDesk was going to join the list of Failed Fitness Equipment we have in the house, until I've managed to pack back on a buncha weight.  I DO work out most days, but I think the workout makes me self-righteous about not needing to move much the rest of the day, and it also makes me feel entitled to eating half a jar of Nutella, either with or without toast.  Further investigation shows I have no right to wonder how I got porky again.

So, to the FitDesk I went last Thursday, while we watched the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade.  I was trying to preemptively burn off the calories I'd eat at dinner.  I did my Lumosity Brain Training while riding my FitDesk bike, even banged out a couple blog entries.  Actually, I earned a bunch of "Top Five [Personal] Scores" on Lumosity, which I haven't done in a while, doing my brain training, sitting on the couch.  Hmmm.  Maybe my brain gets fat too, along with my butt, while I just sit on the couch?

There was a side-effect, though, that almost made me stop riding my FitDesk.  When I went to pedal on Friday, my butt felt like my sitz bones were going to come right through the glute and fat that covers them up.  I looked on Amazon for more comfortable bike seats and didn't see anything I liked.  I figured I'd just pedal through the pain, and figure out some way to rig up a pillow or something to the bike seat, or maybe break down and order some padded-butt shorts or something to wear around the house. 

I didn't need to, though.  I've been riding the bike at different tensions, with the original seat that came with it, for almost a week now.  I ride and surf and write when Zoe's down for her naps and I don't have housework that needs immediate attention.  I ride the bike while we catch up on our TV shows, time I'd otherwise be lounging on the couch.  I think I'm going to give it a go, knitting while riding my bike.  I'll call it Xtreme Knitting or something.

It's still a little early to tell how many calories I'm burning, pedaling during time I'd otherwise be expanding on the couch.  I know that with losing weight, slow and steady is better (but less exciting) than dramatic weight-loss.  I can be patient.  One thing I can't do without spilling is eat on the bike.  That's another bonus.  It's easy to eat while sitting on a sofa!

We'll all just have to stay tuned to see how this turns out.  I'm going to keep up with riding my FitDesk, though.  And I just got a shiny new book from Oxygen Magazine, loaded with a meal plan.  I have high hopes, and while I won't dwell on it, I'll keep anybody posted, when there's something about it to post!

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Huntin' Season Trophy Pics

I'm not a city girl.  I was born and brought up in deer-hunting heaven.  The couple years I did live in a city were both exhilarating and alienating.  I was glad to get home.  I feel more at home in a place where the streets don't wear signs and there aren't streetlights on every corner.  I'd rather encounter some redneck with a truck full of hunting rifles than some crackhead with a Glock in the subway.  So this isn't coming from some uppity city girl who moved to the country with dreams of opening a home-based jelly factory or anything like that.  These are my people.  Also, I am not a vegetarian.  I eat meat.  I know meat doesn't come from a refrigerated, fluorescent-lit case at the store.  I know that something has to give up its life in order for me to have meat.  I tried being a vegan for a while, and it didn't work out, so to assuage the guilt I feel sometimes, when I get thinking about meat and where it comes from, I've adopted a personal policy where I try not to waste any.  I think of the way the Native Americans would use all of the buffalo. 

Native Americans didn't try to make themselves feel better about killing and eating the buffalo by saying that animals don't have souls. They'd acknowledge the animal's soul and acknowledge the sacrifice, and that's kind of how I try to see things.  I've been around enough animals, from a pet chicken I had in sixth grade, to my pet rabbit I had as a young adult, to my dog Rozzie, to know those animals have souls, so why wouldn't ALL animals, even the ones we eat, have souls.  The Amish keep their cows in the pasture across the way, and sometimes, they're out when I walk over to get my mail, and some of those cows come right over to the fence when I walk up.  If you could hear me, you'd think I was crazy, but I talk to them about the weather or if there's any juicy gossip going around the pasture that day. I look right in their eyes, and they aren't the cold, dead eyes of a shark.  They're warm and sort of intelligent.

Deer, too.  Now, being from The Mountains in Pennsylvania, I've cursed my share of deer that have leapt out in front of my car.  I've never hit a deer with my car- a bear hit me once- a minor epic tale that culminates in there being not a dent in my Topaz (!) and the bear obviously lumbering off into the night whence it came- but my husband has hit a few deer, and it makes me kind of fear having one or a herd jump out in front of me, and when one does and I escape hitting it, I do let loose a blue cloud of language.  But the thing is, I like the deer.

And I know I'm going to irk a lot of people, a lot of my friends when I say this, but I'm going to say it anyway.  These pictures of the Mighty Hunters, with their dead deer, necks all noodly and tongues lolling all about, eyes open: I fecking hate them.  I understand it's a Big Fecking Deal that you killed a deer!  I get it!  Even if you're hunting from four-wheeler or up a tree stand or for all the feck I know, the passenger seat of your F-150, it does take a little skill to hit a moving deer with a bullet.  Guns are beasties to master in their own rite- back in my day, I took Hunter's Safety.  I was pretty good with a .22- in target practice.  In practice-practice, I couldn't bring myself to shoot even a woodchuck.  So I get it.  Having the balls to pull that trigger period, let alone hit another living thing, is a Big Fecking Deal, and part of me tips my blaze orange hat to you.

But the pictures of you and your "trophies?" Sorry, but I just don't get why that's the thing to do.  It reminds me of those chodes in college who would display the beer can of every beer they drank, in their rooms.  I concede that maybe the first deer you get on your first hunting season warrants a picture for the family album, if you have to, just like maybe if it was a special beer, it's okay to save and display the can.  But after you're not a rookie anymore?  Let's not. 

I once read an article in one of my aviator magazines, about the bush pilots in Alaska, and the hunters there.  Someone in the article was talking about how the old timers never had their pictures taken with their "trophies" the way modern hunters do, because in their day, hunting was for food and for survival, not for sport, and they felt it was in poor taste to have their pictures taken with dead animals.  It all really resonated with me.

So how do I feel about making stuff out of the deer hides?  Great!  Use every part of the buffalo!  What about mounting deer heads in our house to commemorate your big kill?  Creepy as all get-out, but hey, again, you're using all the parts, and the antlers make great scarf hooks/necklace hooks/ a place to hang one's hat.  It's the pictures I specifically have issues with.  If you're going out hunting for the venison, to eat (I grew up eating venison and I think it's great!) then having your picture taken with your kill and plastering it up everywhere makes about as much sense as the guy at the slaughterhouse pausing to pose with the beefers just knocked in the head or shot or however it had its curtains lowered.  If you hunt for sport, I hope to God somebody's getting that venison to eat and the hide to make stuff out of, but it makes light of the animal you've taken the life of, holding it up by its antlers and leering into the camera, showing its blood and viscera spilling over the ground, letting its tongue loll out and its lifeless eyes stare straight ahead.  Sport, really.  What can the deer really do to you?  Maybe if it caught you taking a dump in the woods, it could gore you in the ass with its antlers, or kick you, or it could jump out in front of you while you're driving and total your truck, but otherwise, deer are pretty peaceful.  Put a deer up against a human with a rifle or a bow, and the human's going to win if the human has any aim at all.  How is that sport, really?  Survival, sure.

I don't mind hunters.  I have a lot of respect for hunters.  I like to eat venison.  I don't mind other people having the heads mounted in their houses.  I own a deerskin coat.  I'd rather see deer hunted and used for meat and hide and I guess decoration than see them overpopulate and lie bloating and wasted by the side of the road.  Any roadkill breaks my heart, really, but deer especially.  But I can't even pretend to be impressed with the huntin' season trophy pics any more than I used to be impressed by the beer cans the chodes thought they needed to display, just to prove that they were old enough or awesome enough or badass enough (if they weren't old enough) to drink beer.  Show your kill and yourself a little respect.

And stay safe out there in the woods.  A lot of those beer-can-displaying chodes are out there, this time with guns and their coolers full of more beer cans they'll eventually display, so....

Friday, November 23, 2012

Pie Crusts Are Nothing to be Afraid Of!

Ahhhhhhhhhhh! This year's Thanksgiving was a good one!  There wasn't one shred of stress, at least not at my house.  We didn't host, but still, most years, there's always something.  This year was pretty much perfect.

I was in charge of making the pies.  This task has fallen to me in recent years, when I haven't hosted the feast (or fiasco, depending on the year), because I have two ovens, and my mom just has the one, and it gets really filled up with the turkey.  Usually I cheat and buy the store-bought pie-crusts.  I was always Scared to Death of making pastry.  It never turned out right for me, and it was just easier to buy a crust, let it warm to room temperature, and gently roll it into the pie plate.  But a couple months ago, my friend David held a long-awaited Piecrust Tutorial when we were all visiting our friend Dawn at her new house, and he was so cool and nonchalant about making that piecrust, right out of his head- no recipe cards needed!  It revolutionized the way I think about piecrusts.  He measured out the flour, and cubed up the butter, then just eyeballed the salt and sugar in the crust.  Then he used his HANDS to incorporate the butter into the salt and flour and sugar.  His HANDS!  Woah!  I've always hated using a pastry blender, but I always thought using my hands to make a piecrust would make the piecrust too muxy, like Play-Doh, and also tough.  But it's actually easier than using the pastry blender!  And then, where I'd always meticulously add in the ice water one tablespoon at a time and still somehow wind up with too much (and then add in more flour and make the dough too dry, so more water, and so-on until things were a Big Mess) David got a measuring cup of ice water and just poured some in.  Dawn and I stood there watching him, and as he poured in the ice water, all at once like that, we both audibly gasped.  Apparently Dawn's had as much luck with the ice water stage of piecrusts as I have! 

But David's pie dough turned out perfect.  It went into the fridge to chill for a little bit before he rolled it out.  Rolling has always been dicey for me, too.  I always end up with torn crusts and sloppy patch jobs.  And tough piecrust.  I asked David what to do if the piecrust tears, and as he put his crust in the pie plate, it tore.  "You don't worry about it," he said, and gently patted it back together as best as he could, then went about filling the pie.  He explained that he was all about the "rustic" crust, with the excess dough allowed to fold up and over the filling a bit in an open-face pie, instead of trimming around the edge of the plate and fluting the crust.  Revolutionary!  I always have trouble with getting things fluted just right, and was never good at the whole fork-fluting bit.

So since that bright September day that David shared his Piecrust Tutorial, I've been practicing, making potpies with different crusts.  I made all-butter, as David had, and although mine were good, I thought they were a little too buttery.  I'd always been told that lard crusts were the best, but the thought of lard grossed me out.  My husband, who took all the biologies our undergrad college offered, set me straight on that when he said lard would be better than Crisco, because Crisco is made of oil, which is meant to be liquid at room temperature, and it's been altered to be solid at room temperature, whereas lard's meant to be solid at room temperature.  So I bought a brick of lard (the ice blue boxes in the butter display at Wegmans!) and was surprised to find that it's white.  I also figured what the heck? and took a taste.  Huh.  Pretty much no taste I could discern. 

An all-lard crust is different from an all-butter crust.  The dough's stickier, and you don't need as much water (errrrrrrrrrrmahgerrrrrrrrrrd- found that tidbit out the hard way as I slipped back into my hyperventilating pie-maker tendencies).  The finished product is also verrrrrrrrrrrrrry flaky, but quite fragile.  And it doesn't have much taste.

The crusts I made for the Thanksgiving pies, I tried out half lard, half butter, because it's always a really good idea to try out new recipes the day before an important meal!  I wanted the flakiness of the lardy crust, but with buttery flavor.  Once again, there were some dueling characteristics, a kind of split-personality during the incorporating phase.  The buttery bits wanted to be dry, the lardy bits were sticky, they didn't want to be friends much, I added too much water to one batch, just enough to my second, and all the dough spent a little time in the fridge.  What came out of the fridge were the easiest-working pie crusts I've ever made myself.  I did have one tear some while I was putting it in the plate, but the filling covered up my sloppy patch-job.

They looked so nice in their pie plates that I brushed egg white over the crusts before I put on the foil to keep the edges from blackening in the oven, and weren't they ever going to be picturesque!  Except when I peeled off the foil for the last 10 minutes in the oven to tan them up, some parts stuck to the foil (next time, don't let the foil actually touch the piecrust!), and the glossy crusts ripped right off the pie.  I might have bawled in other years.  This time around, I looked at it as an opportunity to have a sample of the crusts.  And they were the perfect balance between flaky and buttery and I know this is going to be the way I make pie crusts from now on, as long as I can get my hands on lard, to mix in with the butter.

As for the ripped crust edges, only two of the pies got it really bad.  They might have been hideous, but they tasted great- maybe I could use just a quarter-cup less sugar next time around, for the filling, but other than that, I can't complain. 

I'm really glad my friend took the time to demystify pie crusts! I won't be making them all the time- not if I want to be able to wear my own blue jeans in the long term- but I think this is a skill that's worth having.  Yeah, I can go to the store and buy up their pie crusts, but to me, buying a pie crust is like driving an automatic car and making pie crusts is like driving stick.  It's cool to know how to do, and also really useful, because if you can make your own pie crust or drive stick, you'll never be stranded. 

That's how I see it, anyway!

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Rozzie's MY Best-In-Show!!!

My Best-in-Show: Rozzie!  xoxo
In honor of today's Purina Dog Show this afternoon, I want to recognize MY Best-In-Show, Rozzie.  She's been a big part of our family for over six years.  Sometimes, she can come across as anti-social- if you don't know her, she barks a lot and shows her teeth and can give the impression that she doesn't like you much, but once she gets to know you, she shows just how much Miss Congeniality she really is. 

For our family, she's a nearly constant companion for Zoe, very protective of "her" baby, and she's a lot of company for me.  I feel safer with Rozzie in the house, because of that thing with the barking.  But when it's just her and me, I never feel alone. 

My house is thick with furballs from Rozzie.  She sheds like crazy.  She's "antiqued" our hardwood floors for us, and left her mark on a couple of the doors.  She puts nose-prints all over every window within her reach.  But she also has a sense that only a dog can have.  When I'm upset and having a bad day, it's not unusual for me to feel a cold nose nudge at me, and then a furry head nuzzled up on my lap.  So what if I have more cleaning-up to do than I would if Rozzie weren't here?  She's more than worth it!
I love this beautiful smile!

Even when I've cooked something, and it's gone all-wrong, Rozzie makes me feel like a Great Chef.  Without fail, at cooking time, I can find Rozzie's nose and ears peeking up over the counter, and the very end of her tail wagging. 

My favorite thing to see, when I've been away all day, is pulling up in my driveway, and seeing Rozzie framed in the door's window, like a perfect, living picture.  At first, her face is serious, and she looks like she's going to go into alert mode, and then she recognizes the Jeep, and a smile breaks on her face.  Dogs DO smile, and as far as I'm concerned, Rozzie has the best smile in the canine world!

Rozzie and I have been through a lot together.  Full-body casts, bi-weekly trips to Guelph, Ontario, hours of physical therapy a day, panicked trips to the vet, daily medications, food allergies, allergies to lots of things, monthly trips to the vet for special baths...  I had to learn to give her shots.  But because of Rozzie, a place in my heart was opened up.  We've met so many good people because of Rozzie, not the least of which are the people at her vet's office- I'd be lost without them!  I would do anything to keep her from ever having to go through all the things she's gone through in her life, if I could, but if I had to, I'd do all this over again for her.  Things would have been easier at times, over the last six years, if we'd never met Rozzie, but our lives would be so much emptier. 

So today and every day, Rozzie is my Best-In-Show.  I'm so thankful that we got the runt of the litter that day at the kennel - she picked us as much as we picked her.  We'd pick her over and over again.  And I hope that we are as much a blessing in Rozzie's life as she is in ours.  Every home should have a dog like Rozzie.  The world would be a much warmer, friendlier, fuzzier place.

Friday, November 16, 2012

Thanksgiving Meh-mories

I don't love Thanksgiving.  For the longest time, I've been really ambivalent about it.  It could be because very early memories of the holiday are vague.  Thanksgiving has always felt like a waiting room kind of holiday to me.   You know, kind of a space you go to that's pleasant enough, but not awfully memorable, and soon all the festivity of Christmas bounds out and drags you in.  Even Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade, a Thanksgiving-morning tradition, is focused really more on Christmas than it is on Thanksgiving.

I've always liked the Day After Thanksgiving better, the Weekend After Thanksgiving better.  I like the leftovers from Thanksgiving a lot more than the Real Meal.  Give me a no-pressure cold turkey sandwich and a slice of pumpkin pie any day over a mounded-up food-coma plate.

I know that sounds kind of curmudgeonly, or maybe even ungrateful.  I don't mean to be either of those things.  It's just that the history of me and Thanksgiving is fraught with illness and ambivalence.  In the early years, I think the ambivalence came from recognizing, even as a little kid, that Thanksgiving had self-esteem issues and kind of wished it was Christmas.  It was fun to get together with everybody for the day, and eat and stuff, but boy, wasn't it more fun to map out our Deer Season shopping trip to the Arnot Mall?  (When I was a kid, we got the first day of Buck Season and the first day of Doe Season off from school!)  By virtue of the time of year, I usually had a cold on Thanksgiving, so even though I was the beneficiary of some very good cooks on Thanksgiving, most years, I remember everything tasting kind of bland, the way things taste when your nose is all stuffed up, and if Grandma Jeanette caught wind of me not feeling well at all, I got to chase my Thanksgiving meal with a mug of Onion Syrup.  It was an appalling concoction for a little kid.  Now that I'm grown up, I'll make myself Onion Syrup if I feel a cold coming on, provided I have onions and sugar on hand.  I've come to like Onion Syrup, and it's even better with a little whiskey in it, but Grandma wouldn't like my modification to her recipe.

The first year I got REALLY SICK on Thanksgiving was when I was in seventh grade.  I'd come home from school early on that Tuesday, with a bad cold, aches and pains, fever, kind of rebounded on the Wednesday, causing my mother to wonder why she'd kept me home that day, and then Thanksgiving morning, I just felt like crap.  It was the year we took our Thanksgiving to a damn restaurant- the Antlers in Gaines- It was a fine restaurant, and I guess even on that Thanksgiving, the food was wonderful, but I remember not wanting to even look at the buffet, and getting mad at the lobster bisque I did choose, in its pastry shell.  In the car on the way home, I remember Mom commenting that they had to pay full price for 12-year-old me, and I didn't eat enough to stick in a bird's eye, but my sister, three and a quarter years younger, got to eat on the kids' buffet price and put enough away for both of us. 

Colleen, if I didn't say it then, I'll say it now.  Thanks for having my back at Thanksgiving 1990 and eating enough for both of us so Mom and Dad wouldn't be so mad about paying full price for me when I just picked at my food.  (To this day, I cannot look at pecan pie.  I just can't!)

By Monday morning, when Colleen, Mom, Grandma Evans and I were supposed to be going to the Arnot Mall for the cherished ritual of shopping on the first day of deer season, Grandma and a sullen Colleen stayed home while Mom took me to see Dr. Davis.  Holy crap, he said I had the walking pneumonia, and didn't need to be thinking about going shopping, because I wouldn't even be going to school for the rest of the week.

I ended up not going to school the whole entire following week, too.  I returned to school the day after the first day of Doe Season.  And I have to say, junior high felt like a weird planet to me, coming back after so long away.  I almost felt like a New Kid, as alien as I felt.  Except instead of being the exotic new girl, I was still pain-in-the-ass April to all my classmates, so pretty much nothing changed.

Through high school, at least I managed to keep the viruses down to run-of-the-mill colds on Thanksgiving.

In college, Thanksgiving became a bigger deal to me, sort of.  At my school, Susquehanna University, they made a Big Deal out of Thanksgiving dinner.  The Thursday night before actual Thanksgiving, the cafeteria would deck itself out.  We students would dress in our best, go to reserved seating in the cafeteria, and our professors would serve us Thanksgiving dinner with all the trimmings.  Any departure from baked ziti and rice pilaf was reason to get All Excited, and it really was always a fun night.  Like everything else about my years at Susquehanna, I really do get all mushy and nostalgic for Thanksgiving Dinner Night.

But.  Junior year, the entire month of November, I was plagued by this cold that wouldn't go away.  I even lost my voice for a few days (my professors were SO HAPPY not to have my smart assiness verbalized!) and the rest of the days, I sounded raspy and hoarse. By the Tuesday before Thanksgiving, when campus shut down, though, I'd sort of rebounded.  It was a 70-degree day in Selinsgrove, and I remember cheerfully reporting to my grandparents, who came to pick me up for that break in my pre-car era, that I was glad to be on the mend from that awful cold I'd had!

Funny how when you declare victory on a virus, it comes back and bludgeons you.  The next day, Dad and I were getting hoagies from our favorite place in town, and we were standing there, debating whether to get the hot pepper spread on them or not, when I felt achiness start in my toes, go into my ankles and calves, my knees, my thighs and hips, each vertebra, the joints in my fingers, my wrists, elbows, shoulders, and neck.  We got the hot pepper spread on the hoagies, and I ate half a roast beef for lunch, because it was there, but by the time we got home, I just wanted to curl up under three thick blankets and ignore the chicken soup Mom heated up for me for dinner that night.  First thing the next morning, I was at the ER at Jones Memorial Hospital with a high fever.  The diagnosis was sinusitis, the treatment was the first Z-pack I've ever experienced.  I spent that Thanksgiving asleep in front of Grandpy and Grandma's over-stoked woodstove, wishing that there was a way I could actually lie on top of it, without burning my skin all up.

In graduate school, there was always drama surrounding the holiday, because Shane and I would make the four-hour trip up from Philadelphia, cram ourselves in at my parent's house with just the one bathroom, and then ping-pong back and forth across the countryside from my family's Thanksgiving to his family's Thanksgiving, tired and overfull, and of course I'd bring out a decade's worth (at that point- now there's nearly TWO decades' worth) of resentments at feeling Not Quite Welcome at at least one of those overtired and cranky Thanksgiving dinners.

Since we've been back in our Homeland, Thanksgiving has been fraught with drama. We'd still try to make everybody happy, hobo-holidaying it, going from one meal to the other, and in the end, nobody was happy, especially not us, especially when already-poisoned waters were churned up, old wounds were reopened, and new batches of poison dumped in.  In a last-ditch attempt, we hosted BOTH sides of the family at our big house on the hill.  Twenty-four people.  Enough drama to power the soap opera network for a week, all concentrated into 1200 square feet and one day.  I'm still trying to figure out why, after we saw how things went the first year, we went back for a second and third helping of all that.  But at least we had our health!

Then came Thanksgiving Twenty-Ten.  We were just hosting my side of the family, plus my brother-in-law's parents.  A nice, small, ten-person, one-dog Thanksgiving.  And it was going so well.  I'd done all the prep work ahead of time, I had everything all lined up and ready to go (that, I'd learned from the previous three nightmares), and I got up early enough to get everything done, so I wouldn't have to be all stressed out and scrambling, still, when everybody got here.  But when I was putting on my makeup, I said to Shane that I had only peripheral vision.  I couldn't see out of the middle of my eyes, which made putting on my makeup a challenge!  He went into Doctor Mode, checking for signs of stroke.  Other than not being able to see out of my central vision, I felt fine, so we went about our day.

Rime ice was hitting the windows.  The deck was covered in the stuff as I got out the turkey.  I remember the smell of it turning my stomach.  It was unbearable, rubbing the butter over the turkey and getting it seasoned up and in the oven, but I thought it was just because I was over-hungry.  Once we got the turkey in the oven, I fixed myself a piece of toast and one of my latte bowls of coffee, with milk, and sat down in front of the Thanksgiving Day parade to watch it through my peripheral vision, which now had little worms of light crawling through it.  I'd started feeling cold, but convinced myself that it was because ice was pelting the windows.  Shane had just gone into the downstairs bathroom when I picked up my coffee and caught an acrid smell in it.  Whether it was real or imaginary, that smell, it doesn't matter.  My molars started sweating.  Shane was in the downstairs bathroom.  Our bathroom was all the way upstairs and down the hall!  This wasn't going to be a good situation, no matter what I did, so I threw off my blanket and for the only time in my life, took our stairs two at a time and sprinted down the hall to our bathroom and hurled and hurled.  And bawled and bawled, because my head was in more pain than it'd ever been in, and I had all that stuff to do still, for Thanksgiving- it was all prepped and ready to go, but it wasn't going to get done if I was bedridden or having a stroke or a spell or whatever was going on. 

I've always been high-strung, and Shane condescendingly chalked it up to me being stressed out over having "everybody" here for Thanksgiving.  No, it wasn't that.  Compared to the previous three years, this was a piece of cake!  Ewwwww.  Cake.  And also, the coffee pods I'd used that morning were two years out-of-date.  Soon as I could get up again, I'd have to hoe those out and pitch 'em!  Surely that was what was making me sick.  That didn't account for the weirdness with my vision from earlier, which had returned to normal during my purge-session.  Weird.

Shane took care of the rest of Thanksgiving prep, including running the sweeper.  He gave me a few analgesics that doctors know are okay to mix together in the right doses, made me take them with a sip of my Coke from the night before, and made me lie down and have a nap, still blaming all this on high-strungness.  And just as everybody was getting to our house, I felt better.  No, I felt Better.  And Thanksgiving was fun, and we all laughed about my strange eyesight earlier in the day, and my Episode, having to lie down like some fragile Victorian woman, crumbling under all the stress.  Ha.  As it turns out, all of that craziness was the proto-Zoe manifesting herself.

That was apparently the end of us hosting Thanksgiving, but we've also done our last hobo-holiday.  And I will say that last Thanksgiving was the most fun I've had at Thanksgiving in a long time.  I'm even looking forward to next Thursday and the Thanksgiving it's going to bring.  It's just that a lifetime's worth of Thanksgiving Meh-mories just doesn't go away.  They haunt and hover at the edges.  But now that Zoe's here, maybe it's like a fresh start.  I want Zoe to have fun memories of the holiday, and not meh-mories.  And I think that's completely possible!

Monday, November 12, 2012

How'd I Get On This Catalog's Mailing List?

Over the weekend, I got a Northern Brewer Homebrew Supply catalog in the mail.  When I saw it, I laughed out loud.  I really did.  Not because it's a humorous catalog, but because it's hilarious that I'd be on the list to receive it. 

I really can't figure out how I would be on Northern Brewer's mailing list, given that I'm not a super lush-nuts beer drinker.  I'll have a beer now and then.  I'm not against.  But I'm not really a beer enthusiast, either.  Every time we get a 12-pack of Yuengling in this house, 11 of the bottles will stick around for a year or two (true story), or I end up going to a Tastefully Simple party, buying a bunch of their beer bread mix, and using up the Yuengling that way.  If we go to Pearl Street Grille in Buffalo before a Sabres game, I'll drink one of their micro-brewed beers before we get to the Arena, where I don't drink beer, because I want to be alert enough to avoid flying pucks, fighting fans around me, and other people's falling beers.  And I'm a notorious lightweight.

The closest I've ever come to being a beer aficionado is in 2004, when Shane and I were at Busch Gardens, and we attended Beer School.  Somewhere, we still have our diplomas to prove it.  I remember they subjected us to tasting Bacardi 02, which was an orange-flavored malted beverage.  It made the regular Busch taste that much better.  At least I know that much about beer to keep beer beer and leave Bacardi and their orange flavoring out of it. 

I'm certainly not that much into beer to warrant a whole catalog being sent to me, featuring such items for the home brewmeister as reusable beer bottle labels, carboys, kettles, hops... I know what those things are.  I've read things about home-brewing in passing, and I remember the things I read.  But I don't have a burning desire to gather up such things and make my own PBR here at home.  PBR- that's what the hipsters are drinking now, right?  Pitchers of PBR.  I'm also not cool enough to be a hipster, so.....

Northern Brewer was a fun departure from the usual steady stream of Victoria's Secret (I like their jeans.  I'm not a siren by any stretch of the word, but I get a kajillion VS catalogs a week, so you'd think I were some kind of hotster!), Champion (workout wear!), kids' educational toys catalogs (I was getting these for years before Zoe came along), Knitpicks, and the Fire Mountain Gems jewelry maker's catalog.  Even though it's headed for my recycle pile, it was kind of fun to imagine myself as someone who'd order out of Northern Brewer for the few minutes it took me to look through the catalog.  And it makes me wonder.  If there's a catalog called Northern Brewer, is its southern counterpart Southern Moonshiner?  Just wondering.

Saturday, November 10, 2012

Mini Adult Clothes

Back in February, having no idea how fast Zoe would grow, I ordered her a bunch of Size 9 month all-in-one dresses from Carter's, and supplemented with a couple selections from Penney's Okie Dokie brand.  At the time, the 9-month sized clothes were a little big on a 5-month Zoe, but she's gotten through the entire summer, wearing them, and now we're back to putting long-sleeved Onesies underneath the sleeveless all-in-ones, and pulling on BabyLegs legwarmers, and she's good to go.

The Fluffy Green Dress we loved!
The thing is, she's fourteen months old as of yesterday, and I see the Size 9-month clothes are starting to "juuuuuuuuuust fit" her, which means that between repeated washings and her tendency to shoot upwards, I'll be needing to pack away these well-worn Size 9-month clothes and start looking for some new, probably around February again.  She has enough clothes to get her through the winter, especially at her current growth rate.

Still, I like to look ahead and see what's out there.  I've learned from our experience with the Carter's lime green ruffled sunsuit that if there's an outfit that we see for Zoe, and we love it, buy one for now in the next size up from the size she's currently on, and if it's available, buy one a size or two larger than that.  We bought that sunsuit in Size 3 months, before Zoe was even born.  Thankfully, she got a good six months' wear out of it, but we loved that sunsuit.  There was a whole rack of various sizes of it the day we bought it, and then once she was here and we saw how beautiful it was on her, *poof* there wasn't one to be had.  I trolled JCPenney, both brick and dot com.  I looked in the clothing section at  I stalked Carter's dot com.  I even looked at eBay, but baby clothes are often sold in lots there, and I didn't see what I was looking for after much searching.  I found all her other outfits we liked, in larger sizes, but not the Fluffy Green Dress.  Anywhere.  I even sent an email to Carter's, and they did an inventory search.  There are just no more Fluffy Green Dresses to be had.  That's how we learned our lesson about buying multiple sizes of things we Really Love for Zoe.

Like I said, even if she wakes up one of these mornings, suddenly oversized for her Nine Months clothing, we're good to go through the winter, and that's fine, because she looks particularly fetching in A-line all-in-one dresses, and there aren't any to be had this time of year.  I can hold out until Spring, and keep up with my long-sleeves under sleeveless summer clothes trick to get extra mileage out of anything I'll buy then, with Summer ahead.

Just looking around some baby-clothes websites, though, I'm surprised to see how many baby clothes look like mini adult clothes.  I guess some people think it's cute to have their little kids going around looking like mini versions of themselves.  I probably would have thought it was cute, before I had kids, if I liked kids enough to pay attention to what they were wearing.  But my kid.  I don't want my kid wearing tiny versions of the things I wear!  Soon enough, she'll be in the sixth grade, asking to borrow my jeans to wear as baggy Bermuda shorts.  She's a little kid right now!  Why can't she just wear the crazy polka-dot jumpsuits, the over-the-top ruffled playsuits, the tiered sundresses- while she has a little tiny body and she's not worried about calling attention to or detracting attention from certain body parts?  Clothing for little kids ought to be FUN!  Clothing for adults can still be "fun," but not FUN in the way I think little kids' clothing ought to be.

With that said, I'm not trying to keep Zoe a little kid forever.  I don't want her to be an eleven-year-old who doesn't speak to adults unless she has to, and then uses a widdle baby voice to say what's on her mind.  I don't see myself having a super sense of humor if she's throwing food on the floor for a reaction late in toddlerhood- she doesn't really even do that now! Behavior-wise, my favorite little kids are the ones who act like little (well-mannered) adults (at least out in public and around people- at home, let 'em be little hooligans!), but look and dress the part of little kids.  I don't think a three-year-old needs to be wearing pumps or kitten-heels, unless she's playing dress-up.  I definitely don't go for the kinderslut movement. 

Thankfully, for all the mini adult clothes that come in sizes for kids as small as Zoe, or even newborn-size, there are still the Carter's and OshKosh B'Gosh and Okie Dokie and Zutano, to keep my little kid looking like a little kid for a little while longer!

Friday, November 9, 2012

Winter's Coming

There's this show on HBO that we like to watch called "Game of Thrones."  It's based on a series of books by George R. R. Martin that Shane's read and I probably won't, but I like the show just the same.  Other people are more in to "Game of Thrones" and can speak more intelligently about it than I can.  But there's a phrase the characters on the show utter with no little sense of the ominous: "Winter's coming."

Winter's coming.

Yesterday when I walked to get the mail, the sky was a clear and blazing blue, and I just wore my leather jacket to keep warm.  All the way down the driveway and all the way back, with my hair blowing in the breeze (in North Bingham, we call a 'breeze' what people in other parts would call a 'bracing wind.'), all I could think of was that I wish I'd put on a hat before I stepped outside.  A real hat that I could pull tight over my head, to keep my hair from blowing and to keep all the heat from escaping through my head.  That wind had some teeth to it, despite the visually pleasantness the day had to offer. It took me drinking a cup of hot tea while wrapped in blankets and huddling by the fire in the fake fireplace just to get warmed back up!

Winter's coming.

We had a very easy winter last year.  I plowed the driveway once, and I believe I remember Shane plowing the driveway one time, as well.  The winter before that, when I was expecting Zoe, I was out on our Kubota tractor twice a week sometimes, plowing the snow.  The last time I plowed that winter was April 4th, and the very next week, I wouldn't have been able to zip up my snowpants if I'd needed to plow more.  But that hellish winter aside, I feel like we have a piper to pay for the brilliant winter of 2011-2012, and I feel like that piper's going to come knocking this winter.  I hope I'm wrong.

See, it's pretty much my job to plow the driveway.  It has been since our first winter in this house.  It isn't because Shane doesn't like to run the tractor.  We sort of fight over running the tractor.  I love driving the tractor, mowing the lawn.  I even don't mind plowing the driveway, as long as it stays a once-a-week-at-most kind of job.  I even like running the plow on our tractor, which does not have a closed cab, provided it's toward the beginning to the middle of the season, you know, before the novelty wears off.

It never fails, though. Right around Mid-January, I get snow down the back of my neck, either because I've driven too near to under a snow-laden bought of the Elm Tree in the island in the driveway, or because a wind kicks up a snownado (on a really small scale) and plants it on the back of my neck.

Winter's coming.

Every morning since October 1st, I've jumped out of bed and raced to the window to see if our 2002 Dodge Ram has grown a snow plow yet.  That's what I'm hoping for.  I think it'd be so cool if our pickup truck happened to magically turn into a plow-truck overnight, because thanks to our Big Dig project back in July, we now have over twice the driveway to plow that we had these last 5 years.  I worry about what to do with Zoe when I need to plow the drive this year, and if I had a plow on the truck, I could just put her carseat in, turn on some music, let the heat rip, heck, even bring Rozzie along, and use that Hemi to help clear the snow from the driveway.  I wouldn't need my knit beanie with the earbuds built right in.  I wouldn't need the L.L. Bean Wicked Warmers in my mittens and boots.  I wouldn't need the hearing protectors I wear when I'm on the tractor.  I wouldn't need the snow goggles I ordered the other night (if you're laughing that I bought snow goggles to wear when I plow snow in my driveway, you've never been here in the dead of winter). 

Thinking of getting to plow the snow from the comfort of the heated cab of a pickup truck, with Rozzie and Zoe along, makes it feel all the more harsh when I think of the reality.  Even in my snow pants and ski-jacket and skullcap under the knit beanie and the Wicked Warmers, some days, it's really cold.  I do have an iPod along to keep  me company while I run the plow, but it's not as nice as if Zoe and Rozzie were riding in a heated pickup with me while I did this task. 

Even though I know it won't happen, I still hop out of bed every morning and look in hopes that I'll see a green pickup with a bright yellow plow on the front of it.  Maybe there's such a thing as the power of a persistent wish.  Maybe I'm just delusional.  All I know with any certaintly is this:

Winter's coming.

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

The Kindergarten Trip to the Post Office

I've been thinking about the Post Office a lot lately.  I'm sure it's because the one in my town is having its hours cut.  There's a meeting tonight that I'm going to, more to show whatever postal official is coming that as a community member, I support my post office than to actually believe that we'll change the USPS's mind and our post office will go back to being open at full-throttle, with sorting and full window-hours, just as though the postal service hasn't been hemorrhaging money for years.

The thing is, I love the post office.  I love getting mail.  While I don't collect stamps, I have to say I get giddy when I buy a new book of Forever stamps and the design on them is something pretty neat, instead of just the ol' Liberty Bell-not that I don't love the Liberty Bell.  It's just that all Liberty Bell, all the time gets boring.  Whenever I order something online (and I do that a lot), if USPS is an option, I select it.  I want to keep my post office rolling!

 Before I get to my actual post, let me back up to those Forever stamps.  Postal Service, why can't all the First Class stamps sold be "Forever" stamps?  I read that the USPS lost about a bazillion dollars recently because they printed up a whole bunch of Simpsons-themed First Classers, and then a few months later, raised their rates, rendering all those shiny new first class stamps obsolete in one rate hike.  What would be so wrong with making all first-class stamps "Forever" so we buy them now, for the current First Class rate, and can continue to use them through rate hike after rate hike.  We the public would feel like we're beating the game, using Forever stamps we bought for $.44 when it costs $.50 to mail a regular first-class letter, and the USPS wouldn't have to File Thirteen a bunch of perfectly good stamps they [over]printed because they jacked up the price by two cents.  I would think that the savings of that would help offset people like me buying Forever stamps and stockpiling them right now for future savings.  We'll run out sometime, and will have to buy more at whatever higher Forever First Class rate is in place in the future.  Maybe it wouldn't save all that much, but what I'd like to see the USPS and the government in general return to is the notion that "every little bit adds up!"

Okay, back to my love for the Post Office.  Back when I was in Kindergarten, I went to the Harrison Valley Elementary School, back when Harrison Valley was still a charming little town and not the overgrown junkyard-eyesore it is today.  The school was one of those adorable little town elementary schools housing a class each of kindergarten through sixth grade.  I could look out the window of my kindergarten room and see Grandma Evans' house, and know that Aunt Flossie and Uncle Al's white trailer was next door.  Maybe they were out on their patio if it was warm outside!  It took me a couple weeks of kindergarten to warm up to the place, but once I did, I felt like my elementary school was another home.

To say I loved school and loved kindergarten would be an understatement of the first degree.

In early February of my kindergarten year, we did a unit on the post office, and it was a really big deal.  Each of us got to write a letter to someone, and put it in an envelope, and address the envelope as per the Postal Service's specifications in 1984, and -this was the Major Big Deal- we would each get a stamp, and we'd walk as a class up the street to Kibbe's Busymart, where the local post office was housed, and we'd mail our letters, watching Betty, the shopkeep and town postmaster, cancel our letters, sort them, and send them on their way to their final destinations!

I remember the day of our trip to the Post Office like it was yesterday.  It was cold, because it was February up here in the edge of the snowbelt.  We all had to bring in our permission slips, which I think was achieved with 100% compliance from the fourteen boys and six girls in my kindergarten class.  We sat at our tables, enveloped, sealed, and addressed letters in front of us, awaiting a stamp.  And then, Mr. Smith, the principal of our elementary school as well as the School on the Hill (Northern Potter Children's School), arrived in our kindergarten classroom, with a roll of stamps in-hand.

It was always a Big Deal when Mr. Smith visited Harrison Valley Elementary School.  We were always told to be on our best behavior, our super-best behavior, when the principal was in the building.  And I remember the sense of awe that swept over the kindergarten room when we saw Mr. Smith that day.  As a principal, Mr. Smith always knew everybody's name.  He always made even the smallest kid feel like a big shot, at least for the few minutes he was talking to them.  Starting in the fall of 1984, my class from Harrison Valley was moved to the School on the Hill, and it was not an unusual sight to see Mr. Smith at the doors at bustime, greeting or sending off the droves of kids in the school.  By the time I was in second grade, Mr. Smith was the superintendent of the whole entire school district, and if he was mayor-like as principal of the elementary school, I thought he was quite presidential as a superintendent, still knowing everybody's name, still making any kid he met in the school feel like a big shot, even for a minute.  Mr. Smith was obviously one of my favorite people at the school, and to this day, when I see him around, he hasn't changed a bit.  Still makes you feel like a big shot, even only for a minute.

So it was a big thing to see Mr. Smith in our kindergarten room that cold February day of our Field Trip to the Harrison Valley Post Office.  And despite any trouble or issues any of us might have had along the way differentiating between "right" and "left," when Mr. Smith asked us all to raise our right hands if we wanted a stamp for our letters, fourteen boys and six girls raised their right hands, just like that.  We had to raise our RIGHT hands so Mr. Smith could see that we knew which side of the top of the envelope we were supposed to stick our stamps to.  Then, once we all had our stamps in-hand, we licked them- yes, the self-adhesive stamps weren't out yet, at least not in Harrison Valley in 1984- and all made squinchy faces at the taste of the lick'em on the back of the stamps, because that's what a classroom full of 5-year-olds does when presented with licky-stamps, and then we all meticulously stuck our stamps perfectly on the upper right corner of our envelopes, leaving just a small border around the top and right edge of the stamp.

And then it was time to put on our coats and boots and walk the block up the street to the Post Office!

I'd been there a million times as a little kid, both for the Busymart and for the Post Office.  Our post office box was 137.  But it was something new, going to the post office as part of a Field Trip!  We each slipped our letter through the outgoing mail slot, and then, THEN, we got to go through the split door (it was one of those doors that you could open just the top half, or open both halves and walk through!) and see where our letters had just gone!  Betty took the letters from the bin, put them up on a counter, got out her stamp that said "HARRISON VALLEY, PA, 16927" and hand-cancelled each and every one of our letters.  We got to see for ourselves.  Then she showed us how she sorted mail into the post office boxes.  Then we walked back down the street to our kindergarten room and had hot cocoa and Scooter Pies for our snack.

That field trip to the real post office was in preparation for a cardboard post office turning up very shortly in our kindergarten classroom.  Remember, it was February.  Valentine's Day month.  So we made our own "mailboxes" for our Valentine's cards, and then on the appointed day, we brought in our Valentine's cards and "mailed" them.  We took turns in groups sorting and delivering the Valentines to their proper mailboxes.  I remember volunteering for extra time in the kindergarten post office, because I had so much fun sorting the Valentines cards.

I don't know if it was that experience that set off a fascination for all things postal, but I really do have one.  I was sad to hear of "my" post office and its split-door and old post office boxes burning down in 2001, when Kibbe's Busymart burnt.  It's still kind of a treat to me to drop into a post office built in the 20s or 30s, with their murals, and tile-work on the floor, and Art Deco boxes and windows.  The town where I went to college had one, and so does Wellsville, NY and Coudersport, PA.  My post office in Genesee is one of the newer ones, built in the 1980s, I think, when the Post Office was building all kinds of new post offices across the country.  The boxes aren't the cool Art Deco ones you'll see in older post offices, but the building is very efficient and functional, and they always have my stamps and mailing supplies (I LOVE the flat-rate boxes!)  In Wexford, where my sister lives, that post office is super-new, and super-automated.  You can go in there and buy stamps, mail packages, and get your mail 24-7.  I bought a bunch of "Forever" holiday stamps a couple years ago, at 9 p.m., from the stamp machine at the Wexford post office.  And then the post office in Waikiki's International Marketplace in Honolulu, Hawaii was an interesting one.  I didn't see any boxes there- I'm sure the people who live in Honolulu have their post office boxes in places other than in a tree-house-like post office in the heart of the International Marketplace in Waikiki.  But for lack of post office boxes, this post office is downright bustling all day, every day, with tourists sending home post cards and packages- honestly, with souvenirs you'd buy in Hawaii, you're better off packing them up, putting them in a Flat-Rate box, and shipping them home to yourself instead of packing them in your luggage and leaving it up to chance and the mood of the airline baggage handlers.  If I hadn't have been in Waikiki in Hawaii, I would have hung out at the post office a little longer, just to see how they do their day-to-day.  But it was really fun to get home and have all my things I sent home from Hawaii stamped with "Aloha"

I know we can do a bunch of stuff online that we used to do and send through the mail.  And I know there are other options for sending parcels now. But the thing is, I hope the post office turns things around and that we don't lose it.  We might pay our bills online now, but we're always going to need to send real things.  For a special birthday or a get-well wish, there's no beating a real card.  Emails are fun, but there's nothing like getting an actual hand-written letter from a friend.  We still need the post office.

I will be absolutely heartbroken if Zoe gets to kindergarten and instead of filling out Valentines for everybody in the class, and hand-delivering them to handmade mailboxes, they just email each other Valentine's greetings, or beam them to each other's kindersmartphones or whatever the choice electronic device in early childhood education enhancement will be in 2016-2017.  I want her to know the pleasure of holding a real card in her hands and seeing a friend's early handwriting scrawled across the back of the card.

Nobody delivers the real like the post office.

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Happy Election Day!

It's finally Election Day, after a long and contentious 2012.  There's been a lot of name-calling and ugliness in general.  Over the last few weeks, the political attack-ads have been impossible to avoid.  My Facebook friends have been complaining about endless political calls.  We've been spared in my house, but I feel for those who've had their weekends and evenings interrupted by calls from Clint Eastwood and Susan B. Anthony -yes, seriously! A FB friend reported a phone call from the suffragette. 

So I say Happy Election Day, in the hope that after today, we can say good-bye to the attack ads and unwanted phone calls and that we can get back to remembering that despite our differences, despite who we each individually voted for, we're ALL Americans, and we're all in this together.  I'm hoping that after today, we can all try to see a little positive in each other, red and blue and purple and green.

That's all for today. 

Monday, November 5, 2012

Just When You Get Feeling Good About Things

Wow, I've been in a rotten mood the last couple days.  There's been a lot going on around here, lots of residual stress floating around and settling in the corners, and of course, there's the weather all week.  But then, there's this pernicious thing that I think acts like an intensifier for the bad mood.  It's election season, and the TV's been full of all kinds of negative ads.

I watch TV only in the evenings, from the 5 o'clock news on usually, but in that time, most of the commercials are campaign commercials.  I never thought I'd look forward to an evening of Cellino and Barnes ads, or a slew of Fucillo commercials.  But with the onslaught of attack ads between Kathy Hochul and Chris Collins, that already puts a foul taste in the mouth (especially since I don't get to vote for either of those people, as they're from New York, and I live just inside PA).  Then just when I start feeling really thankful that I live in America, the SuperPAC ads for President come on, and holy cow, it makes it sound like this country is going straight down the crapper and it's all the president's fault.  Makes a person just want to pull on a flak jacket, helmet, and go hide under a table in the basement until this all ends.

I don't think things are perfect here in America.  There's a lot wrong.  But I think you find what you look for, and if you're looking for negative, you're going to find it.  If we're being fed a constant stream of these negative ads, it's hard to feel positive about the good there is around.  It reminds me of Ghostbusters II, when that slime is running under New York City, and it fed off bad feeling and in return magnified the bad feelings in people, so it was just a never-ending cycle of ugliness.

I don't think we need to call the Ghostbusters to fix all this feeding negativism that seems to be going around and making all of us ugly.  Maybe it wouldn't hurt.  Laughter can lift spirits.  I hope it's not too much to ask that after next Tuesday, when the lights go out on Election Day, that we all start being a little nicer, and start looking for the positive that's out there.  I know it is!  Bad moods are contagious.  Do you really want your mood to be influenced by some politician's attack ad on TV?  I don't.

C'mon.  Let's be happy!

Thursday, November 1, 2012

Next Year, I'll Do Better

Maybe it's because Halloween fell on a Wednesday, or because it was cold and rainy tonight, or the other day, the East Coast experienced the worst storm in the history of forever, or maybe it's just because I live in the country, but I experienced an all-time low in trick-or-treaters since I moved to my present house.

Back in the house we used to live in, we got no trick-or-treaters.  I used to buy bags of candy from Sams Club and put on the porch light, in anticipation of trick-or-treaters, since we lived on the main drag between Gold and Genesee.  But we had a few things going against us back then.  We lived 3 miles from town, we lived right across from a natural food store, and Shane's a dentist.  That's like the perfect storm for attracting Zero Trick-or-Treaters.  I bet people didn't stop, because they took us to be the kind of people who handed out raisins and toothbrushes.  It's okay.  That meant I got to eat all those glorious Sams Club-size bags of candy, all by myself. 

I thought it'd be different when we moved to our house on the hill!  We live in a nice little community now!  There were kids around!  I'd seen them waiting for the bus, mornings.  Our house had a (deserved) reputation for being haunted.  The first year we lived here, we had a good bit of trick-or-treaters.  They mostly came by car, which is how my sister and I used to trick-or-treat, thanks to our growing up in the country.  But that's great!  I love trick-or-treaters that come by car!

I think the most trick-or-treaters we ever had was fifteen.  To me, that's a "good bit."  But of course, I buy my Halloween supplies in bulk from Sams Club and Oriental Trading, as though I live in a McMansion in a neighborhood with a sought-after ZIP code, both at Halloween AND during the Christmas Light Season.  Of course, this year, I bought my Halloween supplies in bulk from, because I signed up for Smiley Cookie's emails and found out they had mini Smiley Cookies, individually wrapped and ready to hand out to trick-or-treaters. 

Now, I knew that I'd have more cookies than I'd have trick-or-treaters, so I wasn't at all apologetic for stuffing one mini Smiley Cookie in my mouth whole, while clutching another in each hand.  I had a whole case of Smiley Cookies!  Until I started being able to see the bottom of the case.  But I had an email with a discount code, so I did what anyone under the control of a sweet tooth would do: I ordered another case of Halloween Smiley Cookies.

Tonight, I had the pleasure of seeing five trick-or-treaters.  My trick-or-treaters got three mini Smiley Cookies each.  To put this into perspective, a mini Smiley is about equal to a full-size candy bar.  So my trick-or-treaters kind of hit the jackpot.  Unless they were hoping for the full-size candy bar.  They probably were, weren't they?  I'd never heard of a Smiley Cookie until my college friend from St. Marys brought some Smiley Cookies back once, sophomore year.  So it's entirely possible that my trick-or-treaters, and my trick-or-treaters that didn't stop this year, thinking they'd be getting the same stress ball, pencil, skull bracelet, skeleton bendy toy and Blake Dentistry toothbrush in a goodie bag that I gave out the last 2 years, just don't understand the magic of a Smiley Cookie, even a mini one, and why it's something to get excited about.

Five trick-or-treaters is better than zero trick-or-treaters, but I think next year, I can do better.  I will do better!  I'll decorate for Halloween like I mean it!  I'll will good weather so I can have Ginger parked out in the front yard, dressed appropriately for a 40-year-old Gremlin on Halloween.  I'll get more Smiley Cookies, maybe.  Heck, I'll even dress up! 

One of these years, I hit the magic mark of 20 trick-or-treaters.  One of these years, the kids will find out that even though Shane's a dentist, I'm the one who controls the Trick-or-Treat bowl.  They might get a toothbrush (this year, they didn't, because I plum forgot), but I also make sure there's something cool with the toothbrush! 

Next year, I'll do better!  I promise!!!