Thursday, March 9, 2017

Junkin' it up

If you want to be embarrassed about your family's spending/eating habits, just call your credit card company to report fraudulent charges. As they quote back to you a weekend's worth of expenditure to verify legitimacy, your embarrassment will grow.

"Wildflower...not sure what that is. Does that sound right?"

"We ate there Sunday after church. It's a bakery-cafe. It's fine."

"How about Smashburger?"

"Uh, yes..."


"That's right, too, I'm afraid."

"Robert's sizzling Barbecue?"

"That's a food truck that comes to my husband's work."

"Krispy Kreme's?"

I giggled.

"Boy, I'm really beginning to feel embarrassed about my family's eating habits! We're just such a busy family, you know?"

Indeed, how far my family has fallen!. We used to be the frugal ones, visiting McDonald's only on road trips, eating out only on special and rare occasions. We were so frugal and proud of it, in fact, that we scoffed at all the families who blew their money on fancy restaurant food as we smugly ingested our frozen pizzas, chicken nuggets and canned vegetables at home!

Now most evenings find us on the run to practices, meets, classes and games. Last weekend was especially hectic. A football and soccer practice Friday night, A football practice and three soccer games on Saturday (at least I had a roast in the crock pot for supper!). Then Sunday we spent the morning and afternoon at church for the installation of our new priest in the parish and a reception with the bishop afterwards. Thus, we walked to that bakery-cafe to eat light buttery pancakes, skillet potatoes and greasy link sausage for breakfast between masses.

My scintillating conversation about junk food receipts with the credit card rep ended with him ribbing me about the outrageous amount we spent at Krispy Kreme.

"$54 on doughnuts did seem like a lot! I'm just saying..."

We both laugh as I exclaim, "It was for the soccer teams, for end of season...honestly!" A pause, and then guiltily,  "Well, I mean, we did eat the leftovers..."

I didn't mention that the "leftovers" were approximately two dozen donuts.

Thursday, February 2, 2017

Home, Husband!

At some point all marriages with two or more offspring reach the point where it's mostly about the kids. “I’ll meet you at the soccer field” becomes the most romantic invitation ever!

Every morning I shave my legs with high hopes, fantasizing about a glass of port and the kids going to bed early. But by the time evening comes around with its homework, dinner prep, and sports practices – and very little quality time with my guy - I’m exhausted and feeling that the day was a waste of good makeup. Suddenly I’m cuddling my mattress, snuggling my blanket and whispering into my pillow about just how much I love my bed. And the kids are still up!

I heard that just running errands together can be beneficial for a busy couple, but I think one recent jaunt to the grocery store -  where we got into an argument about spending more time together - belies that advice.

It doesn't help that our home is so small there is no privacy from the kids. The desktop is in our bedroom, for crying out loud! Maybe we could just slide the mirrored doors closed and neck in our bedroom closet. Or at least talk about taking a dream trip far, far away for our anniversary during which we'll sleep 12 hours every night and have hanky-panky in the middle of the day when we're still feeling peppy!

If I can't have more time with my spouse - if I can't literally stand by my man more than five minutes during the day - then I think I know what I need to curb my loneliness.

I need a home husband.

People (egotistical/delusional men? weary wives relieved to foist their man off onto someone else for several hours?) coined the term "work wives" to describe intelligent, efficient, pleasant women who make the work place run smoothly. My husband has two or three of them, the filthy polygamist! 

Well, I’ve decided I need a man about this house who I see more often and speak with regularly. 

We can discuss world affairs, the latest Netflix series and talk about what we did over the weekend. I can delegate tedious tasks to him like fishing in the garbage disposal for a clog. He can make coffee, and I’ll dictate my novel to him. And he won’t balk at the occasional paint or carpentry work. 

If I get real lucky, he’ll like long walks in the country, enjoy opera and be an excellent gardener.

Yeah right! Enjoy opera?

Who am I kidding here? 

I'll just go meet my man at the soccer field. Maybe there's time for a quick kiss.

Thursday, January 19, 2017

Perfume for sale! Tree Hugger or Fresh Bread

There are legends of people who don't wear deodorant, because others assure them that their natural scent is so enticing, deodorant or cologne would only corrupt it.

My dad used to say fresh alfalfa was my mom's natural smell, and his expression clearly showed that he thought it was the best scent in the world. He made rabbit fare sound romantic!

I recalled this the other morning while lying in bed. My hair smelled really bad. I had spritzed myself with perfume the evening before, and the perfume had mixed with natural oils and big city particulates in my hair, making my crowning glory malodorous. I'm surprised my husband didn't move to the couch during the night.

My husband has a good scent. I joke about finding his sweet spot, behind his ear or on his neck beneath his whiskers. I'm pretty sure he could go a good three days without a shower and not offend me.

However, my scent comes from whatever Mother Nature decides to slap on me as soon as I step out the door after my shower. If there is even the slightest breeze, heat, humidity, pollution or dirt around, I end up smelling like dust, exhaust fumes and wet, decaying leaves. My skin and hair just soak it up! I suppose it's nature's way of claiming me, but no matter how romantic being an outdoor girl sounds, it certainly reeks! Even my expensive perfumes are whipped into submission by my inherent tree-hugging wild woman.

Maybe I should only hug Eucalyptus or Cedar trees from now on?

My husband, chivalrous as he is, actually told me recently that I smelled good - late in the day, too - but I'm pretty sure that was only because I had skipped my usual make-up routine, and he was grasping for something to compliment.

Fresh alfalfa? I'd be happy just to smell like stale cheerios!  I don't smell like anything fresh unless I've just pulled a loaf of bread from the oven.

Wednesday, January 11, 2017

Hiding vehicles and avoiding calls

The three most irritating sounds are a doorbell, the knock, and a phone ringing. They mean someone is about to bother you, and usually uninvited.

How do we handle the strain of knowing our cellphones – an inhumane tool of intrusion that we carry around with us - could go off at any moment?  No wonder people have such short attention spans! They’re slaves to the knowledge that their dentist, child’s teacher or hair stylist could interrupt their life at any moment via a ring, buzz, beep, or annoying pop tune.

A few days ago my prehistoric cellphone was dying. Normally that would be a crisis of near apocalyptic proportions for the modern-day human enslaved to technology. I cast about halfheartedly for the charger, but all I found were the revitalizers for my kids’ tablets.

I figured my dumb phone would pass with dignity into temporary night. Instead, it kept emitting death yelps every few minutes for more than an hour, persisting like an opera tenor who keeps singing despite the improbability of drawing deep breath after stabbing himself. Eventually, I began screaming at my phone during each mournful beeping, “Just die! Die already!”, while wishing for a rubber mallet to help it along.

Thankfully, my husband’s number has its own ring on my cellphone, and it’s the only sound I truly welcome from it most of the time. But even then, when he calls from the store one too many times with a silly question, I want to remove him from my contact list.

I blame my aversion to being bothered on my dad.

On many Sundays of my childhood, Dad drove our car into a little hollow in the field behind our house to hide it. If someone unexpectedly knocked at the door on the weekend, Dad gave the silent, urgent command for us to stop in our tracks and crouch down out of sight of the windows. Then he held a finger to his lips with the intense look of a hermit. It was like freeze tag, only more tense. We dared not move or make one little squeak, no matter how our hamstrings ached, until the intruder gave up his efforts to bring us to the door.

Maybe that’s why I got into trouble with the law several years ago when my oldest son Berto called 911 by mistake as I was vacuuming. When I took the receiver from my laughing boy and hung it up, I thought it was merely a telemarketer - until a policeman banged on my door a few minutes later.

I wasn’t expecting a policeman, so I didn’t answer the door. I interrogated him through the wood, asking why I didn’t see his patrol car (around the corner, apparently) and what precinct he was from. Eventually, however, he tired of my evasive maneuvers and quite dramatically threatened to knock down the door if I didn’t answer it. At wit’s end, I called my husband at work and cried, “Honey, there’s a man at the door who says he’s a policeman! What should I do?”

“Answer it!” was my pragmatic man’s reply.

The thought had never occurred to me.

I’m this close to parking my minivan in the backyard on Sundays.

Saturday, December 24, 2016

Favorite Christmas tradition: letting go...

Taz, our Yorkshire terrier, yanked his leash out of our younger daughter's hand last Saturday evening as I was finally decorating our home with nutcrackers and their snowman friends and my husband and oldest son were stringing lights on our roof. Our dog tore after a cat, but when the cat jumped our neighbor's low wall, Taz instead slid full force into it, causing a debilitating fracture or serious neurological damage (the specialists could not tell for sure).

My daughters were near hysterical. I was terrified for the poor creature, and my husband asked no one in particular, "What did you do to this dog?", when he saw Taz's immobilized state.

That is how our last week of Advent began, with a trip to the emergency vet where my husband and son waited five hours on a Sunday with little information.

We do know his left leg is lame, and our normally energetic fella gets to spend weeks in the kennel or a small room on strict bed rest.

Thank God, the days have improved since that unfortunate event, though I'm certain this Christmas will be remembered for it. After the initial tears and fear that our poor terrier might never be the same, we petted and loved him, forced him to take his medicine and more water than he freely imbibed, and I wiped his little tush as if he were my fifth baby. We nursed our pet while watching Christmas movies, threading a popcorn garland, playing games, making construction paper adornments and during breaks from shaping and baking cookies and stirring fudge.

We made do, putting on Christmas cheer after temporarily despairing of its arrival this year (at least for my part).

So I - and I hope my whole family - will have good memories of honored family traditions along with the bad ones of unexpected injury and its trials.

Every year I learn anew to choose which traditions to reign in, which ones to let go, and what new ones we can attempt to establish amid the chaos.

And you know what? This is what I've learned this year:

It's okay to try to choose the perfect gifts for relatives, but then realize you don't know what they are or where they can be found and just send something you hope they like (because you like it)..

It's okay to eat frozen pizza on Christmas Eve, because you waited too long to order tamales from a fine Mexican restaurant or farmer's market in town.

It's okay to begin baking and decorating just a week before Christmas.

And it's certainly alright not to hang up every last ornament to save yourself some time after the Christmas season has passed.

It's okay not to send Christmas cards again this year to childhood friends and distant relatives, even though you really wish you had.

And realizing that, since you are a Catholic, the Christmas season does not truly end for you until a few weeks from now at the celebration of the Baptism of our Lord, it's fine to send your big sister's family, also Catholic, their Christmas gifts in January.

It's all okay. Traditions should not be burdensome even though sometimes they are burdens we carry with love, no matter how exhausted or out of sorts we may be.

So here's to another Christmas Eve, my friends, anticipating Santa and celebrating our beautiful Jesus by going to Mass or another lovely church service.

May God bless us, everyone, and a very Merry Christmas to you all!


Wednesday, December 14, 2016

My favorite things: being a Christmas tumbleweed

I have multiple personalities when it comes to Christmas. I vacillate between behaving like an angel or a Grinch for weeks.

Tumbleweed Tree

Like a tumbleweed I'm blown back and forth from one side of Santa's wintry highway full of merrymaking and carol-singing in front of brightly festooned, enormous pine trees whose trunks are surrounded by shiny packages and the other side on which all the disillusioned elves hang out and drink their peppermint schnapps around a landfill of broken ornaments, tangled non-LED lights and noisy, worn out toys.

Makes you want to come to my house for Christmas, doesn't it?

But I would warn you off that inclination. Though my tree is up, it only has a few scattered ornaments on it that the kids have brought home just this past week. A lonely picture of Santa climbing a chimney does grace the wall in the living room, but not one of my collection of nutcrackers or snowmen has yet been paroled from storage.

And I've eaten pretty much every batch of Christmas cookies I've made thus far by myself; I need the fuel to keep going through all the mood confusion.

Plus I'm afraid I couldn't entertain you with my usual flair. I was unable to practice carols on my guitar for more than a week because I cut my middle finger on a wicked serrated knife my parents-in law gave us in a set last year at Christmas. They said that sharp knives do less damage because you don't have to work at chopping stuff. It's only about the hundredth time that knife has quite easily sliced my appendage. I think I'll regift it.

Still....despite my decorating laziness, my scarred middle finger and my recurring desire to meet my husband under the mistletoe, not for a kiss but a boxing match, I've had some truly bright moments this Advent.

Just yesterday I was full of spirit...Christmas spirit! I listened to a beautiful recording of my friend Camille singing in a wintertime concert. My son's teacher gave me a delicious bag of chocolates. A bell ringer for the Salvation Army entertained shoppers with his rambunctious rendition of "The Twelve Days of Christmas". And I spent the whole wonderful day with my husband being scouts for Santa, flying across town from Walmart to Walmart, and every Walmart we entered was filled with helpful elves - all with gray hair and a great attitude despite their long, busy shifts accommodating anxious parents.

We also had a delectable lunch in a festive Mexican restaurant, new to us both, where we enjoyed, not schnapps, but margaritas.

Gosh, just remembering it all makes me feel like dragging some boxes out of storage, picking my guitar, and hanging up some mistletoe in order to smooch my man when he comes home.

Though the Grinch could sneak up and ransack my cheerful, hopeful mood at any moment, the energy, joy, excitement and love that I felt yesterday is what the Christmas spirit is about, my friends.

I'm grateful that, for now, this tumbleweed is sticking on the festive side of the road.

Thursday, December 8, 2016

My Favorite Things: Christmas songs and singers

You're on one side of the holly-and-ivy, Christmas music fence, or you're grimacing, arms folded on the other....or, yes, you're that one standing on the rails above, belting out the tunes on road trips and light-viewing expeditions, caroling even though you don't have the foggiest idea what wassail or figgy pudding is or why Jesus and Mary came sailing in on ships of three.
(December 2013)

Those of us belting out the Christmas tunes ( starting in November) have our favorite songs performed by favorite artists, and we won't hesitate to defend what we believe is the "greatest rendition". Here are some of my favorite holiday songs and Christmas carols sung by both contemporary and legendary performers:

"Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas" and "I'll Be Home for Christmas"

Frank Sinatra

I think a great vocal gift is especially highlighted by simple and restrained arrangements, and this is how I feel about The Sinatra Christmas Album. I asked to borrow it from a teacher in middle school after I found a cassette version while helping to clean her home office. I have good memories of listening to it by the Christmas tree, Sinatra's voice making me feel more than a little wistful during these two beautiful songs especially.

Michael Buble

Listening to Buble's voice is like being wrapped in layers of silk: soft, luxurious and soothing.

James Taylor

Want to become wistful again while at the same time feeling comforted by a favorite uncle? Listen to Taylor and his guitar.

"Chestnuts Roasting on an Open Fire"

Nat King Cole

Who can beat that voice, like clouds of perfectly whipped cream on a satiny custard pie? With this song, no one can.

Michael Buble

Oh, am I mentioning this gentleman again? The silk thing, you know.

The Carpenters

I think my dad believes there was never a woman blessed with a finer voice than Karen Carpenter. He may very well be right. If Buble's voice is silk, then Carpenter's is lush velvet.

"God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen/We Three Kings"

Barenaked Ladies with Sarah Maclachlan

If you were stranded at a mountain cabin for the holidays with talented musicians and great vocalists and everyone pulled out their instruments and began to sing carols, this is what it would sound like. The arrangement and tempo are interesting, and of course Maclachlan's voice is absolutely captivating and gorgeous on "We Three Kings". It is one of my favorite versions of any Christmas song or medley ever.

"O Holy Night"

Celine Dion

I once cried over a glass of wine when Dion's version came over the radio after supper. My husband and I were in the dining room, overhead lights low, the advent wreath lit in the center of our table.

Dion does this classic carol justice, avoiding vocal acrobatics that dilute the lyrics. The choir of children in the background only amplifies her annunciation of its message. It's a crystalline version.

"White Christmas"

Bing Crosby

Was there ever a man born with richer resonance in his voice? There's a reason we will listen to Crosby sing "White Christmas" every year.

The Drifters

Yes, it will always remind you of Home Alone, but have you encountered a more whimiscal version, one that makes you feel this peppy and carefree while listening to a group of singers with such vastly different but complementary tones? I haven't. They had me at doo-wop!